Soyinka writes off coalition
For advising President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek reelection and initiating the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), former President Olusegun Obasanjo came under attack yesterday.
Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka dismissed the CNM, saying he would need to have his head examined should he identify with the Obasanjo-inspired group.
Former Nasarawa State Governor Abdullahi Adamu warned the ex-President that he might soon become a national nuisance, with the way he had refused to allow his predecessors run the country.
Sen. Abdullahi Adamu said Obasanjo cannot dictate to Nigerians who to vote in 2019.
He also described Obasanjo’s CNM as a red herring which cannot influence the outcome of the next election, adding that the former president’s statement was in bad taste.
According to him, Obasanjo ought to have been put on trial for corruption.
Prof. Soyinka spoke in an interview with BBC Yoruba. Adamu spoke at a news conference in Abuja.
Soyinka said: “Me? Obasanjo would establish a group and I will become a member of such group? That means they should get a psychiatrist to examine me.”
He also spoke about the controversial statement by former military President Ibrahim Babangida, also on Buhari’s administration.
Soyinka said: “When these soldiers begin to speak, we are supposed to get suspicious and ask what exactly do they have in mind? It is possible that what they have in mind is different from what we have in mind.”
“You can look at it from two perspectives – the messenger and the message. The message should be examined closely. We should not look at the misdeeds of the messenger alone. Let’s start by asking, is he saying the truth or telling lies, or is he being tricky?
“If he is saying the truth and talking about things that are beneficial to the masses, we would allow that be. After that, we would now look at the person speaking; what is in his mind? … even if it’s a little child who is speaking, as far as that child is saying the truth, we won’t ask the child to keep quiet. We won’t ask the child, what do you know? We would listen. It is the same situation with those who have presided over the affairs of this nation without making significant progress.
“We have seen their weaknesses, we have seen their nakedness in public, if they now want to be covered by saying that they have turned a new leaf, we would examine that, too. What I am saying in essence is that what they have said should also be examined.”
He urged the youth to come together and present a candidate to represent them, adding that the older generation would support them.
“We have a lot of them. It is the turn of the younger ones. If they come together, as we speak, if they can start now and bring out one individual among them, we will work with him,” Soyinka said.
“We are going to give them the support they need to transform the country. People like us are supposed to sit somewhere.”
Adamu said Buhari does “not intend to leave a bleeding, disunited nation and disarticulated socio-economic development at the end of his tenure”.
He said: “…Let me say at this point that I am worried by the antics of Obasanjo and his penchant for promoting himself as the only competent Nigerian leader.
“Since he left office on October 1, 1979 to local and international applause, Obasanjo has systematically sought to undermine every federal administration after him. He has today set up himself as the moral conscience of the nation. He believes he has acquired the wisdom of King Solomon and has consequently imposed on himself the right to decide who rules us and how we should be ruled.
“Perhaps, part of the reason is that before leaving office in 2007, his party, the PDP, conferred on him the titles of Maker of Modern Nigeria and Father of the Nation. Such titles do have a heady way of making a man seeing his head bedecked in the halos of self-righteousness.
“There is a process for changing our governments through the instrumentality of elections. Chief Obasanjo, one of the architects of that process and a beneficiary to boot, ought to support that process and let the people decide who they want to rule them. It is not for him to decide for the people or the president.
“No one should arrogate to himself eternal verities in the administration of his country. It is his consuming ambition to have his hands on the levers of power under all our presidents. When he loses that grip, he turns against the incumbent in office.
“He undermined Gen. Babangida’s economic programme, SAP, with his statement that the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) should have a human face and the milk of human kindness. He denigrated Gen. Babangida by advising people to whom the former president says good morning to check their wrist watches to make sure it is morning.
“Was he entirely motivated by that noble sentiment? I find that hard to believe.
“I find it difficult to completely ignore what appear to me like the dark motives hovering over his action because I see it as a behavioural pattern that began with his 2014 letter to the then President Goodluck Jonathan, titled ‘Before it is too late’.
“It seems to me he believes that that letter alone cost Jonathan the presidency. So, if he is fatigued by President Buhari, he can resort to the same weapon with probably the same consequences. It is a long shot.”
The ex-governor insisted that the CNM recently inaugurated by Obasanjo to effect change in 2019 cannot achieve any result.
He said: “His Coalition for Nigeria is a red herring across the path of our constitutional government.”
“He is free to form a political party and pursue his ambition of being the power behind the throne but such a national movement would achieve no discernible purpose in the economic management and the social administration of the country.”
To the ex-governor, Obasanjo’s statement is in bad taste, aimed at destroying President Buhari politically.
He said the ex-President ought to have been more circumspect and measured in his approach.
He added: “No one can deny him the right to criticise a sitting president but his method leaves much to be desired. He cannot, therefore, escape the charge of impure motive and that he took this step, not to try and set things right for the sake of the nation, but to promote Obasanjo for the sake of Obasanjo.
“Being a former president, he has an unimpeded access to the president and can, therefore, seek to influence him in the privacy of the seat of power. Indeed, in the early years of the Buhari administration, Chief Obasanjo was a frequent presence in Aso Rock.
“I believe he frequented the seat of power in support of the administration. I now wonder why he suddenly decided to turn a friend into an enemy and rubbish everything the President has done so far in a little over two and half years.
“In a civilised political culture, it is taboo for former presidents to openly take a sitting president to the cleaners. Our former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, has faithfully kept to this time-honoured culture of a former ruler not washing the dirty linens of a current ruler rather gleefully in the public. So have former President Shehu Shagari and former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
“The implications for the polity of a former president regaling the public with a litany of the failures of a sitting president is a calculated and unholy effort to destroy him politically.
adamu went on: “No one, not even Buhari’s most rabid supporters, would be unfair to themselves enough to suggest that everything is right with the administration. It is true that the government has not met the expectations of the generality of Nigerians. But it is not for lack of capacity or the unwillingness on the part of the President to respond to the needs of the people and those of the country.
“I know that we invested high expectations on the Buhari administration but is it fair and realistic for us to expect the administration to solve all the problems it inherited in less than three years? Human and resources management towards achieving a desired result is not amenable to the waving of a magic wand.
“No administration is a total success and none is a total failure. Chief Obasanjo cannot honestly claim that he ran a perfect and totally successful administration. Because he did not.
“Every administration grapples with problems thrown at it by circumstances beyond its control. President Buhari inherited an economy that was unsteady on its feet. He also inherited the security problems, such as Boko Haram, armed robberies and kidnappings. Yes, I agree that under his watch these problems should grow less, not more. But the solution to problems such as these is a slow and agonizing process. He has no powers to simply make them disappear overnight.
“The President was fully aware of these problems and challenges when he sought the consent of the electorate in 2015. He did so in the hope that with the support and the goodwill of all Nigerians, he could tackle them. I know he has not given up on that.
“1 do not think he intends to leave a bleeding, disunited nation and disarticulated socio-economic development at the end of his tenure. He seems to be overwhelmed by the problems because while problems rain down, solutions to them take time to be effective.
“I think the President, in the circumstances, deserves support and encouragement rather than antagonism from a constituency that should give him that support and encouragement as he seeks to address these and other problems in his own way.”
Adamu said: “Obasanjo said that President Buhari is selective in his anti-corruption war. I agree with him because if the President were not selective, Chief Obasanjo himself would be in the dock today on trial on charges of corruption arising from the corrupt practices in the pursuit of his third term gambit in the National Assembly in 2006.
“Today he denies that he ever nursed such ambition. And being a man much-favoured by God, he has repeatedly said that if he had wanted it and asked the almighty for it, he would have given him the third term.
“He knows as well as I and other leading members of the PDP that he badly wanted it and initiated the process of constitutional amendment. He bribed each member of the National Assembly who signed to support the amendment, with the whopping sum of N50 million to make the constitutional amendment scale through.”
“The fresh, mint money was taken in its original boxes presumably from the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria and distributed among the legislators. The money was not his and it was not appropriated by the National Assembly as required by law. I, therefore, agree that in failing to make the former president account for that money. President Buhari is waging his anti-corruption war selectively.”
Obasanjo has always denied ever bribing anybody for a third term. “If I had wanted another term I would have asked God and He would have obliged me. God has never refused me anything,” he had said when confronted with the allegation.
Besides, nobody has ever presented any proof that the former president bribed him.
Adamu went on: “Nor should we forget that President Buhari has also not bothered to interrogate Obasanjo’s role in the Halliburton scandal for which some Americans are cooling their heels in jail.
“Perhaps, President Buhari might look into the Siemens affairs in which the Obasanjo administration was indicted and for which people were on trial. What became of the trial?
Adamu asked Obasanjo to retrace his steps before becoming a national nuisance and sliding into irrelevance.
“I believe that Obasanjo is too high and too big in the estimation of the people to permit himself the continued sickening indulgence in political skullduggery. I believe that the Nigerian people and the Nigerian state have been most kind to him.
“Obasanjo has a moral obligation to make the country succeed in solving its myriads of problems. That, I believe, is one way he can give back to the country that has given him so much.
“As a friend, I wish to advise the former president to pull back from the dangerous path of rubbishing all presidents that came into office after him.
“Bringing everyone down is not a patriotic duty. I fear that if he continues along this path, he would, sooner than later over reach himself and begin the inevitable descent into national nuisance and irrelevance. That would be ‘a self-inflicted wound and a personal tragedy,” Adamu said.