The 'Born Again' Obasanjo

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In Christianity, when people forsake their wrongs, turn a good leaf and preach to others to stop doing evil, that individual is said to have been born again, for old things have passed away and he/she has become a new person. This was the first thought that dropped in my head when I read ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo's letter to our 'Bad' president Jonathan preaching to him to turn a new leaf "before it is too late" and I have to confess it had me and my father discussing and thinking as to what the inspiration could be behind the heart-rendering advice. We had come to different conclusions but mine remains that baba Obasanjo just got born again (probably overwhelmed by Mandela's eulogies) and so he's preaching the 'gospel' of leadership to our president. On this shall we discuss and I crave your indulgence to give me the benefit of the doubt even as I beg you to take away the typical 'Nigerian Cynical nature' as I pour out my mind. Interestingly, I am an intelligent, qualified but unemployed youth at the moment so pardon me if this dissertation gets a little feisty.

Walking in a market somewhere in Lagos, I heard my Igbo brothers discussing voraciously about the letter, fortunately for me I spent 1 whole NYSC year in a village in Enugu, so I could pick up what they were saying. Their major decision without a doubt was that regardless of whatever anybody says, or what Mr Goodluck does, there is nobody on planet Earth that will stop him from winning the 2015 elections. (Emphasis on 'regardless of what Mr Goodluck does') I shook my head in pain as I felt the ventricles of my heart prick me. I was heartbroken! The reason for my heartbreak was simple; the youths have not grown past the ethnic, religious and tribal bigotry that has plagued this country for years. How are we supposed to take this country and put it on the pedestal to which it belongs if we the youths still have a weak mentality like this? Thank God for the Harmattan because the tear that dropped from my eye was quickly dried up. But for how long?

I remembered the harrassment from the Nigerian police that I and patriotic colleagues of mine suffered when we wanted to go cast our vote during the 2011 presidential elections. But for what now! This? Anyway, today isn't about me or my colleagues whom the police harrased, today is about two people who have been blessed to rule this country. One apparently now born again, the other languishing in sin. With the born again one preaching to the sinful one to rise over this sinful nature, forsake his badness, forsake individual enrichement and chase the good of the people because in truth, till the day we all die, whatever we do shall be talked about during and after our life. The great Mandela's story should give us something to think about. Life is just too short for all these nonsense.

One of the greatest thinkers of British origin, an Economist (like me) and a Moral Philosopher- John Stuart Mill explained to the people that there should be an avenue for discussion with regards to any topic, any topic at all, however sensitive it is. In his words “we can never be sure that a silent opinion does not contain some elements of the truth” and he explains that this discussion or debate cannot be over emphasized for two reasons; (a) First, individuals are more likely to abandon erroneous beliefs if they are engaged in an open exchange of ideas. Second, by forcing other individuals to re-examine and re-affirm their beliefs in the process of debate, these beliefs are kept from declining into mere dogma without base or reason.

Now you might be obliged to ask, why has, uncle Reuben and uncle Doyin turn every little criticism of the Government from their citizens as hateful, baleful and/or sponsored (by the opposition party)? Fallacy of verocundian explains this. They believe that what people in authority (in this case, them) say and do must be right. Therefore, whoever doesn't agree with Dr Ebele must have some political undertone in whatever capacity his grieviances are. This I daresay is a fallacy of the highest order and the earlier they change this way of reasoning, the better for Mr President and the Nation he governs.

President Goodluck Jonathan is apparently the most cursed president on social networks and even in real life, some reasons for the curses are founded, and some unfounded. But shall we analyze whether or not he should be getting these insults, we wouldn't leave this page. From high profile gaffes, blatancy of corruption, hired 'attack dogs' in the aso rock, not rising over clannish tendencies, befriending people of questionable characters, (in this case Asari Dokubo) his snail-like approach to action and a handful of other wrongs. Personally I think our president could have done better. A lot better actually, but like I have always said, some of the problems unsolved in Nigeria are manifestations of problems ignored by past Governments. They are 'born-again' now but it doesn't erase our memory now, Or does it?

There are two ingredients great leaders all over the world have used to conquer; (a) Respect or fear of him (whichever he prefers.) (b) Belief in him by his followers. If a leader has both, then governing will become a piece of cake to him. Unfortunately for our dear president, he has none of these (yet). That he will continue to ridicule us as a Nation, condone high-class corruption, make our children stay at home, refuse to give us steady power supply, and a lot more, yet one 'chairman' says "President Goodluck Jonathan is Nigeria's Mandela"... To that let my Igbo brothers pardon me as I borrow their language to say “Tufiakwa”. If President Goodluck is Nigeria's Mandela, then.... Hmmmm! I reserve my comment. So when you lose the two most important virtues that enable smooth or near-smooth governance, what do you do? Mr President! That's for the Elders to answer..... Fortunately for Nigerians, we are in luck. An Elder just answered!

I like General Obasanjo as Wole Soyinka calls him. I like him because when it comes to Politics, he knew what he was doing. He was a leader, well respected in some quarters and well feared in other quarters. He was the leader in which few people that ever stood up to him became objects of malicious houndings. Several years ago there was a revolution in Ghana and the cabals that had eaten their country dry were executed, stabilization returned and with it economic reforms, we all know the end story. We know about the mass movement of firms from Nigeria to Ghana, we know of the emigration of Nigerians to Ghana, we know of the celebration of stable, uninterrupted electricity supply, we know of the success in the redenomination of their currency and the stemming of inflation and hyper- inflationary pressures which existed before the exercise. It took two things to make all these and more happen. 1. The people respected Jerry Rawlings and 2. The people believed in him. Back to Obasanjo, I know that we as a Nation would never have another democratic president like Chief Olusegun Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo again and so my heart bleeds because it just means that the transformation from our present state to where we ought to be as a nation might take longer than we want to believe.

Now you want to ask me why we are not on that level if president Obasanjo was so good a leader and he led us for good (or bad) eight years. My answer is that the solution to the Nigerian problem cannot be solved by an Ordinary Obasanjo. It cannot be uhuru for Nigeria just because we have an Obasanjo as our leader. To put us in that Giant of Africa position in which we self acclaim, we don't need an Obasanjo; what we need is a “GOOD OBASANJO”.

An Obasanjo that although has the power to be autocratic, remains Democratic. An Obasanjo that has the power to disregard the rule of law yet he obeys the rule of law. An Obasanjo that uses the EFCC to fight every corrupt person in Government, and not just the people that don't jump when he barks. An Obasanjo that didn't take decisions because he was planning to run for a third term, but took decisions that would benefit the Nation in the long-run. An Obasanjo that would have executed these strong men (his friends) that held the country to ransom and made their blood purify the land in which they had raped. An Obasanjo that would have been our hero and to whom we would have put almost on the level that the South Africans place Nelson Mandela. An Obasanjo that would have been the sole reason why our children don't sleep at the embassies of these foreign countries that treats us as dogs while we go back just because our children want to school abroad. An Obasanjo that would have made Nigeria the major Tourist attraction site in Africa where the world would come have holidays. An Obasanjo whom would have been the role model of every young Nigerian child for giving them hope and giving them a bright future (like Mandela did for South Africans). An Obasanjo who would not impose a sick president on us just because he wanted to to be the invisible hand that ruled. An Obasanjo that thousands of Nigerians would write proposals to whoever is in charge just so that they can erect statues of him in front of their streets. I can go on and on.

Nigeria needed an Obasanjo, but not just any kind of Obasanjo. Nigeria needed a good Obasanjo. An Obasanjo that would have used the strong influence he had both within and without the shores of Nigeria to make the country better. Painfully, we never got him. We got a typical African Obasanjo and so here we are in this shameful position today.

Uncle Reuben the president's spokes-person said General Obasanjo's letter was 'provocative and self serving'. On this note shall I end this piece..... That the General's letter was provocative creates ambiguity and this is because, Provocation has two sides. If he believes that Pa Obasanjo meant it to provoke president Goodluck to be a better president, majority of Nigerians agree. However, if his definition of provocation connotes that the ex-president's provocative plan is different from the one stated above, well sir...

Regardless of whatever you believe of yourself, Mr President and how he is running this country, the truth sir is that Nigerians are suffering! Nigerians are unhappy, Nigerians are crying, and Nigerians are dying. We voted for Mr President because we wanted a change. He told us he was like us, "he had no shoes", he feels our pain, and so we believed him, we voted en-masse for him, we convinced our friends to go to the polling booth, we convinced our families to vote for Goodluck Jonathan, we marched in thousands to ensure that he was sworn in as the acting president when people were playing politics with the health of a human being. We did all these for Goodluck Jonathan but most importantly, we did it for ourselves, for our future and for the future of our children. Do you really believe this present Nigeria is what we fought for?

If in your heart you believe that this is the Nigeria we fought for, got harrased, and bullied over, if you believe what we are having in this country is what we bargained for when we voted President Jonathan, if you believed the Jonathan Administration is doing beautifully well as you and other allies of Mr president always emphasize, if you believe every critic is a paid cohort bent on bringing the Jonathan administration down, if you believe that pushing the country into doom for selfish reason is okay, and finally, you believe that come 2015, our votes wouldn't matter regardless of what President Jonathan does or refuses to do, well let me take Pa Obasanjo's favourite prayer to President Jonathan;

Goodluck to Goodluck!
N/B- Some of us aren't from the APC or any opposition party you might want to attach us with.

We Just Want A Better Nigeria!
Wole Opesanmi
Writes from Navy Town in Lagos.
[email protected]

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Articles by Wole Opesanmi