BY LEKAN SOTE
For the moment, please look away from the “Mummy Dearest” letter that Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello purportedly wrote to her father, former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Even though it was a classic case of personality profiling that only Sigmund Freud can unravel, it should not be allowed to distract from the profound submissions of Obasanjo himself, on the state of the nation, and the jam that he thinks President Goodluck Jonathan has put himself. After weightier matters of state have been resolved, domestic matters of “Citizen Obasanjo House of Commotion” can be looked into. Right now, if the hand of the President is stuck in a cookie jar, all care must be taken to extricate it without breaking the jar. In his letter, Obasanjo observes that Jonathan, as President, occupies five strategic positions in Nigeria: As leader of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party; political leader of the nation; Headship of the Federal Government; Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces; and Chief Security Officer of the nation. These are positions, whose duties may be delegated, but the responsibilities remain with the President.
The letter, “Before It Is Too Late,” reminds one of those seminal salvos that the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo used to send to disconcert military Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. The concerns of the letter are fivefold: First, Obasanjo is personally disappointed that after God, as he claims, had used him to install Jonathan as President, he is being systematically relegated from the sphere of influence. He laments that fawning sycophants, unpatriotic compatriots and latter-day friends (or “frenemies”) now hold sway in the Presidency. He says that he wants nothing from Jonathan, but that he should run the polity well, and boasts: “I have passed the stage of being flattered, intimidated, threatened, frightened, induced or bought.” But he must be sufficiently worried if his relatives and friends are harassed, and for his personal safety. After all, there are reports, he says, that the Presidency is keeping political watch over some 1,000 Nigerians. He admonishes the President not to misuse the military and security apparatus, as he recalls his prison experience under the watch of the most fiendish dictator Nigeria ever had.
Secondly, Obasanjo is peeved at reports of allegations that the President engaged in anti-party activities, and worked against the interests of members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party who contested, in recent gubernatorial elections in Lagos, Ondo, Edo and Anambra States. He warns that if the party collapses now, it will be the first time that a ruling party collapses while in office, apart from an external cause of a military coup. He therefore counsels the President to move to the centre of the party, carry everyone along, and not allow PDP fall into the hands of criminals, jobbers and discredited touts. This, he, warns, may cause men and women of honesty, honour, principles, morality and integrity to step aside and rethink. Already five sitting PDP Governors and 37 sitting members of PDP have decamped to APC, and many more are expected to follow.
Third, Obasanjo fears that the President’s actions may jeopardise the national interest. He alerts that danger may be lurking in the corner, and points out the need to deemphasise geographical and religious differences. He observes that foreign investors are worried, and are holding on to their investment purses. Some, like the International Oil Companies are transferring oil and gas investments and are moving away from Nigeria to invest in second choice Angola. Foreign direct investors worry about the security situation, especially the Boko Haram terrorists, high level of corruption, and the breach in the integrity of the security of Nigeria’s coastal waters. Obasanjo warns that Nigeria must not degenerate to economic dormancy, but take advantage of current favourable international interest in Africa. He sternly warns that the President must not be seen to be assisting murderers to evade the law, or thought to be promoting or fraternising with known drug barons (who are obviously seek legitimate avenues to launder their ill-gotten wealth, or) even obtain political power. That is a grave concern. And though he is wary of Jonathan’s new love for the proposed National Conference, he will have to wait and see how it unfolds.
Fourth, Obasanjo thinks Jonathan must deliver on his personal integrity. He should not be saying one thing while his body language is saying the opposite. Obasanjo discloses that he decided to campaign for Jonathan in 2011 because the latter had assured him that he would not seek re-election in 2015; he would have ruled for six years, as his completion of the remaining two years of the Yar ‘Adua Presidency would have dovetailed into his own four-year term. That would have been sufficient for him, he had told Obasanjo. To now renege on that, and seek cover under some imprecise aspects of the constitution, may be legally correct, but morally wrong. Finally, Obasanjo thinks that the President’s seeming intention to breach a pledge, and the insults and threats thrown at other Nigerians by his Ijaw kinsmen, may not be the best way to making friends across the nation. But worse of all, it may foreclose the chances of another Ijaw, or minority, becoming President.
Now look at these: Five of the seven “New Peoples Democratic Party Governors”, 37 PDP members of the House of Representatives from Kano, Kwara, Sokoto and Rivers states, have defected to the All Progressives Congress, and there is speculation that another 40 may join. The leadership of the APC met with former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who is now reportedly consulting with his political associates before deciding whether to join the party or not. You may recall that, in 2007, Atiku was the presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, which merged with other political parties to form theAPC. The APC leadership has also met Obasanjo, who says that though he remains a card-carrying member of the PDP, he thinks the APC is necessary for deepening democracy in Nigeria. He admonished its members to play politics devoid of rancour and bitterness, but with decency. He vows that nothing will detract him from his commitment to Nigeria. Considering Obasanjo’s military career and political antecedents, this is not surprising.
But by accommodating the opposition, reporting Jonathan to Nigeria’s equivalent of Grandees or City Fathers, Generals Ibrahim Babangida, Abubakar Abdulsalami and Theophilus Danjuma, and former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme, and receiving the leaders of the APC, Obasanjo may have moved the pieces on the chess board against the President. If more PDP members of the House of Representatives join the APC, the party would have almost two-third majority in the House, whose PDP Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, is perceived a sympathiser of the APC.
When your King is compromised in a game of chess, and there is no way to save it, wise players bravely call for an end to the game. The President may have done this in his rather sentimental reply to Obasanjo on Sunday. After denying some of the allegations, disclosing some positive actions he has taken, and spattered some of his own mud, he tells Obasanjo: “… You have done me grave injustice in your public letter in which you wrongfully accused me of deceit… dishonesty, incompetence, clannishness, divisiveness and insincerity.” But anyway you look at it, the democratic animal that Obasanjo describes as “game of numbers” will prevent Jonathan from succeeding himself in 2015.