A Season Of Open Letters By Theophilus Ilevbare
The General is at it again! When he is not openly criticising the man he facilitated to the ascendancy to Aso Rock with his utterances, he is hobnobbing with state governors eyeing President Goodluck Jonathan’s seat and opposed to his second term aspiration. But his latest offering in the form of a narcissistic missive is a desperate attempt from his moral grandeur to salvage whatever is left of the wreckage of a crashed landed flight piloted by his stooge. The purpose of the mixed grill of a letter must be to rubbish the present administration and Obasanjo has succeeded, in turning himself to a hero, once again. Unfortunately, Nigerians have fallen cheaply for his uncanny ability to draw negative messianic attention to himself with his manipulatively tendencies. Little wonder, the reactions that have trailed his controversial letter are legion and everyone, wittingly or unwittingly, has been drawn to join in what is now widely regarded as the ‘shege dance’.
The former president’s epistle actually overshadowed the attention another leaked complaint letter would have gotten. Dated 25 September to President Goodluck Jonathan from Mallam Sanusi Lamido, his revelation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) – Nigeria’s cesspit of corruption – has failed to remit $49.8 billion, being proceeds from crude oil sales between January 2012 and July 2013 to the Federation Account elicited widespread outrage. But appearing before the Senate committee on finance, Mr. Sanusi, said an ongoing review of relevant accounts between the CBN, the NNPC and the ministry of finance showed that only $12 billion (N1.9 trillion) was missing as of yet.
Without the patience to pen many pages of letter which will likely go unreplied and trashed at the State House, the number three citizen of the country, Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, on Monday, 9 December, at an event organised by the Nigerian Bar Association to mark the 2013 International Anti-Corruption Day, came down hard on President Goodluck Jonathan whom he accused of encouraging corruption with his body language. He cited examples with the recent Oduahgate that the presidency swept under the carpet while lamenting that anti-corruption agencies have gone to sleep.
The media was still awash with Obasanjo’s letter ‘bomb’ to President Jonathan, as a response was still awaited when the eldest daughter of the Mr Obasanjo, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, joined the fray with an open epistle of her own to her father, not a response or “support to President Jonathan or APC or any other group or person,” she remarked. In the purported letter, she ruled out further communication with her father till death, describing him as a liar, manipulator, two-faced hypocrite determined to foist on President Goodluck Jonathan what no one would contemplate with him as president. Iyabo exposed how Obasanjo got away with many of his atrocities because “Nigerians were his enablers and people ultimately get leaders that reflect them.”
Not forgetting the letter to Obasanjo (Daily Trust 15/12/2013) by a former chairman of the PDP, Audu Ogbeh. In his narrative, he challenged Obasanjo over the role he played as then president, when he watched with glee from his seat of power in Aso Rock as rampaging thugs unleashed mayhem and made Anambra state ungovernable, kidnapping former Governor , Chris Ngige, and eventually swearing in his deputy, to cut a long story short.
In the spirit of the season, a former Chief Justice of the Federation, Dahiru Musdapher, on Decomber 20, weighed in with his own open letter to President Jonathan. He recalled how Jonathan brushed aside recommendations from the National Judicial Council and the Chief Justice of Nigeria to sack former Appeal Court president, Ayo Salami, ignoring firm arguments by the two authorities that Mr Salami was innocent of allegations against him. Punishing Mr Salami, they advised, would terribly dent an already integrity-deficient judiciary. But all these fell on deaf ears.
Back to Obasanjo’s missive, the most weighty of all the letters since it is coming from a past civilian president to the incumbent. My brief here is not to dismiss the message with the wave of the hand because the messenger is guilty of more grievous offences. This will be akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water. There’s no way the message can be separated from the messenger, especially when the messenger is far worse than the recipient. However, it makes sense to review the substance of the message.
Describe the former president’s letter with any negative adjective like these: hypocritical, satanic, demonic, messianic, self-serving, mischievous, deceitful and instantly, you paint a picture of a controversial epistle from a depraved man persistently tortured by the heinous crime he perpetuated in his eight years (mis)rule as a democratically elected president, culminating in a sham election that threw up a terminally ill Umaru Yar’dua and a docile Goodluck Jonathan. He knew the former could not survive one term let alone two. He was not oblivious that Jonathan was incompetent and nondescript, yet he craftily foisted him on us. Obasanjo advertised them both as the only pair capable of turning the country’s fortune around.
The former president is the personification of everything wrong with Nigeria. He epitomizes corruption, irresponsible leadership, dishonesty, double standard. Our collective amnesia is the only reason anyone will heap praises on the Ota farmer for that letter.
That said, his message is apt for the season and should be taken seriously. The issues raised, though germane are common knowledge save for the part where he talked about 1000 people placed on political watch list and training of a presidential hit squad of snipers to take out perceived and real enemies of this administration
Obasanjo’s 18 page diatribe will likely go the way of his four previous letters to Jonathan – The trash can. This letter is a reaction from the General’s bruised ego of his previous epistles that were ignored. Maybe Obasanjo should have paused to ponder why his previous letters were shredded considering it would have taken nothing to respond with Jonathan’s horde of frothing aides. Did he not think that Mr President might have deemed it appropriate to convey in subtle manner the old aphorism: “silence is the best answer for a fool”?
His missive dripped of charlatanism and unrepentant impunity that reminds us of a freed prisoner who falsely arrogates to himself the title of a ‘Statesman’. Here is a man who hunted his political foes with state instruments, he imposed his stooges in various political offices, undermined democracy with massive electoral fraud just as he flagrantly disobeyed court orders. There was fiscal unaccountability of astronomical proportions during his administration. He usurped the petroleum ministry, he is accused of human rights abuse by way of massacres in Odi and Zaki Biam. How can we forget Mr Obasanjo’s futile attempt to change the Nigerian constitution with billions of naira to grant himself perpetual tenancy, or is it the $16 billion dollar he splashed out to his cronies in government to generate darkness? By accusing Jonathan of giving opposition parties support in gubernatorial elections was he trying to insinuate and admonish Jonathan to tamper with the electoral process and impose PDP candidates on the electorate against their wish?
Obasanjo will easily beat anyone to be inducted in the country’s hall of shame for his recklessness and manipulative tendencies but that should not make us disregard his warnings particularly now that he realises that the man he installed as president is well on course to smash every infamous and dishonest record he set.
Obasanjo should receive his torture in silence if he is now disenchanted with the ‘anointed one’ he installed as president. His moral grandeur is the height of his self-delusion. He should leave the rest of his life in silence and give opportunity to people with integrity to talk.
Beyond the messenger, the propriety of the letter and the way it was thrown in the public, there are serious treasonable allegations that in the national interest, President Jonathan must respond personally and in his capacity as President. From the political watch list to the presidential secret hit squad in covert training; abuse of office; mismanagement of national resources; incompetence; deliberately strengthening the fault lines of clannishness religion and region; factionalisation and weakening of the PDP are just a highlight of the weighty allegations Nigerians are demanding for answers.
President Jonathan’s electoral promise to fight corruption headlong has since been forgotten as recent allegations from Obasanjo, Sanusi and Speaker Tambuwal that the President is participating in, and facilitating the rapid growth of corruption has blurred any impression Jonathan has made in his effort to fight the scourge. .
Mr Jonathan must replace this unbroken, graveyard silence with a response of his own. He is morally bound to reply Obasanjo’s umpteenth letter. More so, he is obliged to respond to the treasonable allegations in the former president’s epistle. Such accusations are legitimate grounds for impeachment should the president keep mum.
As we match towards 2015, we watch on as the drama of unending political battle of wits between a godfather and his godson unfold.
Theophilus Ilevbare is a public affairs commentator. Engage him on twitter, @tilevbare. He blogs at ilevbare.com.
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