On this one I am uncomfortably with Obasanjo.

Anthony A Kila


Former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has a pronounced knack of putting people like me in awkward positions and making many us appear inconsistent on our take on his positions. One day I find myself passionately criticizing and attacking his actions and deeds, the next day I find myself defending them. Lucky are those that always know where they stand on OBJ for they do not have the burden I have of having to say yes but …or no if…

The first time I really stopped to ponder about OBJ was back in 1977, then we knew him as General Obasanjo and the event that got me thinking of him led to me not liking him, to put it mildly. For in my eyes, it was under his military led administration that solders went to invade and burn down my own Fela's Kalakuta republic. For those of us that grew up loving Fela's music and admiring his courage to stand up to power, that was a sacrilege and I personally felt that the then head of state was brutal to the man, insensitive to the genius and uncaring of art

Few years later, he led the transition to civilian rule and personally handed over power to elected president Sheu Shagari; students of Nigerian political history are still divided on the role he played in those 1979 elections. One clear thing is that since then the man has never really left the Nigerian political scene. Like bread on an Italian dining table, you can be sure to always find OBJ involved in the often comic, sometimes tragic and most times annoying events of Nigeria.

The latest (it is wise to include the phrase to the best of my knowledge here, for OBJ is a busy man) is the letter he sent to the sitting president of Dr Goodluck Jonathan. In that now famous letter, the former president wrote to his highly endorsed and supported candidate now president to call his attention to issues relating to the integrity and capacity to perform of some public officials and proffered some very clear solutions.

The first question that letter has raised in many quarters is thus; has he got the right to write such letters? My own answer is a simple, clear and firm yes. As a citizen and a party leader it is his right to call the attention of his president to any perceived misdemeanor going on under his watch. Whilst we are at it let also add that he has the duty as a former head of state and indeed as a Nigerian elder to keep abreast of what is going on in the country. We might overlook it, but the fact remains that former head of states are paid and they enjoy great privileges for being former head of states, in return the least they can do is express their concerns and offer advice based on their experience and understanding.

All these are of course based on the assumption that they have the good of the country at heart. It is based on the idea that given that they been there and done it, all they care about now is the good of those that come after them. And therein lies another major question: was OBJ acting simply and solely in the interest of the country or was acting in the interest of one group and against the interest of another?

It goes without saying that whether an advice or a request is in the interest of the country or not, the responsibility of heeding or discarding input from any quarter that comes to his desk or ears lies entirely on the shoulders of the sitting president. He should be telling us through his acts what he thinks about such advice or requests. Ordinarily, we should not all know about such inputs but now that we know we have a right to know where this president stands on the issues raised by his predecessor.

Whilst we are at it, these presidents (past and present) must also know that there is another concern about how such information finished in hands of the press. Someone is working against someone else here. Who are the fifth columnist and who are they working for? At this junction, I must declare that I not only applaud the papers for writing about the letter, I firmly stand by their right and recognize their duty to print the letter since the writer denied writing it.

With that OBJ puts us in an uncomfortable position again: he denied. Why did he deny? With all his experience and exposure, surely he could have found a way to better handle the whole situation. Who are his advisers and handlers? Something is wrong with the services they are providing or with their relationship with their principal.

As for those shouting conspiracy and dwelling on suspicion, there is no other way to put it, they should just shut up. Instead of disturbing us with their conspiracy theories they should be asking if it is true or not that those public officials are sleeping or stealing on duty.