The Diasporas of Europe and America are becoming no go areas for former African dictators who did nothing for their people during their tenure in government. Ex-president, Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria had his own baptism of loud protest in the heart of London during his visit to the famous London School of Economics as a guest speaker.
On Wednesday March 18, restive Nigerians with placards in hand had gathered at the foot of the Zayed Theatre where Obasanjo was to deliver his lecture. A snare was duly set for their big prey and as he stepped out of the hall, barrage of eggs and tomatoes smeared the avuncular face of Olusegun Obasanjo. The British Police gave our famous Owu son appropriate cover but Obasanjo would not go without a fight. The military in his genes would not be placated with a humble pie.
Unmoved, unperturbed, Baba asked the police to allow him engage his critics and protesters. To guarantee his safety from the baying mob, the British Police refused his silly request and was hastily driven away with ignominy. The police risk assessment was spot on. There were many Nigerians among the crowd who really wanted to give Obasanjo a real kung fu fight. Others were desperate to land him some couple of dirty slaps either at close range or afar. Obasanjo diviners must have read to him a wrong divination when he was leaving Nigeria. He must have been told that over there, the people will welcome him with flowers and possibly a red carpet.
But no, the revelation on the ground was different from the one projected by his prophets. Nigerians with pent up emotions were on hand to ruffle his cap and call the bluff of his confident swagger. Anyone with a morsel of percipient gifting will know that there is an unspoken war going on between this ex-leader and his people. Obasanjo, no doubt was seen as a man who had several chances of resuscitating Nigeria to a path of greatness and glory but with every opportunity, he subverted goodwill, hope and aspirations of his people.
And because we do not live in a world that rewards evil for good, he got a befitting egg and tomatoes present from angry Nigerians made destitute by his old policy of graft and corruption. It is sad that a nationalist in the mould of Obasanjo could become a persona non grata outside Nigeria’s borders less than two years after his governance.
With Internet journalism and its speed of information dissemination, bad politicians have nowhere to hide any longer. Once the news of Obasanjo itinerary was made public, Internet blogs were inundated with his planned schedule in terms of day, time and place of his seminar. There were persuasive write-ups to galvanize interest, participation and attendance. There were even D-Day reminders advising readers not to get drunk on their beer and forgot the battle with an Owu spent warrior. The attendance may not be in thousands but the hundreds who turned up proved their point through unflinching solidarity, love of Nigeria and love of good governance. The gloss of power was peeled off when protesters marched forward to hound and heckle him with jeers, biting barbs and taunts.
Obasanjo, to millions of Nigerians is an enigma. This boiler chicken merchant, enfant terrible, writer, intrepid soldier, politician, philanderer, ‘baba alatika’ and disciplinarian has polarised opinion more than any Nigerian living or dead. There are politicians and many Nigerians who would swear that he was the best thing for Nigeria after the sliding door. He is seen as stubborn, courageous, accommodationist, decisive, firm and bloody minded. Many also see him as a kind of southern glue still holding Nigeria together. Among the Northerners, he is venerated for being a confessed nationalist who could still carry an AK-47 to defend our weakened unity.
To his critics, he is seen as a charlatan, thief, opportunist, dictator, corruptible, waster, schemer, rampaging capitalist and patroniser to every whim and caprice of the Northern oligarchs. He is seen as a local manager for CIA, MI 5 and IMF. He is accused of selling Nigeria’s national assets to foreigners under the guise of ill-conceived privatisation. After eight years of failed presidency, Aremu would not apologise to Nigerians. Rather, he disappeared into the womb of dark night of Owu to meditate on a broken dream of nation building. To some Nigerians, his sins are so legion that it would require a double anointing from venerable Enoch Adeboye for effective deliverance. His self-promoting desire as a regional statesman is abhorrent to millions. There is anger, bitterness and hate towards him. The man elicits strong passions of both love and hatred.
According to many, his greatest sin was the imposition of Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua as the president of Nigeria. His choice of president has been dismal, twisted and tragic. Many agreed that Obasanjo manipulated the election to pave the way for a known somnambulist who has thrown Nigeria into a grinding halt. Also, Obasanjo militarism in Odi has been compared to a war crime which he should answer for sooner than later.
However, I have to thank the dominance of a liberal atmosphere which encourages healthy protest against rulers who put their people under irredeemable servitude and penury. Only recently Lord Mandelson, British Business Secretary was smeared with a cocktail of manure on the face. He went in, cleaned off the stuff and hailed the power of democratic protest and freedom. In time past, I still could remember the Kung –Fu fight between a protester and former British Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescot. Prescot, a former boxer engaged the protester in a bare knuckled fight which was televised live. The challenger lived to tell the tale.
We are fortunate that we could hit Obasanjo with our eggs and tomatoes in London. In Nigeria, the Segun and Bunmi who launched the ballistic missile on such important ex-Nigerian General would have been shot at sight by trigger-happy SSS. That is Obasanjo’s legacy- a militarised democracy which shoots at defenceless Nigerians.