FEATURE ARTICLE

Dr. Alex ObiogboluThursday, December 23, 2004
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aobiogboluo@yahoo.com
Onitsha, Anambra State

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MR. PRESIDENT: MAY I REMIND YOU?


Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR
President
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Aso Rock, Abuja

Your Excellency,

very society moulds its heroes. For a multiethnic nation whose contraption was created by the colonialists, we are still searching for our heroes.

As for me, Gen.Olusegun Obasanjo was one worthy of the national honor of hero and statesman. I have remained enamored by his personality. Spartan but proud, brash yet intelligent, demurring yet brave. His subordinate, Gen. Muhammad Buhari had once described him in no less eloquent words. "One of the very few officers who inspired his subordinates by example, never shirked a challenge and never declined a responsibility". Without prejudice to the terrible human rights records of your government in the seventies which included the shooting of protesting students and destruction of late icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's home, I shared the general view that you had improved yourself in terms of your view and understanding about democracy and the proper role of the military in the new world order.

You inspired young men like us to speak out even in the face of tyranny with particular reference to your opening address at the meeting of statesmen at Ota farm on 25th may 1993 where you said "all that is necessary for the enthronement of evil is for good people to remain silent and inactive. The silent majority looks almost helplessly on as the nation is allowed to be toyed with". Since the current crisis in my home state, Anambra State. I had hoped that you will deal decisively with this crisis or would at least speak about it. However, your public outrage on the bedeviling crisis in Anambra State in Mr. President's letter to the National Chairman of our great party is not only embarrassing but raises more questions begging for answers. Questions on morality and leadership.

Thus, taking a cue from your teaching, I shall not fail to elicit these questions and extend my advice as one of the elders of our great party, PDP in Anambra State who has witnessed the entire crisis. Following in the vein of the content of the letter addressed to Mr. President by our chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh on the drift of the nation. I wish to bring to your notice many seemingly contradictions in what you said before you entered Aso Rock and now you have been there. There is no gain restating the facts that you have spent the better part of your life working for the unity of Nigeria and the democratization of our country befitting a statesman.


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Albeit, in your inaugural address on 29th May 1999, you told Nigerians, "you have been asked many times in the past to make sacrifices and to be patient. I am also going to ask you to make sacrifices and to exercise patience. The difference will be that in the past sacrifices were made with little or no results. This time however, the results of your sacrifice and patience will be clear and manifest for all to see". It will be gross insensitivity on the part of Mr. President to write "we are moving cruising level and cruising speed" with the level of poverty, inter-ethnic strife, low purchasing power of Nigerians, level of unresolved assassinations, cost of kerosene and worsened power supply today in Nigeria.

As you had always admonished past Governments, I recollect that you urged General Abacha to make moral restitution the basis of his authority to govern Nigeria. Despite describing Abacha's putsch as unfortunate but necessary, you did not fail to chastise his government. In your keynote address at Arewa house, Kaduna on 2nd February 1994, you said "the present economic hardship is suffocating. Apart from that, the threat to the nation's corporate existence is really grave", and drew parallels between Abacha's and Babangida's governments. Your address drew a standing ovation.

Therefore, I am at total loss at the reactions of Mr. President on the advice and urgings of the National Chairman of PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh. The constitution of our great party, PDP clearly gives him such mandate, as the " National Chairman shall promote and defend the integrity, policies and programmes of the party and make pronouncements for and on behalf of the National Executive". The action of our National Chairman is what Mr. President has always advocated and done himself in the past. Permit me to quote from your address at Arewa House in 1994. " While private urgings may be good, they are insufficient when a government is deaf and mischievous. Such a government sees private urgings and correspondences either as a tacit approval or an invitation to be quietly settled. It will be better for us to step on a couple of toes and some economic interests rather than allowing the country to be destroyed almost to point irreparability". Also in your eloquent address at University of Ibadan in 1992 titled "Our situation is desperate", you said. " A Nation may become moribund through paralysis of silence born out of fear and intimidation. " Is your response to our chairman not intimidating?

Consequently I am at grave loss at the increasing level of intolerance exhibited by Mr. President's government to any form of opposing or critical view since May 2003. The demonic visitation on the Insider Magazine by alleged State agents is but one of the most recent cases. In my view, I can draw a parallel between what happened to Insider Magazine and what Abacha and Babangida's Governments visited on The Tell and TheNews magazines to mention a few. The debasement of our democracy can only lead to disillusionment and cynicism. Our National Chairman is not wishing you a coup but rather pointing out the possible consequences of your government's inaction or mistakes.

Mr. President in his popular address at Arewa House had also said of the Abacha's government. "A constitutional conference to keep all agitators quiet no matter how much it is dressed up can not achieve the objective of genuine national conference designed to examine critically the political and other essential areas of our lives of which there must be a consensus for effective government action". This drew you one of the longest standing ovation that may have come your way. Why then has Mr. President refused the convocation of this true national conference since you assumed office? I assume Mr. President that all your numerous worthy foreign trips to attract investment and capital will remain burgeoned by the insecurity that these political rascality that abound in our polity today provide.

This brings me to the issue, which has drawn the worst vitriolic flak for the PDP and Government:- "The Anambra saga". I had always maintained studied silence so as not to inflame passion hoping that our National Leaders will officiate, mediate and remedy this albatross.

I find Mr. President smarting remark on his role in the Anambra saga so far truly embarrassing for a man we yearn to be Nigeria's finest hero. You are aware that His Excellency, Dr. Chris Ngige has always maintained that he was declared winner by INEC and he (Ngige) did not rig any election. Albeit Mr. President has confirmed taking the confessions of both gentlemen. May I remind Mr. President that the said election was conducted along side the presidential election on the same date and time. In that election, which I participated, you secured 466, 866 votes while Dr. Chris Ngige secured 452,820 votes. Thus, anyone in the PDP who accepts that he or she rigged the gubernatorial election in Anambra state must have obviously rigged the presidential election in your favor. Thus, Mr. President's disclosure also impugns on the validity of the presidential election that declared you President, the integrity of the umpire- INEC and its chairman, and the integrity of the nation at large.

Mr. President! That Chief Chris Uba and Dr. Chris Ngige accepted rigging the election as you wrote is not to me the only moral dilemma. Rather that Mr. President likens their case to "the case of two armed robbers that conspired to loot a house and after bringing out the loot, one decided to do the other in" is the real moral issue. Your allusions contradict all that I have learnt from Gen Olusegun Obasanjo in his leadership forums. Permit me Mr. President to quote verbatim what you said at Arewa House in 1994. "Once in a while a corrupt man can be a leader. If however you are corrupt and attain a high public office, you either purge yourself or you put your authority on question. If you don't purge yourself you will never be able to perform adequately". Is What Dr Chris Ngige did by taking the oath of public office and deciding to purge himself so as to deliver democratic dividends morally wrong? May I remind Mr. President of his beautiful address at University of Ibadan in 1992 titled "Our situation is desperate"? Mr. President said "I felt disappointed the other day while talking to a young MD of a bank when he said that he has no responsibility and business for the development of Nigeria. His obligation is to his stakeholders. He was wrong and I told him so". You equally said, "Fear of being arrested is what leads to reduction in crime. When crimes are perpetrated with cover-up or non-detestability of culprit crime will thrive" The clear truth is that the Nigerian Police stood aside while public property was destroyed and looted. You must have been seen to have engaged the arsonists before you can claim to have been overwhelmed. Chief Chris Uba and Dr Chris Ngige's case is not the first nor the last of disputes that arise between Godfathers and Godsons or Sponsors and sponsored. Saraki VS Lafiaji, Saraki VS Lawal, Mbadinuju VS Offor, Nnamani VS Nwvobodo, Adebibu VS Ladoja are just a few to mention. Even Mr. President VS His sponsors cannot go unmentioned. I recollect Mr. President informing all his sponsors cum donors to consider their donations as contributions to the national development and not expect anything. Did the heavens fall? Was Mr. President abducted? Was there any moral burden? Mr. President has always maintained that he (president) will not be forced to negotiate out of intimidation or threat. I wonder if Mr. President is changing his renowned traits and thoughts on leadership developed over thirty years after five years in Aso Rock.

I urge Mr. president to bring to a halt in your usual decisive manner these spurious attempts at unseating undemocratically an incumbent Governor. The Nigerian Police must assist the Director of public prosecution in Anambra state to bring to book the perpetuators of this heinous crime and destruction visited on Anambra state to serve as a deterrent to others.

I urge you to have a rethink on these events. Seven years ago, nobody dared cast an opposing public view to the Head of state. You braved it and got incarcerated with a 15years sentence, though I remember your words of brevity at Ota farm in 1993. "If a government is not working or able to work with us, we must persist in educating and we must exercise patience until there is a change of heart or a change of hats". The beauty of democracy is the freedom of expression of thoughts and speech. The worst form of any democratic government is still better than the best military cartel. Today, majority of Nigerians recognize that the world has no future for military excursions into governance. However, Nigerians are desirous of enjoying the dividends of democracy and quickly.

I leave Mr. President with his words of response to Allison Ayida's letter following criticisms of "Not My Will". "In my private and public life, I think of tomorrow in acting today". In your controversial book "Not My Will", you had alluded to Zik as one who started his career on a very high and admirable plane as Zik of Africa and whittled to Zik of Igboland, who should not end up as the " Owelle of Onitsha". It is your action today that will place you in history as " Nigeria's finest statesman " or the " Balogun of Owu"

God bless Mr. President!!! I remain

Your loyal party Servant

Rev. Ekeke is a software Engineer with a major telecommunication company in Atlanta. He is currently completing his Ph.D. in leadership. Rev. Ekeke is the senior clergy at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, a fellowship of Nigerian Community in Marietta, Georgia.