The recent statement credited to former President Olusegun Obasanjo to the effect that Nigeria is fast drifting into a ‘failed and badly divided state’ under President Muhammadu Buhari is, to say the least, unstatesmanly. The statement was done in bad faith, aimed at further compounding the multi-faceted crises and faultlines bedeviling the country, which foundation was laid by the Obasanjo administration in 1999. If anything, the Buhari government has been battling to resolve the anathema.
Obasanjo made the statement in Abuja a fortnight ago while delivering a speech titled, ‘Moving Nigeria Away from Tipping Over’ at a consultative dialogue attended by various socio-cultural groups including Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo and Pan Niger Delta Forum. Obasanjo, who played an active role in the Nigerian Civil War, said he had never seen Nigeria so divided, adding that many of the problems plaguing the country today were due to the recent mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity.
The former president said, “I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in. 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.
Obasanjo said those beating drums of war and calling for secession must remember that were Nigeria to break into several countries, the citizens would still be neighbours and would need to interact with one another. He stated that if Nigeria was to successfully tackle its challenges, it must first address the problem of disunity because a house divided could not achieve much success. The former president, therefore, commended all socio-cultural groups present at the meeting, describing their agreement to come together as a good sign. “With what I have seen, read and heard from the rapprochement that you are forging together, I see a ray of hope that Nigeria can be saved from disintegration.
“If we are ready to live together in understanding, mutual respect and love with equity, justice, inclusiveness while engendering sense of belonging and unity of purpose and all hands on deck, we can deal with internal issues of terrorism, organised crimes, banditry, kidnapping, human trafficking, drug, money laundering and corruption. We will then be able to deal successfully with any incoming attack of terrorism, organised crimes, etc, from outside.”
Obasanjo described the National Assembly’s fresh constitutional review exercise as a waste of time and resources. He praised socio-cultural groups like NEF and Yoruba Summit Group for describing it as such. “That ray of hope was somewhat manifested in the last 10 days or so when the Northern Elders Forum and Yoruba Summit Group complemented each other in their separate press releases on the Senate’s idea of inviting submissions from Nigerian public for constitution amendment, which had been regular money-gulping activity by every National Assembly session since 1999, a veritable source of waste without end”.
He said he was optimistic that the consultation among the several groups would enlarge the circle from the mini-dialogue group bit by bit until a national dialogue that could save Nigeria from disintegration was reached. When that is done, he said, the initiative would come to an end. The former president said only self-deluded people would claim that all is well in Nigeria.
In a swift reaction, the presidency Obasanjo’s statements were “attempts to divide the nation while President Muhammadu Buhari continues to promote nation building and the unity of Nigeria.” Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, who rejected allegations of poor management of Nigeria by President Buhari, described Obasanjo as a ‘divider-in-chief.’ “In his most recent statement former President Olusegun Obasanjo attempts to divide the nation while President Muhammadu Buhari continues to promote nation building and the unity of Nigeria. The difference is clear. From the lofty heights of Commander-in-Chief, General Obasanjo has descended to the lowly level of Divider-in-Chief (to adapt the coinage of Time).
“Before responding further to the unfair attacks on President Buhari and his administration by the former President, it is important that we categorically state that contrary to the assertions by a few analysts, the recent speech in which President Buhari advised West African presidents against tenure elongation beyond constitutional limits has been consistent with his long held views on the need to adhere to the rule of law”.
We are miffed that Obasanjo should condescend so low as to wash his dirty linen in public, being the first elected president on the nation’s return to democratic governance in 1999. As president between 1999 and 2007, Obasanjo had all the accoutrement, humongous financial and material resources with enormous goodwill from both domestically and internationally to enlist Nigeria in the league of developed nations, or at least, lay the foundation for her greatness. On the contrary, Obasanjo squandered all the opportunities and left a prostate nation, which his predecessors have been struggling hard to contend with.
On the backdrop of his sordid record and pedigree, therefore, Obasanjo should show more humility, remorsefulness and statesmanship in his conduct. He should utilise the platforms offered by the constitution such as the Council of State and his unfettered access to Mr President to offer useful advice rather than dragging the nation to the mud through his reckless and seditious utterances.