Obasanjo’s real mistakes, By Ori Martins

Father Hanssan Kukah, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abibakar and Shiekh Gumi during the reconsiiliation between Obansanjo and Atik shortly before the 2019 presidential election.



Last weekend, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former head of state, erstwhile president, caused a political sensation when he revealed that Alhaji Atiku Abubaka’s choice as his running mate in 1999 was a colossal mistake. He went ahead to enthuse that his other mistake was his refusal to agree to the asylum arrangement granted to him by the United States of America.

Vintage Obasanjo, it must be recorded, has the knack for going against Nigerian leaders, both his seniors and as well those junior to him. It is in the public domain that Obasanjo, in his book, NOT MY Will, whereupon he claimed to have contributed more than any other Nigerian leader to the growth and development of the country, launched a most ruthless attack on Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Tafawa Balewa. He chided Zik, accusing the Great Icon of inconsistency having descended from Zik of Africa to Zik of Nigeria, nose dived to Zik of Igbo nation and most unfortunately to Owelle of Onitsha.

On Awo, he ruthlessly described Awo as a myopic sectional leader who introduced tribalism to Nigeria’s politics while describing the amiable Balewa as a weakling. He said the same thing about Alhaji Shehu Shagari who handed over to him in 1979. Remember he attacked retired General Ibrahim Babangida as the man who brought all the current woes on Nigeria just as he dismissed MKO as a selfmade messiah. Certainly, these are aspects of his real mistakes.

As a matter of fact, Obasanjo’s first national blunder was when he was the federal commissioner of works. In that capacity, General Yakubu Gowon entrusted him with the sensitive and critical duty of managing and implementing the government’s 3R policy of reconstruction, rehabilitation and rebuilding of the war torn Igbo nation after the civil war. We challenge Obasanjo to point to any structure he erected as a way of either reconstructing or rehabilitating the Igbo country.

Instead, Obasanjo did all he could to further worsen the Igbo’s terrible situation. Look at this: Obasanjo was an influential member the the almighty Supreme Military Council (SMC) that created the 19 states in 1976 that gave the entire Igbo people only two states of Anambra and Imo. This was a great injustice if you see to it that the same SMC carved four states for the Yoruba in the already existing Lagos, and creating three new others in three Os of Ogun, Ondo and Oyo! Even at that, Ndigbo were made to be seen as a minority – majority whence the former Eastern minority was given two states also namely Rivers and Cross River. Obasanjo was the second in command when this drastic injustice was taken against Ndigbo and he gave his blessings to it.

As fate would have it, Obasnjo emerged the head of state following the brutal and tragic assassination of General Murtala Muhammed. Here, an opportunity was presented to him on a platter to right the wrongs he had perpetrated against Ndigbo, but he fluffed it. Again, take a cursory look at this: as the head of state, Obasnjo built six federal polytechnics and never had any in the Igbo country. The six institutions were at Illaro, Akure, Idah, Bauchi and Yola. He established nine federal colleges of education and he never considered Ndigbo. The nine federal colleges of education were at Akoka (Lago), Oyo, Abeokuta, Okene, Gombe, Kontagora, Pakshin, Yola and Katsina. Equally, he constructed six new airports and he turned his back on Ndigbo on this all important and huge national project. The airports were at Illorin, Akure, Mina, Jos Sokoto, and Yola.

In a most amazing and dramatic manner, 20 years after leaving office in 1979, Obasanjo returned as civilian president of Nigeria and continued his Igbo marginalization. For instance, the South East got the least of allocations from the Federation Account while he was the president. During that period, Obadanjo never allowed an Igbo, Mr. V. S. Azie to be promoted as the Accountant General of the Federation. It was an act of nepotism and executive rascality that Obasanjo went for J. O. Ajiboye who was by ranking, a junior to Azie following the retirement of PN Akubueze.

In August 2002, Obasnjo promoted 17 police officers to the rank of AIGs. He easily disregarded all Igbo officers. He did same to the lower ranks as well. In December of same year, Obasnjo promoted 16 army officers to the noble and juicy position of Major General and called the bluff of Igbo officers. It must be recalled here that it was Obasanjo that gave the decree that declared Igbo properties in Port Harcourt abandoned. He also sold Nigerian enterprises at a time Ndigbo were struggling for survival and so couldn’t raise money to buy substantial shares in the public enterprises.

Some uninformed and compromised contributors will argue that Obasanjo gave Ndigbo sensitive appointments in his eight years rule as president. This is a topic for another day.

The above reckless acts are Obasanjo’s real mistakes. He never made any mistake on Atiku. Atiku served him diligently until he (Obasanjo) characteristically wanted to pushout Atiku and the bubble burst.