Over the last three years, Chief Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd.), has been on a collision course with incumbent President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR. Never in the history of our country have we had a protégé so vilified by his benefactor. I have penned five pieces on the Obasanjo/Goodluck tussle including: Obasanjo & Tambuwal Salvo; Obasanjo and his Book; Obasanjo vs. Jonathan; Obasanjo vs. Rogues & Armed Robbers.
Obasanjo at 77 yrs. Old (supposedly officially born on 5 March 1938), seems unable to control his tongue (See James 1:26 & James 3:5-6) and his penchant for attacking our current President. It is also clear that he has no respect for the office of the Presidency. When he recently tore his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) membership card, he was just concluding his journey of exit that started with his resignation from the position of Chairman of the Board of Trustees of PDP.
What we will address here is his statement that “I don’t want to be politician anymore, but rather a Statesman, within and outside Nigeria.” Obasanjo has ascribed to himself the title if a Statesman. So, it is important that we decipher what a true statesman is and whether the agbada of Statesman can fit him or if he should just be content with his traditional Yoruba agbada.
As I stated in a previous piece, “The jury is still out as to whether or not he should be considered a statesman. This may be because of his penchant for making statements when a true statesman may have chosen to remain silent or restricted his statement to a closed-door meeting.”
He had previously stated that he was staying away from politics. Who or what exactly is a Statesman because Nigeria desperately needs true statesmen especially now. How do you define or know a real statesman? It is not a badge or something written on foreheads. It definitely cannot be a title you ascribe to yourself.
The dictionary defines a statesman as a “a person who is experienced in the art of government or versed in the administration of government affairs” or “a person who exhibits great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues.”
While sometimes the word politician can be used synonymously with statesman, the clear dictionary distinction will be that, generally a politician “is a seeker or holder of public office, who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles.”
Also, the free dictionary states that someone who acts in a statesmanlike manner is someone who is “a disinterested promoter of the public good.”
American Congressman Forbes posted on Christian Coalition website on October 13, 2014 that “True statesmanship depends on a commitment to lead by principles and values. Perhaps more than that, it depends on the ability to come together to build consensus, not a patchwork of compromises. True statesmanship births a desire for common ground. If we posture ourselves as statesmen, we come to the table with respect for each other, an open mind to ideas, and an understanding of each other’s unwavering principles. Statesmanship requires hard work and respect. It is not the easy way out. But it’s necessary if we want a healthy, thriving, functioning government.”
Six is the biblical number of man as he was created on the sixth day by Almighty God. Also, at least six qualities and attributes of a statesman can be extrapolated from Congressman’s Forbes statement and the dictionary definition. A statesman must: (1) have commitment to lead by principles and values; (2) able (ability) to build consensus; (3) desire for the common good; (4) respect for others; (5) open minded to ideas; and (6) understanding (wisdom) of other people’s views.
Can we say Obasanjo has respect for others and can or did he lead by principles and values. If so, what were his values? Obasanjo was fond of mocking his estranged former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and making other “I dey laugh” statements. Can he build consensus. His romance with the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and constant criticism of President Jonathan, did not build consensus, but may have rather stoked the flame of conflict and disrespect for the president. We are also aware that Obasanjo essentially endorsed the Presidential candidate of APC when he spoke to The financial Times, although he tried unsuccessfully to deny it in a subsequent interview with another media house. So, he still remains a politician.
A recurring decimal in our Nigerian politics is the issue of corruption. There are several insinuations that Obasanjo regime was very corrupt, continuing the military style looting of our national coffers. Other yet to be substantiated allegations includes his disappointment that he is not being allowed to hold sway in the Jonathan administration. Nonetheless, Obasanjo can at least be credited with establishing the Independent Corrupt Practices & other related Offense Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). On the other hand, the Jonathan administration has reduced corruption significantly by plugging administrative holes in the system that allowed for fraud in the civil service, pension benefits management and fertilizer distribution. This includes the recent elimination of over 62,893 ghost workers that has saved Nigerians 208.7 billion Naira and still on-going. Shouldn’t a Statesman point out these positive factors in the current administration? We know an opposition politician will not acknowledge this or any other giant strides of the President.
From the foregoing, it is clear that Obasanjo cannot wear the agbada or shokoto of a Statesman. He should continue to wear the traditional Yoruba agbada that befits a specious politician.
*Rev. Atawa, a public affairs analyst and media consultant writes from Asaba.