"I pity Nigeria" were the three words of frustration and resignation that were recently expressed by Nigeria's public enemy number one. Crocodile tears or authentic exasperation in the face of perceived betrayal? We may never know. But one thing is sure. Since the sudden clean bill of health unwittingly issued by Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida to their northern successor of sinister fame Sani Abacha however, Olusegun Obasanjo is no longer alone in shaking his (publicly hated) head in pity for Nigeria.
If public lessons in regional and tribal solidarity taught by the northern elites have thus far manifested in subtle feelers and careful actions in public view, this most recent and well-orchestrated teamwork of northern conspiracy has been the most conspicuous till date, of how northern politicians intelligently and cautiously avoid slaughtering their political sons and daughters in the public theater of Absurdistan.
So far, a lot has been said in reaction to this obnoxious oral farting of some prominent stench by our emperor during Nigeria's global reign of "419" specialty. His title as a military head of state was ÔÇśPresident' Ibrahim Babangida alias Political Maradona. Most embarrassing is indeed, not the fact of this verbal derailment and the underlying systematic regional conspiracy but the conspicuous silence over the issue, on the part of prominent Southerners, who have till date, wasted no time in making their voices heard in slaughtering their public enemy number one. There was a voice that unwittingly made no secret of his desire to shoot public enemy number one dead. There are many, who have severally characterized the last eight years of democratic experience, in which they had all the freedom to express their criticisms, as the worst in the history of Nigeria. But first, to other details!
When a civilian government was machined into power in 1999 by a team of northern political elites, no doubt the uppermost thought in mind was to appease the South and calm tensions following the daylight robbery of political power from an election victor of western origin. Moshood Abiola dined with the north counting on the common bond of religious identity. He sacrificed Obafemi Awolowo for his ambition to secure a power base in the north. Then the northern version of karmic justice took its turn. They stabbed him in the back and claimed he wasn't looking! Yet Nigerians in the South did not learn their lessons.
If anyone learnt that lesson though, it was another Yoruba man, who even though, not a friend of Moshood Abiola, understood from experience that the northerners are cold strategists that will pick on any instrument possible to protect their regional interest in the colonial gift of political power. Olusegun Obasanjo was picked as a tried and tested northern instrument to advance their northern interest as a marionette. He played to the tune for as long as he could and turned around in a frantic attempt to wrest the destiny of Nigeria from the fate of regionalism. The northerners saw this and were aggrieved. They set their traps in a wave of Sharia declarations that would have ended up in fatality. They were carefully outmaneuvered and failed in their ploy.
Unfortunately though, it is the South that failed to appreciate and stand behind its man in fighting to make changes irreversible that were introduced in the last eight years to reflect a federal Nigerian character. The southerners replaced the battle for Sharia with some Niger Delta gangsterism. The north was gratified.
True to it, there were failings in the actions of the past regime that were enough to infuriate southerners. The conspiracy surrounding the killing of a fellow westerner (Bola Ige) in which the entire leadership of the PDP including Olusegun Obasanjo and several other northern actors, are rumored to be involved is one of such horrendous crimes. Several political opponents were said to have been murdered and attempts were made on the lives of several others, most notably, an opponent, who ran against the daughter of President Obasanjo for a senatorial seat.
Cases of corruption were vocally reported against the past regime with no proof to link the President. An anti-graft commission was used as an instrument to wield out corrupt Nigerians from the society. But they were largely vocal critics of the President even though not innocent. The President misused the system to impeach uncomfortable governors against whom there were always authentic cases of corruption to be used as excuses. Voices say that many rich entrepreneurs and politicians were coerced into contributing to the President's fund-raising gathering for a personal library project. Above all else though, President Obasanjo handed over Oyo state to a renowned thug and daylight criminal named Adedibu for the sole purpose of securing a political home base. For all these acts that were in several cases, criminal, the President earned enemies of several colors, even though they do not in any sense, match the reign of terror perpetrated by Sani Abachi halfway.
On the other hand, General Sani Abacha ruled with neither a constitution nor a legislative organ. Killing was a routine affair if anyone dared to get in his way. Kudirat and Ken Saro-Wiwa were memorable names and there are many more that are less prominent. Several failed attempts included Ibru. Wole Soyinka had to flee the country in disguise for leading a movement for democracy and daring to challenge the government. Shehu Musa Yar'Adua was killed in prison. Olusegun Obasanjo was thrown in jail. So was Moshood Abiola. There were many more who are less prominent. Ibrahim Babaginda, who was forced out of office in a foul arrangement that also involved Abacha who was eager to take over power, was intimidated into absolute silence. The examples of Shehu Musa Yar'Adua and Olusegun Obasanjo in prison were reasons enough for IBB to chicken out of any courageous stance.
I remember visiting Nigeria a few times during the reign of terror of Sani Abacha. In the habit of carrying no wallet, I had a leather bag that was tied to the belt of my trousers as an improvised wallet for the Nigerian currency that was carried only in huge volumes in the aftermath of massive devaluation. At first glance, anyone watching would mistake this wallet for the holster of a gun. In a nation that was dead scared of killer government agents, the sight of anything in the semblance of a holster was warning enough for caution. In several circumstances with a huge conflict potential that I was involved in, the sight of the wallet always drove a salient scare into my opponents. From the long queue at the gas station to irrelevant debates with my hired laborers, the sight of the wallet was enough to cut discomfort short. Such was the state of a nation that was scared to death. You never knew who was who. The phrase SSS bore a connotation of life and death.
Needless to mention the billions of loot that were and are still recovered from foreign banks maintained by Sani Abacha. Salaries were not paid to government staffs for months unending. Nigeria suffered a brain drain as many lecturers fled the country to take up Professorship In Botswana, Jamaica, Lesotho and other countries where their lives were secured.
The like of Wole Soyinka returned from exile after the death of Sani Abacha, which was greeted all over Nigeria and the world at large, with a huge sigh of relief. Today, Ibrahim Babangida is able to talk again and Wole Soyinka is able to criticize the Presidents again.
But when Wole Soyinka comes out to make the unfortunate public statement that Olusegun Obasanjo is the worst President that has ever ruled Nigeria and even stressing "worse than Abacha", I have my doubts that some pinch of conscience does not tell him quietly that he has shot far beyond the mark of reason. Soyinka fled for his life under the reign of terror. Worse still, for one disgruntlement or the other, talented and prominent voices like that of Reuben Abati added their spices to this foolish poison of exacerbated emotions. Now they are dumbfounded that the groundwork laid by their excessively exaggerated criticisms is now becoming the head cornerstone of Abacha's clean bill of health. Reuben Abati saw it coming soon after the subject was heralded by Miryam Abacha. He responded to the lady politely with a mild and subtle dose of obstinacy until he was overpowered by the combined force of IBB, Buhari and the maverick Adulsalami.
The strategy is simple. Political leadership of Nigeria shall not only be northernized to the point of irreversibility, the clad of moral purity shall be worn by northerners alone. Given the presence of a ready-made public enemy in Public Square in the person of Olusegun Obasanjo, the task is simple.
Some commentators have opined that moral teachings forbid evil talk about the deceased. But no moral teaching of sort has so drastically robbed world history of routine reality to tag Adolf Hitler the Mother Theresa of Jewish sympathy. While Olusegun Obasanjo sought tenure elongation to extend his Presidency from eight to twelve years, the feelers have been spread out lately in a preliminary attempt to test political temperatures for constitutional amendment allowing the present northern President a double seven-year term of fourteen years. Yet no hell is let loose to crucify the proponent like they sought to do Obasanjo.
The Ohanezes, the Ken Nnamanis and all those who can never have enough in telling their vengeance-driven (often economic) truth while attacking Olusegun Obasanjo are all playing spectators to this daylight perversion of the naked truth. The Wole Soyinkas, the Bola Tinubus and all the Apostles of Gospel Truth have abandoned the level playing field for an ailing Gani Fawehinmi to fight a battle of good against evil all on his own.
A clean bill of health for Abacha coming from the mouth of a leader under whose reign the game of 419 took hold of Nigeria and a Muhammadu Buhari who served as a figure head of selective terror persecuting southerners in an open bid to tilt the scale of politics in favor of the north is the joke of the century. Indeed the achiever as de facto Prime Minister was Tunde Idiagbon not Buhari. His regime brought a dose of sanity to Nigeria. IBB came over and eroded all traces of civility and passed it over to Abacha for perfection.
Should this however, turn out to be the genesis of a process in an ill-advised northern agenda of further anchoring their grip on power, then public relations experts and competent political analysts (in case there are some in the north) should come out now and fast too. They should sound it loud and clear to the ears of Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda, if they are still capable of hearing, that they may end up playing into the hands of the grassroots. It was the grassroots that bore the brunt of scare and collective intimidation and poverty to match under the reign of Abacha. Taking them for a ride by playing on their intelligence bears a strong potential for a backlash of unforeseeable dimensions. If these power-hungry northerners want a complete Nigeria to rule over in peace, they're best advised to revise their strategy now and fast.
The stage has now been reached, in which the numerical strength of "pity for Nigeria" is growing by the day all in the wake of foolish revisionism. Let's keep our fingers crossed!