Why Obasanjo’s Failed Third Term Haunts Him, Hurts Buhari’s Fragile Nigeria


CHIEF Olusegun Obasanjo never imagined that Nigeria would get to this point. His rating of Nigeria as a failing state is a patriotic version of the Fragile States Index statistics which rate Nigeria as 14th among the world’s failed States. Another ranking on terrorism placed Nigeria third after Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to the 2019 Fragile States Index of 178 countries, Nigeria was the 14th most fragile state in the world. Africa claimed 10 spots 0f the 15 most failed countries in the world in this order, Somalia (second), South Sudan (third), Democratic Republic of Congo (fifth), Central Africa Republic (sixth), Chad (seventh), Sudan (eighth), Zimbabwe (10th), Guinea (11th), Nigeria (14th), and Burundi (15th).”

The Global Terrorism Index 2020 was more distressing. Nigeria ranked third behind Afghanistan and Iraq. It is unimaginable that Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen both ravaged by war were rated safer than Nigeria.

As Obasanjo casts blames for the state of Nigeria, he reckons that things would have been better if he was allowed to continue as President. Obasanjo’s strident denial of a third term ambition fails to address the months his foot soldiers spent criss-crossing Nigeria in search of support for the unconstitutional idea.

Obasanjo was unprepared to leave office. His choice of an ailing Umaru Musa Yar’Adua put Nigeria in the spin from which it has not extricated itself.

What people see when Obasanjo discusses Nigeria is conflict of interests. They think Obasanjo is essentially self-serving, an attribute that was obvious when he supported President Muhammadu Buhari to office in the 2015 election. He concluded the series of criticisms of President Goodluck Jonathan over two years with membership withdrawal from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the party that made Obasanjo President straight from prison.

Obasanjo supported Buhari both at home and abroad. Speaking at the launch of his book My Watch in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday 1o February 2015, Obasanjo, said of Buhari, “The circumstances [Buhari] will be working under if he wins the election are different from the one he worked under before, where he was both the executive and the legislature – he knows that,” he said. “It’s a question of leadership – political and military. He’s smart enough. He’s educated enough. He’s experienced enough. Why shouldn’t I support him?”

Do Obasanjo’s concerns about Nigeria address his duplicitous rating of Buhari’s abilities and the administration? Sometimes he is quiet, at others he remembers his role in Buhari’s presidency and justifies the withdrawal of support for Jonathan. Was his assessment of Buhari poor or he was bent on getting Jonathan out of power?

His important message that Nigeria was in the midst of challenges never seen expectedly is lost in the messenger. The Presidency said Obasanjo had become the Divider-in-Chief from his former position of Commander-in-Chief.

President Buhari’s administration is satisfied with its performance. Whatever anyone else says is irrelevant. We have been told that when Buhari leaves office by 2023 we would appreciate his patriotic leadership. What about the present? Would we limp all the way to 2023? In what shape would we arrive?

Nigeria is an embarrassment to those who hold the country dearly. Obasanjo’s cherished international contacts must be asking him questions he cannot dismiss about Nigeria. Mistakes have been made. The worst of the mistakes was thinking – even for a fleeting moment – that Buhari was the solution to whatever disagreement there was among power mongers in 2015. He was not. He has consistently proven he is not about to be.

Choices Buhari has made since 2015 hammer at his determination to create the divisiveness Obasanjo complains about. Obasanjo is not the only who believes that Nigeria can be better run.

Suggestions on improving Nigeria are thrown away as the wailing of those who lost power. They are also corrupt. The combination of these accusations, lethargic efforts at tackling insecurity, and indiscernible economic directions have left Nigeria stuck in a quag.

When Jonathan is not being blamed for running Nigeria irredeemably aground, the government rates its performance as sterling. We have been at these for over five years. The excuses have run thin.

Garba Shehu, Buhari’s media adviser was unsparing on burnishing of the administration. “It is a pro-business administration that has used diplomacy to unlock bilateral trade and investment. He (Buhari) leads a government that has liberalised the investment climate and market access by achieving reforms that have placed the country in the list of the world’s top reforming economies. Nigeria, which other nations had mocked and ridiculed for so many things that were wrong is today progressing at a pace reflecting its size and potential,” Shehu’s official statement read.

“With so much to show and many more coming, it is little surprise that President Buhari would be the object of envy and harsh unfair challenges by politicians who failed to deliver, but continue to nurse ambitions of delighting the audience long after their curtain has been drawn,” Shehu concluded in obvious reference to Obasanjo.

How these, and the unforgettable 46 per cent completion of the 2nd Niger Bridge, address the fragile state of Nigeria have been swept away by the polarisation of pressing issues like insecurity, food shortages, increasing poverty, and the vacuous meanings of the rule of law.

Critics are not the issue.

Buhari is doubtlessly operating in more challenging circumstances than his predecessors. Flowery paintings of situations would not deceive anyone. His closest aides and associates are more interested in the 2023 succession plan than how the country runs. They are more distractions than his critics.

Obasanjo has been consistently short of apologising to Nigerians for being among the leaders of movements that paved the way for Buhari in 2015. His criticisms could help Buhari re-evaluate his ineffectual strategies for attaining heights he proposed for Nigeria in 2015 and again in 2019.

The President should shun sentiments like the ones in the official statement of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena. “Instead of the ‘do or die’ lingo Obasanjo and the PDP introduced to our electioneering, votes are beginning to count as our elections improve steadily. The brazen culture of impunity and corruption which they institutionalised is being replaced by strong and accountable systems,” Nabena stated.

“Our defence capacity to respond and contain emerging security challenges is now tested and proven. How did Nigeria achieve this? A strong, people-centred and focused leadership which the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration provides.” Is Nabena discussing another country? He needs to be woken from 2015 dreams.

Buhari can do better in his remaining days in office by keeping away from suggestions that he has done well – he has not, and he should know it.

If his doubt persists, he should ask ordinary folks back in Katsina State if they were safer, healthier, more assured of a future, today, than they were in 2015.

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