The Folly of a Naked Emperor – Maiwada Dammallam

A dying horse’s kick is not to fight but just a reflex action. This much is the case with former President Olusegun Obasanjo latest vituperation about Nigeria’s debts. Over the years his reflexes has overgrown his little sense of reasoning and totally relieved him of the burden of controlled response to issues. He was at his worse last week when returned to the field after a seeming ‘sick leave’ that was necessary to nurse back into shape his ego that could be said to be the worse among many similar deeply rooted egos uprooted by Hurricane Buhari few months ago.

As usual, Obasanjo came out riding a very exhausted and lame horse of morality and leadership perfection as if trying to act the ancient folktale story “The Emperor’s New Cloth” — a favorite when I was young. It’s a story of a vain emperor who cares too much about wearing and displaying clothes. He hires two weavers who claim to make the most beautiful clothes and elaborate patterns.

The weavers are con-men who convince the emperor they are using a fine fabric invisible to anyone who is either unfit for his position or “hopelessly stupid”. The con lies in that the weavers are actually only pretending to manufacture the clothes. Thus, no one, not even the emperor nor his ministers can see the alleged “clothes”, but they all pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions.

Finally, the weavers report that the suit is finished and they mime dressing the emperor who then marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk uncomfortably go along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Finally, a child in the crowd blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is then taken up by others. The emperor realizes the assertion is true but then, it was too late. He continues the procession to his palace; matching in pretentious elegance while being watched naked by all his subject.

The emperor’s folly was a near perfect match with Obasanjo’s tragic ambition to be a leadership model and a moral compass to the Nigerian society. For the last 3 or so decades Obasanjo has being walking naked in Nigeria pretending to be the best thing to ever happen to the country after the discovery of “eba and ewedu” while in reality all Nigerians could see is a naked man with soiled “nyansh”.

Imagine Obasanjo, of all people, accusing Buhari’s administration of “notoriously” lacking in “high degree of discipline, responsibility and foresight” just because it seeks for decent and acceptable ways to halt and reverse infrastructural deficits asphyxiating Nigeria, a situation that was largely caused by his notoriously indisciplined administration.

Obasanjo’s pretentious restlessness about Nigeria’s debt burden was mere attempt to score cheap points intended to restore lost political relevance hence, the rushed condemnation of the efforts of Buhari. Whatever the case may be, Obasanjo should be the least to condemn Buhari on this issue for very verifiable reasons. It is yet to be disproved satisfactorily that Obasanjo’s administration was anything but another tragedy that slowed Nigeria from unleashing its potentials.

It’s still in our minds that during His administration, he as his “fall out/fall in” former VP, Atiku Abubakar, concentrated on establishing private elitist universities while public universities suffered perpetual strikes by ASUU to press home demands for infrastructural restoration. Is it not questionable that both Obasanjo’s Bell University of Technology and Atiku’s American University of Nigeria were established in 2004. If Obasanjo need to tell Nigerians anything, he should start by telling them how approvals for these institutions were acquired and most importantly, how the institutions were funded. Obasanjo’s case is particularly more interesting. He was rumored to be worth just about N20,000 in 1999 when he was released from prison and dusted for the villa and in 2004 he is a proud owner of private university.

Out of respect I will assume Obasanjo is not aware rather than assume he’s pretending not to be aware that overall, the justification for the borrowing is that many of the projects in the plan are for the development of infrastructure in the areas of roads, railways, waterways and power which will help to reposition the Nigerian economy on the path of recovery and growth. It would be asking for too much from him though, to understand some of the loans such as those for the educational sector will contribute to the development of Nigeria’s human capital, while loans for Agriculture will be used to diversify the economy.

The most glaring deficiency in Obasanjo’s advocacy is the record of pilferage he left behind in his second coming as the leader of the richly endowed Nigeria. It’s amazing that when Obasanjo approved, sat and watched $16 billion vanished into thin air his knowledge of economics was not enough to tell him Nigeria could be bankrupted but now it could teach him that loans meant to provide the needed infrastructure critical to Nigeria’s socio-economic growth could bankrupt Nigeria.

If lifting $16 billion from Nigeria’s treasury didn’t bankrupt the country as seen to it by Obasanjo, how could loans obtained to revamp and rejuvenate infrastructure to jumpstart the economy bankrupt Nigeria? There couldn’t be better time for Obasanjo to shut up than now. Nigeria is steadily healing and nobody need periodic reminders about how and why we are where we are.

In case it’s the ghosts of his past hunting him, yes, he should be worried. However, trying to distract the administration to alleviate his worries won’t work to resolve his worries. This administration is determined to first bath the horse, clean the stable before turning on those who messed it up. Obasanjo has questions to answer and translating economic laws backward or theorizing new laws by anybody no matter how highly placed won’t stop this process.

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