General Obasanjo’s delusional messianic complex

General Olusegun Obasanjo, erstwhile military dictator and civilian despot, is so predictable; one could almost set a watch by it! The country goes through crises phenomena; people and governments are looking for the most suitable solutions, the man smells an opportunity, and he strikes! Obasanjo has done the same thing over and over, that his predictability is one that all of us have become familiar with. He went for the Shagari administration, when Nigerians began to complain about the economic situation; took the Babangida military regime to the cleaners in the days of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP); he did same to the Abacha regime but ended up in jail for the crime of accessory to treason. He hand-picked the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, but was shocked to find that the man was not going to be a Quisling; and the last time he expressed his messianic delusion was against his ‘boy’, President Goodluck Jonathan, in the lead to the 2015 elections.

There are basic threads running through the actions of the old despot. Obasanjo has messianic delusions! In his troubled soul, there cannot be any leader of the Nigerian state greater than himself. He is the beginning and the end of all that is good about leadership here; the ultimate point of embarkation and the terminus! This complex is related to several factors that animate the soul of the man. Obasanjo lives with a very troubled soul. His years in power were filled with controversies. These range from the privatisation policy that saw the sale of national assets to the kleptocratic despot and his cronies; the massive issues of corruption exemplified by the wastage of $16B in power projects that yielded wattages of talk but no electricity, and then the billions of Naira that went down the drain of the fruitless pursuit of a Third Term Agenda! It was this deluded despot that used state power to enter ‘Nolle Prosequi’, in the corruption charges against his cousin, Permanent Secretary Makanjuola, in the Ministry of Defence, who had pilfered money and was exposed by General TY Danjuma!

Obasanjo’s greatest fear is to be exposed for his duplicity in corruption cases. So the first thing he does is to ensure that he burrows permanently inside the entrails of the nation’s power complex; he must be the main manipulator of the process, and thus securing the vintage place to shield himself from scrutiny. That explains why in every government, he makes a deliberate show of his entrances and exits in the seat of power; he adroitly exploits the photo-ops and drops hints about his strategic value to the governance structures in place in the country. Obasanjo exploits that proximity at two levels. First, he offers the impression of care about the state of the administration and the country; and he then buys extra time to deepen forgetfulness in the nation’s political and social spaces. And aren’t we a very forgetful lot? We easily forget the crimes that individuals like Obasanjo perpetrated, even when he had all the opportunities to put in place the building block of national development that would have worked for the Nigerian people. The despot returned from prison, near-bankrupt; but in eight years, built up a mind-boggling enrichment that catapulted him into the ranks of some of the richest individuals in contemporary Nigeria! This is the same man that is so presumptuously deluded to the point of thinking that he has earned the right to teach Nigeria lessons about governance.

Obasanjo’s most recent outing this week surprises no right-thinking citizen. It was a perfidious, but not surprising effort to exploit another moment of national crisis. There are controversies around killings in clashes between nomads and sedentary farming communities; there is an increasing polarization of the country, as we descend into the season of politics; and there are determined efforts by the political forces that lost out in 2015. They have been out of the loop of power for a few years; have resided in political wilderness since, but are determined to find newer routes to access public money-access to which has been blocked by TSA. They are fighting back furiously and these forces have substantial interest in media and in social media. 2018 offers the most serious preparatory point for an onslaught on the Buhari administration. But these forces suffer a credibility issue with the Nigerian people, who have not forgotten what they made of power in the previous 16 years, before they lost it in 2015! Now who was the head of that monstrous era but the old, disgraced despot, Olusegun Obasanjo? Obasanjo is fighting for his corner, and that is not a pretty place to be in, because even he knows that he does not occupy a moral high ground in Nigerian politics and administration. The despot has no lesson to teach contemporary Nigeria!

So when Obasanjo spoke glibly from both sides of his mouth, that “I will consider no sacrifice too great for the good of Nigeria at any time”. The discerning Nigerian would be obliged to ask where the evidence was of that pledge of sacrifice, considering what mess he made of the eight years that he administered a civilian regime, that he distorted with his dictatorial proclivities; and a laissez faire gluttony, which made him turn privatization policies into an avenue of personal enrichment and of instituting the worst excesses of crony capitalism. It is the consequences of his actions and inactions, which have collectively haunted every administration since his Third Term Agenda was defeated in parliament, and with tail between his legs, the disgraced despot made a hurried departure from power in 2007. Lest we forget, the same man then presided over the worst elections in Nigeria’s recent history in 2007, as part of his vengeful wrath against the same Nigeria he now sheds crocodile tears for!

The old despot is behaving true to type. He is desperately exploiting a moment of national pains to claim a bona fide of patriotism. And as is his wont, he also wants to damage the credibility of the government of the day, to further his own personal agenda. He ranged over several issues but in the long run, the agenda was very personal even when clothed in the garment of patriotism; that old refuge of the typical governance scoundrel. And the despised despot occupies a disreputable place in Nigeria’s pantheon of anti-heroes! Ever scheming; irrationally besotted with his own place in the scheme of things and a messianic delusion that grew as political charlatans of all hues fawned to him, General Obasanjo fancies himself as the best thing that happened to Nigeria. We can walk the shores of hindsight, to the days when sidekicks like Chief Olabode George described the old despot as the ‘architect of modern Nigeria’! In that state of delusion, he assumes, dangerously, that he earned the right to teach lessons, even when they are unwarranted! And knowing that he might be crossing a leader who genuinely connects with the mass of the Nigerian people, in a way that he never did, in the years that he occupied power, he even forewarned, that “praise-singers and hired attackers may be raised up against (him) for verbal or even physical attack”. But to even think out such irresponsible scenario only exposes the depth of trouble in the soul of the despot that fancies himself as a reference point and final stop on the route of building our country. The verbiage might be plentiful and the times might seem opportune for him to be perfidious as usual, but the sense we have is that President Muhammadu Buhari will not be distracted!

There is too much work to do to fix the Nigeria that the old despot Olusegun Obasanjo and his denizens in the PDP of his time destroyed! It was the Obasanjo era’s PDP, which the unforgettable Chief Sunday Awoniyi described so brilliantly as ‘a basket of scorpions stinging themselves to death’! Obasanjo presided over an era of rogue politics; where assassinations became a weapon of political domination; the same despot used money to buy support in the party and parliament and his foot soldiers ferried boxes of mint currencies around the residences of members of the National Assembly, in a desperate search for ignoble votes, to ensure the Third Term Agenda that we collectively defeated to his eternal shame! And as he played his rogue politics, he entrenched the worst species of prebendalist, crony capitalism that ensured the farming out of the national patrimony to the man and his hangers-on. In politics and economy, Obasanjo was the reference point of all that was despicable on our national scene. Obasanjo cannot accept that Nigeria moved on, and are far away from his delusions. He neither possesses a sense of gratitude or of loyalty to causes that he would not profit from. And his eternal assumption of possession of some ethereal powers of administration that the nation must always learn from, makes him play to the fool’s gallery most of the time. And that is why he constantly positions to take advantage of moments of vulnerability of the national process, to strike like the serpent that he actually is!

By striking at this moment in our national history, the disgraced despot merely shows the depth of his depravity. He hopes to take advantage of adversity to pursue a new political project. The platform that he eloquently describes today, which unfortunately he refused to provide a basis for its emergence when he ruled the roost for eight years. And typically of Obasanjo, he has stoutly refused to take any responsibility for the rot that he claims afflicts Nigeria. Yet for eight years, he had all the opportunity to do better than the personal enrichment and rogue politics that defined his era. It is the consequences of Obasanjo’s failures that government and Nigeria have continued to deal with in the present. There can be no affliction worse than a despot’s messianic delusion; that is Obasanjo’s incurable condition.

– Braimoh is the coordinator of the Buhari Media Support Group (BMSG)


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