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Obasanjo, A Worthy Messenger?

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo appears to be the latest self-appointed messenger of a new Nigeria under the leadership of President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari. Many are however skeptical of his message given his antecedence, reports Peterclaver Egbochue

As May 29 handover date draws near for the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, to mount the saddle of leadership, individuals and groups seeking recognition are paying courtesy visits to him.

Beyond the visits, others have chosen both conventional and unconventional means to send unsolicited suggestions on how best to tackle the myriads of challenges facing the country. Among them is former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was on the saddle for eight years but could not solve the problems.

The former president had recently written a letter to Buhari drawing his attention to areas he should promptly tackle and bring succour to Nigerians.

The letter read in part: “With the so much harm already done to many national institutions including the military which proudly nurtured you and me, you will have a lot to do on institution reforms, education, healthcare economy, security, infrastructure, power, youth empowerment, agribusiness, oil and gas, external affairs, cohesiveness of our nation and ridding our land of corruption. Your varied and wide experience will undoubtedly stand in good stead.”

While some political analysts have commended the former president for not just sitting back and criticizing but offered constructive suggestions as to how the country could come out of her challenges, others have cautioned the President-elect to be weary of Obasanjo and his unsolicited letter.

The latter premised their position on the fact that the former president spent eight years in office but could not tackle most of the challenges and instead created more anguish, pains and woes for Nigerians.

Reacting to the letter, a former member of National Assembly, Senator Rowland Owie, described Obasanjo’s think-tank report as a document of blackmail for the President-elect in the nearest future.

In a statement issued in Abuja, Owie, who is also a former Chief Whip of the Senate, asked: ”How can Obasanjo be preparing a blueprint for Buhari? A Bini parable says, “how can an impotent man get medicine for his brother, who suffers weak erection”?

The Niger Delta ex-senator was disappointed that the in-coming Buhari administration was in romance with Obasanjo, saying, “Obasanjo will tell the world that the solutions he prescribed for fixing Nigeria were ignored.”

He said, “I just read Obasanjo think-tank has submitted a blueprint to Buhari. Blue what?

“I am shocked that great Nigerians of the likes of Prof. Akin Mabogunje, Dr. Idika Kalu and Dr. Christopher Kolade were involved. That Obasanjo is linked to the blueprint; it will be a document of blackmail to Buhari very soon.

“Wonders will never end! How can Obasanjo who wasted eight years in government pursuing perceived enemies, and tried to ruin the legislative and judiciary arms of government in Nigeria; wasted $16 billion on power and not a single kilowatt of energy was produced, destroyed Aladja Steel, Itakpe Steel, Ajaokuta Steel, NITEL, just to mention a few FGN parastatals, now begin to advise Buhari?

“How can Obasanjo, whose government received, in one year, a revenue equivalent of the total revenue that IBB regime received in eight years, yet, nothing to show for it, be handing over blue-print to the in-coming administration?

“While there are great legacies left behind by IBB, but Nigerians can’t find any useful legacies by a government that received the highest revenue, since the amalgamation of Nigeria.

“The legacies left behind by Obasanjo are hate, divisiveness, Zaki- Ibiam and Odi destructions, impunity in government business and the business of the PDP that was put together by well-meaning people, when he, Obasanjo, was in prison.”

Owie also revealed that, “the present state of PDP was created by Obasanjo when the late Sunday Awoniyi was rigged out in 2000 at Eagle Square and another attempt to rebuild the party through Chief Audu Ogbeh was frustrated when Ogbeh was forced to resign as PDP chairman.

“We thank God that now that Obasanjo has left the PDP, we can rebuild the party. Has Obasanjo not seen now the major achievements of Yar’Adua-Jonathan government within a short time?”

On his part, Comrade Rasaq Olokoba, the General Secretary of the Coalition of Odua Self Determination Groups (COSEG), the umbrella body for self-determination groups in the South-west, maintained that the former president lacked the credibility to suggest the way forward for the president-elect given the fact that he failed the people of Nigeria in his eight years rule and with the sort of oil boom he experienced.

In an exclusive interview, Olokoba said, “Any student of political science in his first year will do better than what he has recommended to Buhari. Look at the power sector; every Nigerian knows that we are in this economic mess today because of the power failure. Over 5,000 companies have gone moribund as a result of bad governance, inconsistency in government policies and power failure.

“You do not have to be a former president to know that we have security challenges, education, all these things that he mentioned are things that are not worthy of applaud because they were issues he nurtured to the point they are now. The only thing that can be ascribed to the glory of Obasanjo is the GSM.

“But the truth is that Muammar Gaddafi brought GSM to Africa. When we were using the NITEL facility, the rest of Africa was relying on the European satellite. But when Gaddafi became the African Union (AU) Chairman, he provided $300m out of the $400m required in building the satellite for Africa and the rest of the African countries contributed the remaining $100m and that was the history of GSM in Africa.

“It coincided with the time Obasanjo was going to be the president of Nigeria. So, it was not an independent effort, Nigeria did not launch any satellite or any serious effort. Anybody who was president at that time would have done what he did. If you look at the steps Obasanjo took when he was the president, they were steps that were aberration to us today.

“They said he paid debt, it is only a businessman who is not smart that will pay debt with his capital. Obasanjo paid debt with our capital, the foreign reserves. You are not supposed to pay debt with our foreign reserves, which you are supposed to have invested into other areas so that today that our economy is under depression, we would have found something to fall back on.

“People say he is respected all over Africa today and that is because we are telling the rest of the world that this is our best. They didn’t elect him to office for the second time, we did. So as an African, he is a failure. I wish to sound a note of caution to Buhari to be careful with spent forces.”

In a similar development, the convener of “Save Nigeria Group,’ Pastor Tunde Bakare, said former President Obasanjo’s administration raised the bar of corruption in the country, notwithstanding his “supposed achievements” in office.

Bakare who spoke in Lagos recently as the guest lecturer at the 10th Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s Annual Lecture/Symposium, organised by the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, noted that the media was practically gagged under Obasanjo’s administration.

He said, “Media was censored, outspoken critics were targeted and judicial decisions were subjected to executive interpretations. Meanwhile, Obasanjo himself raised the mountain of corruption to an unimaginable level.

“As apathy set in among the electorate, General Obasanjo, indignant that he could not foist third term agenda on Nigeria, imposed sick president on the nation through a fraudulent election, I beg your pardon, selection, overseen by Prof. Maurice Iwu.”

He said Obasanjo’s supposed achievements in office had no significant impact on the people’s lives.

“Then, complacency set in as General Obasanjo, satisfied with his supposed achievements, which however did not reflect significantly in the living condition of the average Nigerian, sought to perpetuate himself in power and so unleashed the machinery of state against perceived enemies among the political class.”

Against this backdrop, political analysts argue that if Obasanjo had the solution to the myriads of challenges the country faced in his administration, he would have solved them long before the in-coming administration. Since he did not, many conclude that he does not have the idea of how best to solve them and therefore his recommendations lacked the potency to solve the problems. Would he claim that the recommendations are from experience, why didn’t the experiences work is the question in the lips of many.

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