“I understand; the state of “African” politics is so seemingly dire that Obasanjo’s choice to exercise a modicum of restraint is now taken as an esteemed example to the rest of the continent.”
There he was, on a video on the internet, Obasanjo doing nothing to suggest that he ever wants for food. His legs spread loosely over the chair, his knees just shy of the floor (it is not only women that look less than graceful when they sit legs asunder). And his lips, moving faster than words could fall out; ‘blowing grammar’, as we say in these parts.
A few days later, a news alert informed that Obasanjo had been speaking at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP). Our former president and military dictator schooled the international audience on the need for African leaders to provide basic services to their populations and secure concrete terms for democratic leadership handovers. At the event, former US ambassador Lyman noted that “Obasanjo sets an example for governance as one of the world’s leading statesmen.”
From American universities to myriad international policy institutes, Obasanjo is falsely celebrated. Lest we forget, irony reminds us that his elevated status abroad is the result of the fracas he caused when he threatened to run for a third, and unconstitutional, term. That he finally made the decision not to plunge the country into total and complete constitutional chaos in 2007 is why Nigerians must now hear Obasanjo’s name repetitively resound from the mouths of foreign gods.
It is akin to sending a wife beater on a motivational speaking world tour on “how to keep the matrimonial peace” on the basis that though he often used his wife for boxing practice, he, at least, did not murder her. I understand; the state of “African” politics is so seemingly dire that Obasanjo’s choice to exercise a modicum of restraint is now taken as an esteemed example to the rest of the continent.
we are willing to dredge up old morally decrepit excuses for past leaders and give credence to the words they speak. Words that, to a people more assured in their moral rights, would have lost all credibility.
So shambolic is the present (and seemingly everlasting) circumstance of “African” leadership, that when a head of state does nothing more than refrain from openly terrorizing his citizens and engages in the minimum economic and political management required of the job, we are expected to turn our skirts inside out in high adoration.
Obasanjo is internally and externally regarded for securing the cancellation of Nigeria’s debt to the Paris Club, which arguably put the country’s economy back on its present road to repair. Consequently, we are supposed to take this basic fiscal competence as reason enough not only to forget the human rights abuses committed under his first administration, but also the multiple charges of financial and political corruption leveled against both his tenures.
So debased have we been made, and in turn made ourselves, that we are willing to dredge up old morally decrepit excuses for past leaders and give credence to the words they speak. Words that, to a people more assured in their moral rights, would have lost all credibility.
Time and again, Nigeria – and countries like Nigeria – are reinforced with the message that no one, at any point, is responsible to them and them alone. There seems always to be another piper forever calling some other tune that is not ours.
That this continent and this country appear to be in an ever-rotating state of disrepair is not sufficient enough explanation for the so-called international community’s exaltation of the status of those as Obasanjo in foreign lands.
For those who are genuinely concerned with solving our problems, it is the very opposite of what should be done. It is to say to us that our opinions of our own matters and affairs are far less important than the judgement accorded by others to whom our determination of our own circumstance matters not one bit. And it is also to these others we must pay deference in determining what our own evaluation of ourselves and of our own leaders should be. So, ever useless must our leaders remain.
Instead of facing the ire of the majority of his own people who consider him a highly corrupt egomaniacal tyrant (notwithstanding a small coterie of deluded upper class beneficiaries), Obasanjo is given space on global political and intellectual stages and the public to whom he never answered to in the first place continue to be slapped in the face.
This, despite the fact that it is the citizenry’s judgement of those such as Obasanjo that not only ever mattered, but from who this very international community should have taken its cue. Time and again, Nigeria – and countries like Nigeria – are reinforced with the message that no one, at any point, is responsible to them and them alone. There seems always to be another piper forever calling some other tune that is not ours.
We Nigerians do enough, all by ourselves, to debase the sanctity of our own moral understandings and to subjugate the moral content of our persons either to those of foreign others whose moral ‘enlightenment’ and or outrage we acquiesce to in letting it define, determine, or lead our own. That, or within our own societies we daily, and purposefully, place above our moral selves others who we mistakenly judge better than us; and often on the basis of the superficial criterion of material status.
In either case, these are moral misunderstandings with potentially dire consequences for the people of this country. It was only in March of this year that we heard of a secret deal signed by President Jonathan giving the Abacha family political immunity; and of a $500 million contract for military planes awarded to a close confidant of the dictator against the wishes of air force officers. Last year, corruption charges were dropped against Abacha’s son who had been charged with helping the dictator steal an estimated NGN 446.3 bn.
Indeed, so free was Abacha the younger made to feel in our country that he had the audacity to aspire to the Kano State governorship. The absolute and unreserved disrespect in every dimension that the actions of our government and the involved political class represents to a Nigerian people who bore their oppression under the country’s worst dictator cannot be fully elaborated in ordinary language. And this, we have done to ourselves.
There has to come a day when Nigerians, and others like us, are able acquire not simply the ability to understand but the ability to get up and say to outsiders: my moral understanding of myself matters to me before it matters to you and it is determined by my understanding of myself and not yours of me.
A day has to come when even amongst ourselves, a ‘lowly’ house-girl does not accept being mistreated by her ‘oga’ for the benefit of a $250 a month salary and a dirty mattress in the back of the house. Because the fundamentals of what makes her a moral entity is utterly indistinguishable from that which similarly defines her boss and the debasement of either of their moral existences cannot be compensated for with cash.
John Stuart Mill’s treatise On Liberty is apt here. But I think it unnecessary to use the words of a British philosopher in proving the point which the sentiment of the Nigerian masses makes sufficiently clear. I do not know how long it will take for our external ‘partners’ and our rulings classes to listen to that sentiment, but at some point we ourselves will need to get tired of allowing others to debase the moral character of our collective humanity.