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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Obasanjo’s letter, 30 years after Awo’s

Obasanjo’s letter, 30 years after Awo’s
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo eventually collected the rejoinder to his fifth letter he wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan. Even though Jonathan publicly assured that response, nobody bargained for the tough tone. Obasanjo had earlier justified making his fifth letter public because, as he claimed, all his previous letters to Jonathan were somehow rebuffed.
In his response, Jonathan explained he never thought Obasanjo needed rejoinders to the earlier four letters because the two of them after each letter had, in face-to-face discussions, ironed out all matters of concern which Obasanjo raised. There ended the formal explanatory aspects of Jonathan’s letter.
Thereafter, everything was punchy, contemptuous, daring, accusatory, unrestrictedly bellicose and downright challenging. Could this be the Goodluck Jonathan everybody portrayed as a weakling, completely clueless to Nigeria’s myriad of problems? Well, Jonathan has removed the gloves. If former German Chancellor, Otto Von Bismark decided to solve all issues of his time with blood and iron, Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan has opted for bare knuckles. And that, against his two-time very powerful predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired Army General.
It is frightening how a bloody civilian can thump a retired Army General on the nose.
Nigerian soldiers generally look down on fellow citizens as “bloody civilians” never expected to dare defiance or dissidence. It should therefore be understood as Obasanjo said he would not give any further response to Jonathan’s counter aggression.
Who anyway, expected a fight back?
At least, not Jonathan who deliberately went all out to silence the enemy, as he marshaled dangerous innuendoes that only a man enjoying total immunity, like the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria could unleash. (a) Suspected official plot to burn down national headquarters of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to render the 2007 elections impossible. (b) Alleged plot to assassinate the then Bayelsa State governor and vice presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan at his country-home, Otuoke, before the 2007 elections, a tragedy Jonathan escaped because he did not eventually travel home.
If any of these alleged plots had materialized, a state of national emergency would have been declared and the presidential elections might have been postponed indefinitely. To remove any doubt about his allegation, Jonathan added a clincher. “I got calls expressing the concern of Abuja. But despite the apparent concern, no single arrest was ever made… The security people ordinarily should have unraveled the assassination attempt on me.”
By far, the most acerbic of Jonathan’s innuendoes were the following two in matters of corruption under past regimes dating back to 1975 as compared to his (Jonathan’s) current administration. Recalling that the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti released an album on corruption under General Obasanjo’s military regime, Jonathan chested out that “… a number of Army Generals were to be retired because of corruption before the Dimka coup. Also, the late General Murtala Mohammed himself wanted to retire some top people in his cabinet on corruption-related issues before he was assassinated.”
Whether these innuendoes are valid or not is not the issue. But to dare challenging or disputing them might have propelled hitherto unknown and officially undisclosed facts to solidify the innuendoes.
However, Obasanjo’s decision to keep quiet for now must not be taken as a sign of defeat or self-guilt. What is more, when a boxer (with odds on to win) takes a heavy blow or such a blow ordinarily looms, it is only sensible for the boxer to retreat or dodge. Neither is Obasanjo the first in this letter writing or “siddon look” business in the national interest. Despite Obasanjo’s well-known political animosity against Obafemi Awolowo (still evident in Obasanjo’s letter to Jonathan) he, Obasanjo, copied the show from Awolowo.
Chief Awolowo, then leader of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) was the strongest rival of former President Shehu Shagari in the presidential elections of 1979 and 1983. Sometime in 1982, Awolowo assessed Nigeria’s economic prospects and foresaw imminent collapse. Accordingly, he wrote an open letter to President Shagari advising urgent actions.
Clearly because of Awolowo’s political antecedents as the strongest candidate the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) had to defeat, President Shagari read politics into Awolowo’s letter and dismissed his fears. Nigerian political history thereafter proclaimed Awolowo as the winner of the debate who laughed last.
Nobody should count Obasanjo out in his “no comment” reaction to President Jonathan’s letter. Like Obafemi Awolowo last time, Obasanjo is only waiting to laugh last. This should be noted even if, on a Sunday in the coming months leading to the 2015 presidential elections, the same Obasanjo shows up at Aso Rock chapel to join President Jonathan in some kind of thanksgiving service. At this level of open hostility between the two men, any delusion of reconciliation carries the risk between the crafty old fox and the naive cock. Defeat is not in Obasanjo’s dictionary.
In his rejoinder, President Jonathan dismissed, as a matter of righteous indignation, large portions of Obasanjo’s observations/allegations as beer parlour gossips without saying so in many words and in fact directed relevant agencies like Human Rights Commission and security agencies to investigate. One advice on this score for President Jonathan is that he must closely monitor the investigating agencies concerned so that should the need arise for Obasanjo to be interrogated, he, as an ex-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, must not be humiliated or summoned. Instead, he must be accorded all the courtesy attributable to that exalted position. Possible interrogators should meet ex-President Obasanjo in his preferred residence at Ota or Abeokuta.
While responding to Obasanjo’s letter, President Jonathan could have done better without whingeing or exhibiting himself as being persecuted. Jonathan accused Obasanjo of doing him “…grave injustice with your public letter in which you wrongfully accused me of deceit, deception, dishonesty, incompetence, clannishness, divisiveness, and insincerity among other ills.” In this wise, Jonathan was not a peculiar victim.
At one time or the other, Obasanjo had in the past similarly labeled Shehu Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Sani Abacha, even MKO Abiola (he wrote off as not the messiah Nigeria needed) and the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. In the latter case, the same Obasanjo while appearing on a BBC television slot “HARD TALK” initially refused to comment on Yar’Adua but still went on to concede that Yar’Adua “is a nice man.”
If that appeared complimentary, Obasanjo made his view clear as he immediately told the world on the same program that “but being a nice man is not the same as being competent.” Would ex-American presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush come on Nigerian television to dismiss the competence of President Barack Obama? Would former British prime ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown go on American or Nigerian television to dismiss current Prime Minister David Cameron as incompetent?
The same Obasanjo once accused former President Ibrahim Babangida of turning Minna, capital of Niger State, into a typical London. What could be more inciting? Jonathan must have visited Minna many times. What is so special about that city to make it extra-ordinary over other capital cities in Nigeria except perhaps Abeokuta, capital of Ogun State? Thanks to the state’s present governor Ibikunle Amosun who has been acknowledged by even former president Obasanjo of developing five cities in the state – Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode, Ilaro, Ota and Sagamu with infrastructure on an unprecedented scale all within two years of his (Governor Amosun’s) tenure.
Jonathan was, therefore, wrong to create the impression that Obasanjo singled him out for criticisms.
Some other submissions of President Jonathan in his letter to Obasanjo are just laughable. In fact, Jonathan should either discharge his functions to the Nigerian nation or allow the accusation against him to stick that he condones or fails to tackle corruption. Read Jonathan in his letter, supposed to be a repudiation of Obasanjo’s allegation of corruption in Nigeria. “Even in this Fourth Republic, the Siemens and Halliburton scandals are well-known.”
So what, President Jonathan? If these two scandals are well known, especially to Jonathan and he fails to put those involved on trial, is that Obasanjo’s fault? Or should Jonathan’s failure to prosecute the suspects be an answer to Obasanjo’s allegation against Jonathan for aiding corruption? Instead, the fact that Jonathan concedes the Siemens and Halliburton corruption scandal justifies Obasanjo’s criticisms of corruption against Jonathan’s administration. The ball is therefore in Jonathan’s court to commence prosecution against the suspects.
Jonathan cites the election of Nigeria into the United Nations Security Council two times since the inception of his administration in 2010. And we should consider that as a major achievement? My friend, has Nigeria’s temporary membership of the UN Security Council improved power supply in Nigeria? Has Nigeria’s membership of the same council enhanced water supply in Nigeria?
Has Nigeria’s membership of UN Security Council curbed or even halted crude oil theft? To worsen matters, from 2010 to date, the number of private jets in Nigeria rose from just over 30 to almost 200, a disgusting status symbol attained by those manipulating Nigeria’s financial regulations to fleece the national purse. If, as once conceded by President Jonathan in an interview with the TELL Magazine that a huge sum of over one trillion naira was paid by NNPC without the approval of National Assembly as mandatory under Nigerian constitution and without the involvement of the Federal Ministry of Finance, of what value to ordinary Nigerians is even a permanent membership of United Nations Security Council?
President Jonathan must return from the foreign scene to understand the anger and criticisms of Nigerians. If centered on him, only to the extent that the buck stops on his table. Nobody is accusing or has accused Jonathan of stealing Nigeria’s one kobo. But we have the right to criticize him for failing to deliver on his promise that those involved in the criminal expenditure of over one trillion naira without authority would have to explain. Have they explained? Has Jonathan reported back to the nation?
This issue typifies the widespread public anger against seeming uncontrollable theft of public funds with impunity by whoever cares to steal. Is Jonathan not bothered about reports (some of them careless reports like that of Central Bank) of missing billions of naira and billions of dollars almost everyday? And these are public funds. Even on the allegation of the Central Bank governor, it was concluded even by Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that at least ten billion dollars, which should have been paid to the Federation Account, was still to be located. What is going on? As time goes on, nothing more will be said about this particular issue.
Under Jonathan’s administration, Nigeria has been reportedly ranked as the preferred destination in Africa for foreign investors.

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