Obasanjo & Obi; Birds of the same Feather

Grandfather of corruption endorsing verifiable conman

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Olusegun Obasanjo and Peter Obi have much more in common than would immediately catch the eye. They are both masters of hypocrisy and the craft of spin. It should come as little surprise that the former endorsed the latter for the February elections. Working people do not need them or their class. We fight for us!

Once again, Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a letter endorsing yet another one of the oppressors from the same capitalist class contesting to rule over us. In the 1 January letter titled “My appeal to Nigerians, particularly young Nigerians,” he endorsed Peter Obi, candidate of the Labour Party, for the 25 February presidential elections.

According to the former head of state, “no human being is an angel let alone a Messiah but there are elements of these attributes” which he has seen in Peter Obi, but not in the other “front-runners” for the presidency.

The Obidients have taken to town with joy at this endorsement by a leading architect of modern Nigeria, who is also one of the major destroyers of the country and the hopes of working-class people for a better life.

A diverse array of people and groups dismissed the letterman-former-president’s endorsement for different reasons. These include supporters of Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who dismissed the endorsement as having no weight, despite the fact that their principals had earlier sought Obasanjo’s blessings.

Without directly mentioning their names, Obasanjo pointed out in his letter that they “are one and the same thing,” and cannot take the country forward. These claims of Obasanjo are of course, self-evident to any right-thinking person.

Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress highlighted the fact that Obasanjo had been at the heart of the ruination of Nigeria. In terms of the improvement of the well-being of the poor masses, Obasanjo had repeatedly been a failure. And in this light Sowore noted that Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi was a case of “failure endorsing failure” adding that he prefers “the endorsements of the people.” Most of the non-partisan commentators that reacted to the letter situated it in his letter-writing trajectory, pointing out the self-centered and hypocritical politics of the former head of state.

As Gimba Kakanda says, “there’s no Nigerian, dead or alive, who’s had the opportunities Obasanjo was given to overturn the fortune of this country.” The two periods he served, first as a military head of state in the late 1970s, and then as the first president of the so-called Fourth Republic at the turn of the 21st century, were quite strategic in the nation’s political history.

But at the heart of his legacies are anti-poor people policies, corruption, repression, impunity, and hypocrisy. The first sharp increase in fuel prices in the country’s history was in 1978, under Obasanjo as a military head of state. And he came back to continue with this major thrust at the heart of the economic well-being of the masses with sharp increases on more or less a yearly basis from 2000 to 2005. Obasanjo was left economically ruined by Abacha who had framed and jailed him in the mid-1990s and was “rescued by foreign donors and a segment of the nation’s political elite” when he was released after Abacha’s death in 1998.

This segment of the political elite drafted him into the presidential race that he won in 1999. On getting to power, he unleashed war against the working people and his opponents in the ruling class. 

Within the first six months of his presidency, he ordered the massacre of up to 2,500 people in Odi Rivers state and hundreds of O’odua Peoples Congress members in Lagos. And in 2001, he oversaw the killing of hundreds of people in Zaki Biam, Benue state.

He also clamped down on demonstrations led by the trade unions alongside general strikes to protest fuel pump price hikes in 2000, 2003, and 2004. These increments were part of the neoliberal National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) which he foisted on the country.

NEEDS was nothing more than a self-imposed structural adjustment program (SAP). The lives of the poor only got worsened whilst the few wealthy people who make up the ruling class become richer. And clearly, one of those who got the lion’s share of this primitively accumulated wealth was Obasanjo, including expanding his farming business, which became the largest in West Africa.

Obasanjo was president at a time of global economic upswing, leaving just before the global economic crisis of 2007. He could have invested in the public funding of education and healthcare, which the masses would have benefited from. But that was not his concern. He rather focused on establishing a private university, with his newfound wealth.

He maintained power through fraud and force. Bills were passed in parliament after bags of money had been shared with members of the National Assembly. And the 2003 elections, when he was seeking re-election is by far the most fraudulent in recent Nigerian history. Human Rights Watch and several other observers documented the plethora of electoral fraud and violence.

Obasanjo had gotten so used to enjoying state power and the perks that go with it to the extent that he wanted to elongate his stay as president by introducing a third term in office. He illegally spent at least $500 million to pursue this agenda, as Chidi Odinkalu and Ayisha Osori document in their 2018 book titled Too Good to Die: Third Term and the Myth of the Indispensable Man in Africa.

Despite all the money he pumped into this bid he failed and had to organize a presidential election which he was not on the ballot of, in 2007

He publicly said victory in this election for his party was a “do or die” affair. And he deployed all machinery of the state to ensure that his candidate, Umaru Yar’Auda emerged as president. This was despite the fact that the state of health of Yar’Adua, who would die in office, was already quite suspect from the beginning.

The main reason for putting forward the ailing politician was to maintain control of the reins of power even after leaving office. Not only was Yar’Adua ill, but he was also the younger brother of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who had been Obasanjo’s deputy as military head of state. Since haven left office, Obasanjo has continued to do all he can to maintain relevance and, though less successfully, control. He has endorsed candidates for each presidential election. He has also written open letters condemning the incompetence of each of these persons when in power.

Obasanjo lacks the moral and political right to advise Nigerians and youths in particular on anything, He is a self-serving, hypocritical patriot and lapdog of imperialism.

These are all dubious qualities that Peter Obi shares with him. He is a proponent of production over consumption whose business rests on massive imports of consumer goods for retail sale. He invested Anambra state’s monies in his family business and claims he has no interest in it. And, as the Pandora Paper made us know, he illegally opened offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes, while he was serving as governor. The Nigerian working people do not need liars and political fraudsters like Peter Obi, or Olusegun Obasanjo. 

by Baba AYE

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