Posted by JOHN IGHODARO on
PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo is an interesting man with a complex personality. He is like electricity that could make a pressing iron hot- very hot and a refrigerator cold-freezing cold. Electricity could light a bulb or blow up that same bulb.
PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo is an interesting man with a complex personality. He is like electricity that could make a pressing iron hot- very hot and a refrigerator cold-freezing cold. Electricity could light a bulb or blow up that same bulb. As electricity could be deployed for electric shock therapy in special hospitals, electricity can at the same time be deployed for electrocution. So, what does a wise man do? A wise man approaches electricity with caution and, above all, with knowledge. There is a way you approach electricity and it will give you good music or light up your television screen and there is another way you can approach electricity and you could be electrocuted. You can argue without much effort that electricity is good, but you cannot argue convincingly that electricity is bad; you can only say: Electricity can be dangerous.
There are certain people who are adept at approaching Obasanjo without getting hurt, but there are those who do not know how to approach this man. They see an electrical wire hanging from Obasanjo and they grab it with bare hands, while there are others who put on gloves while holding the wire. Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State knows how to approach Obasanjo, so he does not touch a naked wire with his bare hands. There is another man, a much younger man who knows how to approach Obasanjo without getting hurt. He is the comedian, Ali Baba. There are others who understand Obasanjo and know their ways around him. But there is another tribe of people who do not know Obasanjo and approach him carelessly and without caution and get hurt. One is Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar. Another is Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha among numerous others.
This complex nature of President Obasanjo played itself out last weekend when he visited Port Harcourt in Rivers State to attend the special presidential retreat on power generation and supply and to commission some projects in the state. Before the arrival of Obasanjo in Port Harcourt, armored tanks had rolled into Yenagoa in Bayelsa State. Like electricity, while Yanegoa was hot, courtesy of the president, Port Harcourt was cool, also courtesy of Obasanjo. While in Port Harcourt, the president danced; he threw banters, playfully slapped people on their backs- generally making people happy. How did this happen? Well, it is the man’s personality. On Wednesday of last week, Alamieyeseigha had raised an alarm that his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, had gone into hiding, imploring him to come out to join him in running the affairs of state. To show that he was not in hiding, Jonathan stepped down from the airplane bearing Obasanjo at the Port Harcourt International Airport among other governors and PDP chieftains.
The man had come out of hiding! The president was his old self, throwing banters, shaking hands, generally making people laugh. Everyone watching was aware of what was happening in Bayelsa and, if you forgot, Obasanjo made you remember by indirect remarks. At the Hotel Presidential, where the presidential retreat took place, the president, on arrival, told Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra state (who is learning how to approach Obasanjo.): “You look like a woman” to which Ngige playfully replied: “Oga you don start O! Oga you don start O!!” Turning to fellow governors, Ngige said: “Make una tell Oga make he leave me alone O.
“Subsequently, when it was time to address issues of state while inside the elegant Atlantic Hall of Hotel Presidential, Obasanjo shifted his behavioural gear and he assumed the role of a statesman. Time came for him to address the august gathering and he began: “ I am delighted to be here today, at this special presidential retreat which has been covered to discuss the Nigerian power sector. We are all aware that Nigeria is abundantly blessed with enormous agricultural potentials, a vast array of mineral resources and very clement weather conditions. It is, therefore, a paradox that a country so richly endowed is, on the per capita basis, still ranked amongst the poorest in the world. This is because we have been unable to achieve and sustain economic growth rates that are commensurate with our rich resources potential. “Although a number of reasons are responsible for our sub-optimal level of development, perhaps the single most limiting factor has been the poor state of the nation’s infrastructures, particularly its electricity infrastructure.”
It was the president’s contention that the “two decades of neglect has led to a situation where less than half of the country has access to grid electricity and even when they do, the service is, in most instances, erratic and unreliable. There was no new investment in the sector and existing asserts were denied routine maintenance and as such were in terrible state of disrepair when this Administration came into office in 1999.” Before the president spoke, Odili in his welcome address had said that the state’s independent power programme was premised on the “ existence of abundant associated and non-associated gas resources in the state as the cheapest available and most realizable energy source for the project.” He explained that “ the medium for generation was the procurement and installation of turbine plants at strategic locations in the state.
Today, from two commissioned and functioning turbine plants, Rivers State generates a total 56 megawatts of electricity that has enabled a power purchase agreement with NEPA for the evacuation of power generated from one of these plants located in Trans-Amadi. This will increase shortly by the addition of a further 100 megawatts to the Trans Amadi plant currently 36 megawatts. Soon after the speeches, it was time for tea and the president was invited to the tea stand. He was freely chatting with people, embraced a dignitary who subsequently spoke into his ears with Obasanjo’’s right hand over the man’’s back. As he was discussing with another dignitary, an aide came over to him, called him aside and handed him a handset-as the president had a call. He received the call. As the break was coming to an end, and as Obasanjo was passing by some newsmen, he noticed they had writing materials in their hands. He knew they were journalists. We greeted the president. He stopped in his stride, turned to the journalist nearest to him, ““ which of the papers?”” he inquired. ““Tribune”” came the reply. This writer was next in line and Obasanjo asked, ““You nko?”” and I said, ““Vanguard.”” He was nodding. He turned to the next man. ““And you?”” he asked and the newsman said ““NAN Sir.” Obasanjo nodded some more and walked on, greeting other people on his way to the high table. As the participants for the retreat got set to commence their deliberations, newsmen had to leave. Later in the evening, it was time to commission the new Brick House (Government House in Port Harcourt) and the president was on hand to commission the magnificent structures.
That evening, two of the nations most famous comedians were on hand and they came out with rib cracking jokes to the delight of everyone present. While one the comedian’s made people laugh continuously, the other (a part time comedian) made people laugh and cry simultaneously depending on who is listening to him. While one comedian is known nationwide solely for his humour, the other is known all over the world as a statesman. Comedian Ali Baba was the master of ceremony; he was busy dishing out vibrant jokes. Governor Odili made a speech, welcoming Obasanjo and other guests to the Government House grounds. He described the president as a man of courage among other commendations. When it came time for the President to speak, he got up and took the microphone. He began to recognize the dignitaries present. As he was recognizing the presence of the governors, it came to the turn of Ngige and Obasanjo said: “Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State……” and everyone began to clap and laugh. The president paused and, in mock irritation, he said, “ Why una dey clap now? Why una dey clap? He paused some more then continued: “Because you have laughed and clapped, I am going to say what I had told myself I wasn’t going to say. You know Ngige traveled abroad. He came back a few days ago and came in suit! Ngige that’s what you told me. Is that not what you told me? That you came in suit. Am I lying?” Everyone burst into laughter, for everyone knew that the president was talking about Governor Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa state indirectly. He then went ahead and addressed serious issues of state.
He commended Rivers State government for its independent power project programme, adding that he would never get tired of coming to Rivers State because “ I won’t get tired of going to a place where good things are happening.” After his speech, Obasanjo raised a song just as Odili had done earlier. Chief Tony Anenih and a few other dignitaries began to dance with the president leading the way to his seat. Somewhere along the line, the president beckoned to the master of ceremony, Ali Baba, in relative privacy and asked him “ How much is Odili paying you for this (MC) work?” Ali Baba was at his best. But then, Obasanjo was at his very best. “Nothing sir. Just charity sir.” The president gave him N5, 000 naira. Ali Baba thanked Obasanjo but as he was walking away, he made sure the president heard what he (Ali Baba) said next. Ali Baba had turned to somebody close by and complained aloud: “Look wetin Baba dash me.
The notes are very dirty.” Of course, the President heard him and the following conversation ensued. “ Ali Baba!”“ Sir”. “Come here”, the president said. Ali Baba hurriedly gave the N5, 000 to somebody, saying aloud, “Take. E go take am from me,” and he walked over to Obasanjo who stretched his palm towards Ali Baba and demanded: “Owo da?” The gathering was thrown into more laughter. The following morning, Obasanjo commissioned the over 200 brand-new Peugeot taxicabs which were purchased by the state government. It is not for nothing that the African American Nobel Laureate in Literature, Toni Morrison, said that Mr. Bill Clinton was the first black President of the United States of America and it is not for nothing too that Clinton, on retirement located his office in Harlem, which is New York’s Ajegunle. These people: Clinton and Obasanjo have a way with people although in very different forms.
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