Former President Olusegun Obasanjo came under fire yesterday for what was termed his posturing on national issues.
Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka and activist lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) carpeted him and former military President Gen. Ibrahim Babangida for pretending to be “messiahs”.
Soyinka, Falana, former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, former Kaduna State Governor Balarabe Musa, Senator Shehu Sani, Afenifere chieftain Femi Okurounmu and a presidential aspirant, Omoyele Sowore, among others spoke at the 80th posthumous birthday for Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN).
The theme of the lecture was “Democracy for the masses through proper and effective governance.”
Though Soyinka and Falana did not name Obasanjo, it was clear they were referring to him in their speeches.
Nigeria, according to them, is in danger when politicians like Obasanjo, who “supervised the sacking of democratic governments” in Oyo and Anambra states pretend to be messiahs.
Under Obasanjo’s presidency, Dr. Chris Ngige was abducted by armed policemen and forced to sign a resignation letter at gunpoint in July 2003.
In January 2006, his administration influenced Oyo State Governor Rashidi Ladoja’s impeachment by the House of Assembly.
The Court of Appeal in November 2006 quashed Ladoja’s impeachment.
In a special statement on January 23, Obasanjo asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to contest the 2019 election as he has “failed.” He promised to lead the battle to prevent Buhari’s return to office with his coalition. He has also been meeting with groups and individuals in his bid to truncate Buhari’s second term bid.
The President has announced his intention to run again on April 9.
Soyinka said: “All I want to say in connection with the title of today is just one word: vigilance….There is no question whatsoever that democracy is in danger.
“And so I find it ironic that those who’ve proved themselves the enemies of democracy who’ve really taken, they’ve really committed acts, not just negligence, but actually inaugurated certain policies which contributed to our being at this point again are once again coming out and positioning themselves as saviours, as messiahs, as the sole possible rescue mission that this nation can even dream of, a nation of nearly 200 million people.
“I find it very strange, and I find it even stranger because at the beginning of this movement towards ‘rescue mission’, there were one or two organisations that came out under different names and they had people in them whom I considered worth following, worth encouraging, worth encouraging others to study closely and even consider following.
“The next thing I knew, these movements were being hijacked by the very people who laid the foundation, an ironic word by the way, for the collapse of the democratic edifice.”
Soyinka said he turned one of the groups down when it approached him.
He said: “The next thing we know, they are forming coalitions and I was invited by one of the rescue missions to address them and I telephoned them and I asked the question, ‘wait a minute, which one are you? Are you the original people I saw or is there a faction or is there now a fatherly umbrella under which everybody is moving?’
“And I told them; don’t even come near me, if you’ve signed up on one of those who are the enemies of democracy in this nation.
“Those who inaugurated so-called constitutional amendment programmes, total charades, to assist them to continue to run, which has been scuttled by the direction known as tenure elongation, third term, etcetera for which the entire national treasury was almost bankrupted.”
There were claims that Obasanjo attempted to seek a third term following the expiration of his tenure in 2007. The bid hit the rocks when the Ken Nnamani led-Senate threw out the tenure elongation clause during Constitution amendment.
The Nobel laureate went on: “And suddenly, here they are they are forming coalitions all over the place, once again, confusing people.
“Who are the genuine leaders, who are those that we can trust? The answer to that is very simple: look at their track records. That’s all”.
He advised Nigerians not to allow themselves “to plunge into a zone of amnesia, in which you conveniently forget unpleasant realities.
“We’ve had presidents in this nation, some of whom inaugurated a never-ending democratic process, which landed us eventually under the most brutal dictators that this nation has ever known.”
Under Babangida, who was in office between 1985 and 1993, his transition programme was the longest ever in the country’s history. On several occasion, he promised to hand over to a democratically elected government but failed to do so.
In June 1993, he annulled the presidential election won by the late Bashorun MKO Abiola.
He was forced to “step aside” in August 1993.
Babangida handed over to the Ernest Shonekan-led Interim National Government (ING), which was sacked by the late Gen. Sani Abacha, who tried to perpetuate himself in office before his sudden death.
Soyinka was not done: “We had others also who actually supervised sacking of ‘democratic government’; I’m speaking of Anambra, I’m speaking of Oyo State. A governor was kidnapped under their watch with their complicity; in another instance, thugs actually entered the House of Assembly, sacked the legislators and installed their own candidates; under the same watch.
“And they call themselves the God-designated watchmen over the fortunes of this nation? And suddenly, here they are and I see Nigerians flocking to them and asking them once again to lead.
“Mind you, they’ve said very clearly if it becomes a political party count me out o, but paths are already being beaten to their doors, control by subrogation.
“Even if they do not individually put themselves back in the position of power, they are already smoothening the way for their surrogates, their stooges, so that they can continue to misrule from their cosy farmsteads. So, all I’m urging is: be very vigilant. Just look closely at their records, look at the company they keep.
He urged the youth to “grow up” and take political power.
“Why can’t a new generation actually rise, throw us all out of the window and take control of their own lives by themselves? Why do we keep recycling the same jaded traitors, enemies of the people? Why do you need to go for blessing somewhere if you’ve made up your mind that it is time to take control of your own existence?
”Once again, I don’t want to be misunderstood, I know what I think about this government when voting time comes, I know exactly where I’m going to cast my vote but I’m not going to allow anybody to hoodwink me and say I will show you the path. No, this will be adding insult to injury.”
Falana urged the government to confiscate some assets of those people, including a university, “at the right time.” Obasanjo is known to own the Ota-Ogun State based Bells University. He also owns a farm in Ota.
The activist lawyer said: “Our country is undergoing serious crises of governance but we must be very careful so that we do not allow those who destroyed the country, those who ruined the nation to pose as the saviour of our people.
“There’s somebody living very close to this place who has been parading himself as the saviour of our people; this guy ruled the country for 11 ½ years cumulatively – 3 ½ years under the military, eight years under a civilian dispensation. And even wanted to do a third term but Nigerians rejected him. Obasanjo was military head of state between February 1976 and October 1, 1979. He was president from 1999 to 2007.
Falana added: “The guy is going round the country now, claiming to have solutions to our problems; I wish to say here and we are challenging him to name one thing that he did, any problem of the country that he solved.
“On the contrary, this guy wasted $16billion to generate darkness for the country. This guy formed and took over the resources of the country blindly under what he called blind trust.
“Nigeria is the only country in the world where a sitting president and a sitting vice-president established private universities when the government refused to fund public universities and other tertiary institutions.
“Gani went to court to challenge the extortion of state governments and contractors by a man who realised about N7billion to set up a so-called library” Obasanjo has a presidential library in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The SAN said: “Under the constitution, any gift received while you are in office, other than customary gifts, is forfeitable to the state; therefore, at the right time, this country, when it is properly organised, will take over all those universities and libraries that were set up with public funds and that may be sooner than you think.”
Senator Sani (Kaduna Central) said Nigeria was not yet in a true democracy.
He said: “In fact, our country is sick, the republic is sick; our people are dying, violence, bloodshed, killings, mass murder is becoming the emblem of our democracy today.
“We are out of PDP misrule but we will be deceiving ourselves to say we are in the Promised Land; we are not in the Promised Land. We must keep vigil,
“The political ruling elite are not yet prepared to see to a democratic Nigeria. Nigeria’s political reality is about personal interest.
“Those who destroyed our country in the past are very much present as born-again.”
He urged Nigerians of integrity to support Buhari because “you can’t build a country because of the integrity of one person. The integrity of one person is not enough to rule and sustain a state. We have a President who is a man of integrity but integrity is not enough for leadership.”
Oshiomhole, represented by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Ayuba Wabba said Obasanjo was not worthy to determine Nigerians’ political destiny.
Oshiomhole said Obasanjo “acted like a civilian dictator” while in power and prevented Nigerians from protesting an unjustified fuel price increase.
He urged the Federal Government to emulate Lagos State and honour Fawehinmi.
“Lagos did a good job to build a befitting statue in Fawehinmi’s honour. The Federal Government should do better,” Oshiomhole said.
Sowore lamented that Nigerians rejected Fawehinmi for Obasanjo in 1999.
He said: “I want to say very briefly that Nigeria must be regretting that when they had a chance to choose between Chief Gani Fawehinmi and a Barabbas, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, they decided to choose Obasanjo instead of choosing Gani Fawehinmi and that is why we are regretting today.