Thursday, December 18, 2014 11:05 am
A book, My Watch, presented by Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president, is beginning to exhume buried controversies
Some think Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former President and one of the country’s luckiest men, thrives on controversy, but the 77-year old man, who had a rare second chance to preside over the affairs of the country from 1999 to 2007, does not seem perturbed by such impression. Some others think that since leaving office, the Egba-born Baba Ota has only been acting as an elder statesman.
For both groups, My Watch, a three-volume compilation of the former President’s memoirs, is a shocking end-of-the-year gift to Nigerians. The book presented on 9 December at the Country Club, GRA, Lagos, did not only begin its journey to people’s shelves in controversy, it is riddled with so much image-denting revelations that has since attracted many reactions. Surprisingly though, some of those hit by Obasanjo’s disclosures in the book are yet to speak out except Buruji Kashamu, a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and senatorial candidate on the party’s platform.
Buruji who is working round the clock to allay doubts relating to his reputation thinks the book, if published, would further injure him. Three days to the presentation, he rushed to court for an injunction stopping the book. But Obasanjo, not one to be swayed or threatened by the law, went ahead and told the guests at the book presentation why he took the court injunction for granted. “The book had been printed and published before that man went to court. I don’t regard that. Even the judge who gave him that order, in a normal society, a strong judiciary, he should be sanctioned and I hope something would happen. Another thing you don’t know is that the man went to court and today (the day the book was presented) was fixed for hearing. After that, he went to another judge to get an injunction at 5pm on Friday. What is that? If there is anything illegal, you know I won’t be part of it. We are here lawfully, legally and we will continue to act lawfully and legally,” he told Kunle Ajibade, Executive Editor of TheNEWS, who first raised the matter at the event.
Apart from Kashamu, the former President touched other Nigerians. For example, he revealed in the book that his own aides planted moles in the camp of Atiku Abubakar, his then deputy, and that through these moles they got information relating to the former Vice President’s activities and how the latter centred his life depending heavily on marabous. Obasanjo also noted that his quarrel with Atiku began shortly after they decided to work together as Atiku became over-ambitious and power-drunk. “By the Constitution, I had to inaugurate or prorogue the National Assembly on June 4, 1999. The most important officer in the National Assembly is the Senate President and that office had been zoned to the South-east. And here was where Atiku Abubakar, my vice-president, first showed his hand and his character. Without seeking my view or approval, he started planning the installation of Chuba Okadigbo as the senate president. I did a background check on Chuba including his past as a student and made enquiries about him in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) under (President Shehu) Shagari and no one would recommend him for the post of senate president,” he wrote in the book.
Continuing, he said: “I left Atiku to go on his chase while I carried out a meticulous and detailed investigation and background check on each senator from the South-east. The one that appeared most appointable was Evan Enwerem. I canvassed the Senate across the board for his election and he was elected. Atiku did not expect it and he felt sore. He began to strategise for Enwerem to be removed and Chuba Okadigbo to be installed. His strategy worked because I was at Abuja airport to receive a visiting head of state when the news reached me that the Senate had impeached Enwerem and elected Okadigbo. I was not perturbed. I came to understand from some senators including Florence Ita-Giwa, who later became my Special Adviser/ Liaison Officer to the National Assembly, that Atiku distributed US$5,000 each to some senators to carry out the ‘coup’. That was the beginning of bribing the legislature to carry out a particular line of action to suit or satisfy the purpose or desire of an individual or a group. The National Assembly had tasted blood and they would continue to want more. From the day I nominated Atiku to be my vice, he set his mind not for any good, benefit or service of the country, but on furiously planning to upstage, supplant or remove me at all cost and to take my place.”
Not done with Atiku, Obasanjo revealed further: “that was what I brought him for, but he was impatient and over-ambitious. He was not ready to learn and to wait. His marabou, who predicted that despite being elected as governor, he would not be sworn in as a governor, which happened, also assured him that he would take over from me in a matter of months rather than years. All his plans, appointments of people and his actions were towards the actualisation of his marabou’s prediction. Once I realised his intention and programme, I watched him like a hawk without giving any indication of what I knew and letting down my guard. I could not succumb to the distraction, diversion and malevolence of an ambitious but unwise deputy.
“The work in hand was more important than a confrontational relationship with my deputy, a man over whom I knew I had far more experience and outreach in all matters. To alert him of what I knew he was up to, would only lead to lying, denial, more mischievous plans and more duplicity on his part. He was better managed that way. What was important was not allowing me to be surprised or outmanoeuvred by him. I must always seize the initiative and know what was going on if not in his mind, but at least in his camp. That I did very effectively.
“Sometime in the fourth quarter of 2004, an associate of Atiku came to my residence at the Aso Villa from Atiku’s official residence. He felt uncomfortable and I tried to make him feel at ease. Then, he settled to tell me the story of what had just transpired in Atiku’s residence. I listened with rapt attention. He went on to say that Atiku told him that for him to become the President of Nigeria, the 2007 elections were only a formality. The seven ingredients he needed for his enthronement were already in his hands. He controlled the National Assembly because both the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were in his pocket. He controlled twenty-eight out of thirty-six governors. He had control of the media. His influence over the judiciary was overwhelming. What he needed was foreign endorsement and for that he had employed two lobby groups in the US and one in the UK. And finally, the money for the elections was in his purse.”