BY DAUD OLATUNJI

Three time Nigerian ruler, Olusegun Obasanjo drew attention and patronage from far and wide during his stewardship of the country. The scant attendance at the launch of a book on him last Tuesday, however, showed that things are not the same for the man once hailed as the father of modern Nigeria.

POLITICIANS are known to be fair weather people with no permanent friends, but permanent interest. The reality of this axiom seems to be playing out in the political camp of former President Olusegun Obasanjo following recent occurrences.

Gone are the years when Obasanjo would cause a serious stir in the entire country because he wanted to hold a function. Those were the years he held sway as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In those days, dignitaries across the country and beyond scrambled for Obasanjo?s invitations and even those, who were not invited to those functions sometimes gate-crashed, all in the name of currying the political favour of the Ebora of Africa (African deity).

Some of the events which were must-attend include the celebration of his village tagged; Ibogun-Olaogun Day, Owu Day, his birthday and launch of his Presidential Library.  At these occasions, billions of naira were realised by Obasanjo with ease.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

Presidential library
And what happened during the launch of Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library where over N2 billion was realised at a stretch speaks volume on the influence Obasanjo wielded when he was the cynosure of all eyes.

As a three-time head of state and chairman, Board of Trustee, BOT of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, whenever Obasanjo sneezed, governors and other who is who in all the sectors including the economy caught cold. Now, things appear to be changing as recent development seems to be indicating.

Then, governors, ex-governors, incumbent presidents across African countries, diplomats, technocrats, politicians and royal fathers across the country were at his beck and call but today, they hardly attend OBJ?s functions. His acclaimed political sons and daughters across the country seem to have abandoned their erstwhile political godfather.

They were loudly absent at the recent book launch by their political godfather held in Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library hall in Oke-Mosan Abeokuta.

Arguably, Obasanjo is the most celebrated Nigerian leader, who at the same time paraded an array of benevolent politicians during and shortly after he exited the most plum job in the country in 2007.

Penultimate Tuesday, it became obvious that Obasanjo, who was honoured for his meritorious service as head of state and President of Nigeria might have been abandoned.

It was a day that a book titled: ?Olusegun Obasanjo: Passing the Torch? written on his personality and achievements by a prominent personality, Ambassador Albert Omotayo, was launched. His usual  ? Chief launchers? were no where to be found and the few ones who showed interest sent representatives.

Attendance: The First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, who was invited by Obasanjo, could not come in person. She sent a representative in the person of the Minister for Water Resources; Sarah Ochekpe.

Governors of Kebbi, Kaduna and Katsina states also sent representatives. The Kebbi governor sent his deputy, Aliyu Khalil, his Kaduna counterpart sent the state Chairman of the PDP, Nuhu Audu while their  counterpart from Katsina sent his Attorney-General.

Attorney general
Even the host governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State was also represented by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Shuaib Salisu. Surprisingly, ex-governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke drove himself to the venue early and waited till the end of the programme.

Chairman, Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; foremost businessman, Oba Otudeko; Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo; Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade; National Secretary of the PDP, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel all sent representatives.

The ultra-modern 700-capacity hall was scanty with journalists, ushers and security operatives constituting a sizeable number of the population.

Those who personally attended Obasanjo?s latest show were former Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan and Proprietor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti and legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola, who chaired the occasion.

Also in attendance were PDP chieftain, Chief Ebenezer Babatope and former Minister of Defence, Mr. Adetokunbo Kayode.

Reactions to the low  turn-out of dignitaries
Chief Afe Babalola, who chaired the occasion, fired the first salvo when he expressed his disappointment over the scanty audience, adding that, he had expected the hall would be packed in honour of the great Nigerian leader.

According to him, what happened today might mean one of these; may be Baba decided to celebrate it in low-key or people did not get the information about this.

?As a matter of fact, the decision to accept to be chairman of this occasion was not one that came easy for me. I have been turning down all invitations. However, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCON is a man for whom I have tremendous respect and admiration and from whom I enjoy a measure of goodwill,? he said.

Corroborating Babalola on the perceived boycott of the event by Obasanjo?s political associates, former head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan said, ? Chief Obasanjo can be likened to biblical prophet who is never honoured in his own country and among his own people (Mathew Chapter 13 verse 57 and mark Chapter 6 verse 4)
?Chief Obasanjo is acknowledged and respected worldwide for his achievements and leadership qualities.

?But, it has not been the case at home. What I am saying therefore is that we must learn to celebrate our heroes rather than pull them down. Other countries that we think are better than our country also have their bad sides which they cover. It is only when we celebrate our heroes that emerging leaders can see them more as guiding lights and the heroes can work harder to achieve more for the country.?

Obasanjo, however, felt indifferent to the complaint as he maintained sealed lips throughout the five-hour programme.

Tributes to Obasanjo
Dame Patience Jonathan, who was represented by Ochekpe, described Obasanjo as an enigma and urged researchers to work on other notable personalities.

According to her, ?Obasanjo has devoted his life to the service of the nation and humanity. He is a patriot who is still actively engaged in peace mediation efforts and advisory initiatives. It is important for all Nigerians especially the youth, who we will hand over to eventually, to have a good understanding of their socio-political antecedents.?

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