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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Letter bomb: Deconstructing Jonathan’s reply

Letter bomb: Deconstructing Jonathan’s reply
Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, fired the first shot on December 2, 2013, with a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, in which the former accused the latter of many unsavoury things.
In fact, the summary of the letter was that the country was haemorrhaging badly and something had to be done before it was too late.
It was late when Jonathan replied, but not too late.  It took 21 whole days before the president defended himself and his government against the portentous allegations from Obasanjo.
The former president wrote in 18 pages.  As if still deferring to him slightly, saying you are still my boss, no matter what, Jonathan replied in 17 pages.  Have you seen somebody who replied one slap with six, or a wife who replied her husband’s two words with 20?  Jonathan did not do like that.  He still allowed Obasanjo to win by one page, but that did not in any way detract from the pungency of the reply.
Was it good that Jonathan replied the man that virtually installed him in office?  It was.  The president owed not just Obasanjo the letter, but the entire country.  Since the earlier letter was an open one, it was also okay that the reply was made open.  If the original letter had not been replied, the public would have been left in a wilderness of conjecture, and all sorts of conclusions, perhaps wrong, would have been made about Jonathan and his government.
Wait a minute! Am I saying the letter war was good?  By no means.  We could have done without the indignity, without the indecorousness of washing dirty linen in the public.  But once the first shot was fired, it was only necessary that it became Operation Fire-for-Fire.
In deconstructing Jonathan’s reply to Obasanjo’s letter, let me note that the language was still a bit restrained, despite the obvious loss of respect and affability between the two.  Yes, Jonathan came out smoking, but the language was not as down market or fishwife-like as one could have expected.  Kudos to restraint in the face of grave provocation.
Now, to the details.  Obasanjo complained that he had written four earlier letters to Jonathan, which were never acknowledged.  The president explained that the letters were brought by hand, and the issues in them discussed.  “I had not, before now, seen the need for any formal reply, since they contained advice from a former president to a serving president.”
Lesson one for President Jonathan.  There are some things that need to be put on record.  Those four letters should have been duly acknowledged, and Obasanjo thanked for raising the issues in them, even if he was in the wrong.  That would have prevented the former president from turning it into ija igboro (open scuffle) by leaking the fifth letter to the public.  You know Obasanjo never runs from a fight. In fact, he often spoils for one.  So, President Jonathan played into his hands by not officially acknowledging the first four letters.
Jonathan gave 10 reasons for replying Obasanjo’s letter in open form.  Coming three days before Christmas, I call it ‘Jonathan’s Carol Service and 10 Lessons.’  The 10 reasons were germane and well conceived, even if they contained a lot of insinuations and innuendoes.  Well, it was already ija igboro, and as they say, all is fair in love and war.
“Nigerians know the role you have played in my political life, and given the unfortunate tone of your letter, clearly, the grapes have gone sour,” President Jonathan wrote.  And I say this is the understatement of the year.  Knowing Obasanjo, whom his military colleague once described as somebody that “designs good and bad schemes with equal celebrity,” not only are the grapes sour, they have also become poisonous.  With this ija igboro, in which they have both put each other’s backs on the ground, Obasanjo will fight to the death.  Let no one think reconciliation or rapprochement is possible between the erstwhile godfather and godson. Never!  This is fight to finish, as Obasanjo always gets his pound of flesh.
Remember how he visited Chuba Okadigbo at home, danced with the man’s wife, and the next day, Okadigbo was impeached as Senate president.  Again, remember how he visited Audu Ogbe, former PDP chairman at home, requested for pounded yam and egusi soup, and within hours, Ogbe’s resignation was demanded at gunpoint.  The deaf does not need to be told that the market is over.  If he cannot hear the din, he can at least see the traders packing their wares.  It is over between Jonathan and Obasanjo.  No reconciliation is ever possible again, at least not from Obasanjo’s end.
“It appears that your letter was designed to incite Nigerians from other geopolitical zones against me, and also calculated to promote ethnic disharmony.  Worse still, your letter was designed to instigate members of our party, the PDP, against me,” Jonathan declared.
Two points to raise here!  Ethnic disharmony is not just being incited, it is well and alive in Nigeria.  Perhaps more than at any other time in the life of the country, there is real, palpable antagonism among the ethnic nationalities.  The relationship is suspicious, virulent, with possibilities of an eruption at any time. Just hear Dr Junaidu Mohammed speak. Or listen to Alhaji Dokubo-Asari, and you will admit that ethnic disharmony is not about to be incited, it is already here, well and alive. And that is something that should worry President Jonathan very deeply.
Again, PDP members are not just being instigated against the president.
I think they already are.  If not, how did New PDP emerge, and how could five serving governors leave the party in one fell swoop.  To say the party is being instigated is an understatement.  The rebellion is already in full bloom, and has developed a life of its own.  The President says the party has always recovered from its challenges in the past, but I also think with its current state, the PDP may never really be the same again.
On the security situation in the country, which Obasanjo had accused him of handling improperly, the President wrote: “My administration is working assiduously to overcome current national security challenges, the seeds of which were sown under previous administrations.  There have been setbacks; but certainly there have also been great successes in our efforts to overcome terrorism and insurgency.”
I have this to say:  it does not matter under which administration the seeds of insecurity were sown, the primary responsibility of any government is to guarantee the security of lives and property.  That is what our constitution says.  Any government that cannot do that loses its raison detre for existence.  So, President Jonathan needs not pass the buck to previous administrations.  What matters now is that the buck stops at his table, and he should do the needful.
Jonathan says some people continue to downplay the successes of his government in tackling insecurity telling Obasanjo that he (Obasanjo) “must now be numbered” among those unbelievers. But in fairness to this administration, I’ll say it has done its level best in the situation and circumstances at hand.  Yes, insurgency is still here, insecurity still stalks the land, but things are improving.  Two Christmases ago, it seemed it was the end of the end.  There was the bombing of a Catholic church at Madalla, in Niger State, which seemed to be the height of evil.  But two days ago was another Christmas, and things were fairly better.  Mark it, we are not there yet, but we seem to be fairly out of grave danger.  I applaud our security agencies in the fight against insurgency, particularly the State Security Service (SSS), which gets my highest accolades, the military, and then the Nigeria Police.  I will not downplay their successes in the battle against insurgency, but simply agree with the President that: “there have been some setbacks; but certainly there have also been great successes.”
A blow below the belt.  Ouch, it hurts!  Jonathan told Obasanjo: “It is just as well to remind you that the first major case of kidnapping for ransom took place around 2006.  And the Boko Haram crises dates back to 2002.  Goodluck Jonathan was not the President of the country then.”
If Jonathan was not the president then, who was?  If my memory serves me right, Obasanjo was president in both 2002 and 2006.  So, in essence, Goodluck Jonathan was telling him: kidnapping for ransom started under you, Boko Haram began under you.  So, what the heck are you saying?  Obasanjo will never forgive or forget that, but will rather design “good and bad schemes with equal celebrity” against Jonathan.
One of the most-weighty allegations in Obasanjo’s letter (Jonathan called it “invidious accusation” in his reply) was that the President was allegedly training snipers abroad, and had also placed over 1,000 Nigerians on a political watch list.  Jonathan denied it, and followed with a blow to the solar plexus, questioning Obasanjo’s religiosity:
“Baba, I don’t know where you got that from but you do me grave injustice in not only lending credence to such baseless rumours, but also publicising it.  You mentioned God 17 times in your letter.  Can you as a Christian hold the Bible and say that you truly believe these allegations?”
Well, this is my own comment: “thou shall not swear at all: Neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.

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