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Saturday, 21 December 2013

THE LETTER SAGA: Experts Analyze Obasanjo’s “Deadly” Letters To Nigerian Leaders

If there is anything Nigerians should have learnt from the letters of General Olusegun Obasanjo to the nation’s presidents and heads of state, and what President Jonathan should be particularly mindful of, it is that one needs to carefully read between the lines and be cautious. This is because Obasanjo’s letters have a history of being some sort of omen for the government of the day.
Experts analyse Obasanjo’s “deadly” letters

Experts were almost unanimous in their views that patriotic Obasanjo may be, but he also may be seeking for “notice”.
According to Barrister B.M. Salihu, “The truth is that Obasanjo has lost relevance and that is why he is making all these noise…didn’t he know these things earlier that he chose to speak only now? He is a master in double speak, was he not the one who asked Gowon what he forgot in the Presidential Villa but later on came on to contest?”
In his analysis, Hassan A. Hassan, Dean, Faculty of General Studies and Head of Mass Communication Department at the Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, said, “To be fair, Obasanjo is one of the most patriotic Nigerians around. You know he was known as a statesman of international repute after his first tenure.”
Hassan, who is also the Bauchi state Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, however lamented that “the man has lost that privilege because he woefully failed to address the issues he is now accusing Jonathan of, in the eight years he held sway.”
According to Mr Pam Henry Dung, a Psychology lecturer with the Plateau State University, “My basic impressions are, first of all, President Jonathan will not let Obasanjo meddle so much into his government any more. So Obasanjo is disgruntled about that.
“Secondly, Obasanjo does not want anyone to beat his record of being the longest served president of the country. Above all, Obasanjo does not have the credibility to write such a letter. His words should be taken with a pinch of salt.”
In his submission, erudite constitutional lawyer, Malam Yusuf Alli (SAN) said that he believes that former president Obasanjo’s letter to president Jonathan should be seen as a catalyst for development. According to him, past leaders must continue to speak up on national issues.
He said, “All those who havebeen privileged to rule Nigeria must continue to speak up on national issues whether the incumbent is performing or not. That is the way to ensure that the country attains its greatness.”
Obasanjo and his letters in history of Nigeria
Even though many Nigerians see Obasanjo as a “wrong messenger”, his messages have always struck a chord.
It took a letter or comments from Obasanjo, to different administrations, for the nation to come to terms with the need for a change of guard at either the Dodan Barracks in Lagos, or the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
For Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the first executive president of Nigeria, it came in 1983. For the apostle of “War Against Indiscipline”, General Muhammadu Buhari, it came in 1985, and for the first and only military president of the nation, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, there are stories to tell from his 1989 and 1993 experiences with Obasanjo. Even the dreaded General Sani Abacha had his share, with Obasanjo’s “attack” in 1995. He did not spare the gentle Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2010 either.
Apart from having the privilege of ruling the country on two different occasions (1976-1979 and 1999-2007), the former president has remained the most active Nigerian leader after exit from office.
Obasanjo, in an 18-page open letter, titled Before It Is Too Late, written on Monday, December 2, gives 10 reasons for making the “letter of appeal public”.
He accused President Goodluck Jonathan of ruling the nation as a tyrant, training snipers, driving the country to the edge of an abyss by allowing corruption to thrive and of favouritism and sowing discord in the military.
Obasanjo wrote, “The roles of the military and the security agencies should be held sacrosanct in the best interest of the nation. Again, let not history repeat itself. You should learn the lesson of history and please do not take Nigeria and Nigerians for granted”.
The uproar generated by this letter to Jonathan may not have mattered much if not for the antecedents of such previous letters from the former president.
Obasanjo has a penchant for talking down the government of the day, with his letters appearing to play the role of a ‘sniper’, as such governments became history shortly after receiving them.
Obasanjo’s letters or comments have almost always led to the sacking of the objects of his attacks.
Obasanjo spoke against the government of Shagari in 1983, a government he handed power over to and in a matter of weeks the administration was history. Obasanjo was quoted to have said that he was not surprised when Shagari was overthrown.
Babangida later confirmed that the 1983 coup actually wanted to install Obasanjo as president after toppling the Shagari administration, but that the Ota farmer rejected the offer.
“It is true that we wanted to bring General Obasanjo back as head of state in 1984, but to be fair to Obasanjo, he rejected the offer. He said no. He said it would destroy his integrity; that he handed over to Shagari and it was not right for him to get involved. But he [Obasanjo] said he was not stopping us from going ahead with the plot,” Babangida explained.
Such a signal came for Gen. Buhari in 1985 and soon after, Gen Babangida came on board.
His speech on how structural adjustment “must have a human face and the milk of human kindness,” on Babangida’s Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), was a prelude to the famous SAP riot of 1989.
Obasanjo also won the heart of the nation as a defender of democracy when he tackled the Babangida administration over its endless transition programme, which ended in the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola.
The former president told everyone who cared to listen, that Abiola was not the messiah the nation needed.
The tragedy of the statements was that Babangida was forced to step aside and Abiola never became president.
Obasanjo’s attack did not spare the late Gen Sani Abacha’s administration.
The Arewa House keynote address condemning the Abacha regime and a BBC interview, in which he accused Abacha’s government of spending like a drunken sailor, are things Nigerians will not forget in a hurry.
Generals fight the last war and that was a mistake. The no-nonsense Abacha sent him to jail for allegedly participating in a coup plot. He was lucky he didn’t get the death penalty.
Again, he went after the late President Musa Yar’Adua’s administration. A day after leaving office in 2007, Obasanjo was said to have written to President Yar’Adua, his successor, in a letter dated May 30, 2007, trying to tutor him on what to do.
“As you know, for the next few months, perhaps years, your government will be regarded as being in the penumbra of the Obasanjo regime given the situation that brought you into office. Against this background you must toil to carve out a unique identity for yourself and administration. To do this, you must choose wisely your vision and the folks in your cabinet to drive the vision.”
After seeing Yar’Adua in hospital, Obasanjo went public to hint at the life-threatening health challenges confronting the leader, setting in motion at a very frenetic pace a sequence of events that led to the emergence of Jonathan as acting president.
Unlike in his letters to other presidents, Obasanjo had, in his recent letter to Jonathan, craved his indulgence to “share the contents of this letter, in the first instance, with General Ibrahim Babangida and General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who, on a number of occasions in recent times, have shared with me their agonising thoughts, concerns and expressions on most of the issues I have raised in this letter concerning the situation and future of our country.”
The question is, where will this letter take either Obasanjo or Jonathan? The two leaders in any case should not be seen washing their dirty linen in public.
Their acts of commission and omission have direct and indirect consequences on the overall leadership of the country.
This is why it has been suggested in some quarters that Nigerians should collectively ignore the messenger, but take the message, especially as serious issues bordering on national security were raised in Obasanjo’s letter to President Jonathan.
Because Obasanjo’s letter raised very serious issues against the person and office of the president, it has become imperative for the presidency or the president to come out and address the Nigerian public on some of the issues, for the sake of posterity.


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