(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, August 24, 2020)
Matthew Aremu Okikiola Olusegun Obasanjo – one man, one name, one destiny; complicated personality.
For the Yoruba, names hold special meanings and are categorised into five, namely: Oruko Amutorunwa (predestined names), Oruko Abiso (acquired names), Oruko Oriki (panegyrics), Oruko Abiku (abiku’s names) and Oruko Inagije (aliases). Obasanjo isn’t an abiku for he came, he saw and he stayed.
Matthew and Okikiola are acquired names. Matthew means ‘Gift of Yahweh,’ Okikiola means ‘Gloriously Famous’. Aremu, a panegyric name, means ‘Prince Charming’ just as Olusegun means ‘Conqueror’ and Obasanjo means (the king rewards). Powerful names for an all-powerful man.
In Yoruba mythology, the ‘egbere’ is the malevolent nocturnal gnome that inhabits the woods, weeps inconsolably and unrelentlessly clutches a mat. Obasanjo isn’t an ‘egbere’, though you appear to clutch a mat on your journey to earth. Obasanjo is the Ebora Owu.
Today, the demeaning, mat-clutching imagery of the ‘egbere’ resonates only in the metaphysical past. Nowadays, mat-clutching is chic and synonymous with sustainability, longevity and tenacity. When the youths of today strive to stay long on an enterprise or in a relationship, they would say, ‘Mo gb’eni wa ni o’, meaning, I brought a mat along with me.
I don’t believe in the Zodiac because it belongs in the realm of obsolete knowledge. Humans are no plants or rocks to be viewed in crystal balls and compartmentalised as a body of astrological knowledge perpetuating hollow horoscopes and surreal confusion.
Born on March 5, 1937, Baba is 83 years old. He’s also a piscean. Pisces is a water sign symbolised by two fishes swimming in opposite directions. Doesn’t this suggest confusion? Well, I don’t believe in the zodiac.
According to astrology, “Pisceans are charitable, compassionate and will promptly place the needs of others before their own. Pisceans are extremely faithful, loving and caring of their mates. Pisceans are never judgemental and always forgiving. Pisceans are (the) most tolerant and kind of all other zodiac signs.” I told you, I don’t believe in the zodiac.
But I admire you, Baba, because you don’t sit on the fence; you pull fences down along with bridges and sit over their rubble, dust and all.
When the going was good between you and the late senator Buruji Kashamu, you prayed for the fugitive businessman at a rally, saying, “We know the enormity of the support you gave (PDP) in the past. May God reward you for the support you gave in the past. All that makes you happy, God won’t take them away from you.”
Baba, you’ve come under heavy artillery bombardment since you criticised Kashamu who fell to coronavirus, scornfully saying the US-wanted businessman couldn’t escape the icy hands of death, though he evaded justice when he lived.
Speaking a few days ago, however, a busybody and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, accused you of dripping hypocrisy, saying the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, under your watch, gave favourable evidence which cleared Kashamu of drug charges and stalled US request for his extradition and prosecution in America, in 2003. Falana said Kashamu, who had served five years in a British jail, had to be released on the grounds of the uncertain identity evidence given by the NDLEA to Britain, which subsequently turned down the extradition request of the US. Thus, Kashamu returned home, joined the Peoples Democratic Party and took sides with you to subdue then Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel.
Falana believes it was wrong of you, Baba Obasanjo, to turn a praise singer when Kashamu was spending billions in entrenching the PDP in Ogun, only to pounce much later when Esho Jinadu decided to support the 2015 presidential ambition of the inept Ijaw leader, Goodluck Jonathan. Falana said, “It’s against African culture to aid and abet a criminal suspect in his lifetime only to turn round to attack him in his grave.”
By opening up Kashamu’s underbelly, you corroborate Mark Antony, who philosophises in Julius Caesar, saying, “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” Humans are forgetful and ungrateful. The arrow you shot at Kashamu smashed the pot of hypocrisy and blew ashes the way of the archer. “Eni da eeru, ni eeru ntan.”
But you don’t give a hoot and I stand with you on this, Baba. You roar, “Let people say whatever they like when I transit. Now that I am alive, am I not being abused? Whenever I transit, let people say whatever they know or think about me… What my maker thinks of me is what matters most.”
Without playing the devil’s advocate, I’m certain many would open their dirty mouths in abuse after your glorious exit, but, thank God you’ve told them you don’t care, ‘ipako o gbo suu ti, ori elegan baje’.
Daddy, I stand with you and I pray you live above 100, a wish you expressed in Abeokuta last Tuesday during the first coronation anniversary of the Agura of Gbagura, Oba Sabur Bakare. By the time you live well beyond the century mark, time probably would’ve tempered the bellicosity of the former Ekiti governor, Ayo Fayose, against you, I believe.
Surely, a multitude will gloat over your death. But Olusegun is neither Jesus, though he’s permanently on the cross; nor is Aremu Satan, though stones are hurled at him ceaselessly.
But, what would your condolence writers say other than the toxic allegations already in the public domain sef?
For instance, Fayose, who menacingly threatened you in Okuku, Osun State, in 2010, had repeatedly accused you of seeking a third term as president and corralling elected politicians to use public funds to build you a personal library.
I know your traducers would remember the multi-billion dollar Halliburton scandal that rocked your administration, the controversial killing of a serving Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Bola Ige, the seizure of Lagos federal allocations despite Supreme Court ruling, your non recognition of MKO Abiola, a fellow Egba citizen, during your eight-year presidency; $214m National ID scam, multibillion-dollar electricity darkness, removal of governors and senate presidents, among others. But you don’t care.
If I outlive OBJ, I’ll stand with him when vindictive condolence writers turn their poisonous pens against him as he did against Kashamu. Even if all the ‘sins’ of Okikiola are sordid and uncountable – and all the perfumes of Arabia can’t overcome their rancidity, I’ll still stand with OBJ, a born-again Christian, for mowing Odi down and calling Plateau State CAN chairman, Rev Yakubu Pam, “an idiot.” Total annihilation is what a town like Odi in Bayelsa gets when some of her youths kill security agents, and your response, ‘CAN my foot!’ is the appropriate reply to Pam’s call for Christians to defend themselves in the face of killings on the plateau.
I know how unforgiving some Nigerians could be, sir. In their condolences, many are likely to go down filial lane and scribble, “The President whom his son publicly accused of having sexual affairs with his wife!”
Baba, just like you did to Kashamu, after you live for more than 100 years and go to your grave, many Nigerians will intern your good deeds and only remember the everlasting bile in your firstborn’s letter to you in 2013.
General Obasanjo, I foresee some Nigerians rereading Iyabo’s harrowing letter before penning their condolences. I’m sure they’ll quote Iyabo’s exact words which described you as “a manipulator, hypocrite, narcissist, greedy, third-term seeker, megalomaniac, intolerant, two-faced and an uncaring father and husband”. But you would be too far gone to hear their babble, I know.
Freely, I’ll defend you over your political ‘sins’ but I’ll decline my support against the verdict of your family because nobody can know you more than your family, sir.
Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom, whispers Thomas Jefferson, from the grave.