By SOLA EBISENI
LIKE him or not, Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Ogunboye Aremu Obasanjo, veteran of wars, former Nigerian Military Head of State, eight years elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is an enigma. According to Shakespeare, in Twelfth Night: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em”.
For those whose idea of being born great is coming to life with a silver spoon in the mouth, which is a euphemism for the material wealth of one’s parents, Obasanjo may not qualify for a man born great. Yet, relative to the times and environment of his birth and the opportunities of education, though commencing late at 11 when he enrolled, his early life was of divine intervention in the rugged personal adventure of a heady child. He had to fend for himself, including part of his school fees.
He showed signs of a non-conformist as early as secondary at Baptist Grammar School Abeokuta when he decided to drop his ‘Matthew’ first name in deference to anti-colonial consciousness. As a matter of fact, he lost admission into the University of Ibadan due to his inability to meet his tuition fees obligations, enlisting in the Nigerian Army in March 1958.
A veteran of wars, particularly peace keeping activities, including in the Congo where only divine intervention saved him from being executed in 1961. The defining moment of his military career was his training as an engineer in Indian military institutions. Still in all these, as in youths of his age, Aremu was only striving for greatness the height of which was routine promotions in the Army until his retirement.
Those who have greatness thrust upon them are not really those who best crave it. Obasanjo’s greatness is a combination of personal struggles and what the preacher in Ecclesiastes 9:11, regards as time and chance which happen to them all. Evidently not part of the coup and counter-coup which led to the civil war which began in 1967, he took charge of the Third Marine Commando in Port Harcourt in May 1969. In December, Obasanjo launched Operation Finishing Touch and by January 1970, it was his responsibility to receive the Instrument of Surrender from Philip Effiong effectively bringing the 30 months civil war to the end.
Again, not part of the coup that brought the Murtala Muhammed/Obasanjo military regime to power in 1975, Obasanjo was made the Chief of Staff. With the benefit of hindsight, this combination appeared in conformity with both regional and faith considerations.
Providence finally brought greatness Obasanjo’s way when Murtala was assassinated on February 13, 1976 and he was called upon to take charge as the Head of State. Though not his will, he took the mantle and successfully handed over an elected government in 1979, the feat that recommended him to Nigerians for election at the return of democracy in 1999.
More than any other person that has ruled Nigeria, Obasanjo has proved himself committed to the way successive administrations have fared. After his administration as military Head of State and since leaving office in 2007, he has been at the toes of his successors and not minding whose ox is gored in his political choices.
In the present race towards 2023, Obasanjo’s house at Abeokuta, capital of his Ogun home state has been a Mecca by all Presidential hopefuls, including those who should know that it is not likely they get his support. It is sufficient if he is not with you, he should at least not be openly against you verbally or through his restless pen.
The Ebora Owu has been doing a lot of legworks since the current race gained throttle. He has leveraged on his extensive networks all over the country without disclosing the candidate or party of his preference, though his body language has been given diverse interpretations by people who covet his most beneficial support.
Within and outside Nigeria, he has left no one in doubt that he is inexorably interested in both the process and the eventual results of the presidential election. In his visit to former Head of State, Abdusallam Abubakar, his junior in the military who also has on his cap, the enviable feather of having successfully handed over the reins of power to an elected administration, Obasanjo said as an elder statesman, he has no anointed presidential candidate or a preferred political party but an agenda for the country.
As events unfold, the contents of the national agenda will unravel. While I do not wish to indulge in guessing, it is noteworthy that Obasanjo’s on-going contacts know no friend or foe. At a time, there was a hoopla by some irredentist Northern interests that Obasanjo was putting too much pressure on their leaders. They measured retired General Gusau, Professor Ango Abdullahi of the Northern Elders Forum and others. As the Secretary General of the Afenifere, I can say on good authority that his relationship with our Leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has been so very close lately.
His dramatic meeting with the beautiful bride, Nyesom Wike and his colleagues in London, was still wagging tongues when it was again revealed that he already had a date with the Ohaneze Ndigbo. Notwithstanding, the face-off between him and Chief Edwin Clark on who owns Nigerian oil, I know as a member of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, which Papa leads that Olusegun Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo is not distant from the tireless nonagerian Ijaw leader.
Nigeria! We hail thee.
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