Editorial Top Stories

Obasanjo, Buhari and burden of leadership

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was at it again last week. At a function in Abuja, Obasanjo took the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to the cleaners, over the state of the economy, the general insecurity in the country and the obvious cracks in the unity of the country. The former president, who has assumed the conscience of the nation, was unsparing in his criticism of the Buhari government, accusing it of opening old wounds and toying with the diversity of the country.

“Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically, our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country. “And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socioeconomic development of our country,” he said. Obasanjo is almost sounding like a broken record with his penchant for pulling governments back to reason. Since he left office on May 29, 2007, Obasanjo has personally held every succeeding administration to account, pointing out perceived imperfections and fallings of such governments. He did not start with Buhari. We recall his outburst against the late President Umaru Yar’Adua at a forum in Abuja, when the late president was sick.

Few days after, the Senate found its voice and applied the Doctrine of Necessity to bring the then Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to the position of the Acting President. Obasanjo did not spare Jonathan either. He accused him of massive corruption and worked assiduously to ensure Jonathan was voted out for Buhari in 2015. But obviously by his utterances now, Obasanjo did not expect what he has seen with the Buhari presidency, hence his outburst last week. He had in January and July last year, written two open letters to the president, pointing out things he did not see as palatable. He has also spoken openly against the policies of the government at different occasions.

The presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Sunday in what looked like a synchronized response, gave Obasanjo, a full measure of their tongues. While Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesman, described Obasanjo as Nigeria’s Divider-in-Chief, Lai Mohammed, the Information Minister said that Buhari pulled Nigeria back from the brinks of failure. Shehu said: “…we hope that Chief Obasanjo would once again sheath the sword and rest the pretentiousness about the Messiah that has (mis)led him to pronounce often wrongly, as he disastrously did in the 2019 elections, about the life and death of Nigerian governments.

“As some commentators are already suggesting, Chief Obasanjo should, in accordance with his mantra as a statesman, get involved with problems solving, when and where they exist instead of helping the mushrooming of a poisonous atmosphere of ethnic and religious nationalism.” Mohammed said that the country is on a journey to greatness, not without challenges but tackling it courageously. “Nigeria today is not a failed state, but a nation that is courageously tackling its challenges and building a solid infrastructure that will serve as the basis for socio-economic development; a nation that is unrelenting in battling insecurity and working hard to ensure greatest prosperity for the greatest number of people,” he said.

While we praise Obasanjo for his courage in speaking up as a statesman, we are also happy that the presidency defended itself robustly, marshalling out its points in the way it could. But we do not believe that Obasanjo should be called bad names because of his position on the government. It is his legitimate right to say things as he sees them. Like him or hate him, no one can deny the fact that Obasanjo has paid his dues for Nigeria. He also has some records to support his views. A former head of state and two-term president, he has seen it all. Whether he made mistakes during his own tenure does not absolve the present government of its own failures. That is the truth. We think strongly that rather than turn his opinions into that of Obasanjo and a spilt milk crier, the government needs to look deeper and assess if there are genuine issues in his cries. We know for sure that there are real concerns by majority of Nigerians who cannot be heard like Obasanjo.

For one, the economy keeps churning out negative indices from all over, including statistics from local agencies such as the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), and other global bodies. We also know that insecurity is still rife in almost all parts of the country. Of course, there is no denying the fact that the unity of the country is shaky today. Those are the issues that need to occupy the attention of the presidency. Obasanjo’s cry is a patriotic call, no matter how bitter or pungent it may sound.

It is something the presidency should not gloss over or think that an attack on the messenger removes the message. Fact is that majority of Nigerians are pressed, not happy with the state of things. It is more than attacking Obasanjo. If he did not say it, someone else would voice it out. Uneasy lies the head that bears the crown. Buhari is bearing the crown today. He must also bear the cross from Obasanjo and Nigerians.

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