Former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s absolute dismissal of the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari is fifteen pages long, but the core of the message is summarised in five sentences from the fifteenth paragraph:
“Let us accept that the present administration has done what it can do to the limit of its ability, aptitude and understanding. Let the administration and its political party platform agree with the rest of us that what they have done and what they are capable of doing is not good enough for us. They have given as best as they have and as best as they can give. Nigeria deserves and urgently needs better than what they have given or what we know they are capable of giving. To ask them to give more will be unrealistic and will only sentence Nigeria to a prison term of four years if not destroy it beyond the possibility of an early recovery and substantial growth.”
Obasanjo’s press statement dropped like a bombshell on the media space Tuesday afternoon, going viral within minutes. The former president has been in the news over the past week for earning a doctorate degree in Christian theology. Buzzing in “the spirit” and feeling prophetic in the ceremonial vestments that came with his newly acquired excellency, Obasanjo has chosen a no-holds-barred epistle addressed to Nigerians in general but particularly to the head of the Nigerian state, which curates, amplifies and validates the palpable dissatisfactions and frustrations of many Nigerians in the past 31 months.
The words of the press statement are more than just the wailings of a town-crier in the dead of the night against the improprieties of the chief priest. Incompetence in economic management, reluctance to resolve herdsmen clashes, administrative nepotism – the former president names Buhari’s offences in bullet points. But this is not Obasanjo’s lamentations asking for danger to be averted “Before It is Too Late”. It is already late, and the only way out is – OUT!
In no uncertain terms, Obasanjo has asked president Buhari not to run for re-election in 2019 simply because he has not been good enough in the first term.
The former president expresses this strongly from the beginning of the statement where he describes Nigeria’s present situation as akin to an infestation of lice in one’s dress, resulting to bloodied fingernails. Obasanjo references the prevalence of hunger, anger, anguish and suicide in the country, all of which are backed by evidence which the government of the day cannot refute. Obasanjo condemns Buhari for “nepotism bordering on clannishness”, citing the president’s reluctance to resolve the Maina scandal as evidence of “inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court” which fosters the “culture of condonation” (sic).
Most stinging in this statement is that Obasanjo reminds Buhari that he was never good enough in the first place to be president of Nigeria. Buhari’s presidency, OBJ says, was only a consequence of “aobj” – Any Option But Jonathan. Yet, the former president had hoped that his former colleague in the Military, whose limitations in appreciating economics and foreign policy he had always known, would take advantage of the wealth of expertise available around Nigeria and in the Diaspora.
Alas, Buhari has failed massively to do this. Buhari’s two and half years have plunged Nigerians further into the depths of hopelessness. Buhari’s failures at home are affecting Obasanjo’s chances of effecting change in Africa as a member of the Africa Progress Group and on the global scene as part of an 18-member UN team on Mediation. “Nigeria must be one of the anchor countries” Obasanjo says “if not the leading anchor country. It means that Nigeria must be good at home to be good outside”. But Buhari’s comprehensive ineptitude so far has made Nigeria anything but good.
In preacher-theologian style, Obasanjo feels “brother Buhari” has fought the good fight but has run out of gas. His pace is too wobbly and his vision too bleak to lead Nigeria to the Promised Land. This role now belongs to a new “coalition of the concerned and the willing”. The dignified and honorable thing to do now is for the 75-year old to deploy to the side lines and take his assured place in history, where he will join the host of former presidents as patrons and references for “experience, wisdom, influence and outreach”.
For Buhari and his party to do otherwise will be “self-deceit, and self-defeat”.