OBJ Vs GEJ: Epistolary Discourses And Poisoned Polity
By Taju Tijani
“When an elephant is in trouble, even a frog will kick him” – Hindu proverb.
If we should conduct a post-mortem on Olusegun Obasanjo’s subnarrative of his epistolary vocalisation, his patriotic headache, his pendulum swing to the extreme, the echo of his political and moral parables, his imitation of Ciceronian communication devise, his over-dramatisation of Proverbs 27:5, somewhere in the wreckage we will discover the weaknesses of his nationalistic prognosis. Readers are left in no doubt that the stakes for good governance are high on his pulse and that Olusegun Obasanjo’s troubled soul is being waged on the outcome. Behind his passionate, epistolary mitigation, there is no softening of his spirit of confrontation and rebellious rebuke against a lame duck President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. OBJ’s obsessive compulsive epistolary disorder is anchored on the notion that the manifest destiny of Nigeria rests on his wide shoulders. His reasoning seems to suggest that his beautiful lily – Nigeria – is being dragged into a mud marsh through the extraordinary exertion of distracting forces around Aso Rock and its chief tenant.
Post-Obasanjo’s presidency, the Owu prince has been waging a battle of self-rescue from his vanishing, social and political irrelevance. His challenge and sternest observation in “Before It Is Too Late” goes deeper than his moralising rhetoric of our collective failure. To bail out Nigeria from the raw sewage of political, economic and social cul-de-sacs, Obasanjo takes a flight of fancy into a controversial Ciceronian epistolary highway to express a volatile radical concept of urgent political rethink. His aim is to set in motion new imperatives that will catalyze political renewal for the good of his beloved Nigeria. I called this approach Obasanjo’s closed canon of good governance.
Three heavyweight epistles are in contention and pouring poising on an over- heated polity. First, Obasanjo’s 18-page authorial stance in “Before It Is Too Late” is punchy, punishing, pushy, penetrating and pompous. There is no safe-lead. He eases into every line with fistful rage and self-justificatory air. “I will only state that as far as your responsibility as Chief Security Officer of the nation is concerned for Nigerians, a lot more needs to be done to enhance the feeling of security amongst them. Whether one talks of the issue of militancy in the Niger Delta, the underlying causes of which have not been adequately addressed, if addressed at all, kidnapping, piracy, abductions and armed robberies which rather than abate are on the increase and Boko Haram which requires carrot and stick approach to lay its ghost to rest, the general security situation cannot be described as comforting. Knowing the genesis of Boko Haram and the reasons for escalation of violence from that sector with the widespread and ramification of the menace of Boko Haram within and outside the Nigerian borders, conventional military actions based on standard phases of military operations alone will not permanently and effectively deal with the issue of Boko Haram. “ Here Obasanjo magnifies his anxiety because of his nervousness about the future of Nigeria. His epistolary effusion highlights the deep fear mauling away at the ranks of our privileged elites and Obasanjo’s messianic mission to neutralise the dangers this pose to the integrity and unity of Nigeria – his personal fiefdom.
Line by line Obasanjo’s December corpus, as crafted in his “Before It Is Too Late”, clinically disinters Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency as to leave no reader in doubt as to the presence of a demi-god in Owu who scrutinises who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Obasanjo intermittently morphs into a man solely devoted to repairing, protecting and re-modelling a wounded nation. As a father of the nation, he could not watch as our leaders become ever more corrupt than ever. As a watchman, he could not watch as Jonathan morphs ever lower and drifts further and further from the anchor of political wisdom into a figurehead clown. As a law abiding citizen, he could not watch as criminals in government enjoy more rights than we the mugu majority. He despairs as his beloved country is becoming a pariah in the international community. Because we have killed the truth at the expediency of chop-I-chop, Obasanjo is standing in the gap through his Ciceronian epistle to resurrect truth and deploys it against power.
He is standing up for what is right without fear of criticism. He is ruffling delicate political feathers on our behalf. He is unafraid of evil tidings. To him, Goodluck Jonathan has taken Nigeria into a depthless darkness and an old darkness like him must respond with a vicious, screaming, chastening and wrathful letter dripping with blood. In conceit, Obasanjo believes that his tigerish missive would herald a marker for an epochal uprising that will redirect the course of our political history. His epistolary intervention has raised the bar of political penalties for the opposition politicians: impunity against PDP turncoats who crossed carpet to APC is in ferment; we are witnesses to the EFCC’s vendetta against Kano state internal politics, police crackdown against Rivers State House of Assembly and police harassment of mushrooming protesters.
Obasanjo’s divine desire to remotely micro manage Goodluck Jonathan through epistolary exchanges via the public realm becomes instantly gratuitous, hypocritical, morally empty, arrogant, insulting, demeaning, vengeful and inciting. Except we are all poor student at reading body language, Obasanjo has never hidden his weakness for self-exaltation. Iyabo Obasanjo polemicises her dad’s mortal weakness succinctly. “You are one of those petty people who think the progress and success of another takes from you. You try to overshadow everyone around you, before you and after you. You are the prototypical “Mr. Know it all”. You’ve never said “I don’t know” on any topic, ever. Of course this means you surround yourself with idiots who will agree with you on anything and need you for financial gain and you need them for your insatiable ego. This your attitude is a reflection of the country. It is not certain which came first, your attitude seeping into the country’s psyche or the country accepting your irresponsible behaviour for so long.”
Hear my ancient argot about OBJ in an article titled, ‘Obasanjo: The Illuminati From Ota’. “Obasanjo is not a mere chicken. He is a cock. And cocks are known to be cocky and crow to announce their presence, prestige or power. Chief Matthew Okikiola Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo embodies presence, prestige and power. With sheer messianic radiance, he governed Nigeria twice. In military khaki and out of khaki. The mandarin elevation we accord our past leaders is still working in Obasanjo. His poppycock desire to rule Nigeria from his animal farm is an excellent example of his political bravura. Obasanjo is a divisive mortal in the luckless universe of Nigeria. His name can heat up a discourse. His name can provoke either affection or repulsion. His name can provoke the image of an emperor, oppressor, dictator, saviour, redeemer or plain megalomania.
To the people of Odi, Rivers State, he is a footloose warlord. Odi sons and daughters are still in bubble of expectation that someday Obasanjo will answer to his genocide charge. To Nsoro, the Akwa Ibomite I met in Ikorodu, Lagos State in one of my travel sorties to Nigeria, Obasanjo is a messiah that we fail woefully to understand. To Gbenga, his son, he is a shameless philanderer. How can a dad go to the futon with his son’s wife? And yet that man still commands our respect? And yet, that man still has access to the corridors of power in Nigeria. His shame, excesses, moral decay, political irreverence, greed, controlling spirit and provoking wit have all come to represent the symbol of a modern Nigerian who has access to power and wealth.” And in a sharp blast of prophetic insight, I concluded in the aforementioned piece. “In our torn and conflated politics, an illuminati from Ota farm may be something we silently desire. Of course, it may sound like a poppywash. Except you believe in galoshes, President Goodluck Jonathan’s governance has been lacklustre. There is yet no spark of genius in areas of fighting corruption, job creation, security, Boko Haram’s terrorism and his own medieval profligacy in a nation where majority of Nigerians live on $1 or equivalent of N150.00 per day. Jonathan needs a tried, tested and steady hand to guide him. He may need Obasanjo’s military bravura on policy formulation. He may need his fearlessness to unshackle his governance from powerful interest groups who have been stalling his transformational agenda. If Obasanjo were to be a car, the guy is a full speck Mercedes Benz – speed, agility, handling, efficiency, prestige, robustness and durability. The joy or sadness of it all is that Obasanjo is aware of his proficiency. His fully loaded stature! He is aware of his own omnipotence. He is aware of the symptomatic self-adulation Nigeria bestows not only on its past leaders but also on public looters. Lastly, Obasanjo is aware of his own totalitarian irrationalism. Whether this desire to rule Nigeria among his chickens and pigs is a lofty or colonial hallucination, we have to concede that Obasanjo’s ghost still walks the corridors of Aso Rock as I write.
Sadly, the pervasive effect of our political immaturity and blindness have perpetually delivered this nation into the hands of occult grand masters, polygamists, philanderers, perverts, schemers, criminals, destabilisers, dictators, looters and self-exalting statesmen, of which Obasanjo is leader of the pack. If Matthew Okikiola Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo were to be a Tony Blair, he would have been sunk far beyond the depth of the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean. His air of certitude would have been deflated. But he is a Nigerian where we make demi-gods of the privileged, the powerful and the stupid.”
Secondly, we are confronted by the belligerent Lamido Sanusi Lamido’s $48.9 billion expensive letter which courageously blurred the line of allegiance to hierarchy to demand answers to missing cash. Lamido may have been accused of irrational scapegoating of NNPC, but the fact remains that his epistolary intervention unearthed a complex accounting viaduct through which billions of dollars are being diverted into private pockets. The brutal reality of Sanusi’s alarm is that $9.00billion is still missing and entwined in the labyrinthine accounting system of the oil industry of which Jonathan is the manager.
Then comes the sonnet of the year – Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s letter! His response to Obasanjo’s letter is a typical public refutation of alleged indiscretions in the spirit of presidential right to reply his critics. He is forced to rehearse his own belated negation and that is why he avoids epistolary warfare with his opponent but instead fabricates a set of perspectives that throw him up as the victim of a grand conspiracy. His tone is one of benevolence towards a respected godfather. GEJ rests on the belief that restraint begets restraint.
Whether Obasanjo’s Ciceronian 18-page canon is a timely intervention at a precarious juncture of our democratic journey, or mere schizophrenic hallucination, Jonathan’s presidency is inevitably on a watch list in an intensive unit. Obasanjo may be a closet patient of obsessive compulsive epistolary disorder, he has nevertheless articulated what is in the minds of millions of badly governed Nigerians whose plight are being woefully ignored. In legal term, there is something lawyers called Letter Before Action. OBJ has written his letter. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has also written. Would Goodluck Ebele Jonathan begin to take action and do the needful? Or would he shrinks into calamitous retreat of deviant inaction and cowardice? Would Jonathan goes on affirming his celebrated cultural choice for corruption after two devastating, government-sinking epistles?