Opinion: In Defence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

By Wale Adedayo

Despite serial efforts to destroy the nation-building legacies of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his adversaries have only succeeded in exposing themselves as shallow in thinking and interested in selfish pursuits packaged as national interest. For the avoidance of doubt, son of man is not a fan of Obasanjo. He has his many failings, as a human being. But in the Nigerian project, this country is yet to produce a leader – military or civilian – that could be compared with Obasanjo in terms of his commitment to The Nigerian Dream.

A visit to Osogbo by son of man without exchanging ideas with former President, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta Students’ Union Government, Comrade Wole Aluta, is like tea without sugar. Wole is not just an activist. He is as cerebral as they come. Like son of man, Wole is not an Obasanjo acolyte. But he detests with every fibre of his being attempts to denigrate the Ota Chicken Farmer by persons, who for parochial political reasons continue to bury their heads in the sand in a vain attempt at justifying the ineptitude of the current managers of our national affairs.

While discussing the sorry state of Nigeria’s security yesterday, Wole became angry that there was a juvenile post on the social media recently alleging that one of the reasons Obasanjo is angry with the current administration was Buhari’s order to stop payment of salaries to the staff of the old man’s farm, who were on The Presidency’s payroll. Of course, it turned out to be a lie.

In his words, “They claimed he had less than N20,000 when he was released from prison shortly after Gen. Sani Abacha’s death in 1998. Virtually all those recycling this rubbish are graduates with a number of them having high profile names. Obasanjo left office as military Head of State with entitlements to pension and the like. He has properties and businesses. As a prisoner, he does not need money. So, how come these societal misfits believe the propaganda that the man was poor when he left prison?” And I agree 120% with Wole.

What is currently going on under President Muhammadu Buhari is similar to what obtained under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Propaganda is being taken to a new level. Obscene spin is being circulated as facts by agents of a Government that came on board to correct past anomalies, but has failed. Buhari was not prepared for office. He only wanted to be president, again. For a politician in an executive capacity to continue blaming his predecessor for his serial failure in office is not only ungodly, but a grievous betrayal of trust. He has lost his integrity.

It is not enough to have a plan. An aspiring political office holder seeking votes as President, Governor or Local Government Chairman must have sure details of mistakes made by the incumbent. Once in office, he/she hits the ground running, which was what Obasanjo did in 1999 after the monumental looting of our commonwealth by Abacha. And, it was not just Abacha alone. IBB and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar had similarly rendered the Nigerian economy prostrate. Abacha only took us to the brink of a civil war in addition to his unbridled pilfering of Nigeria’s resources.

Yet, an Obasanjo arrived the scene, and instead of whining as Buhari and his handlers are carrying on about former President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he got down to work. Obasanjo met a worse economy. And he turned things around, very positively. Of course, education and continual self-development matters a lot. Shortly after leaving office in 1979 as military Head of State, Obasanjo returned to school. Buhari since 1985 is yet to write a book. Son of man is yet to read about Buhari going for education or self-improvement anywhere.

Obasanjo introduced mechanized farming in his private agricultural practice as far back as 1979. This should definitely be as result of his learning new ways of doing things. Yet, in the Year of Our Lord, 2018, Buhari, who is also a farmer, continue to engage in open grazing by cattles. He regularly shows off his 16th century mode of farming, thus the continued argument that herdsmen should be allowed to be moving from one part of the country to another, not minding the fact that modern system of animal husbandry does not allow such. He did not develop himself. And he wants Nigeria to continue with Stone Age ideas. No kain!

But the Ebora Owu never passed off opportunities to attend seminars and conferences on development, especially on Africa and global issues. He wrote books. The man repeated the same process after leaving office, thus his recent acquisition of a PhD in Theology from the National Open University, which he founded while in office. He is always thirsty for knowledge and modern ways of doing things.

As military Head of State, way back in 1976, Obasanjo made Education free and compulsory from Primary 1 to Primary 6 throughout Nigeria under the Universal Primary Education Scheme he pioneered. Students of Teachers’ Training Colleges were paid stipends to attend such schools, thus encouraging a healthy population of primary school teachers all over the country. Upon assumption of office in 1999, one of Obasanjo’s first policies was the introduction of Universal Basic Education (UBE), which made education free and compulsory from Primary 1 to JSS3 through the introduction of UBEC (known in states as SUBEB).

Obasanjo made his mark in Healthcare delivery. The old man built Healthcentres in all of Nigeria’s 774 local governments. Each healthcentre has a generating set, well-fenced with a comprehensive laboratory. Drugs were provided. The current insecurity across the country was well contained during Obasanjo’s administration. He tamed the monster.

No doubt, Obasanjo is not a saint. But he made conscious and serious efforts to stamp out corruption from our national life. Obasanjo commissioned an investigation involving ALL the security agencies in Nigeria into all Federal Government contracts between 1976 and 1999. A comprehensive report was submitted to the Federal Executive Council with quality white paper in two volumes coming out of that report. A current Governor in Southern Nigeria was banned by the White Paper from holding public office for the rest of his life, as he was involved in a contract scam. It was Obasanjo that gave Nigeria the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and ICPC.

Obasanjo deregulated the Telecomms sector, giving us MTN, Globacom and others in place of NITEL. Nobody dared talk down on Nigeria when Obasanjo was President. He marketed Nigeria well abroad. He did not demarket Nigeria. It was Obasanjo who got us debt relief. A barrel of crude oil sold less than what it is today when Obasanjo stepped on the scene in 1999. Nigeria’s foreign reserve was almost zero. Yet, the old man left more than 60 billion dollars in the coffers when he left office.

It is not as if we hate Buhari. We believed he’ll get into office and hit the ground running. His entry into Aso Rock Villa was built on three issues: Integrity, Security and Anti-corruption. As at today, he has failed on all three issues. And, we owe it a duty to burst the propaganda balloon of his praise singers that leaders like Obasanjo are bad people. Obasanjo remains an example for Buhari to copy, not disparage as it is being done currently.

The fact remains that, from happenings in Nigeria so far, Buhari never had a plan on how to govern. His was just an ambition to rule, thus the current mess we have found ourselves in.

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