“A statesman is a politician who places himself at the service of the nation. A politician is a statesman who places the nation at his service”. – George Pompidou
Not too long ago, lovers and admirers of General Yakubu Gowon, the former military Head of State and elder statesman, gathered in Abuja from all walks of life, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the elder statesman, nationalist and pan-Africanist. Distinguished guests, who graced the occasion, poured encomiums one after another on the people’s general for his immeasurable roles in maintaining peace and stability in Nigeria. Apart from the statesmanship lifestyle being exhibited by General Gowon, since he left office, he has remained apolitical since then, serving as a unifying force in the polity. Gen. Gowon has never criticized a sitting president of Nigeria publicly; let alone denigrates the exalted office of the president. Recently, Gen. Yakubu Gowon took a swipe at the United States on its refusal to sell arms to Nigeria to fight the insurgency by the Islamic group, Boko Haram. He criticized the US for not selling military hardware to Nigeria. He has been doing everything possible to keep the corporate existence of Nigeria. These are the attributes and characteristics of an ex-President and elder statesman! A former military Head of State and ex-President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is a living example of how not to be an ex-President! Why did I say so? Based on the recent unpatriotic utterances of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, which are undeserving of ex-President, it is obvious the former leader does not understand George Pompidou’s definition of a statesman as a politician, who places himself at the service of the nation, or he deliberately does not want to subscribe to that school of thought.
During a book presentation in Abuja recently, Chief Obasanjo made a lot of unprintable remarks against President Goodluck Jonathan and his government, when he was quoted as saying, “As a leader, you must not deliberately do evil or condone evil. You should know that you will one day give account to God, you may cover up here, but before God, there is no cover up”. On insecurity, Chief Obasanjo said “Boko Haram is not out to frustrate anyone’s political efforts” and lamented that it took President Jonathan three years to understand the menace. On corruption, Chief Obasanjo said, “When the head is rotten, the whole body is useless”. On the economy, he towed the same line of blame game by saying “Nigeria would continue to sink deeper and that what Nigerians are told about the state of the economy “is not truly what the economy is”. “The economy is in doldrums, if not in reverse”, he said. Chief Obasanjo’s latest attack on Mr. President came seven days after he rated President Jonathan’s performance as below average. In the light of the foregoing context, it is very unfortunate and unexpected that a man, who allegedly institutionalized corruption via Ghana-must-go syndrome, has decided to put on a garment of sainthood by referring to President Jonathan as a “rotten head”, presiding over a “useless body”; Nigeria. On which moral platform is Saint Obasanjo standing to accuse President Jonathan of running the economy aground? A man who spent 16 billion dollars of tax payers’ money on power sector reforms without tangible results. Imported power equipments remained at the ports till it lost its five year warranty. It is crystal clear to even the blind that power sector under President Jonathan has reached an irreversible stage of progress. Generation and Distribution companies now privatized, and Nigeria recently hit an all time high of 4517.6 MW of electricity generation last achieved in 1979. Nigerians would not forget in a hurry, that it was during St. Obasanjo’s era, that Aviation sector took a massive hit and virgin Nigeria went under, sold assets were laden with protests, while over 30 billion naira spent on roads did not yield any result. During his reign, only 5,000km of road was motorable out of 35,000km of federal roads, which prompted the regrettable collapse of Benin/Sagamu and Ibadan/Akure expressways. The administration of President Jonathan has not only succeeded in revitalizing the rail system, but has inaugurated the Lagos-Kano service, Eastern rail line from P/H-Kano under rehabilitation. A new gauge line from Lagos-Ibadan is on course. It is on record that the present government has fixed 25,000km of interstate roads out of 35,000km. Nigeria’s image has been boosted via the remodeling of nation’s 22 airports via an integrated transportation system. President Jonathan’s government built over 2,000km of roads in 2013, highest in a single year by any government in Nigerian history (a giant stride St. Obasanjo did not achieve as Nigerian President). The second Niger Bridge, which Obasanjo used as a campaign tool is now under construction, kudos to President Jonathan, who saw the importance of this bridge as a gateway to the South-east. I decided to highlight some achievements of this administration not as a sycophant, but to expose the hypocrisy of yesterday’s men! Any university student, who wants to start a project on how not to privatize government institutions, should pay a visit to Nicon Luxury Hotel and Nicon Insurance in Abuja, which were privatized during Chief Obasanjo’s era. On security, if it is true that it took President Jonathan three years to fully understand the menace of Boko Haram, as was wrongly alleged by St. Obasanjo, how many years did it take Chief Obasanjo to study Niger Delta militancy? Who finally ended insecurity in the oil-rich region, and granted amnesty to the ex-militants? Did former President Yar’dua of blessed memory, for once accuse St. Obasanjo of doing little or nothing to stop militancy in the region? Is Chief Obasanjo trying to suggest to President Jonathan to adopt Odi/Zaki biam formula, where hundreds of innocent Nigerians were allegedly massacred in cold blood by St. Obasanjo’s government? St. Obasanjo charged President Jonathan to ensure that “management of democracy without resorting to brute force and dictatorial tendencies must be cultivated”, is this voice of Jacob, and the hand of Esau? To attest to the veracity of my argument, political brigandage thrived on under the leadership of St. Obasanjo. Nigerians can recall the infamous saga of an elected governor of Anambra State; Chris Ngige, who was kidnapped by hoodlums backed by Abuja. If a governor, the Chief Security 0fficer of a state could be kidnapped for days without anybody raising an eye brow that would amount to impunity and dictatorship! Under former President Obasanjo’s regime, elections were held under questionable circumstances which saw the law courts nullifying some of them like (e.g. Osun, Anambra, Edo and Ekiti States). To be continued.
Nwobodo Chidiebere, Public Affairs analyst wrote in from Abuja.