Understanding former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s active life @ 84
It has become a yearly sacramental that during this season, friends and associates of Nigeria’s former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo converge in the hilly town of Abeokuta, Ogun State, to mark his birthday. On this occasion, Friday, 5th March 2021, the gathering celebrates this most outstanding African and global citizen as he is supposed to turn 84 years, or admittedly, something slightly higher.
Beyond mere fete and jollity, these yearly gatherings have become a festering ground for cross-fertilization of ideas among some of the world’s best minds on no few contemporary problematics. This year, the assemblage, also virtually, by world leaders will focus on “Governmental Models in a Post COVID-19 Era in Africa”. However, there will likely be a turning of minds inwards to focus on the man whose other names are Matthew, Aremu, Okikiola. More than the past, guests both from in-country and out, will again ask from where comes the rather restless and ebullient deportment of this statesman whose life remains an open book of great achievements and no few raised eyebrows.
It has been the tradition in most countries that political leaders such as former presidents, who would have completed their statutory limit in office, seldom continue to maintain an activist lifestyle of involvement in national politics. At best, they preoccupy themselves with some charitable causes and remain on them. Even in some rare cases as in the United States where the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama had to depart from what has come to appear as a normal of silence, the interventions were relatively measured and brief.
This is a far departure from the mien of few former presidents, including the birthday celebrant at Abeokuta whose visibility in the national discourse, in social relations and even on the global scene remain unquenched but, rather, continuously re-energized. Chief Obasanjo’s active life is legion and cross-cutting. He is no longer a known member of any political party in Nigeria, but his voice is active on most national political issues and he is a backchannel brickman on national dialogue, consensus-building and state-building. At other times, he adopted the rather unorthodox channel of publicly circulated letters in order to be heard more audibly; a style which some disagree agonizingly.
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Relatedly, his schedule has not been less inundated with participation in the perennial stream of discussions by all and sundry on themes pertaining to the Nigerian economy and social development. At the personal level is his endless shuttles across the country on account of his stuffed calendar of social engagements, explainable from over 60 years in level public service. No less, his global schedule appears an extension of his crowded domestic activism. He maintains a record of being counted as one of the most sought after and travelling former national leaders and is also quite vocal on the Global Agenda. Undoubtedly, there is no other former Head of State of any country known to belong to the number of common concerts of the world’s most venerated seniors.
The question therefore is why has it been impossible to fetter Chief Obasanjo down including muting his thoughts especially at national level. Added to this is the curiosity as to what efforts both private individuals and institutions have deployed to keep him, as it were, politically sedated and less mobile. Not so! All manner of measures, i.e., fraternal, persuasive and otherwise have been resorted to. But OBJ has had an unusual capacity to wriggle out from the fetters of restrains whether by family, friends and by others who are at times less fraternal.
The best explanation for this old man’s agitated mental and physical disposition would have best been left to psychoanalysts, the religious and close family to make scientific, spiritual and emotional explanations. But since his life has been in the public domain, it could be possible to hazard a guess on some pertinent aspects, which are in no way exhaustive. This is especially for some of us who had the good fortune of working closely with him for years.
In conclusion, American Civil Rights activist, Dr Martin Luther King, Jnr once said that, “human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable”. Progress is only achieved by the continuous activity in various segments of endeavour by persons who find themselves at the stage of leadership and are ready to keep the flame burning. Invariably, it is tireless leaders like Dr King that helped to foster change, progress and human well-being. Quite often, such tireless leaders appear to be unyielding and dogged in the pursuit of what they consider altruistic. In the face of their own human imperfections, quite often, such leaders get zealous and at certain times like tireless war horses never give up on their ideals even when the battle appears defeaning. Some consider this a flaw that brings such men and women face to face with trouble, as has been the case with Baba Obasanjo.
The other weakness of such leaders, because of their unstinting drive is the fact that they seldom appreciate some of the limitations which others may have nor the real peculiarities which they may be grappling with.
But head or tail, his type gets a place on the more sunny side of history as they end up being counted as patriots without borders and greatest of men
So at about 84 years, none may need bother to slow-down OBJ, but just wish him more fabulous years on-the-go!!!
Igali, a Career Diplomat and retired Federal Permanent Secretary, served OBJ in various capacities during his tenure as President