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Calling Obasanjo an ‘Igbo man,’ just for 2023?

With the build-up to the 2023 general polls rising in tempo, there also trails an avalanche of schemes

With the build-up to the 2023 general polls rising in tempo, there also trails an avalanche of schemes and conspiracy theories, which in their element betray the desperation which some political gladiators are willing to deploy in order to corner the choicest offices in the land, especially the Presidency.

One of these trending brainwaves is the recent public reference to Nigeria’s former military head of state and later two-time elected president, Olusegun Obasanjo, as an Igbo man by no person other than Anthony Adefuye, a former senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In the course of a rally aimed at garnering support for the bid by Ahmed Bola Tinubu to become Nigeria’s president come 2023, Adefuye had made this claim, which is seen by many as purely outlandish.

Ostensibly, he had adopted it as a basis for building a case for the South-West geopolitical zone to produce a successor to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari come 2023.

His argument is that since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, the South- West zone is yet to enjoy the privilege of producing the president of the country and should be allowed to do so in 2023.

Referring to Obasanjo, who is widely recognised to be of South-West extraction, and became president in 1999 on the same South-West ticket, Adefuye contended that the former is an Igboman of South-East extraction with a father from Anambra State.

Expectedly, Obasanjo has since reacted by reaffirming his Yoruba ancestry, as he asserted that both his paternal and maternal roots are purely Yoruba and nothing but Yoruba. Just as well, Yinka Odumakin, the spokesman for the Pan Yoruba advocacy body, Afenifere, has debunked Adefuye’s argument and described it as ‘distorted logic.’ In the same vein have several other voices condemned Adefuye’s take in unpalatable expressions. This is even as his motive for this opinion spin, is hardly concealed.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding the incongruity of his argument, given the deeply credulous nature of much of the Nigerian society, it is not unlikely that a significant cross section of the country may be swayed to confer credibility to Adefuye’s argument.

This should not be surprising in a country where, courtesy of a poor public information management culture, public records are given scant premium with rumours, as well as innuendoes routinely driving public policy considerations. Hence, any tale about anybody with significant public exposure will always find willing ears to savour it, especially when such a tale is endowed with scurrilous linings.

In the same vein, Adefuye’s tale on Obasanjo undeniably has an audience that appreciates it, not necessarily for its merit on the basis of veracity, but more for the additional baggage it adds to the public profile of the former president, and possible, associated political dividends.

Interestingly, among the matters arising from Adefuye’s ‘revelation’ lies the burden on him to provide credible proof that Nigerians have been misled over Obasanjo’s ancestry.

Olusegun Obasanjo is one Nigerian whose official history is well publicised to Nigerians of different generations, given the man’s fortune of having been prominently involved in the country’s public space since the 1960s. From the days of Nigeria’s first military intervention in governance in 1966 to the present, Obasanjo had played one role or another, either as a soldier or civilian – a situation that has thrust his persona unto the country’s centre stage as a Yoruba, severally.

With this ‘revelation,’ Adefuye owes the country the obligation to re-calibrate Obasanjo as Igbo; and this he needs to discharge honourably in order to retain some measure of credibility and integrity around his name.T o act otherwise is to avail the general public the impression that he was only adopting a dubious cover of a lie in the public domain for driving the political agenda of his master, Tinubu.

It is significant that Adufuye and his co-travellers are on a mission to create an alibi for a Tinubu presidency by hook or crook.

Given the constitutionally guaranteed liberties for every Nigerian to contest for any office in the country, Tinubu remains unrestrained to enjoy such a privilege. Besides, he remains more disposed than most Nigerians to run for the Presidency, given his stellar antecedents. However, the question that arises here is whether his ambition should be driven to the detriment of any other Nigerian or even a whole geopolitical zone – the South-East – with respect to the prospects of producing Nigeria’s next president.

Already, consensus in that respect is swaying towards the South-East, even as some elements in the zone are playing the spoiler’s game by shooting it in the foot through acting as home-made barriers to the prize.

Without doubt, among the factors that stand in the way of the South-East is the secessionist agenda of Nnamdi Kanu, who with his political vision of a new Biafra nation that will be carved out of Nigeria, is seen by a growing cross section of Nigerians, as well as the older generation of the Igbo as an ‘Ogbu Osisi na Ozara,’ which translates into English as a man trying to harvest timber in the desert. His mission may be justified, but the prevailing circumstances prove otherwise.

It is in this respect of trying to deconstruct any other aspirant for the Presidency, especially from the South-East that Adefuye’s mis-presentation of Obasanjo as an overnight Igbo man and no more Yoruba equates with shifting the goalposts in a football match just to score a cheap political point. In its acute odiousness, it constitutes just another example of the visceral inclination of some Nigerian leaders to lead the country into darkness, if only that such enterprise will guarantee their desired objectives. It needs to be asked if Tinubu really needs lies by Adefuye to push his political agenda, given his mega status in the country’s political firmament.

For one, it is crystal clear that the next president of the country will emerge through consensus and trade-offs between stakeholders. But such cannot be built on the basis of untruths and incongruities. In the circumstances, therefore, Adefuye’s underhand tactics profile him to be less of an asset and more of a liability to the Tinubu political movement.

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