Dying For Nigeria


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Dying For Nigeria




Obi Nwakanma


culled from VANGUARD, March 12, 2006



President Olusegun Obasanjo has again reiterated his wish  to die for Nigeria.


He has often made these statements  as a way of emphasizing his deep love and commitment to this country called Nigeria, which some have now started to  call by its proper reference, the “Nigger Area.” Every once in a while, the president makes this commitment to offer the  highest sacrifice for Nigeria, and has even, on some occasions, berated those who are unwilling to take that plunge,  and insinuating that anyone who is not willing to die for Nigeria is unworthy of her. Some of us say, indeed, that we are  not willing to die for Obasanjo’s Nigeria because it is not our Nigeria.


This Nigeria is unworthy of our numerous talents. On the other hand, we also say Obasanjo could die for his Nigeria,  why not? There are very many who have never benefited from their association – willing or forced – with Nigeria, who  have died for it. Poor soldiers deployed to ECOMOG, for instance, who were buried with ignominy at the cantonment  in Lagos. It happened in this country. But here is the point, Olusegun Obasanjo can die for Nigeria because he is a  beneficiary of what has become Nigeria; he is among less than the one per cent who have every reason to defend  Nigeria, champion its pork barrel ethic, and when the occasion arises, possibly pay the ultimate price. Why not? The  path seemed fortuitous: enrolling late in school, Obasanjo from what we now know did not leave Baptist Boys High  Abeokuta as a teenager. He was not a stripling lad. He was already a rotund man who had, according to him, thought  of being a mechanic, or then a teacher, and wanted desperately to attend the University College, Ibadan, the place  where the best and brightest in Nigeria attended in 1958.


But fate intervened; he was given the opportunity to get into the colonial Army. Even there, he attended Mons, not the  elite Sandhurst which is where the boys from the Government Colleges who wanted careers as military officers went.


Further Training


In his class at Mons, people like Benjamin Adekunle and Humphrey Chukwuka cut the strip to go on to Sandhurst  after the training at Mons, but Obasanjo did not make it; he was commissioned into the Engineering corp. He did not  go to Camberly or to Canada or the United States where the officers who came up to mark were sent for further  training; he was sent to India.


By 1967, Obasanjo’s luck changed; he was commanding the Battalion at Ibadan when Victor Banjo’s Army swept  through the Midwest from Onitsha, on its way to Ibadan and Lagos, and in spite of Henry Igboba’s insistence, stopped  in Benin, and began to establish intricate communications with Awolowo, elements of the so-called “third force” and  certain key Yoruba officers preparatory to entering Lagos and Ibadan. Wole Soyinka’s brief account of this in The  Man Died is inconclusive, but hints at some actions by Obasanjo, the man who was at the Ibadan end. For some  inexplicable reason, Victor Banjo began withdrawing his troops, and wasted enough time to allow the federal forces to  muster a counter-attack that routed the Biafran Army from Ore and the Midwest.

Fromthen on, Obasanjo’s stars brightened even further, for towards the end of the war, he was deployed to take over  command of Benjamin Adekunle’s Third Marine Commando, and for some other inexplicable reason, became the man  on the ground to receive the Biafran instruments of surrender, secured when the fronts were collapsed as Ojukwu went  off to the Ivory Coast. For some odd reasons, Obasanjo was on ground, but so also was a more senior officer,  Muhammad Shuwa, who could have received the instruments from Biafra. Obasanjo grew from thence, as Federal  Minister of Works, and later as military head of state. I guess his biography since then has been constantly tied to  Nigeria.


But, you see, there are few Nigerians who have grown from village poor to imperial president. So Obasanjo’s  willingness to die for Nigeria is not that heroic. He would be defending his own interest. He currently lives in the  presidential villa; he acquired the power to run Nigeria as a private property by electoral fraud; he hands patronage to  his friends, and he is in one of the cushiest jobs in the world, for the job of the president of Nigeria has far more  privileges than that of the president of the United States. Now, Obasanjo, who eats three square meals, does not  worry about his pension, flies above the broken road to Ota, and has become head of state twice in his life time can go  around saying he’d die for Nigeria, and he should not expect applause because, unlike the other 99.9 per cent of  Nigerians, this noyau state has been good to him beyond his wildest imaginations.


Now, he wishes to secure a third term of office, and has spent public resources canvassing for this possibility and it is  possible because he has absolute control of all instruments of state coercion. This apparently suicidal move has become  tied to Obasanjo’s vision of himself as a possible Nigerian martyr; and Gani Fawehinmi, I think has given him the best  advise, Obasanjo should not die for Nigeria. He should just leave Nigeria alone. He should go in 2007. As Nigerians  love to say, "no be by force!”


Every sane person has warned President Obasanjo of the inherent danger in his attempts to force a third term. At the  rate he is pushing this agenda, even if he chooses to, he may not be able to fulfill his wish to die for Nigeria, for Nigeria  might just die for him, or on him. The prospects are no fiction. The classic signs are already before us. So, our advise:  Obsanjo should get his paws off Nigeria’s throat, or the obituary in the papers would be about the untimely death of  Lugard’s child, the Niger Area. There would be many, of course, who would not mourn it. But every death diminishes  us.



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