Much Ado About Nothing: President Obasanjo’s Library
Wednesday, 25 May 2005
Much Ado About Nothing: President Obasanjo’s Library
By Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
Those who would not learn from history, it is said, are doomed to repeat it!
Presidential libraries should be seen as a preservationist historian delight, a boon to academicians, but with benefits as well, for non-academicians, this is a universal truth.
Much have been said and written about the launching of a presidential library by President Obasanjo and his supporters, well-wishers political associates etc, most of what have been written or said by those commenting on the library, managed to have ignored key points, such as, whether a presidential library is and whether presidential libraries are desirable in Nigeria and whether any law have been broken, in the launch of President Obasanjo Library.
I hope that President Obasanjo will not be the first, the last and only Nigerian president with the vision and foresight to preserve the doings and goings-on in the highest echelon of political power in Nigeria, by this, I am emphatically answering the question raised in my second paragraph, yes, presidential libraries are desirable! Those who do not learn from history, it is often said, are doomed to repeat history’s sordid pasts.
I strongly believe that Nigerians, all Nigerians ought to be interested in preserving the details of how we live as a nation, in the past, Nigeria’s and Africa’s lack of recorded history and the near complete absence of how our ancestors and progenitors lived, have led to the erroneous beliefs among some people, about the value or worth of the contribution to human development by Africans in Africa and peoples of African descent worldwide
Reading and interpreting human behavior is intriguing to me, as humans are in perpetual mission to justify on Tuesdays the irrationalities of Mondays. It is human nature to create atomic bombs nuclear weapons and justify their use on fellow humans, this, instead of creating more bread and butter, or instead of creating more kunnu, fura and iyan.
Observing human behaviors, both the rational and irrational ones, Nigerians ought to take active interests in the bonfires of human existence, because in many cases, the observation and analyses of human actions have been of immense benefits to the human race, as they can be predictors of the course of human history and existence
Many experts, Sociologists, Criminologists, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Historians among others, know the value of examining and re-examining human behavior, in order to predict, very accurately, actions of persons similar to the ones that have been observed and analyzed in the past.
Persons who have had the greatest impact on the affairs of the nations of the world, deserve close scrutiny, whether such impact were positive or negative ones. Nelson Mandela has had very desirable positive impact on the world, so has Martin Luther King, it is good investment of time and money, for the human race, particularly Africans and peoples of African descent, to study, examine and analyze the lives and times of these epoch making African sons.
There are of course, other persons, who have had negative impact on Africa, Africans and peoples of African descent, Ian Smith, Pit and Pieta Botha, Cecil Rhodes, and the countless slave traders and colonizers
In the particular case of Nigeria, there have been individuals whose actions, behaviors, pronouncements etc have equally bestowed upon Nigeria and Nigerians positive and sometimes, negative consequences also.
Expectedly, some Nigerians have written to me through e-mails etc, requesting my opinion or comments on presidential libraries and President Obasanjo’s launching of a presidential library in particular, and I only have one comment to make to on it, “It is a good thing” which is a phrase that was made popular by Martha Stewart of Omni Media USA, she is famous for her recent travails with the laws of the United States; Presidential Libraries are a good thing, besides everything else, it is, they are, additions to our national body of knowledge and knowledge facilitations for economic, social political development.
In my view therefore, Nigerians must not be relentlessly neutral in the recording of how our lives are lived as individuals, communities or as Nigerians in Nigeria as a country and single national entity, we will do well, to examine relentlessly, the lives of historical figures or characters, the good ones and the viciously bad ones too; Nigerian persons who have had the greatest impact on our lives as Nigerians, as a society and as a nation.
To that extent, I have no hesitation in reading the autobiography or biography (if there is one) of Mr. Sani Abacha, late, formerly of the Nigerian Army, a man who had Nigeria under his vice grips for many years.
There ought to be a museum or library dedicated to the robust and rigorous examination, re-examination and continued analyses of Abacha’s actions, pronouncements, and even his silence, if he was silent, when he needed to speak on issues of national importance.
It is significant for Nigerians to be aware, of the need to record the way we live now, because, art, science and technology, the ways of the world are constantly improving in nanosecond rapidity, Nigeria must move along this path, for national growth, advancement and greatness, to do this, we must learn from our history, our individual and collective experience, the good and no so good experiences; This is surely, the way the world works, examining persons, institutions, actions, behaviors… and then, rules are made, systems are invented or perfected for society.
Evaluating the overall impact of a president, or presidents, and other individuals with high magnitude of economic, political and social policy effects, are crucial, and they are important to our understanding of ourselves, our mistakes and how to take necessary corrective measures to enable us attain our national purpose.
It is important for to seek to know what informed particular course of action and the pursuit of certain causes or policies, why good actions are taken, why bad actions or results arise and the rationale or what excuses the irrationality.
Furthermore, it is recommended that our country men and women take active interests and in fact participate, in examining, extensively, the characters and persons that have dominated and shaped our landscapes, such as Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafa Balewa, Aminu Kano, Isaac Boro, C. Nzeogwu, Ifeajuna, Danjuma, Dimka, Orkar, Murtala Mohammed, Joseph N. Garba, J.S Tarka, Mbadiwe, M.Okpara, Effiong, Anthony Enahoro, M. Buhari, Awojobi, the Kutis, Hassan Sumonu, Tai Solarin, U. Dikko, G. Dabor, Okotiebor, S. Ogbemudia, U. Udoma, Wayas, T. Idiagbon and a host of others too numerous to mention here. And for effect or perverse hilarity, we could add the names of robbers Oyenusi and Anini too!
Nigerians ought to want to know who the heck, these people were and what made them good or bad and historical, Nigerians ought to establish centers or departments of studies in educational institutions, Nigerians ought to establish libraries and museum with preserved historical artifacts regarding these persons.
Just as Nigerians ought to want to know about the former school mate and townsman of MKO Abiola, who also is the former commander of Third Marine Commando, the toughest unit of the Nigerian military at the time, Nigerians ought to want to know more about the man who asked Babangida to give a human face to the structural adjustment program, SAP, Nigerians ought to want to know more about the resilient and indomitable man from Ogun state, who was deputy to Murtala Mohammed, the man who had a brush with Abacha gulag and obnoxious executioners and death squad, then live not only to tell the world about his close brushes with death, but actually becomes the nation’s president in a democracy, topped with a second term civilian to civilian peaceful transition of power nationwide in Nigeria (1999 -2007)
Nigerians direly need libraries and museum, and foundations with tons of books, and other means of information including multimedia formats to preserve the way we have lived, the way are living now, for generations of Nigerians yet unborn.
I make bold to say, that President Obasanjo, is yet again, blazing the trail, in this institutionalization of artifacts of his legacy, which is now being bequeathed upon Nigerians and Nigeria, through the establishment of a presidential library in his name, he has in the past blazed the information and history trail for Nigeria, through his book writing efforts, in which he presented his recollections of his stewardship, as a soldier during Nigeria/Biafra civil war, and a statesman. The Guardian Newspaper cartoonist on May 25, 2005 informed the world that President Obasanjo is not an intellectual or scholar, but I must say, that he has done well intellectually as he has contributed to the body of public knowledge, through his books, notably, “My Command” among others. The fact is really that, President Obasanjo has written more books than some professional academicians, in Nigeria or abroad!
It is almost a certainty, that President Obasanjo will write about his two terms as Nigeria’s civilian president.. desirable additions to his contributions to knowledge and learning, public service and development of Nigeria.
President Obasanjo’s Presidential Library is a most welcomed addition to national development, I hope that the library project succeeds, and I hope it is emulated and copied by future leaders of Nigeria and by subsequent individuals who may become president of Nigeria in thousands and millions of years to come, which will put a lie to the prediction of the Americans, of doom and more doom or their forecasted disintegration of Nigeria within fifteen years! More about the American predictions later; Nigeria is no disintegrating! It will not, NEVER!
President Obasanjo is leaving giant footsteps, steadily, for others to follow, the presidential library idea, may be new to Nigeria, but it is part and parcel of the American executive presidential system, President Clinton’s library opened recently in his home state of Arkansas with aplomb, pomp and pageantry!
Nigerians should not forget, that we have in the past named universities and airports or roads etc after national heroes, such Ahmadu Bello University, Awolowo University, Ambrose Alli University, Azikiwe University, Aminu Kano Airport, Murtala Mohammed Airport, Zik Airport etc, all at public expense! Because we, or the government believe these former leaders of Nigeria, deserved or had earned these encomiums or accolades.
President Obasanjo’s library is a wonderful example being set for Nigerian leadership and it is all good, it is surely a good thing for Nigerians and Nigeria, it ought to meet our approval.
Nigerians, Africans and peoples of African descent will do well, from now on, to document our culture, our way of life and our immense contribution to humanity