by Abraham Ogbodo
Last week, OBJ was in Aso Rock Villa to see PMB. Some said it was the 6th (I sense some exaggeration here) since the latter was declared winner of the March 28 presidential election. Tongues are beginning to wag that at such frequency, the old president may be seeing the new president more often than even Aisha, the latter’s wife, who is still struggling to reconcile with the new dispensation, where the office of the First Lady has become anathema.
In the past, OBJ didn’t show this degree of interest in the seat of power. For instance, after military Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed had been killed in the failed February 13, 1976 coup, led by Col Buka Suka Dimka, the mantle fell on OBJ as second in command to Murtala. But instead of grabbing the offer with both hands as most men would do, OBJ allegedly varnished into thin air at the point of his coronation. One account said, General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, then chief of army staff, had to assemble a battalion to track OBJ to his hide out and return him to Dodan Barracks to inherit his possession.
OBJ avoided power like plague. The three years, between 1976 and 1979 that he was forced to hold on to it must have been the most trying time of his life. Read some of his books for better details. If anything, he preferred scholarship to power mongering. As soon as he left Dodan Barracks on October 1, 1979, he started churning out books at a frequency that allegedly got the wordsmith himself, Prof Wole Soyinka, alarmed.
Observers have actually noted that the incessant quarrels between 78-year old OBJ and the 81-year old Prof. have to do with the former’s determination to become the second Nigerian to win a Nobel Prize under whatever classification after Soyinka, even as people say the task would be a lot easier if the Alfred Nobel Foundation could be convinced to institute a prize for ‘Self Righteousness.’
OBJ has continued to show that love for scholarship, first by building a huge presidential library in Abeokuta while still in office and secondly by going back to school after being head of state twice to pick a degree in theology. He has continued to write books too.
The people (including Buhari) that Obasanjo left behind in the military, in 1979, were not like him. While he sought first the kingdom of the military and waited patiently for the political kingdom to be added unto him, others reversed the order and sought first the political kingdom and made whatever came from the military incidental benefits. The temple called Second Republic that OBJ used about three and half years to build was pulled down in one day, December 31, 1983, by Buhari.
There was a B.A (Begin Again) programme anchored mainly by IBB who chased out Buhari for being such a bad builder. In the convoluted transition to civil rule programme that followed, the recall of the only excellent builder, OBJ, was suggested to lay a solid foundation and show the way forward. But the man was not the type that would bow at the mention of power. He told those campaigning for his recall that while leaving the presidency on October 1, 1979, he took every of his belongings along with him and diligently ensured that nothing that would warrant his return to the place was left behind.
This was, however, before he was sent to jail in 1995 by General Sani Abacha. While in prison, he got loads of revelations and became born again. He remembered things he had left behind in the presidency, in 1979, that he needed to retrieve. He did in 1999 and stayed for eight years till 2007 and had even asked for extension, which he didn’t get, to sort out things more comprehensively.
Since then, OBJ, now an old man, who has more than attained the biblical age of three scores plus 10 years, has been itching for more action. He acts, at times, as if he needs to return to the seat of power for a record third time to recover more forgotten items. His immediate successors, namely Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan could not manage this burning urge in the old man and they got into trouble with him. Now, OBJ is all over the ‘new sheriff’ in town, to borrow a phrase from presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina. He is visiting Aso Rock, like a visiting professor of political science, to teach PMB political economy and public administration.
This last time, another set of visitors from Lagos went to Aso Rock Villa after OBJ had returned to Abeokuta to tell PMB to be wary of OBJ’s unsolicited visits and friendship. Some people are even saying the two wise men from Lagos told PMB not to oblige OBJ’s request for ministerial slots, as if the former president called a press conference to announce that he had gone to PMB to submit his list of candidates for ministerial appointments, which would be, by the special grace of God, announced on or before September 30.
This kind of image is not good for a two-time former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, acclaimed worldwide as the country with the highest population of black people.
OBJ needs to do things differently. He is knocking too frequently on the door of Buhari who, himself, is on a second mission to retrieve forgotten items. The man needs concentration to do things well so that he does not wish for a third mission, like OBJ, after his current efforts at repairing what he could not fix in his first and second missions. Besides, PMB never knocked noisily on OBJ’s door, when the latter was doing his own second mission between 1999 and 2007.
In fact, instead of running around Aso Rock Villa, like a hustler, OBJ should do well to pay with the same coin with which he was paid by PMB. Or has he forgotten that Buhari avoided him like a leper for the eight years that his second mission in power lasted? Buhari was not even attending the statutory Council of State meetings, because he did not want anything to do with the OBJ presidency. This was after seeking unsuccessfully to dethrone OBJ in 2003.
According to the records, the only time Buhari visited Aso Rock to see Obasanjo was some time, in 2005, after the death of Stella, OBJ’s wife. It was a condolence visit, which was, however, promoted as some serious visit. It was made to look like the Queen of England, Elizabeth II visiting Nigeria again after 1956 and 2003. Presidential spokeswoman, the late Mrs Remi Oyo had said of the visit: “the President was very pleased (even while mourning his late wife) to receive General Buhari…”
If OBJ were in Warri, the boys would tell him to ‘maintain good levels or be seriously contained.’ He is bigger than Buhari on all counts. He is older, richer (the man just finished declaring his assets all of which do not add up in value to a wing of OBJ’s hilltop mansion in Abeokuta), senior to him in the military and politics. OBJ became military head of state and also a democratically elected president before Buhari. And so, what’s your sweat, baba?
Going forward, OBJ should give Buhari some good breathing space. In fact, he should stop going to Aso Rock for any reason, except it is clear that his going will make Buhari happy and a presidential spokesman shall come on air thereafter to proclaim so. And finally, Buhari is not an Egba man; he is a Fulani man who does not like glamour and so OBJ will help himself to maintain a safe distance with his razzmatazz.
Abraham Ogbodo is a columnist with Guardian Newspaper where this article was first published.
The opinions expressed in this articles are solely those of the author.