Obasanjo… Obasanjo… Obasanjo! The above quote is from the recent article by former President Olusegun Obasanjo with a title “Obama’s Election and the Needed Change” where he gave a sermon on the newly elected President of the United States of America, Barrack Husseini Obama. The article was not widely celebrated in the Nigeria’s Press, probably due to the sentiment against his leadership as only few media houses published or reviewed it.
The Nigeria’s former president was in his usual best… eloquent with catchy words and fancy phrases in intellectual fervor that can compete with the best academic paper. While many Nigerians may deliberately ignore his seeming tribute on Obama, the message and the theme of the essay is indeed a good material for researchers and students of political science and even the politicians.
Yes… most of his points and argument are not only timely and worthy reference material in assessing the dynamism of American politics and the sagacity of Obama’s campaign managers, coming from Obasanjo would definitely make one to wonder if the same processes were observed during his reign as Nigeria’ President.
The piece which he started with congratulatory message to President-Elect Senator Barack Obama for his well-deserved victory, states that Obama’s victory brought with it a new, refreshing and exciting taste in our mouths. According to him “Apart from doing himself and his family proud, he has also done his nation proud by crossing a Rubicon that was considered impassable almost inconceivable at least in the then immediate future.” Nigerians and indeed Africans would have wished Obasanjo too provided a level playing ground for political aspirants without intimidation and unbecoming collaboration of some security agencies and electoral umpires to scuttle the democratic process from running its course.
The entire piece by General Olusegun Obasanjo centres on changes and he keeps on repeating the theme. According to him “The feeling of change that Senator Obama engendered through his campaign for the White House represents a significant theme of change we have all aspired and fought for in different areas…, regions, cultures and historical times.” He adds with this fancy and quotable phrase “The desire for change has never been the question nor has it ever been in question. It is the extent, the range, the tone, the quantity, the quantum and the sustenance of change that has always been the question.”
Nigerians actually seek for such positive changes, but politicians and political appointees always have ways of denying us the opportunity to achieve our desired changes. I couldn’t help but wonder which of the changes Gen. Obasanjo is referring to… living condition, security or electoral processes?
As Nigerians and Africans continue to argue the possibility of Obamania in our climes considering the bastardilisation of political and electoral processes by our leaders, Obasanjo points out that “Rooted in the achievements of Senator Obama is a far more significant theme for people aspiring to lead their communities, particularly for young Africans in Africa. It is the aspirations, the determination, the energy, the strategic thinking, planning and execution that Senator Obama and his campaign team have brought into what is being regarded as a movement.”
Nigeria has many talented, intelligent, respected and incorruptible individuals who could have been great leaders but were eliminated from aspiring to lead either by local government chairmen, governors of states and President of the country by using the paraphernalia of office, as we observed with dismay during the last government. If not for the intervention of the Judiciary we wouldn’t have witnessed emergence of Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and the new Comrade Governor Adam Oshimole of Edo State. Many similar cases are still in the court waiting for justice.
Our President who was once described as a close friend of President George Bush Jnr. considering the numbers of times he travelled abroad, indirectly lashed at his former ally when he writes: “In some ways his (Obama) election has been described by some analysts as a referendum on George Bush’s eight years of unnecessary and totally avoidable wars and the meltdown economy.” In another place in the article he is more direct when he adds: “His (Bush) position of going for force of persuasion rather than persuasion of force must sound like sweet music in the ears of those who have agonised in the unilateralism of the use of force under the guise of fighting terrorism by the Bush administration.”
Commenting on the personality of Barrack Obama, our former president proudly narrates his personal close encounter thus: “Let me relate my first and only encounter with Senator Barrack Obama. In September 2007, during the Black Caucus Convention in Washington DC, I met and chatted with both Senator Hilary Clinton and Senator Barrack Obama separately, albeit briefly. One cannot but be impressed by Senator Obama’s disposition, he was intelligent, quick-witted and smart in his reactions and answers to my few questions. He was also courteous and cultured. He exuded confidence and friendship even though it was our first meeting…. I also recalled that when he first contested for political office in Illinois, though his funny name raised questions for him but it did not make him lose the election, he won.”
One thing our former President doesn’t state, which is necessary in an article like that is that Obama doesn’t have any godfather and doesn’t use any big corporate mafia to foot his campaign bills. He did not lobby members of his political party in public offices to channel states resources for his campaign. We know what happened in Nigeria when we had the Chris Ubas, the Adedibus, Sarakis and the influence of the powerful business cartel like the so-called Corporate Nigerians in making things happen their ways sometimes against the wishes of the people.
There are indeed great lessons to learn from Obama’s campaign compare to primitive and uninspiring electioneering in our lands. The Iwu Chief clearly states this when he observes that Obama out-campaigned, out-strategised, out-funded, and out-debated his Republican rival, Senator John McCain. The crowd drawn by Obama during his visit to Europe was nothing short of a movement and it was simply electrifying.” He adds that “I must express my admiration for the managers and advisers of Senator Obama during the campaign. They were cautious, meticulous, and painstaking; they left nothing to chance. They checked and crosschecked everything and every milieu.” In Nigeria one can succeed in all this but still fail because the power-that-be has a preference on whom they need and must be whether the citizens like it or not or whether he is of questionable character.
In fact when the Ota Farmer said Obama’s campaigners and supporters carry no baggage of fear, doubt and prejudices of their parents and those before them, the contrary seemed to be the case in Nigeria where ballot papers and boxes are hijacked, where political opponents are haunted, where area-boy-vagabonds who are the usual typical campaign managers, maimed and killed on the instruction of their financiers in a country where we have an electoral empire as being insensitive to the feelings of the people.
I totally agree with our former President that “what has happened in America is for a man to be seen for what he is – human and what he is capable of delivering – removes the consideration of minority-majority as a major debate or factor. People should be seen, accepted, judged and placed for what they are and what God has endowed them with.”
Where I got confused after I recalled the only-one-man can rule Nigeria campaign for Third-Term was when Obasanjo writes: “Those who preach the sermon of superiority of Intelligence Quotient or simple intellect based on colour, race, tribe or language must start to review and indeed change their sermon.”
In Nigeria we have seen leaders who want to rule for life, thinking that without them nothing can move as they attempt to amend the law to accommodate their megalomaniac quest that they are those gifted with the power to rule for life.
For the losers in the Maurice Iwu-led elections in Nigeria, the retired military general probably has them in mind when he admonishes them to consider Obama’s disposition before the election that “he (Obama) maintained that he would not blame discrimination of any sort, if he had failed to win the election, rather he would blame himself for not putting his ideas and programme across to the electorate properly and adequately.”
I think our former President need to know that the election in America is clearly as it is indisputably free and fair in every sense that John McCain had to immediately concede defeat and congratulate Obama in a genuine and sincere tribute.
WE can not deny Obasanjo’s sense of humour, intellect and charisma, when we recall the way he mesmerized the international community and bulldozzed his way to plum positions even in group pictures with world leaders. How he becomes a failure by public and media rating is still of great concern to political observers and students of history even when he succeeded in some areas of economic development.
The general discloses one undisputable fact, a reality we face today as Nigerians which keep us going and sustain our faith in the country as he captures our moods with this word: “After all, hope is the only thing we freely give to ourselves and it is the only thing that we are left with when all else has been taken away.”
I think we must move ahead from mere hope to the realization of our dreams, because many have died, counting on hope and hoping for better day that never came.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Economic Confidential November, Daily Sun November 20, New Nigerian November 18, Daily Trust November 19, 19, Vanguard November 21, Tribune November 23, Independent November 24 Business Times November 28-29 and Leadership November 30, 2008