The burden of our past military heads of state




Almost all our past leaders on khaki do evoke some sort of situational irony each time they discuss burning national issues from their respective retirement homes.

They suddenly become ‘omniscients,’ proffering solutions to all the problems facing us as a country, (even though their missteps in office visited most of these misfortunes upon us), and they would want their predecessors to heed their advice and fix them with magic wands. Once they adorn the garb of “past President” or “former Head of state” they become experts in political mentorship and human resources/leadership management. They will begin to see all the rots bedevilling Nigeria. The logs in their eyes will be so translucent that they can, without removing them, see the specs in the eyes of whoever is the incumbent President. Call it hypocrisy and you won’t be wrong.

For instance, since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo left office, he had become a ‘saintly’ watchdog of our national affairs, and occasionally chastised then Presidents Jonathan (and now Buhari) with his ‘apostolic’ epistles. He made himself de facto Apostle Paul of Tarsus, writing letters of exhortation to Romans, Corinthians etc.

Discussing one of his letters to President Buhari, themed: “Points Of Concern” in my January 30 2019, column with Blueprint newspaper, entitled “When the message becomes more important than the Messenger” I wrote:

“Obasanjo’s moral eligibility to criticize Buhari is like a figure 6 placed between two persons sitting opposite each other. One is sees it as 6, while the other see it as 9.” To the person seeing figure 6, Obasanjo has no moral right to criticize Buhari as he rebukes people for offences he is also guilty of. Obasanjo who calls Buhari a dictator was even more dictatorial as president from 1999-2007. He masterminded the removal of Senate Presidents, declared state-of-emergency whenever he wishes; ordered the Odi massacre; forcefully removed Rasheed Ladoja as Oyo State Governor; backed the unjust removal of then Governor Ayo Fayose in Ekiti State; and seized Lagos State Government’s allocation despite a Supreme Court judgment against such action.

Obasanjo who is urging Buhari not to seek reelection did two terms and even tried to grab a third, but failed. All these antecedents of Obasanjo deny him the moral right to criticize Buhari.

But then again, to the person seeing the figure as 9, the most eligible person to correct someone threading the path of failure is someone who has failed. An emerging smoker is best advised by a chain smoker that has contracted smoked-induced lung cancer.

In Nigeria today, the most qualified person to advise Buhari is Obasanjo. His political track record earns him the eligibility. Obasanjo is the only living being that pairs with Buhari.
Many ex-Presidents, former Head-of-State and retired Army Generals are involved in partisan politics, but none has ruled the nation dictatorially and democratically except Obasanjo and Buhari.” Full text of the article can be read via: https://www.blueprint.ng/when-the-message-becomes-more-important-than-the-messenger.

Even incumbent President Buhari whom Obasanjo criticized in the letter, was also full of propagandized advisory before 2015, as to what a Jonathan could have done differently to extinguish the conflagration of insurgency while he was on the touchline. But since Jonathan stepped aside for him to step in and execute his so-called almighty formular as a ‘Field Marshal,’ excuses took the place of purposeful and actionable policies and efforts.

Last two weeks, it was the turn of former Military President; Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida more commonly called IBB. As he prepared to turn octogenarian on his forthcoming birthday anniversary, IBB granted interview to Arise TV to raise verdicts on some issue of national importance. He took time to condemn everything done by all past leaders of Nigeria save himself. He was everything a typical ex-president of an African nation can be — apportioning blames, pointing fingers, passing the bucks, being a perfectionist outside the throne and best player off the field of play. He was even proud to laud the much criticised Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) — an economic policy that obliterated middle class status off our fiscal milieu and kept the scandalous gap between the rich and poor agonizingly widening.

And June 12 1993 election annulment? He always hid under his usual rhetoric of a phantom ‘strange’ sociopolitical volcano that would have befallen the country if he hadn’t annulled that freest and fairest election ever conducted in our clime. He waves off, with a fling of hand, any reminder that the annulment actually dragged Nigeria to this incurable political instability that had plagued her all along.

The man monickered “evil genius” whose controversial personality dotted Nigeria’s sociopolitical graph spoke like a monarchical sheriff, exuding self-righteousness. And just before we forgot, he also wrote a letter of ‘counsel’ to President Buhari on February 2018. He, like Chief Obasanjo, advised President Buhari to “unmount the horse” and desist from vying for the second term in 2019.

The irony is that all these letters and counter letters came from past junta leaders who were scarcely educated. Erudite civilian Presidents like Shehu Shagari who was a teacher, Ernest Shonekan, a University of London trained Lawyer and consummate administrator, President Jonathan a University Don, and a Ph.D holder, never stirred the polity with series of missives, as these averagely schooled Army men. While past civilian leaders choose to lead a quiet life after office, all the past military political leaders had continued to keep their feet warm in the corridor of power and media limelight. Retired Generals Gowon, Danjuma, Abdulsalam, IBB, Obasanjo, Buhari etc fall within this category.

Bye and large, no country ever progressed by the fangs of theorists who lacked the requisite political will and charitable hearts to save their people when they held sway in the reins of power. They merely criticize like football players who see all the errors of their team during a match, only when they had been substituted.

However, as we wish IBB a happy 80th birthday, may we not forget to pray for the peaceful repose of the soul of the wife of Nigeria’s first executive president,
Hajia Hadiza Shehu Shagari, who died last week in Abuja. She and her husband, led a very modest post-office life, worthy of emulation; instead meddling in the affairs of their successors with unsolicited adjurations as their contemporaries in khaki do.
God bless Nigeria.

Ogechukwu writes from Abuja via +2348062494912.
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