Why Should I Read Obasanjo’s Book?
I must congratulate myself on successfully avoiding virtually all of Gen Olusegun Obasanjo’s usually ego-massaging and attention-craving books. I have, for instance, NOT read Obasanjo’s My Command, Not My Will, Nzeogwu, and his other little-known titles.
But when his first wife, Mrs. Oluremi Obasanjo, published her book, Bitter-Sweet: My Life With Obasanjo, I went through a lot of stress to purchase a copy. I also wasted no time to read and review it. Obasanjo had been talking about other people and cutting them down with self-righteous zeal, so I wanted to hear what somebody who had intimately shared a greater part of his life had to say about him. Indeed, this is one book Obasanjo would not like to be in circulation. But most people who have read the book would readily recommend it as a background study to anyone interested in reading Obasanjo’s books where he usually presents himself as one of the world’s most righteous human beings and competent leaders. Like one reviewer said and I agree, in societies where the law is alive and active and treats everyone equally, “the allegations against Obasanjo [in that book], if proven in a court of law, would have earned him a long stay in jail.”
Now, Obasanjo has published another book which he called My Watch and I seriously doubt that I would want to read it. There are several wonderful books lying in my study and begging for my attention, so I would consider it a complete waste of my time to read Obasanjo’s new book, which judging from the snippets published in the media is nothing more than unappetizing potpourri of cassava-market gossip, careless hawking of vicious, libelous allegations, and further futile attempt at self-canonization. His aim, it appears, is to settle some scores with his real or imagined adversaries, undermine President Jonathan’s chances in the 2015 elections and raise an ear-deafening controversy that would turn the book into an instant best-seller.
But sadly, things appeared to have turned out differently. Apart from Brigadier-General Godwin Alabi-Isama who has published a rebuttal denouncing what he called Obasanjo’s “compulsive career of lying” and, more recently, Wole Soyinka who wondered if there could ever be an end to his (Obasanjo’s) “capacity for infantile mischief, and for needless, mind-boggling provocations,” I am not aware that any other notable personality mentioned in the book, like Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Babagana Kingibe, etc., has given the slightest hint that he is aware that Obasanjo has just published a book where he said very unflattering things about him.
Even President Goodluck Jonathan whom he reportedly went all out to savage in that book has chosen to completely ignore him and his book.
And despite the former president’s well-reported problem with an Abuja High Court whose order halting the publication and circulation of the book he scornfully ignored and went ahead to hold his very poorly attended book launch, majority of Nigerians have clearly turned their attention to more edifying matters. In fact, articles on the book which Obasanjo probably thought would have been the greatest bombshell this season have already begun to disappear from the pages of newspapers, and, perhaps, also, the minds of Nigerians.
I would suggest that he urgently acquires a large warehouse to dump the huge piles of unsold copies that would surely be heaped at his doorstep soon because “soft-sell” magazine addicts do not need a very costly book like Obasanjo’s for gutter tales about who is sleeping with whose wife or who provides guest houses for cheating wives and their sin-partners. They readily get that from the cheap stuff abundantly available at the newsstands.
This book is, however, not without some history. In October 2004, when Nigeria under President Obasanjo’s watch was slipping into anarchy due to inept, morally bankrupt leadership, overwhelming corrupt politics and naked abuse of power inspired from the highest point of power, Professor Chinua Achebe wrote Obasanjo a very touching letter.
“I write this letter with a very heavy heart,” Achebe said. “For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency… Nigeria’s condition today under your watch is, however, too dangerous for silence,” he lamented.
A decade later, Obasanjo has chosen to write “My Watch,” apparently to respond to Achebe’s 2004 charge: “Nigeria’s condition today under your watch is, however, too dangerous for silence.”
I was a columnist and member of the Editorial Board of Daily Independent newspaper throughout the duration of the Obasanjo regime and wrote several columns and editorials on the largely dismal performance that characterized his tenure. What I find difficult to comprehend is where Obasanjo derives the moral strength to harshly criticize the present administration, which, despite its failings and limitations, is, in the view of many people, far better than anything the Obasanjo regime could have aspired to become even if he got another eight years! Despite the unprecedented earnings that poured into Nigeria’s purse from crude oil sales at that time, Obasanjo still worked hard to leave Nigeria far worse and poorer than he met it.
Obasanjo single-handedly ran the Petroleum Ministry for eight years, with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) directly under his command, yet, till date, no one can claim to have seen a copy of any comprehensive audit report of that enclave of corruption since 1999. The whole thing was run like a family business.
Again, a former Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Azie, was hurriedly sacked for daring to produce a damning report detailing the mind-blowing corruption and financial rascality that thrived in the Obasanjo regime.
What of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) scandal which threw up shocking revelations about how mindless profligacy and abuse of office were given most vulgar and repelling definitions, where money was frivolously withdrawn to either buy exquisite cars for “women friends” or finance countless affairs that were totally outside the PTDF mandate.
How much did the Tenure Elongation (also known as “Third Term”) madness consume? How much was expended to destabilize and effect the various changes in the leadership of the National Assembly in order to install stooges that helped Obasanjo turn the National Assembly into an appendage of the Presidency? Does anyone still remember the N10 billion belonging to the long-suffering people of Jigawa State that was reportedly "donated" by their former Governor, Mr. Saminu Turaki, to the Self Perpetuation Agenda of the Obasanjo regime?
Given the overwhelming stench oozing from these hideous cases, where on earth is a man like Obasanjo deriving the moral courage to accuse anyone of corruption?
Shortly after his unmissed regime faded into the dark recesses of history, Daily Independent reported that an NGO, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), sent a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) headed at that time by Mr. Nuhu Ribadu voicing the general feeling among Nigerians that there was no way Obasanjo’s massive investments could have been financed by any legitimate income.
“We are aware that the annual salary of Nigeria’s President is not up to N38 million. But even if [Obasanjo] earned N60 million per annum for seventy years, he would not have up to N5 billion. But [he] is currently worth about N70 billion by our conservative estimate,” the group asserted.
CACOL also called for a probe of the “several billions of Naira pumped into the power sector” and the “allegations that Obasanjo overshot the budget of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as stated in the report on Budget Performance issued by the House of Representatives in 2005.”
Indeed, most Nigerians will not read Obasanjo’s book because he has chosen to ignore the several issues they had expected him to address to peddle frivolous, vulgar fables. Indeed, it is easy to say all that is wrong with the present government, but Nigerians would want Obasanjo to tell them how he did it better during his own time; he should explain how his regime invested about $16 billion into the electricity sector only to plunge Nigerians deeper into thicker darkness.
Responding to the stinker written to him by his first daughter, Iyabo, Obasanjo, in this book, alleged that President Jonathan had tried to hire two of his daughters to rubbish his image (what image?) but succeeded in getting only one of them. Now assuming this was true, should he not rather be thoroughly ashamed to admit this in public? If he was such a capable father who was able to manage his home well, why would anyone be able to hire his own daughter to write such a very horrible and damaging open letter to her own father?
Again, Obasanjo’s first son, Gbenga Obasanjo, swore to an affidavit in court accusing his father of sleeping with his wife, and even doubted the paternity of his (Gbenga’s) children due that alleged wife-sharing; why did Obasanjo not address such a weighty allegation of incest in his new book?
Why was his regime cluttered with several cases of unsolved high-profile assassinations, including that of his Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Bola Ige? Yet he has the effrontery to sermonize daily on security as if his regime is no longer one that presided over one of the most unsafe periods in Nigeria’s history.
I think that by refusing to rush his book as he had hoped, Nigerians are sending one clear message to Obasanjo, namely, that they are sick and tired of his exasperating hypocrisy. They would want him to know that credibility is the greatest asset of a moral crusader (even a self-anointed one) and that they think that going by his antecedents, he is grossly unqualified to criticize any other Nigerian president for life. In short, Nigerians are telling Obasanjo: Physician Heal Thyself!
*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is columnist with Daily Independent newspaper. His column (SCRUPLES) appears every Tuesday. Blog: www.ugowrite.blogspot.com; Email: [email protected]; twitter: @ugowrite
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo
Obasanjo and former minister Obiageli Ezekwesili during the public presentation of the book
Former President Goodluck Jonathan and Obasanjo