OBJ’s “Clarion Call”: Absence of malice?

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Chief Dr. General. Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) former civilian president and military dictator in Nigeria is a man quite evidently enamoured with himself. In his own opinion there was no great Nigerian leader before him, and none have come after him, and he never tires of letting the world know this.
Since he left office in 1979, OBJ has at one time or another poured scorn on all his successors and predecessors. His diatribe against President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) in his recent Special Press Statement entitled “The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition of Nigeria Movement” therefore is only to have been expected. Brevity is not one of his strong points and in these days of twitter captions and bulleted news points, only part of what he wrote has been highlighted.

Reports would have it that all OBJ did was to castigate PMB. Far from it. Reading the full text of the statement it isn’t difficult to come to the conclusion that it wasn’t really about PMB at all, it was all about OBJ and his massive ego. The “clarion call” contained over three times as many references to OBJ, than to PMB. It began with an update on what OBJ is doing with his life at the moment which is his own personal business, and then proceeded to give his personal opinion of the state of the nation liberally sprinkled with use of the word “I”.
Criticizing what he referred to as PMB’s poor understanding of Nigeria’s social-political dynamics, OBJ claimed that PMB fails to take responsibility for the failings of his administration and is guilty of incompetence, and dereliction of responsibility which has widened divisions within the nation. Unfortunately, when back in the day, the same OBJ was rubbishing Goodluck Jonathan, General Buhari supported him and was quoted as saying: “Former President Obasanjo is a courageous patriot and statesman who tells the truth to power when he is convinced leaders are going wrong.”
If only PMB had known at the time that OBJ is simply an egoistic serial letter writer who always speaks glowingly about his self-perceived achievements and tries to convey the impression that he was the best Head of State Nigeria ever had! Whereas the truth is that OBJ was not a success as President. While in power he earned a reputation for dealing ruthlessly with opposition. He rode roughshod over the Constitution and removed state governors illegally; empowered his cronies; pauperised the nation through import duty waivers, and even tried to alter the Constitution in order to extend his stay in office! Both physically and financially lean when he was released from prison and made President, OBJ left office with a massive stomach and massive wealth! Those who know him well say that he is both overestimated and underestimated.
Notorious for ignoring public opinion while in office, out of office he vaingloriously gauges public mood and aligns himself with it in his endless quest for relevance. It should come as no surprise that despite getting it wrong right from the start OBJ now feels he has something positive to contribute. Since “retiring from politics” he has gone to school and learnt so many things he should have known prior to ruinously leading the nation. Evidently the one thing he hasn’t learned is not to give advice when nobody asks for it! When electioneering proper starts in line with constitutional provisions and INEC guidelines, OBJ’s comments may become more appropriate, until then the matter at hand is how this administration should continue to govern.
In this regard both OBJ’s “clarion call” and the quite infantile electioneering by the Minister of Communications at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting are unhelpful. The question remains; what then was the real purpose of OBJ’s statement? The extent to which he really cares about people is indicated by the fact that despite all his wealth, OBJ is yet to embrace philanthropy as a hobby unlike virtually all former world leaders.
To all intents and purposes his “clarion call” was little more than an expression of pure malice. Malice is the desire to inflict injury, harm, pain, distress or suffering on another person because of deep seated meanness. It can be either expressed or implied. It’s expressed when there is a manifested and deliberate intention to cause harm, and implied where there is a mental state of ill-will, spite, wicked intention or enmity imputed to certain acts. Malice aforethought is the deliberate intention to cause injury to another person. It’s the planning or premeditation of malice. The absence of malice is a major consideration when evaluating position papers such as OBJ’s. This is a legal requirements of proof against libel and defamation. Other than to express malice what could OBJ possibly have hoped to achieve with his statement? Does his self-aggrandisement qualify as a political solution to Nigeria’s problems?
There is no denying that PMB has squandered a lot of the massive goodwill he possessed when he was elected, or that his government hasn’t fulfilled so many of its campaign promises, but those are matters for the electorate to ponder whenever the campaign for re-election commences. PMB has a constitutional right to seek re-election irrespective of anyone’s opinion of him. OBJ’s “clarion call” concluded by saying that neither the All Progressives Congress (APC), nor the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has what it takes to salvage the nation, but of that he does! This is despite him having no political constituency and nothing in his past record to bear this out! Under normal circumstances the adage that people should listen to the message and not shoot the messenger is sound advice. But circumstances aren’t normal when the messenger is OBJ.
The issue that needs to be examined carefully isn’t whether or not Buhari should seek re-election, nor indeed is it OBJ’s verdict of nepotism, clannishness, collusion, ineptitude, failure and lethargy. It’s about whether or not the language used implies malice aforethought, or indeed OBJ meant and wrote in the absence of malice?

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