By Philip Agbese
Àgbàyà, in Yoruba, connotes a bad elderly person especially one who relishes in bullying. Within the context of that culture, anyone so designated become the subject of disdain and communal censure since the actions that makes someone to be called àgbàyà often run contrary to expectations and certainly unacceptable to right thinking members of the society. One would have expected that a former president, Chief Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, GCFR, Ph.D, given his background as a Yoruba chief would be conscious of this concept and not pee in the pool to warrant being termed àgbàyà.
But this is precisely the latest title he has added to his long list of existing titles. Àgbàyà Obasanjo. He earned the title by his ongoing meddling into national affairs on a scale that is unprecedented in Nigeria’s political history, one that has proven to be more damaging than the years of his two times of leading Nigeria combined.
Since Obasanjo has his fan base of supporters, addicts of corruption currently suffering withdrawal symptoms from the present administration’s onslaught on graft, who will not for once see the error in their demagogue’s misdeeds, it is important to set certain facts right.
First, Nigeria’s democracy is patterned in large parts after the American democracy. That country happens to have a large crop of former presidents that are still alive and kicking and they, to a remarkable extent, honour the code of not meddling with the manner an incumbent President of the United States decides to run the country. As erratic as President Donald Trump is reputed to be these former presidents have been able to exercise restrain save for occasional quip when the matter under consideration directly touches them personally. In the case of Obasanjo, however, his interference in the day to day running of the country is epic such that one gets the impression that he is displeased that his companies and cronies are no longer getting lucrative government retainerships that he once set up for them.
Secondly, this same old rascal once made a big deal out of his quitting politics and he even made a reel of setting his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) membership card alight to demonstrate the irrevocability of that decision. But knowing that he cannot see such lofty resolution through, he got himself a soft exit by first forming a group and then transiting that group into a political party. So, Obasanjo quit politics and same Obasanjo is set to mount the soap box at every turn in the days ahead under the guise of rescuing Nigeria.
It must be further clarified that the above points notwithstanding, Baba Iyabo has his right to expression, association and movement so he is free to leave politics and return to politicking at will. What he is not free to do is to evolve into a co-president with the elected Commander-in-Chief and to throw tantrums once his wishes are not granted. That will be usurping the mandate Nigerians gave to the current office holder, something that no right-thinking members of any society should condone.
We must also look at the damage that Obasanjo’s intervention is doing to the polity. Before now, some people had strongly expressed the opinion that the country should break from the dominance of two party system, where the smaller political parties do not stand a chance. The hard choices the Buhari administration has made for Nigerians stimulated the push for another party, an alternative to PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC). The emergence of a third strong political party would have made office holders sit up while those aspiring to offices would be compelled to go beyond the usual mantra-chanting to win votes. But trust Obasanjo to perform negative miracles even with the best of concepts. His Coalition for Nigeria Movement collapsing into African Democratic Congress (ADC), in which he remains the vocal person with any clout has diminished the possibility of having a viable third force contrary to the delusional strength being touted by Obasanjo’s followers.
Given their antecedents as the same people in the then PDP that were appropriately referred to as brood of vipers, this present crop of Obasanjo’s followers could have only mutated into something more dangerous than vipers, possibly a brood of taipans. The few years they have spent out of government has exposed that access to Nigeria’s coffers is what keeps them alive and they cannot long survive hence the desperation to come back to office through the back door. They continue to monkey around while their leader, Obasanjo, as the snake, teleguides them to claim respectability that is not encoded anywhere in their DNA.
Had their so called third force been a sincere one and not made up people who still rue their loss of earnings from slush funds, the mere fact that Obasanjo is associated with the ADC has made that platform into tainted product. Even the best of PR firms cannot wish away the reality that Obasanjo is here again for a final bid to get the third term that Nigerians in divine wisdom denied him. So, in addition to the many sins he had committed against Nigeria, a new one has been added, which is that he truncated the prospect of a third viable alternative to PDP and APC. This appears to be an unforgivable infraction since he has denied us the opportunity to right the wrongs he did to Nigeria.
It is unbelievable that a man’s greatness can die with him within this short period of time. Baba left prison, became President for eight years, was nudged out of office with the opportunity to become an elder-statesman, which seemed to have worked for a while. But today, he is wallowing in the mud, a self-acclaimed comedian without an audience. There is no certainty that other elder statesmen can save one of theirs but they should at least attempt taking blanket to Obasanjo to obscure his shame.
The template he created as the first elected president when Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999 is largely responsible for whatever governance and political quagmire we find ourselves in today, which President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to get the country out of. It is unacceptable that Obasanjo is now trying to force Nigeria back to the dismal trajectory he had set for us typical of a bullying àgbàyà.
Obasanjo is free to make himself into an object of national interest since he is an attention seeking old man but the only thing Nigerians are willing to accept is that he spends the remainder of his natural life apologizing for the damage he did to the country. He should be rest assured that he will find among Nigerians people willing to pardon his misdeeds and perhaps history may yet be kind to him for even an àgbàyà that shows contrition gets some sort of rehabilitation. But this is apparently asking too much of Obasanjo.