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Obasanjo Has No Credibility To Lecture Anyone on Good Governance

It has been said that there are three things in speech that ought to be considered before some things are spoken – the manner, the place and the time.  Nigerian awoke Thursday December 12, 2013 to an 18-page letter by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Jonathan Goodluck castigating and blasting him for all the ills and ailment afflicting Nigeria since independence from the blight of Boko Haram to the internal party politics of the ruling Party, Peoples Democratic Party.

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo

The General doled out a litany of wrongs and wrong doings and then proceeded to liberally dole out advice, counsel and dire warnings to President Jonathan for good measure, Nigeria’s former Dictator turned politician arrogantly and sadly compared President Jonathan governance to the scourge of his fellow dictator and nemesis General Abacha.  General Obasanjo with a bold face asserted that he “sense a semblance between the situation we are gradually getting into and the situation we fell into as a Nation during the Abacha era.”  Seriously General!

Well, thankfully, “this universe hinges on moral foundation.  There is something in this universe that justifies Carlyle in saying “No lie shall live forever. There is something in this universe that justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying that “Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again.” There is something in this universe that justifies that biblical writer in saying “You shall reap what you sow.”  Martin Luther King Jr. Autobiography P. 33.

The retired General from Ota and sometime farmer’s attempt to Abacha-rize President Jonathan’s government is the equivalent of a slap against the collective faces of Nigeria. Whilst it is true that a good debate and constructive criticism, is healthy for democracy, however, any such “criticism must be dignified, must be factual, must be realistic, and must be honest…. [Nelson Mandela “Conversations with Myself” Page 52].  General Obasanjo perfidious comparison of President Jonathan to his one time chummy- colleague-turned-nemesis, Late General Abacha without a scintilla of fact no matter how tenuous is quite unfortunate, destabilizing and profoundly sad.  General Obasanjo of all people should know better that at this critical juncture in our fledgling democracy, inflaming the passions of the masses as a means to a calculated political end is subversive to our Nation state.  “The “blood of our heroes past shall not be in vain…”

General Obasanjo will do well to heed the wise counsel of our beloved sage Mandela when he said “It’s a good thing to assume to act on the basis that others are men of integrity and honor, because you tend to attract integrity and honor if that is how you regard those with whom you work.  [Mandela p. 163].  Perhaps this Abacha mongering can only be dismissed as the idle and fanciful talk of an old General and politician hell bent on being on the stage long after the curtains have been drawn.  However, in the words of a true leader like Mandela “I shall stick to our vow never, never under any circumstances, say anything unbecoming of the other…the trouble of course, is that most successful men are prone to some form of vanity.  There comes a stage in their lives when they consider it permissible to be egotistic and to brag to the public at large about their unique achievement…”

Unlike the Mandela and other great leaders of our time and time past, our aged farmer from Ota has “Nothing special to offer.”  As we are apt to say in Nigeria “We don see your hand finish” for more than 40 years he has been at the helm or near the helm of affairs in Nigeria.  Him and his cohorts of recreational and professional brigands have had their hands on the wheels of the ship of State and indeed in the coffers of the nation’s treasury and one can dare that him and his generation of leaders have steered our Nation aground.  Nigeria has been moribund and marooned by all the maladies that you now comfortably and conveniently heap on this present young generation of leaders.

Despite General Obasanjo’s pretenses of infallibility, his records of services are replete with broken promises missed opportunities, missteps and folly.  Nigerians are tired of being trampled upon and over by revisionary historians whether they hail from the plain farm fields of Ota or from far flung corners of our beautiful Country.  Nigerians are tired of being played as fiddles by politicians hell bent on plunging us across the abyss for selfish misguided and malevolent reasons.

Truth be told, General Obasanjo’s anger with President Goodluck is based purely on his suspicion that President Goodluck might exercise his constitutional right and seek a second term in office.  Is that not what democracy is all about.  Dr. Jonathan Goodluck if he decides to run, should make his case to the Nigerian public, and let the public pass the ultimate judgment. Politics should not be based on unsubstantiated back room deals on who runs and for how long.  General Obasanjo especially in this case has no locus standi to preach to anyone on whether to run for a second term or not.  Nigerians have not forgotten his chicanery when he tried to amend the constitution to seek a third term!

A true leader and statesman would not be concerned with ephemeral opinions, but with established truths.  A true leader possessed of the faculty of reason in its purity and excellence can never be enslaved by prejudice, and will put out from his mind all preconceived opinions as worthless, such a leader would rather carefully and dispassionately weigh and consider every word before speaking. An eighteen-page tirade that is dripping with contempt and vituperation is hardly the careful missive of a thoughtful leader and or Statesman.

In other democracies simple decency requires a former leader especially for one who has been at the helm of the nations affairs to go quietly into the sunset.  “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when the despise him.  But a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, the led will forever be cherished”.   Lao Tzu.  This is a lesson the Septuagenarian former Dictator and farmer from Ota will do well to take to heart.

President George W. Bush eloquently stated the need for leaders to gracefully bow off the stage with dignity when he said, “I don’t want to be on these talk shows, giving my opinion, second guessing the current President. I think it’s bad for the country, frankly, to have a former president criticize his successor.” 

Former presidents as is the case especially in the USA should not speak out against a current president. They occupy a unique position among retired elected officials: that of having occupied the most powerful and difficult job ever. Enduring criticisms, second-guessing and in charge of the vast domestic and foreign policy apparatus of our country. Former Presidents have first-hand experience and are a vital resource to presiding presidents. When former presidents begin to carp, rant and publicly criticize their successors, they put politics above public service.

There are two other reasons why a former president should remain publicly silent in any criticism of a current president. In the first place, criticizing the incumbent of an office one once held somehow lacks class and dignity. In the second place, the perpetrator of the criticism may have no room to criticize, given his own record in the area of criticism. For example, when President Obasanjo criticizes and condemns President Jonathan of corruption it brings to mind the old saying about not throwing stones if one lives in a glass house.

In its way, Aso Rock is also made of glass. The sitting President is under constant scrutiny and should be able to rely on frank advice from those who served before him. That advice should be from the perspective of a former leader of all the American people and should not be tainted by narrow, partisan considerations. Any former president who speaks out against a current president immediately becomes “persona non grata” in the glass halls of power and forfeits his special status and value to our country.

General Obasanjo has no credibility to lecture Nigerians on corruption.  How exactly did he acquire his enormous wealth, it could not have been on his pension as a retired Army General and Head of State nor on his pension as a former two time civilian President.  We as Nigerians recall that not too long ago during General Obasanjo second stint as civilian President, KBR and its subsidiary Halliburton pleaded guilty to conspiring with its joint-venture partners and others for authorizing, promising and paying bribes to a range of Nigerian government officials, including officials of the executive branch of the Nigerian government, NNPC officials, and NLNG officials, to obtain the EPC contracts. KBR also pleaded guilty to payment of tens of millions of dollars in “consulting fees” to two agents for use in bribing Nigerian government officials.

KBR and Halliburton admitted that, at crucial junctures before the award of contracts, KBR’s former CEO, Albert “Jack” Stanley, and others met with three successive former holders of a top-level office in the executive branch of the President Obasanjo government to ask the office holder to designate a representative with whom the joint venture should negotiate bribes to Nigerian government officials. Mr. Stanley and others negotiated bribe amounts with the office holders’ representatives and agreed to hire the two agents to pay the bribes. According to court documents, the joint venture paid approximately $132 million to the first agent, a consulting company incorporated in Gibraltar, and more than $50 million to the second agent, a global trading company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, during the course of the bribery scheme. KBR admitted that it had intended for these agents’ fees to be used, in part, for bribes to Nigerian government officials.

“Today’s guilty plea by KBR ends one chapter in the Department’s long-running investigation of corruption in the award of $6 billion in construction contracts in Nigeria. This bribery scheme involved both senior foreign government officials and KBR corporate executives who took actions to insulate themselves from the reach of U.S. law enforcement,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division. “The successful prosecution of KBR, and its agreement to pay a more than $400 million fine, demonstrates that no one is above the law, and that the Department is determined to seek penalties that are commensurate with, and will deter, this kind of serious criminal misconduct.”

We as Nigerians also remember that President Obasanjo did nothing to prosecute the criminals in his government nor did he do the honorable thing and resign.  Instead a this criminal enterprise and its permanent blight on Nigeria was swept under the rug by with the establishment of a Special Investigation panel headed by for Inspector-General of Police, Mike Okiro even though it declared in its Interim report that the Retired General from Ota was directly and irrefutably involved in the Halliburton bribery scandal where over $180 Million were paid as bribe to “key government officials and Politicians” including General Obasanjo. As our own anti corruption crusader Balarabe Musa said “There is a popular demand by Nigerians that the government should investigate Obasanjo’s regime because of the numerous financial atrocities committed by him. No government can be more corrupt than the government of Obasanjo. His eight years reign exposed us to the present challenges bedeviling us.”

It is trite to also remind the General by mentioning that his trusted aide Andy Uba and “go for” was charged in the US Federal District Court in Portland, Oregon with money laundering. Judge Marsh of the US District Court in Oregon accepted a plea deal and settlement wherein Andy Uba pled guilty and paid thousands of dollars in fine.

Particularly troubling to most descent Nigerians is the patronizing and egotistic nature and tone of this letter to a sitting President elected by majority of Nigerians to lead the Nation.  General Obasanjo condescendingly proclaims that he is both the Political godfather of President Jonathan and indeed all presently sitting politicians.  He unabashedly declares to the chagrin of all descent humble persons that after God and President Goodluck’s parents, he is third in line in terms of importance.  He further declared that he has heard “it said the governors and members of the PDP” are his “political children” and then dripping with arrogance proclaims, “Anyone who may claim otherwise will be like a river that has forgotten its source…” Wow!!!!  Apparently the Nigerian electorate has nothing to do with the election of their leaders.  Nigerians only have leaders foisted on them by General Obasanjo.  This type of arrogance, attitude and mindset is dangerous to the Nation and to our young democracy; it is the mindset of a dictator.

Arrogance diminishes wisdom. Pseudo dictatorship expounded by General Obasanjo and captured in his 18 page lecture arrogates to him the right to instruct Nigerians about their feelings, their thoughts and their desires, in his military world and Johnny-just-come-lately conversion to democracy and its messy nature, Nigerians especially the current occupant of Aso Rock is a nobody and must live as he is told.

Mandela unlike General Obasanjo wisely counsels, “It is a grave error for any leader to conduct discussions as if he or she is a school master talking to less informed and inexperienced learners.  [Nelson Mandela. P. 326.]  Waging your finger in the face of a sitting democratically elected President and calling him a “liar” and “Possessed” and “blood thirsty” is beyond reason and profoundly malicious, malevolent and degrading of the office of the President. Gergen, who served in the White House in four administrations, said that once in the Oval Office you appreciate the “continuity of the office.” “You form part of a chain and each link is important. You almost have a sacred responsibility to keep the office strong.”

General Obasanjo who comes from a military culture that absolutely loathes a debate has to remember democracy is messy.  The main aim in a debate, inside and outside and organizations, in political rallies, parliament and other government structure, is that we should emerge from that debate, however, sharp our differences might have been, stronger, closer and more united and confident than ever before.  The removal of differences and mutual suspicion within one’s organization, between one’s organization and adversaries, but total focus on the implementation of the basic policy of one’s organization should be our guiding principle”

Unlike General Obasanjo who cries wolf and beats the drums of war and impending “bloodshed,” there is universal respect and even admiration for leaders who are humble and simple by nature, who have absolute confidence in all human beings.  These type of leaders are generally optimistic, believing that in every community and successive leaders whether it be President Jonathan or whoever, that there are goodness in them and that there are good men and women who see peace as the most powerful weapon in the search for lasting solutions. A weak leader relies on arrogance to hide glaring weaknesses.  For one to expect or ask things of others that he himself, if asked, would not be willing to do or give, is the worst kind of arrogance.

“A true leader must work hard to ease tensions, especially when dealing with sensitive and complicated issues.  Extremists normally thrive when there is tension, and pure emotion tend to supersede rational thinking.” [Mandela Conversations with Myself P. 402.]  Criticism and resentment are alike superfluous.  One is tempted to remind the retired General the virtue of silence as eloquently expounded by A. L. Salmon in his poem Be still!

The crown of life is silentness…

Too much of time we spend in profitless

And foolish talk.  Too little to say

Leave for a while thy chat and empty tale

Study the golden speech of silentness

In conclusion, As one wise elder statesman once said, ‘the obtrusive words of the merely clever talker of – mischievous talker though heard perhaps by thousand and at once popularized, are quickly forgotten.”  All well meaning Nigerians will do well to forget and indeed will forget your December 12, 2013 diatribe but history will neither forget nor forgive.

There are no greater marks of folly and moral immaturity than irreverence and presumptions; no greater manifestation of wisdom and moral maturity than reverence and humility.

To attain virtue and wisdom one must learn, not only when to speak and what to say, but also when to remain silent and what not to say.  The right control of the tongue is the beginning of wisdom.  The right control of the mind is the consummation of wisdom.  “The fool babbles, gossips, argues, and bandies words.  He glories in the fact that he has had the last word and has silenced his opponent.  He exults in his own folly, is ever on the defensive, and wastes his energies in unproductive channels.  The wise man avoids idle words, gossip, vain argument, and self-defense.  He is content to appear defeated; blessed is he who does not strive for the last word.

President Goodluck should be applauded for firmly directing that “none of his aides or any government official should join issues with Chief Obasanjo.”  President Jonathan’s dignified stance reminds one of the counsel and thought of a very wise man who said that “A great leader stands alone in the simple dignity of independent manhood; he pursues his own part fearlessly, and does not apologize or beg.  Unconstructive criticism and applause are no more than the dust upon his coat, of which he shake himself free.  He is not guided by the changing opinions of men but guides himself by the light of his own mind.  Other men barter away their manhood for messes of flattery of fashion.”  A strong leader poises him and refuses to be swept away from his strong foothold by either the waves of passion with or the storms of opinion without.

So in sum, President Jonathan must learn to stand alone, looking to no one for support, expecting no favors, craving no personal advantages; not begging nor complaining, not craving nor regretting, relying upon the truth within him, deriving satisfaction and comfort from the integrity of his own heart. So Mr. President in this winter of political treachery, machinations and intrigues, you must learn and trust the virtues of dignified patience.  Goodluck and God bless Mr. President.






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2 Comments for “Obasanjo Has No Credibility To Lecture Anyone on Good Governance”

  1. Nice piece. It’s time we told the truth to these old, retired generals/dictators/rulers who had the opportunity and privilege to put the country on a sound footing of growth and prosperity but squandered it for selfish, pecuniary reasons.
    The most annoying thing about them including that loudmouth Ota farmer is that they won’t retire and live quietly for the remaining years they have but continue to disturb the younger generation whose future is at stake in this country.
    We are tired of them, they should just shut up and leave Nigeria alone. The country does not belong to him or his cohorts as his brave daughter said in her own letter.
    Nigerian youths say enough to these retired leaders who don’t wish the country well. OBJ, your time don pass. Stay in your farm and mind your chickens!

  2. Well-written and excellent piece. Though I’m not a supporter of Jonathan because of his obvious incompetence, however, I agree with the contents of this piece. I hope the contents get to Obasanjo and his ilks, so they can get the message. The country can only do better without them.

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