Dear General Obasanjo : Your 18-page letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, which was leaked to the press yesterday, left many mouths agape in utter wonderment. That letter, every patriotic citizen must agree, summarizes Mr Jonathan’s administration in content and character. His regime is a marvel of transgression. In fact, General, many of us – Nigeria’s nobodies who have somehow found space in twitter’s ability to absorb frustrations in 140 characters – have been dubbed ‘children of anger’ by the president’s spokesperson, Reuben Abati. Our sin? We have long told them that this government is empty, that its head means no good for the country, and that its key players stink of corruption.
The truth in that letter will not permit anybody, and that includes the worst of your critics, Dear General, to accuse you of bitterness. No matter what Abati comes out to feed us, for sure, people like me will not agree with him or his ilk that you are one cranky old man, envious of his principal. It does appear like you were sincerely led by the love for country in drafting that letter.
However, General, the same truth in the said letter has prompted some of those who read you to wonder where this patriotism was while you bestrode Nigeria’s political landscape with visible mercilessness in the 8 years that you ruled. And while it lasted, you probably never imagined that a day would come when the genie you planted in your kitchen will spring up and give every family member the run of their lives. For those of us who think you did this land evil by your choice of successors, this is that ah ha! moment.
General, you rightly recognized that by being Nigeria’s president, one was handling five positions concurrently. It was from these five positions that you created this president Jonathan and foisted him on a nation in need of speed. Like I have said in the past, Jonathan is your legacy. You will live with this reality till the day you die. In your essential nature, which is particularly common with the Nigerian politician anyway, you kept dropping God’s name in that letter. You claimed God made Jonathan president through you. That’s not true, General. God did not make Jonathan Nigeria’s president. You did. Actually, Nigeria’s president as of today could have been anybody. It was just for you to decide. Whoever you foisted on the nation in 2007 was your choice, not God’s. And like I said, that president could have been anybody. Do you realize, General, that if the presidential candidate in 2007 had been a Nuhu Ribadu or an El-Rufai, then there wouldn’t have been a President Jonathan today? Because, for one, they are both still alive. I am assuming that your VP choice would still have remained Jonathan. I mean, if you had tinkered with your combination for that contest, the outcome today wouldn’t be exactly what it is. If it had been Yar’Adua and another Ijaw person, capable and detribalized, we wouldn’t be having a President Jonathan now. It’s important you note this.
May the General be reminded that, as at the night you conscripted Governor Goodluck Jonathan into the presidential race – to serve as Yar’Adua’s running mate- he had a huge case of corruption hanging on his neck. Which makes it, permit me to use this, hypocritical of you to now accuse the president of corruption. You are worried about the allegation that sales of crude worth billions weren’t remitted into the nation’s treasury? Seriously, General, what makes you think a corrupt governor will not be a corrupt Vice President? And how will a corrupt Vice President not make a corrupt president? Interestingly, you were the one who constituted a Joint Task Force in 2006 which listed Goodluck Jonathan amongst candidates for prosecution on the grounds of false declaration of assets. It was a breach of Code of Conduct for public office holders. That Task Force was headed by your anti-corruption chief, Nuhu Ribadu. It comprised of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), The Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigerian Police. In their report, they recommended for prosecution of Dr Goodluck Jonathan and some other state governors of that time. The grounds for Jonathan’s potential prosecution were stated as follows:
Substance of Charges (1) False Declaration of Assets
(i) Lexus Jeep worth N18 million claimed to have been acquired through savings in 2004. Verification reveals that the Jeep was a gift collected in contravention of the CCB Act of 1990. Same for BMW 7351 Series bought in 2005 worth N5.5 million;
(ii) Acquisition of properties outside legitimate income; Seven Bedroom Duplex acquired in 2001 worth N18 million at Otuke Ogbia LGA, Four Bedroom Duplex acquired in 2003 worth N15 million at Goodluck Jonathan Street, Yenegoa;
Five Bedroom Duplex – acquired in 2003 worth N25 million at Citec Villas, Gwarimpa II – Abuja.
Yet you, without regards for decency and honour – oh, that word! – for the office of the president, forced Jonathan into the presidential contest the very next year. So who is the problem? The leopard which is unable to change its spot or the man who didn’t like the spots but still opted for the leopard in a contest where only the Zebra was good enough? Your argument that you wanted a core North/South South combination in 2007 isn’t tenable, because much as it (the North/South divide) is our reality, Yar’Adua/Jonathan wasn’t the only solution to that challenge. In truth, if you went for merit, they never came near the mark. There were hundreds of more qualified and better people from the two regions. General, admit it, your choice of Yar’Adua and Jonathan was in your best interest, not Nigeria’s. It was more of an ego trip than a journey to bequeath our fledgling democracy competent, and able hands.
I heard you mention ‘honour’ in your letter. That sounded strange. Honour? Well… there’s a coalesced consensus on your person, that you aren’t the type who qualifies even remotely to charge anybody of lacking in ‘honour’. Would you be kind enough, General, to remind us how honourable it was to want to tinker with our nation’s constitution for a self-serving third term to be inserted therein? Some of the most qualified people in your administration to succeed you in office were snubbed because they didn’t support your third term plot. Remember how much you bribed legislators to ensure the constitutional amendment did happen? At that point in our history, you, General Obasanjo, did not care if Nigeria was tottering on the edge of entropy. It never mattered that your action was driving us back to 1966. Today, Jonathan, driven by the same ambition that propelled you, doesn’t really give a damn. Those who tried it before him are still alive and well, and you would want to also add, superbly rich, to junket the whole globe donning the garb of international statesmen. Jonathan thinks he has a future in the trade that sustained – and still sustains – you. So why blame him? You showed him the path to dishonour. He is not likely to depart from it. It is good to suddenly remember such an ideal as honour. I just however, thought to remind you that it would have come handy when you were the president. And with such example, the presidency wouldn’t have attracted a character like Goodluck Jonathan under your supervision.
You talked about crises in your party and how the president fuels it. Well, you are right. For self-serving interests, Jonathan has factionalized his party. But I just think he learnt that from you. Dear General, do you remember a man called Audu Ogbeh? How did he stop being PDP national chairman? You went to his house at the thick of the night and procured his resignation at gun-point. And what was his offense? Oh, it was a letter. You see, a letter! Letters, especially this type you wrote Jonathan, are known to get you irate. Mr Audu Ogbeh wrote you a letter seeking your intervention – in your capacity as the Party Leader – in the political crises engulfing one of your PDP states. Recall, General, that Chris Ubah, billionaire tout and a relative of your late wife Stella, kidnapped the state Governor Chris Ngige and practically brought governance in the state to a halt. He had also set ablaze the seat of government. The governor’s security details were withdrawn with order from your Abuja and all you did was look the other way. Even when it became public knowledge that all Ubah wanted was for the state finances to be emptied into his bank accounts, you never acted irritated. You never cautioned Ubah who was enjoying your support. You can’t deny this, General, because Ubah’s blood brother, Andy, was your domestic aide then. And, as you once made us know, he used to serenade you to sleep. You masterminded the destabilization of a couple of states in Nigeria as the president. You effectively played God, sir. Isn’t it clear that Mr Jonathan’s polarization of PDP is reminicscent of the manner you equally polarized the party?
On sycophancy, you equally enjoyed a substantial dose of it. Remember Ojo Maduekwe? He was your man-Friday. You know, we all know he has a history of excellence in playing the perfect courtier. In early 1998, while you were languishing in prison, Ojo was at Abuja telling Nigerians why Abacha must transmute from army camouflage to baban riga. He said Abacha was the best thing to happen to Nigeria since the invention of Garri Ijebu. And then the moment Abacha died, he did a 360 degree and became your best man. At Eagle Square, at the twilight of your presidency, when you were plotting your eternal hold on PDP, Ojo was the one who helped you change your party’s constitution to make way for your emergence as the BOT chairman. That a character like that was very close to your government says much about your love, or lack of it, for truth.
There is an area I am tempted to absolve you of blame on the Jonathan presidency: the President’s clannishness. He hasn’t risen beyond ethnicity. He won’t. You see, it takes an upbringing of sufficient exposure to Nigeria’s diversity to not be tribal. Jonathan doesn’t have the heart to refrain from being the president of the ‘Ijaw Nation’. Sad as this is, you still are to blame. There are ways to find out if a man is a closet bigot, especially if the man isn’t ambitious. Ambitious men have a way of hiding their true selves. Jonathan the governor in an Ijaw state wouldn’t have been able to hide his disdain for other parts of the country; because, he never aspired to play at the national level. If you had sought for signs in 2007, you’d have seen many. But let’s face it, General: you weren’t after a detribalized Nigerian being the Vice President. You were only for a Vice President who had the capacity, alongside his principal, to be manipulated. And that you planned to do from your Ota Farm. Remember you told El-Rufai this? Well, The Accidental Public Servant, his expose on all that transpired in that government of yours, is my supporting evidence.
As a president, you were nationalistic, no doubt. And for that you deserve my commendation. But you did not necessarily seek nationalists to succeed you. You wanted puppets. You just got served, General.
I do not intend to do you an 18-page letter. I do not have such luxury of time. I’m in my productive years, and must use it to, in the absence of social security put in place in the country you ruled for 11 years, work extra hard in search of a secure retirement for myself.
So permit me to conclude this letter by referring to a very courageous assertion you made in your letter. I personally think that line should resonate in all books of Nigeria’s history at the right time. You said; “I have passed the stage of being flattered, intimidated, threatened, frightened, induced or bought… Death is the end of all human beings and may it come when God wills it to come.”
If you had abided this philosophy while you reigned, I doubt if we would be where we are today. For instance, the Ibrahim Babangida whom you craved the President’s indulgence to put in copy of the letter would have been where those who mismanage $12.4b of their countries’ wealth are kept: jail.
It’s disgusting to flaunt a friendship with a man who liberalized corruption in the country you claim to love, when, in truth, you had the opportunity to extract justice from him for the rest of the citizens, and even humanity.
You see, you wrote a good letter. It is only sad that this mess we are into could have been completely avoided…by you. Now, the next solution, which is the president heeding your wise counsel, will unfortunately be rubbished by his knowledge and those of his aides, that you did not lead by example. The president will, as it is practiced amongst Nigeria’s political elite, hurl the message inside the trash bin because the messenger is tainted.
This is why your message came way too late, because you, while you served in that same capacity, should have been the message yourself. And if you had been, Jonathan wouldn’t have become, because in him you wouldn’t have found the depth required to steer the ship of the Nigerian state, the entity you profess so much love for.
Thank you, General, and please accept the assurances of my highest regards.
(An unknown Nigerian)
P.S: Should you consider joining twitter anytime soon, please chat me up as @Nedunaija. And just a reminder, President George W H Bush, at 89, is on twitter. So General, you may want to join us.
Chinedu Ekeke blogs on Ekekee.com