I have read many scandalous books in my life, but none comes close to Madam Oluremi Obasanjo’s book, Bitter Sweet – My Life With Obasanjo. Remi Obasanjo is former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first wife and probably the only one respectably wedded to him. Even Stella’s marriage to him was solemnised only a few weeks to her sad death in 2005, almost 30 years after their son was born. The first questions that crossed my mind after I finished reading the 141-page book, which I gobbled in less than an hour because of its gripping effect, were: Who brought this man to be president? Why did God make him president over us? Since it is said that every nation deserves its leaders, are we really that bad to deserve someone who should not even have been made the leader of a hamlet?
This brings me to a very interesting story that Senator Dangana Ndayako told me at the beginning of the transition in 1999. The former senator had met the late Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Umar Sanda Ndayako, at his palace in Bida one morning, long before it became obvious to the world that General Obasanjo was being spruced up to become the president of Nigeria. In the course of their discussion, he told the Etsu that General Ibrahim Babangida and a few others were trying to get Obasanjo to contest the presidency of the nation. Looking perplexed and only slightly amused, the Etsu asked Dangana a very curious question: “Does Babangida know Olu at all?” Dangana, surprised at the question, answered in the affirmative. “Of course, Babangida knows Obasanjo very well, both having worked closely together”, he told the Etsu. To which the Etsu said, “No, Babangida does not know Olu. Their relationship was a superior-subordinate relationship when they worked together. So he never could have known him sufficiently to make a judgement.” The Etsu then subsequently warned that even though he would do nothing to stop what Babangida and co were doing, because of his own friendship with “Olu”, Babangida and co would all eventually regret their action.
Dangana, who like most of us was also in the vanguard of Obasanjo-for-president, was confused. He knew that few knew Obasanjo better than the Etsu at the time because they (Obasanjo and the late Etsu) had lived as neighbours in Lagos for a very long time. In fact, when he was made Etsu Nupe by General Yakubu Gowon, the then Brigadier Obasanjo was one of the Etsu-designate’s close friends who escorted him to Bida to assume the throne of his ancestors. The rest is now history.
Having read Madam Remi’s book, I feel Obasanjo should never have been president of anybody. In fact, Obasanjo should not be allowed to lead anyone. He does not have the gift of leadership at all in his blood. That Nigeria is now worse off than it was in 1999 when he met it, and the fact that the future of the nation is now even more uncertain show clearly the disaster that Obasanjo as a person is.
Remi Obasanjo, even though very scandalous herself, sketches this very lucidly in her book. It was she who virtually stopped her husband from even being considered for the lofty office of the United Nations secretary-general when she wrote an open letter widely publicised in the media in which she posited that her former husband, whom she knew better than anyone else in the world, lacked the basic requirement of good character necessary for the job in question. And when Obasanjo finally made up his mind to contest the presidency of Nigeria, he had to threaten her against attempting to scuttle that again. She succumbed to the threat. But the Yoruba as a group warned all of us against voting for the man they knew so well. We thought they had other petty reasons to be against one of their own. We should have listened.
In the book, I could not count the number of times Obasanjo slapped his wife, Madam Remi, or the number of times she herself slapped many of Obasanjo’s numerous mistresses and paramours, including almost biting off the breast of one of them. Their daughter Iyabo herself was not left out of the reality movie in their scandal-soaked home. Iyabo once almost beat up her former vice principal at Queen’s College, Lagos, because she thought the lady was sleeping with her father. Obasanjo, even as chief of staff supreme headquarters in 1975, refused to pay his wife’s hospital bills, including the bills at St. Nicolas Hospital, Lagos, after she (Madam Remi) had been delivered of one of her daughters, Enitan, because of family squabbles. MD Yusuf, the then IG of police, whom she describes as a “very good man”, paid the bill.
She also informs us of the physical brawl between her husband and Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle in Major General Hassan Usman Katsina’s office. According to her own story, it was Obasanjo who first slapped Col. Adekunle in the presence of their boss, General Hassan. When the fight started, Gen. Hassan shouted at his aide to call in the press to record the scandal. When they heard the word “press”, they stopped and apologised to him. Gen. Hassan was then the chief of army staff.
We also learn from the book that even though Obasanjo’s children are well-educated, contrary to what we once thought, it was Madam Remi who, for most part, was responsible for their very good education. She was responsible for their children, most of whom currently have PhDs.
She also declares in her book that General Hassan Usman Katsina and General Yakubu Gowon were her husband’s godfathers. But many would be disappointed that she does not have a view on their second son Gbenga’s allegation that Obasanjo slept with Mojisola, his wife. Maybe even for Madam Remi herself, that debasement was too hot to handle.
But the book also has some very comical interludes. Madam Remi exposes Obasanjo’s proclivity towards the fetish. There was a time he attempted to lock her out of their bedroom because he had an appointment with his resident babalawo to perform some rituals at night. She refused to vacate the room and locked Obasanjo out of their bedroom. Obasanjo, very angry with her, dispensed a few slaps to her face as a recompense.
And one day during the civil war, a medicine man came in with some charms for Obasanjo that would protect him from enemy fire. But before Obasanjo would pay the native doctor for his professional services, he needed to be sure of the potency of the charm. He then asked that the amulet be tested on an innocent duck grazing in their compound. He tied the amulet around the duck’s neck, picked his gun and aimed a shot at it. That duck unfortunately met its death on that day.
The fake native doctor left Obasanjo’s home a disgraced man. It was Obasanjo’s native intelligence that paid off that day.
Madam Remi portrays Obasanjo as a very worthless, very wicked, very unreasonable and very crude man. She says that when it was time for him to divorce her, he rigged the divorce in his favour. She used the word “rig” herself. She acknowledges that Obasanjo’s presidency was a total disaster for Nigeria. But that is one assertion she does not need any effort to prove at all. Obasanjo was so wicked that, after he had finished with Nigeria, he decided to deal us a final deadly blow, the unkindest cut of all, as a parting shot: he rigged Yar’Adua on us!
E A R S H O T
Yar’Adua And His Cabinet
Finally, subsequently and at last, the president appointed members of his cabinet which was inaugurated last week. Even then, the ministers are not complete. And, looking at the quality of the ministers, anyone would have been able to cobble that cabinet together in less than one week. I can count the Class A ministers, those we should expect any meaningful service from, on the fingers of one hand.
Let’s just hope that the president does not for any reason contemplate another cabinet reshuffle for the approximately two years – or only one year of effective work – that he has left.