Are Women Better Off, Safer With OBJ, Buhari Than GEJ?
ON January 6 this year, the newspapers were awash with reports of the well advertised meeting between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and market women leaders (the Iyalojas) in the six South West states. The delegation of Iyalojas who met with Obasanjo at the Hilltop Mansion, his country home in Abeokuta, Ogun State, was led by Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, the Iyaloja-general of Lagos and daughter of the APC national leader and former governor of Lagos State, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
Media reports announcing the meeting the previous day did not say whose idea it was. But, to all intents and purposes, it was an APC campaign stunt, what with the heavy involvement of the controversial daughter of the APC leader, Folashade, in the event. Obasanjo, Tinubu and Buhari, a completely incongruent trio, are new-found political soul mates who are on a ‘mission’ to ‘save’ Nigeria from Jonathan’s ‘misrule’. Who, then, is better qualified to get the powerful and influential market women leaders to buy into this vision than the one with a reputation for saving wives from their wicked husbands or young ladies from predatory men; the most loving husband, father, father-in-law and uncle; the indefatigable, all-knowing Owu Chief himself and our best in all things temporal and spiritual, President Olusegun Okikiola Obasanjo! But, if Tinubu, nay Tinubu-Ojo and Co, thought that Obasanjo would use the opportunity to market his adopted party, the APC and its programme, to the market women, they were mistaken. Because, as Tinubu well knows, Obasanjo markets nobody except himself.
So, what did he tell the women? Expectedly, he simply launched into the greatness of his administration, how the external reserves he built up had been depleted by Jonathan who is thereby guilty of lack of planning; how Nigerian leaders have no brains (with the exception of Obasanjo, of course), how the blame for the ‘rot’ in the system should be heaped on poor leadership, and so on. “When I was leaving office about eight years ago,” Punch Online quoted him as telling the nonplussed women, “I left a very huge reserve after we had paid all our debts. Almost $25bn we kept in what they called Excess Crude Account, it was the excess from the budget we were saving as reserve for a rainy day.”
“When we left in May 2007, the reserve was said to have risen to $35bn,” the great leader further told market women leaders. “But today, that reserve has been depleted. After paying our debts which was about $40bn, including debt forgiveness, the remaining (debt) was not more than $3bn. Our reserves after we had paid off these debts amounted to about $45bn. As I said, they continued to rise till the end of 2007. I heard that the reserves increased to almost $67bn before the end of the year. Our reserves now, I learnt, stand at only $30bn.
“God made Nigeria a great nation. Is it that those living here have no brain? Is it that the leaders are not thinking? Or that we don’t have the resources? When I was in the army, our slogan was, ‘There are no bad soldiers but bad officers.’ Wherever soldiers are not doing well, blame the officers. The same thing obtains in the family, communities, towns and the nation.”
Sanctimonious Obj! But, we must pity the old man. With his circle of ‘friends’, supporters or associates shrinking by the day, as many become irritated by, and tired of, Obasanjo’a endless blabbing about his crisis-ridden administration, the old man must have simply decided to go farther afield in search of a captive audience and the APC was willing to oblige him with Mrs. Tinubu-Ojo’s market women leaders. But, if those who arranged the visit expected that Obasanjo would use the opportunity to market APC and or its programme to Southwest market women, they had another think coming: from all indications, the wily old man was only interested in using the presence of those media-savvy women to indulge in his incurable pastime: pushing and shoving to draw attention to himself at a time more serious issues of national importance are being discussed or ought to be discussed. For, what he said to the women was, for lack of a better way to put it, completely inappropriate for the occasion.
What on earth is the business of market women with external reserves? Some of those may even be highly educated, but what about it? Talking about external reserves to market women leaders? That was taking the former president’s much talked-about self-glorification too far, if you ask me. What people expected Obasanjo to tell the women was how his government had better women empowerment programme than Jonathan’s; or how market women carried out their trade with greater ease because of better roads and cheaper transportation when he was president than they currently do under Jonathan; or how food was cheaper because there was greater local food production under him than there is under Jonathan; or how their children and or husbands had greater support for entrepreneurship under him, such as easier access to grants for small and medium enterprises, than under Jonathan or how their farmer husbands were better off under him because they had greater access to cheaper farm inputs than under Jonathan and, therefore, why the women should support APC and Buhari who would better replicate Obasanjo’s wonders in the aforementioned areas than Jonathan.
These are some of the things the women, I am sure, would have loved to hear from Obasanjo, not how Obasanjo saved billions in foreign reserves but would not even rebuild the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Road leading to his Ota farm, on which hundreds died almost on a daily basis because it was in a very bad state. But, Obasanjo would not delve into such argument because he would not be able to defend his abysmal records in most of those areas. So, every time he speaks, he would choose his own topic, define his own rules of engagement and proceed to blab about his own greatness or that of anything he has ever done in his life that only he can see.
I wager that South West women generally, not just market women, are better off with Jonathan than they were with Obasanjo or hope to be under a Buhari Presidency. This is because they carry out their businesses more easily and conveniently now because the roads are better today than they were while Obasanjo reigned; they can boast husbands and or children who can hope to access cheap federal funds to fund their businesses; they have farmer husbands who have easier access to subsidized farm inputs, including fertilizer and improved seedlings now than they ever hoped to enjoy in their life-time as farmers; they have sons and daughters who are witnessing and benefitting from expanding job opportunities in the agricultural and real sectors because there is steady growth in these areas, among others.
Oguejiofor, a public affairs commentator, lives in Lagos.