Under Obasanjo’s Watch
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo released his autobiography, My Watch, on Tuesday, December 9 at the Lagos Country Club, Ikeja. He defied an Abuja High Court order obtained by a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Buruji Kashamu, barring him from releasing the book. Rather than obey the order, Obasanjo wanted Justice Valentine Ashi sanctioned.
The judge had ordered that the book launch be put on hold over claims by Kashamu that the three-volume series contained details of a libel case involving a drug trafficking allegation Obasanjo made against him, which is already before the court. Obasanjo's excuse that the book had been published before the order was made is as ludicrous as it is bizarre.
But that is quintessential Obasanjo, who has no respect for others, who revels in desecrating hallowed institutions. Holding him in contempt of court, Ashi on Wednesday, December 10 gave him 21 days to demonstrate why he should not be punished for publishing the book.
“The fact that the book was published in November is irrelevant. As long as the substantive suit is not yet determined, no party is entitled to publish or comment on material facts that are yet to be decided on by the court,” the judge said.
I have not read the book, but excerpts published on the internet show that it is essentially an ego trip. As a former president, his autobiography should be a historical document, based on issues and rooted in facts; but just as he did in My Command, his account of the civil war, he displayed a lack of generous spirit in My Watch.
He portrayed himself as the only saint in Nigeria. Nothing buttresses this more than what he wrote about the late President Umaru Yar'Adua, his successor. He accused Yar'Adua of persecuting former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, because of Ribadu's refusal to marry his daughter and for his romance with a lady whom Taminu Kurfi, an official of the Yar'Adua administration, was dating.
“It was revealed, for instance,” Obasanjo claimed, “that Tanimu's main reason for wanting to fight Nuhu to a standstill was the allegation that a woman he was interested in marrying was showing more interest in Nuhu! I understand that Tanimu, in the end, married the lady and I wondered if that would be the end of the war of attrition against Nuhu. This was about the same time that Umaru encouraged Nuhu to marry one of his daughters, an idea which Nuhu spurned. Could that have been partly responsible for Umaru's fury?”
Obasanjo also alleged in the book that the fight between former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Nasir el-Rufai, and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Baba Gana Kingibe, was over the infidelity of one of Kingibe's wives.
“The Kingibe case as revealed is quite similar to Tanimu's, as a woman is at the centre of it also. Nasir el-Rufai was accused of knowingly harbouring a boyfriend of one of Kingibe's wives in his guest house, where this wife and her boyfriend would meet. If Nasir chose to make his house available to his friend out of hospitality, one wonders if he could also determine which guest, male or female, his friend would receive. It would have been a different case if Nasir himself was accused of dating Kingibe's wife.”
Obasanjo wrote all this despite the fact that his son, Gbenga, divorced his wife in 2008 after deposing in a court affidavit that she slept with his father (Obasanjo). Memoirs are supposed to be encompassing; so, Obasanjo should have recounted in the book what transpired between himself and his daughter-in-law.
How else can one explain his narrative of his encounter with governors who came to see him after the Governors Forum election debacle other than sheer mischief?
“Two governors from the (PDP) – Liyel Imoke of Cross River and Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State – and Godswill Akpabio from Akwa Ibom State by himself, came to me in Abuja, appealing to me to intervene in the situation of the Governors Forum, particularly in the disagreement within the PDP governors. Akpabio said starkly in his frank and outspoken manner: 'We have messed up and don't leave us alone. For me, I don't want to go to jail and my children are too young. I will report our meeting to the President.”
In Obasanjo's usual style, every Nigerian is a liar, a thief or incompetent, except himself. You wonder what he actually achieved in all the years he ruled the country. It is obvious that My Watch is Obasanjo's last desperate attempt to damage President Goodluck Jonathan politically and make him unelectable in 2015. His timing of the launch on the eve of Jonathan's nomination by the PDP was deliberate. Obasanjo intends to use the book to inflict mortal damage, hence his choice of words and narrative.
He wrote: “Jonathan is lacking in broad vision, knowledge, confidence, understanding, concentration, capacity, sense of security, courage, moral and ethical principles, character and passion to move the nation forward on a fast trajectory. Although he might wish to do well, he does not know how nor does he have the capacity to. To compound his problem he has not surrounded himself with aides sufficiently imbued with the qualities and abilities to help him out. Most of them are greedy hangers-on or hungry lackluster characters interested only in their mouths and their pockets.”
Obasanjo branded Jonathan the most corrupt leader Nigeria ever had. “In the area of corruption … under Jonathan we seem to have gone from frying pan to fire. If in the past corruption was in the corridors of power, it would seem now to be in the sitting room, dining room and bedroom of power. If what is called 'corruption' is stealing, under the watch of Goodluck Jonathan, then government has become legalised and protected robbery.”
Then, Obasanjo threw the sucker punch, describing Jonathan as an inept, ineffective, inefficient, careless, clueless, callous, insensitive, and a selfish leader. Most times when you hear Obasanjo talk, you wonder if he is not the same man who ruled Nigeria for eight years. I have been wondering if he could have allowed anyone to write this kind of book about him when he was in power.
Obasanjo forced Audu Ogbeh to resign his chairmanship of the PDP because Ogbeh chastised him over the role he played in the kidnap of Governor Chris Ngige. I remember the instability in the Senate and how he orchestrated the impeachment of about four Senate presidents. Obasanjo chased out the founding fathers of the PDP, which was formed when he was in prison. I remember the do-or-die elections that he foisted on the country. I remember the unexplained political assassinations, including the killing of his Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Bola Ige. I remember the illegal impeachment of governors, including Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State.
Obasanjo used the EFCC to hound political opponents. I remember how, he, a man who came out of prison, wretched and almost broken, became one of the richest Nigerians alive today after eight years in power as president, and I wonder where he got the money. If Obasanjo had allowed the people to be the pivot of our democracy, we wouldn't have had a Yar'Adua/Jonathan presidency in the first place.
He used his eight-year tenure to enthrone political imposition and gangsterism. Yet, he has the guts to throw stones. I don't blame him. I blame the system that has tolerated him for so long. What Obasanjo has done with his new memoirs is to challenge others to document their own account, and expose him for what and who he is – as General Alabi Isama did in his book, The Tragedy of Victory, which eviscerated Obasanjo's war memoirs.
*Amaechi writes from Lagos