The Obasanjo Missile: A Lesson From History

GUARDIAN, JAN. 28, 2019

Olusegun Obasanjo image via Guardian

If I were a president or political leader, one of my prayers to God would be: may I never receive a public letter from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, ex military Head of State, ex-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and world-President-at-Large! His letters to leaders are often guided missiles, much like the famed ‘ogbunigwe’ of the Biafra era, designed to achieve maximum impact of confusion and destruction.

I marvel at his international connections and how much he can and could galvanize the world community on matters Nigerian! I am sure former President Goodluck Jonathan has not forgotten the letter which OBJ wrote to him when the entire world decided that he should not, must not win a second term! I also remember that there was a letter exchange between OBJ and former super permanent secretary Allison Ayida before the 1990 violent shake-up of the IBB administration by the Gideon Orkar boys.

OBJ usually sends his missiles when push has come to shove, when ‘e get as e be’, when ‘water don pass garri’, when in the words of Chinua Achebe ‘the thief has taken enough for the owner to notice! And anyone with a sense of history must take his letters seriously.

Since his last missive which came in form of a missile, some overzealous citizens have gone to town disparaging the person of OBJ. They have ignored the message and focused on the messenger.

You know, in our days as boys on the football field, towards the end of the match there used to be what we called ‘ten minutes ugbo! During this time rough tactics were allowed. It was only for the strong.

Guys with spindly legs quietly stayed away or avoided those ‘yam legs’, which you could only confront if you didn’t mind ending up flat on the floor! Talking about yam legs, I remember when as a Form Two boy I collided with one Joshua Habila a classmate of mine who ran on the field like a locomotive train from Lokoja and how I saw stars and how I avoided him thenceforth and how it taught me a lesson on legs that could be missiles in objectives!

Three weeks to elections we are now in ‘ugbo’ period. All is fair. Fair is foul.

Foul is fair! The Vice President is distributing money in marketplaces! The parties are preparing to buy votes. The anti-corruption fight wears a shortsighted pair of glasses.

The great and revered Adams Oshiomole with a basket mouth has declared that sinners who join the ruling party become saints. Presidential debates are being stage-managed.

An obviously reluctant and unfit president is being goaded into the rigours of electioneering campaigns.

The sword of Damocles hangs over opponents and journalists who get too ambitious. The Chief Justice is being hounded.

The hounding has split the country into two parts, along ethnic and party lines. The Nigerian Army has declared ‘Python Dance’ in an election period.

Herdsmen activities have subsided for reasons not so clear. There is hunger everywhere. But politicians have money to fritter away.

The universities have been shut since November 5 and the Federal Government is not in a hurry to end ASUU strike. All is fair, fair is foul, and foul is fair!

What can we say is the substance of OBJ’s guided missile? That PMB has become a dictator, reminiscent of the Abacha days; that the incumbent government has become desperate; that the forthcoming elections are not likely to be fair because INEC is compromised; that there was injustice in the last Osun State governorship election; that the public trial of the Chief Justice stinks to the high heavens; that the international community is watching.

Now, which of these assertions is not true? But as always, we ignore the message and attack the messenger.

To be sure OBJ is not a saint. As a Niger Delta man how may I forget the Odi Massacre? No Nigerian can ever forget the third term attempt, whether it was true or a figment of the imagination! No matter what you say, the words of OBJ carry weight.

You may abuse, ridicule or tear him apart with criticism: he speaks for the millions of unheard voices, on the side of the people.

I was amused to no end when OBJ showed up at the Council of States meeting the very week he sent out that stinging uppercut.

Imagine the temerity of showing up at the table of the man whom he had taken to the cleaners the day before.

These Generals eh! Well, as a statesman the President gave him his due. OBJ is his senior in the Army. And in the Army Forces, once you are a senior you will always remain a senior.

No? Yes? What happens if you retired as a Brigadier and your former Staff Officer later became a General? Hehehehehehe! We are not sure about the age of these generals.

Who is older? Who is 84years passing for 76? That’s beyond me.

It’s only in Nigeria that we doctor our date of birth in order to remain in service.

I once chaired an interview panel in which a man who applied for the post of registrar left primary school at Age 6, that is, judging by the CV which he presented!

I read somewhere that it was OBJ himself that said the opening prayer in the assembly of who-is-who in Nigeria! You know, not Oga, the living ancestor Dr. retired General Yakubu Gowon, the prayerful, soft-spoken ex-Head of State; not retired General Abubakar Abdulsalami former Head of State the man of peace.

They asked the rambunctious and straight-shooting OBJ himself to lead the prayer.

You know, we play politics with everything; even with prayer to God Almighty.

In my short foray into the midst of politicians, I learnt that politicians believe that even the devil can see God when the proper arrangements are made! Is that why they do yeye and jagajaga politics and treat the rest of us like mumu? May be!

I would give everything, including the loincloth of granny (whom I never met) to hear the kind of prayer that the Missile-Giver rendered on that day in the presence of enemy and friendly forces, while walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

Did he pray for all enemies to fall down and die in the Mountain and Fire tradition? Did he pray for the walls of Jericho to crumble? Did he pray for the president to ensure a free and fair election?

Did he pray that at the next debate the president should find the right words to convey his inner thoughts, hopes and aspirations to the Nigerian people?

Did he pray for the president not to stumble during campaigns? Did he pray that the president should rein in the murderous herdsmen?

Did he pray for the good health of the nation’s first citizen? Whatever the prayer was the guided missiles of OBJ should not be ignored by friend or foe – that is one of the lessons of our contemporary history. Baba Abeokuta I salute you with all of my mouth!