By Bayo Olupohunda
I do not know about other Nigerians, but I am getting irritated by what have become former President Olusegun Obasanjo's serial criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration. And I hope, not in the least, that ordinary Nigerians do not by any stretch of imagination assume that the recent truce that was brokered by the so-called friends of the President and his godfather has anything to do with ending the crisis of leadership and misery their political alliance has imposed on our nation in recent years. The point needs quickly be made that; the professed "prayer session and lunch" fence-mending between the two men will be a further prolongation of the crisis of leadership which began in 2007. Let's hope this does not extend beyond 2015.
Let me be clear about this that the intention of this column today is not to shield the President against upbraid by his overbearing political godfather. For one, I am not a fan of Jonathan. I did not vote for him in 2011. I will not vote for him in 2015 if he decides to re-contest a presidency that has been so far disappointing. Not that it matters though. My vote did not count in 2011, I doubt if my voting against him will determine his future in 2015- that is if he ever returns. But at worst, it will be my only weapon to protest the presidency of a man that has not matched expectations with performance.
In 2011, against all persuasion from friends and the President's campaign, I stuck to my guns not to vote for Jonathan because I was discerning enough to know that he is not the type of leader the country needs at this critical moment in our nation's history to harness our vast human and material resources. Having studied his character and disposition in the early days of the crisis period preceding his emergence as President, after the demise of the late President Yar'Adua, I simply switched off on any further assessment of him as a potential president.
To me, he just did not possess the qualities of a president angry enough to challenge the status quo and begin an urgent transformation and restructuring of our country to redress the imbalances that have driven millions of Nigerians into poverty. I did not see him, for example, as having the vision of a Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore who transformed an underdeveloped colonial outpost with no natural resources into a 'First World' Asian Tiger. But unfortunately, many gullible Nigerians misjudged Jonathan’s submissiveness for humility. How wrong! Like I have always believed, docility, disguised as humility, should be the last quality of a potential Nigerian leader at all levels of governance. I have so far been proved right. The President’s performance so far has justified my decision.
The role of Obasanjo in presidential politics since 2007 and the part he played in Jonathan’s emergence make his current posturing curious and questionable. The first was driven by the self-preservation agenda of Obasanjo’s imposition of the ailing Yar’Adua as president. The second was informed by the gullibility of Nigerians to be guided by their emotions for the “humble” Jonathan. Both of course, had the backing of the former president at the height of his imperial power as president and then later as the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees.
It is not surprising that we are now suffering the consequence of the machinations of the former president. It is also for this reason that I am not impressed by his holier-than-thou posturing of late; having played such ignominious role in the country’s political life since his quitting power in 2007. Frankly speaking, it is not in Obasanjo’s place to assess or criticise this government. It is possible that Nigerians have forgotten so soon. If anybody would criticise Jonathan, it should not be Obasanjo. This is because the former president engineered this present conundrum from its inception.
No matter what he now says or thinks, he knew the two governments were designed to malfunction. The government of Yardua and Jonathan are like houses built on quick sands. In the case of the late Yar’Adua, his ill-health soon prevented him from carrying out the rigorous demands of his office. Obasanjo had claimed not to know of the late president’s health status. Yet, he had secret dossiers to prevent other aspirants from contesting the job. Even when as Katisna State governor, Yar’Adua was said to have absented himself for months to attend to his worsening health condition. Obasanjo was too blinded by his own agenda. He railroaded him to become the president.
In Jonathan, a man who had no history of previous sterling performance, sadly few Nigerian politicians can be so acknowledged, it appeared that Obasanjo had found a willing tool in his self-preservation plans. Was Yar’Adua the best presidential material in 2007? Was Jonathan the best VP material to Yar’Adua and later presidential material in 2011? My answer would be an emphatic NO. But Obasanjo was not bothered enough. He was too self absorbed with vengeance, it has now been revealed, after his failed Third Term agenda to realise the harm being done to the country and our collective psyche by his arbitrary use of presidential powers to impose the Yar’Adua government on the nation.
The mistakes of 2007 would again be repeated in 2011. This time, the emergence of Jonathan which though had the backing of a majority of gullible Nigerians and a disappointing opposition was massively engineered by Obasanjo. Do not get me wrong. The two men had the constitutional right to aspire to any position including that of the president. The question is if Yar’Adua and Jonathan were the best presidential materials at the time. The question is even more relevant when we consider Jonathan as the presidential candidate in 2011 and the role of Obasanjo. Now that the chicken has come home to roost, now that our country begins to face the consequences of a non-performing Jonathan Presidency, what moral high grounds does Obasanjo have to pass judgment on the failings of the government he helped install? What, for example, did he base the choice of Jonathan as a vice-president and president on? Was it on account of any previous notable performance? My position again is this: Obasanjo’s criticism of this administration is self-serving. An allusion of a disappointed father whose ill-trained and wayward son has gone prodigal is too hard to ignore here. Correct me if I’m wrong, it is hard to prove that Obasanjo’s criticism is driven by the love of country or the politics of 2015 as many have alleged.
Given the immense presidential influence at the disposal of the former president in 2007 for example, he had the power to support the emergence of a competent, vibrant and visionary presidential candidate and his running mate. If this had happened, the country would have had almost a decade of good governance. If Obasanjo had been less egoistic, the country would have been saved the harrowing experience of Yar'Adua's illness as president. We would have avoided the antics of a cabal that held the nation hostage and made us a laughing stock in the comity of nations. Obviously, there would not have been any need for a Jonathan Presidency in 2011. And we would have been saved from the shenanigans of the present government. But "Baba" failed to deliberately see the big picture.
The Obasanjo dilemma reminds me of the man who goes to bed while he sets fire on his roof. Now the former president has "left his pot unwashed and his food now burns". Rather than become a latter-day critic of the current administration, Obasanjo should reflect on his stewardship since he quit power in 2007 — a reason why we are in this pitiable mess. His closing years should call for a deep reflection on his role in our current predicament. It is for this reason that the former leader owes Nigerians an apology.