The Messenger or The Message

Obasanjo told Buhari that he has underperformed and he should not allow Nigerians to remove him the way his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan was voted out . . .

The Messenger is a 2015 British horror film. Young Jack sees and talks with souls who have not “gone into the light.” These souls ask him to become their ‘Messenger’ and relay messages to the living, usually ending prophetically. The Message is a 1976 historical film chronicling the life and times of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (God’s messenger). While former President Olusegun Obasanjo is not an actor or God’s messenger, he is in the habit of messaging, especially the prophetic message.

In a 13-page open letter on Tuesday January 23, 2018, titled: “The Way Out: A Clarion Call For Coalition For Nigeria”, the messenger, Obasanjo, in a message, warned President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019. Obasanjo told Buhari that he has underperformed and he should not allow Nigerians to remove him the way his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan was voted out.

Five years ago, in an 18-page open letter on December 12, 2013, titled: “Before It Is Too Late”, the same messenger, in a message, warned Jonathan not to seek re-election in 2015. After the messages on both occasions, the responses were regarded as unbecoming, mischievous and provocative of the messenger. As usual, presidential advisers called both messages reckless and baseless charges. In Jonathan’s message, Obasanjo said: a “fatally and morally flawed” decision for Mr. Jonathan to be a candidate in 2015. In Buhari’s message, Obasanjo said: “President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse”.

The potency of Obasanjo’s criticisms in both messages and the public nature of the spats added the weight of embarrassments for Jonathan and Buhari, coming days, for both administrations – for Jonathan, after a leaked letter from the CBN said NNPC failed to account for $50 billion of revenue from 18-months of oil sales and for Buhari, the Makurdi mass burial of 73 Benue crop farmers/villagers massacred by Fulani herdsmen respectively. Obasanjo’s timing is most apt and calculated to tap into the growing national anger in Nigeria.

Critics of Obasanjo went to town — Obasanjo has no moral justification to tell Buhari not to seek re-election; Obasanjo abused Buhari; those complaining today have been denied access to public coffers by the Buhari administration; Obasanjo must stop making unnecessary comments against the polity; I think it is insulting for a man who wanted third term to tell somebody else not to want second term; It is most inappropriate for a former head of state to say, so it is most improper.

An unlikely messenger, US President Donald Trump, in his own “message”, allegedly called Africa a “shithole”. Trump said: “Nigerians never return to their huts after seeing America”. I am a Trumpian (Trump supporter) simply because he talks reality and refuses to be politically correct. I subscribe to the realist philosophy, rhetoric, and style of Donald Trump. The truth is that 95% of Africa has been reduced to “shithole countries”, precisely because they’ve been run by the leaders they deserve. The challenge of Trump’s rhetoric, which I do not consider as racist, but the truth, is that Nigeria is a “shithole country” – since independence in 1960.

OBJ caricature 1

While Obasanjo’s rulership, military (1976-1979) and democratic (1999-2007) failed to evacuate Nigeria from the shithole, Nigerians should listen to the message even though the messenger is messaging what he had an 11-year opportunity to do and failed. I will dwell on salient points in Obasanjo’s 13-page missive. “If neither APC nor PDP is a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria at this crucial and critical time, what then do we do?” Obasanjo wrote. I think that a country that has been ruled by the siamese twins: APC and PDP, is definitely a shithole.

“The economy is in bad shape and the herdsmen/crop farmers issue is being wittingly or unwittingly allowed to turn sour and messy. . .And it is a sad symptom of insensitivity and callousness that some Governors, a day after 73 victims were being buried in a mass grave in Benue State without condolence, were jubilantly endorsing President Buhari for a second term!” Obasanjo wrote. Anybody who faults this message wants to keep Nigeria perpetually in a shithole.

For centuries Fulani herdsmen have been nomadic. They want to perpetuate this tradition against urbanization, technological advancement, economic development, private enterprise, modern farming and ranching. Myetti Allah is against the anti-grazing law, saying the law is an infringement of their right of movement. Freedom of movement for people is enshrined in the constitution, but there is no provision for freedom of movement for people and animals in pari passu.

In response to the anti-grazing law which precipitated the mass murder in Benue by Fulani herdsmen, Prof. Umar Labdo Muhammad of the Faculty of Humanities, Northwest University, Kano claimed that “Benue State belongs to the Fulani by right of conquest”. After a professor makes a claim like this in Obasanjo’s 21st century Nigeria, does anybody need clarification on Trump’s shithole message?

Obasanjo unleashed a three-pronged attack-message. Accordingly, “three other areas where President Buhari has come out more glaringly than most of us thought we knew about him. One is nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court. . .The second is his poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics. . .The third is passing the buck”.

From Obasanjo’s three propositions, I can infer three conclusions: if the premises are true, then the conclusions must be true. The war against corruption has failed, the administration’s naiveté and inexperience in internal politics is anathema to federalism, and the Buhari administration’s inaction as it continuously blames the past administration without fixing the problem is retrogressive. Obasanjo laughs sometimes. Remember “I deh laugh o!” In 2013 and 2018, the wizard of Ota Farm stopped laughing and waltzed into the realm of prophesy. To get out of our shithole, à la Trump’s rhetoric and Obasanjo’s missive, Nigerians must decide. Will it be the messenger or the message?

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By: Nnamdi Ebo
The White Paper |
Political scientist | Lawyer | Author | Social commentator | THISDAY Contributor | Scholar in Legal literature & Politics | Online Newspaper Publisher | Blogger | NR Columnist

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