Opening of Obasanjo Presidential Library

Clearly the most notable among the absentees last weekend was General T.Y. Danjuma. In the power triumvirate that evolved after Murtala Mohammed’s assassination in 1976, Danjuma was the third leg (Army chief), the second being Musa Yar’Adua and OBJ as commander-in-chief.


It was inevitable that a deluge of stirring tributes and a contagion of saccharin smiles would pervade the unveiling last weekend of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s latest monument, the Presidential Library in Abeokuta, Ogun State, to mark his “estimated” 80th birthday.

Doubtless, OBJ’s odyssey in the past sixty years is intricately woven into the nation’s own trajectory, as acting President Yemi Osinbajo pithily observed.

But hard as family, friends and fans tried at the august occasion, the avalanche of eulogies still cannot, in all honesty, obscure certain truths. Justice is hardly done anyone desirous of fully isolating the facts and contexts of that segment of our recent history. Especially those still too young to understand things at the time of such momentous happenings.

Out of charity, let us even evade the propriety or otherwise of a sitting president literally using incumbency factor to arm-twist state governors (as already attested to by Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti) and business tycoons into parting with a whopping N6 billion (then $45 million circa) for an undertaking that is entirely personal.

It is in the curious absences that day of some national figures who yet graced the fundraiser twelve years ago (and some of whose paths had also significantly crossed OBJ’s during his life journey) that some of the missing links of the said narrative will undoubtedly be found. The circumstances of their epic falling out should then offer some illumination on the other dimension of the OBJ enigma.

Clearly the most notable among the absentees last weekend was General T.Y. Danjuma. In the power triumvirate that evolved after Murtala Mohammed’s assassination in 1976, Danjuma was the third leg (Army chief), the second being Musa Yar’Adua and OBJ as commander-in-chief.

Upon OBJ’s release from Abacha’s gulag in June 1998, his erstwhile Army commander was among a power oligarchy that offered him quick rehabilitation and virtually railroaded him back to power on May 29, 1999 as civilian president. While deploying his awesome financial war-chest ahead of the February 1999 presidential polls in support of an old comrade, Danjuma famously declared, “I will go on exile if Obasanjo loses.”

At inception of the Obasanjo administration, the Taraba-born General came out of political retirement by accepting the draft as Defence minister.

Nor could anyone have also failed to notice Aliyu Gusau’s absence. The general had literally anchored the high-level mission that paved OBJ’s way from prison to presidency in 1999. He was named the National Security Adviser immediately Obasanjo took over.

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But six years later, their relationship had deteriorated so irreparably that Danjuma would sensationally declare, “I will throw Daisy out of my house if she voted for a Third Term for Obasanjo.”

As a parting shot at the twilight of OBJ’s second term in 2007, he unequivocally told an interviewer that “Aremu of Ota deserves another term in jail.”

Whatever happened to the old brotherhood, the camaraderie forged during a grisly civil war to keep Nigeria one? An account has it that after Danjuma was dropped as Defence minister, OBJ rubbed salt on his wound by tampering with his Sapetro oil bloc, considered the source of his fabulous wealth.

Neither lost on anyone at the launching was the absence of Abubakar Atiku. Yet, the Turaki Adamawa was his deputy for eight years, with their relationship particularly tumultuous from the beginning of the second term. When the going was good, OBJ used to refer to his deputy affectionately as “my hand bag”. After a long-drawn murky fight, both ended in 2007 mutually bruised with the shameful distinction of constituting what is now commonly identified as the most acrimonious presidency in Nigeria’s history.

Nor could anyone have also failed to notice Aliyu Gusau’s absence. The general had literally anchored the high-level mission that paved OBJ’s way from prison to presidency in 1999. He was named the National Security Adviser immediately Obasanjo took over. But a few years down the line, the duo had become so estranged that the commander-in-chief was rumoured to have resorted to offering covert support to the opposition governor in Zamfara State then to whittle down Gusau’s influence at home.

We also did not sight Ibrahim Mantu at the event. At the height of OBJ’s imperial presidency, the senator from Plateau State was his key ally in the upper chamber and, as deputy senate president, widely seen as the arrowhead of the powerful lobby to ram the Third Term pill down the throats of other senators. In fond recognition of his past exploits, he was often hailed as “the magician” in OBJ’s inner cycle.

Curiously, during an outing recently, the same Mantu allowed himself to be publicly introduced and complimented as “one of the key strategists that killed Third Term” in the Senate in 2006.

No less illustrious on the absentees’ list was Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr. At the 2005 fundraiser for the Presidential Library, the Globacom boss shelled out N200 million (then roughly $1.5m). The next moment, there was a rumour of some grumbling on the high table that the sum was “too small”.

Equally missing in action was Chief Tony Anenih, the now retired political godfather of Edo. At the fundraiser in 2005, Anenih topped the list of PDP bigwigs who turned up to give Baba “moral support”.


Few months later, the EFCC was viciously unleashed on the businessman over what events have proved to be nothing but a witch-hunt.

Even when the dust raised by the EFCC arrest had not settled, OBJ, according to Awujale’s memoirs, still did not consider it inappropriate to invite the embattled Adenuga over and, during a car ride together, allegedly ask him to donate an edifice to his private university in Ota.

Equally missing in action was Chief Tony Anenih, the now retired political godfather of Edo. At the fundraiser in 2005, Anenih topped the list of PDP bigwigs who turned up to give Baba “moral support”.

Earlier in his reign as civilian president, Anenih was the key sorcerer OBJ relied on to navigate the treacherous waters of party politics as “Mr. Fix It”. But he did not hesitate to trade in the Uromi-born chief for Atiku Abubakar to support his second term bid in 2003. He was booted out as Works minister.

After several months in the “wilderness”, the retired old cop eventually found rehabilitation as chairman of PDP’s Board of Trustees. But in his desperation to wangle relevance for himself, no matter how illicit, after his third term adventure came to grief, OBJ masterminded the change of the pre-qualification for the BoT chair in a manner that clinically stripped Anenih bare. Before the old cop could figure out the hand that dealt him the sucker punch, OBJ had been coronated PDP’s new BoT chair. Put differently, he practically “stole” Anenih’s “pot of soup” (apologies to Tom Ikimi).

That marked the final dissolution of a political partnership that had weathered many dirty wars in eight heady years. Once, when Anenih was invited to lead the prayers after Umar Yar’Adua had taken over in Aso Rock and began to cut off OBJ’s apron strings, he reportedly started by beseeching God in heaven to furnish the new landlord the enablement “to clear the mess he inherited”. Of course, the missile could only be meant for OBJ. Momentarily, not a few among the supplicants present were said to have opened their eyes to exchange alarmed glances while Anenih intensified his ministration.

Trust OBJ never to allow any dart or slight pass without exacting a pound of flesh. Once Comrade Adams Oshiomhole meted a humiliating defeat to the PDP godfather in the July 14, 2012 governorship polls in Edo State, Baba would soon make a stop-over at the Government House in Benin to pat then opposition governor on the back for “a job well done”.

Truly, bizarre are the ways of the “Ebora” (strange creature) of Owuland.

Lagos: The Environment Challenge

One can only hope that Governor Ambode also pursues the new initiative with the same tenacity shown in all his endeavours since taking over twenty-two months ago in Lagos. We saw that yield LAKE rice last December.


At the inauguration of Professor Pat Utomi, desert-conquering Newton Jibunoh, ace musicians Lagbaja and Wasiu Ayinde Marshal (KWAM 1) and I as Lagos State Ambassadors of Environment in 2009, at a solemn ceremony at the Government House, then Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) was specific in his expectation.

He was enlisting us to use our various platforms and talents in helping the emerging megacity spread the gospel of a safe and clean environment against the creeping ravages of climate change.

Of course, in the intervening years, we became part of a coordinated campaign of aggressive tree-planting, talks and road-shows across the state. The reclamation and transformation of key Lagos highways and neighbourhoods to flower beds was a bye-product of that initiative. Equally, the clampdown on noise pollution was sustained.

Eight years on, what could be described as the next Big Bang unfolded last week with the unveiling of an environment master-plan by resourceful Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. It is cemented by a new law, the Environmental Management and Protection Act.

The highlights of the new environmental dispensation include the re-designation of the enforcement unit, Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), created by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in 2003 as the Environmental Sanitation Corp Agency (LASECORPS), and an action plan outlining a more intimate engagement of the population in waste management. Not less than a newer set of 27,500 jobs are underway as sanitary inspectors, with pensionable career prospects.

At the tenement level, there is now a stricter control on the digging of boreholes. And, prohibition of the production of chemicals, lubricants, petroleum products, gases, quarry etc. in residential areas.

To actualise the ambitious vision, Ambode is engaging a waste management company called Visionscape, whose impressive testimonial includes Dubai, the preferred destination of many Nigerian tourists.

Indeed, with the massive daily influx of fortune-seekers from across the country, Lagos clearly poses a huge existential nightmare. With an estimated population of over 20 million, it generates a whopping 10,000 metric tones of waste daily. Since population only moves up, things will only get more desperate. In another decade, it is estimated that Lagos, presently the 24th most populous city in the world, would have moved further up the ladder.

Once Lagos gets it right here, other states will take a cue. But were Lagos to deliver and others fail, the full benefits will be lost. For Lagos cannot be an island. The full impact of this initiative will only manifest when other states – particularly the neighbouring ones – also sanitise their closets.


Well, the closest many of us see or feel the perennial environment headache is perhaps often not more than the unsightly accumulation of refuse by the roadside. But far more grave harm is done to public health daily by the toxic fumes from smoky vehicles trapped in traffic snarls for long hours. To say nothing of noxious smoke from the daily parades of generating sets in both commercial and residential neighbourhoods, as people resort to self-help for energy.

No less understated is the incalculable damage inflicted on the environment and public health through the indiscriminate dumping of industrial waste and the contamination of waterways with the offloading of toxic effluent by unscrupulous corporate players.

The good news is that the new law clearly identifies this as clear and present danger and prescribes harsh penalties for defaulters.

One can only hope that Governor Ambode also pursues the new initiative with the same tenacity shown in all his endeavours since taking over twenty-two months ago in Lagos. We saw that yield LAKE rice last December. A partnership with Kebbi State earlier in the year brought a bumper harvest of rice during the last yuletide season.

Indeed, the rest of the nation looks to Lagos to lead the way in matters like this. The waste management strategy devised during the Tinubu administration in 2000 is easily acknowledged as later providing the template of environmental control strategies adopted in other states across the country. Just as many have set up units patterned after KAI as enforcer in their respective jurisdictions.

Once Lagos gets it right here, other states will take a cue. But were Lagos to deliver and others fail, the full benefits will be lost. For Lagos cannot be an island. The full impact of this initiative will only manifest when other states – particularly the neighbouring ones – also sanitise their closets.

Overall, let it however be noted that the future will hardly be shaped only by devising more efficient strategy to manage waste in Africa’s foremost megacity, but perfecting this means the conversion of waste to wealth ultimately. We saw that happen two years ago in the United States when the acclaimed world’s richest man, Bill Gates, gulped down a glass of water filtrated from a common septic tank! Our refuse dumps are waiting be turned into cheap sources of manure. Heat from the gigantic dump-sites that dot the mega city can also generate electricity.

Ambode can inspire Lagos to do it.

Louis Odion is a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE).