On Tuesday in Lagos, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, former president and immediate past chairman, Board of Trustees of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) delivered a damning indictment of the national and state parliaments by alleging they are peopled by a bunch of ‘rogues and armed robbers.’ Perhaps not unexpectedly, this position has provoked an incendiary backlash from the institutions put on the spot. LOUIS ACHI attempts a deconstruction of the gruff, ex-general’s weighty flak.
A mule-headed ex-soldier and a character not known to back down from a position he perceives is right, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo may indeed have facts other lesser mortals don’t – especially when its comes to the quirky construction of? contemporary Nigerian politics.
Certainly, not a candidate for sainthood; instructively, he has not been heard to claim that venerable status. With a fairy-tale military career firmly tucked under his hairy armpits, the Ota, Ogun State-born ‘soldier-statesman’ certainly knows a thing or two about mortal combat – whether in the more conventional Biafran war front or the more arcane, seamy Nigerian political arena.
Perhaps, weighing anchor with these impressive credentials and probably with some good quality whisky and pounded yam in his well-endowed tummy, on Tuesday, in Lagos, Obasanjo gave a bloody nose to several key institutions that drive – or pretend to drive – the Fourth Republic. He made the rather weighty allegations at the fourth annual national conference of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies, Nigeria.
With a cadence the Catholic Pope would probably envy, the gruff brawler delivered his thunder to a rapt audience. “Integrity is necessary for systems and institutions to be strong.
Today, rogues, armed robbers are in the state Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly. What sort of laws will they make? The judiciary is also corrupt. During my tenure, many of the corrupt judges were removed, some are still there. If the Judiciary becomes corrupt, where is the hope for the nation? Justice, no doubt, will go to the highest bidder.
The judiciary did not see anything wrong with a former governor but the same set of evidence was used to sentence him in the United Kingdom. The police are even worse.
Well, I will not lament; I will only say, ‘let us understand our problems and emphasise the good ones.” Notwithstanding his angry pillory of NASS, he showed some generosity by rating the lawmakers as better than the police in crime and corruption.
For good measure, the former president also did not spare the process of choosing elected representatives and knocked ordinary Nigerians, insisting they must play their own roles if the country’s present course will change for the better.
“The problem is that the diligence that was being undertaken before people are appointed or elected is no more today,” he noted and observed that the country needed strong, stable, enduring and sustainable institutions for the country to remain virile, dynamic and successful.
As Obasanjo speaks, the speed and depth of vision required to transform Nigeria and pull it back from the brink are indeed lacking. This clearly spells danger. Several key parameters of gauging human development are in tatters. A quick check-list: security, education, medicare, poverty, infrastructure, justice delivery and more.
President Goodluck Jonathan has proclaimed a transformation agenda. A year on, little progress has been made on that hugely impressive course. Corruption and roguery, at the heart of Obasanjo’s flak, remains a defining feature of the humble, affable Ijaw scientist’s trajectory. Is he overwhelmed? Big question!
The ‘Empire’ Strikes Back…
If the National Assembly is impressed by Obasanjo’s blitzkrieg, it has not shown that. An institution headed by another retired general wise in the ways of battle – and not folks to allow the grass grow under their ‘distinguished and honourable’ feet – NASS has wasted little time in striking back.
In the heat of the moment, in a cagey fight-back, the senate through its spokesman Enyinnaya Abaribe held that the chamber would not be dragged into a diatribe with Obasanjo.
The senate further demanded it would be in the interest of the nation for the former president to name the felons.
But this is rather a curious position. In the past one year many ‘felons’ have emerged from the various oversight inquisitions of the National Assembly. From the pension scammers to the oil subsidy ‘felons’ and more, little has happened.
What has become of them? Outside the former governor of Delta State, Chief Onanefe Ibori with whom the British justice system has dramatically demonstrated how civilized societies function, the nation’s many other ‘felons’ are haughtily strutting the political space with brazen audacity.
The preachments of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Adoke on ‘due process’ before prosecution has simply sent the wrong signal to a citizenry under distress.
A clearly angered House of Representatives, in their own reaction, has demanded the investigation of Obasanjo for alleging their are rogues and armed robbers in their ranks. For good measure, it also directed its Committee on Ethics and Privileges to investigate the matter and report back.
Midweek, the Lower Chamber moved that Obasanjo be summoned to justify the veracity of the allegations credited to him after approving a motion moved under matters of privilege by the Deputy Minority Leader, Honourable Suleiman Abdulrahman Kawu Sumaila, ANPP Kano.
Speaker Aminu Tambuwal had to cut short Sumaila’s tantrum when he started to list Obasanjo’s sins and referred the matter to the committee for action. But huffing and puffing, the national parliament may not want to push its luck too far because Obasanjo may spring an unsavoury surprise. The amount of information at his disposal positions him to blow open the Pandora’s Box if sufficiently egged on. Will he? Big question!
As the controversy mounts, it perhaps, may be more constructive to separate the messenger from the message. Except the National Assembly is claiming it is populated by white-robed angels, then it may be worthy of a serious introspection to weigh the words of the former president.
The content of the former president’s icy homily can not be safely written off, as far as sustaining the troubled national journey is concerned. Like the French seer Nostradamus, Obasanjo with his unsightly warts and pimples may actually represent the ‘man who saw tomorrow,’ and spoke out.
In all, the genuine strengthening of the institutions that sustain a progressive democracy is not merely a pious wish; it is an imperative and a necessity for the civilized survival of the Nigerian state.