Rather than simply renounce his membership of the PDP, he had to enact a dramatic environment for that expression, Obasanjo. If you strip Aremu of his political personage, what you’ll have left is a mischievous entertainer addicted to the telling of ribald jokes. Watchers may disagree on Okikiola’s political relevance, but perhaps all may agree that he is Nigeria’s most dramatic national politician, if not the funniest, one who leaves a bitter-sweet taste in the mouth.
My love for Mathew began in 1999, when rumour evangelists spread the news of his death. First, he lurked in the wings, censoring his own public circulation, perhaps to let the rumour reach thorough penetration, thereby driving it to its wild, logical conclusion. As his detractors began to enjoy a secretive excitation, having been persuaded on the fiction of his final dispatch, a mischievous Segun appeared on NTA, beaming in what seemed like sadistic delight. “I dey kampe!”, he boasted, triumphant!
I fell in love with the street credibility in the wording of that Kampe triumphalism, happy with a president who could call the bluff of officialdom, to embrace the social relief in occasional unruliness.
When rumour got busy on Yar-Adua’s death during his electioneering period, the Ebora-Owu again played the dramatist. “Helloooo, Umoru!”, he roared into a phone whose speaker was bared to a microphone, at a campaign rally, “Are you dead?” Now, look at how that question sounds hilarious in its deliberate foolishness! To which a faceless Yar’Adua, unmistakable in his gentle voice, replied from the other end, “I’m alive!” – and that marked the end of that rumour’s career in Yar’Adua’s life, such that when the wish of that speculation finally became reality, it was treated with reasonable doubt.
Did he not badge into President Jonathan’s niece’s wedding recently, after attacking the latter viciously? A mischievous visit, that one. He would attack IBB, only to attend his event later.
At the expiration of his tenure as President, bubbly Obasanjo enrolled for study at the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, in Victoria Island, Lagos, where his frequent journeys to class became a source of traffic torture to Lagos motorists trapped in the threads of his adult scholarship. Soon, pictures began flying around, of an Obasanjo who had come to class armed to his teeth, with classroom paraphernalia and specifically, a Maths Set bursting with sharpened pencils and other writing fripperies, as displayed on his desk. I do not know how that quasi-seminarian pursuit fared but, when asked why he chose to study Theology, he cocked his head up and down, up and down, and then: “He saaaaaved me from detention! He saaaaaved my life on several occasions! He leeeeed me to lead this nation three times. I want to know this God!”
All of these, and many other episodes of geriatric exuberance, reflect Obasanjo’s capacity for mischief and drama. What is curious, is how he still maintains relevance even with his loss of political capital. His haters are quick to dismiss his importance, yet they just can’t stop talking about him – and therein lies his mystique! He has been the arrowhead of myriad controversies in the last couple of months and, rather than become a monotonous repetition, he continues to make headlines, setting the agenda for national discussions – from his public letters to President Jonathan, to his subsequent unsavoury critiques of the man’s administration; to his release of a controversial autobiography; to his endorsement of Mohammadu Buhari’s candidacy; to his public tearing of his PDP membership card – (now, that unwholesome act holds some kind of artistic value: I hope someone was able to piece the shreds of that card together for creative or archival use, but that’s besides the point).
The Otta farmer is now in the evening of his life, but whether we like him or not, Chief Mathew Okikiola Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo has lived a life to the full – a life spanning errors, highlights, intrigues, truth, cunning, wisdom, high-handedness, arrogance, and greatness. One of Nigeria’s most popular players on the African scene, Baba Iyabo is one brand so unique – his persona is entirely his own: he resembles no one, and no one resembles him!