A “DOWDENIAN” CRITIQUE OF FORMER PRESIDENT OLUSEGUN OBASANJO’S UNINTELLIGENT RESPONSE TO XENOPHOBIA IN SOUTH AFRICA.

BY D. F. Effiong

In a video clip I had watched few days ago, I came across a question thrown by a lady to Nigeria’s former President O. Obasanjo. She asked, “Sir, what would you have done if you were President Jacob Zuma of South Africa with regards the xenophobic attacks…knowing that you stood by South Africans during the apartheid regime?” (Slightly paraphrased). Obasanjo’s response seemed to have tickled his political fans and children when he stated the following points; that) 

1) The issue would not have arisen.

2) You will publicly castigate those who have glorified the xenophobia.

3) You will make example of a few.

Permit me Sir to use the words of Richard Dowden, the Director of the Royal African Society whom you must have met before the 2011 elections. I shall then debunk accordingly those points you raised by reminding you that; 

1) With so much international support and an overflowing pot of largesse to dispense, you Obasanjo was well placed (like President Zuma today) to create a new deal for the Delta. Yet, when soldiers razed the village of Odi, killing more than a hundred people, you Sir, shrugged it off saying that is what soldiers do.

2) Be also reminded sir, that you sided with Britain and America, rather than South Africa over Zimbabwe thereby promoting free market reforms that Western countries urged on the continent. See your love for them. Sir, despite the fact that you commissioned reports on corruption and human rights when you came into office, you had preferred to use the information to blackmail political rivals. What example did you make sir, even with N. Ribadu as EFCC minister? Or was it the growing unpopularity between you and your deputy Atiku Abubakar?

3) In your last year in office you had suddenly sacked Ngozi Okonjo-Igweala, your finance Minister who had secured a write-off of Nigeria’s debt and had doubled Nigeria’s income in 2006. Was it because you were jealous of her success in winning international approval after you had tried and failed for four years? Or was she just too abrasive in the office?

4) Sir, do you still think that the xenophobia wouldn’t have happened when under your watch, despite the public outcry, you had preferred the ‘lifting of debt award’ by America to the hanging of activist Ken Saro Wiwa.

5) I hope when you say you would have castigated the supporters of xenophobia, you haven’t also forgotten your greatest political failings namely; your bad temper, ability to fall out with friends and demonizing enemies. I have no doubt sir, that your so-called castigation would have been a rather careful elimination of your opponents. You tried it Sir, when you treated parliament with contempt; when you tried to persuade parliament to change the constitution to allow you to run for a third term. 

6) After falling out of favour in the parliament you declared  the 2011 vote as a ‘do or die election.’ An election you had made sure that Alex Ekueme had lost and Yar’adua won. You set about it with braxen vigour, buying votes, stealing and stuffing ballot boxes, intimidating opposition voters and bribing officials. Sir, during the bloody scenario of the Ekiti State governorship elections, you had said nothing, even when urged by your Western friends. Sir, do you still think you would have done better in South Africa or worst?
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And to you ancient followers of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who bask continuously in the dwindling euphoria of many a mistake and unintelligible speeches within and outside this geographical region named Nigeria, I hope this message of mine will get to him. I hope he will work TOGETHER with President Jacob Zuma instead of deifying, glorifying and alienating himself. He must do this, so history wouldn’t haunt him!

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