Thursday, May 18, 2006

Nigeria: And The President Erred!

“Have you ever wondered why and how Nigeria's Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Matthew Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo goes free and moves triumphantly where angels are afraid to tread?”—Bola Adawara, e-Life online magazine

He was a champion during the Nigerian civil war. The Biafran military might- or what was left of it- surrendered to him despite not firing a single bullet, and “when actually those who fought and won the war were the like of Alabi Isima, Mohammed Shuwa, Murtala Mohammed, Black Scorpion, Alani Akinrinade, etc", according to Adawara's article.

He became the Commissioner for Works under General Gowon, and supervised the bulk of the reconstruction effort after the war and the modernization of the state of Lagos, then the federal capital, by constructing many of the transportation amenities existing there today.

Fate later smiled on him when he became the second-in-command after the coup that brought General Murtala Mohammed to power. He knew nothing about the coup, as I understand, yet he was favored. This eventually led to him being the head of state after the assassination of his boss, Gen Mohammed.

His administration gave birth to the second republic when he organized the elections in 1979 and became the first military head of state to hand over power to a democratically-elected civilian government.

He was thrown in jail by General Abacha in the 1995 because of a botched coup he claimed he wasn’t part of. He suffered huge losses as a result, and almost lost his life in the process. Yet he came out victorious, and yet again, broke the record by being the first Nigerian to occupy the most exalted political seat in the land; he became the Nigerian president, the second time.

One can say the Nigerian president, Mr. Obasanjo is lucky chap, given his travails. Has he enjoyed tremendous favor from above? Absolutely, and to paraphrase the writer quoted above: President Obasanjo is favored because he is a covenant child of God.

What confuses me is why would such a person succumb to the trappings of power and make nonsense of a stellar record at the twilight of his career? Why would he soil his testimony by manipulating, albeit unsuccessfully, the constitution he seemed to have fought so hard to protect? What could make a man err so badly?

Mr. Obasanjo’s bid to continue his reign as the Nigerian President failed woefully, and in the process, he’s allowed his integrity to be stained by greed, and shredded by some dubious political characters and associates.

Based on human intelligence, it appears his covenant with God may have been broken, shattered and scattered, and whether it can be mended or not, is left for the Divine Being to decide; after all, He deemed it fit in His infinite wisdom to smile on him in the first place.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet said: “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Mr. Obasanjo started his journey into public service on a solid and good footing but fatally fumbles shortly before it ends, and forever his name will be stated in the annals of Nigerian history, (along with others) as a president who attempted to usurp power.

In my opinion, the failed amendment to the Nigerian constitution that would have permitted Obasanjo's third term will be the most remembered of his legacies; a sad and most undignifying recollection of what would have been a stellar legacy, and an unfortunate blemish on an impressive record of public service.