FEATURE ARTICLE

Josephine Olatomi SoboyejoSaturday, December 14, 2013
joesoboyejo@hotmail.com
Nigeria

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RE: "BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE":
A REJOINDER TO PRESIDENT OLUSEGUN OBASANJO'S OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN

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n my word of honour, this rejoinder is not in support of any of the contenders: the writer or the receiver. Facts are sacred and as a citizen of Nigeria, I have the right to analyze contents of a 'Presidential letter' especially an open one in discourse. The contents of the presidential letter have become a reality show for all Nigerians that can read, debate, and dialogue. The 8-page Thesis of the General turned President is a 'Synopsis' of yet to be released script. OBJ as the writer is fondly called has the freedom and rights as a Nigerian to write letters either open or secret to the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He has the right to comment on current situation as he perceives it and holds no one any apology for airing his views. But what I perceive in this letter reminds me of a Yoruba dictum "Ipako onipako lawo; a ri teni" meaning you can only see the contours of the back of another person's head, you can not see your own.

As a reminder to those that have read the letter and to those who have not; let me re-state here OBJ's 10 Reasons for writing the open letter to President GEJ:

  1. Before the door closes on reason and promotion of national interest and to alert on the danger that maybe lurking in the corner.
  2. No acknowledgment of previous four or more letters;
  3. People have been asking what Obasanjo wants?
  4. Re-visiting Abacha era
  5. To do all things to guard, protect and defend our fledging democracy, nourish it and prevent bloodshed.
  6. To move away from advertently or inadvertently dividing the country along weak seams of North-South and Christian-Moslem.
  7. To stop the country degenerating into economic dormancy, stagnation or retrogression.
  8. The 'Worry-Status' of our International friends and development partners about signs and signals that emanate from Nigeria.
  9. Taking advantages of the present favourable International interest to invest in Africa.
  10. Concern about Jonathan's legacy.

These 10 Theses are the real synopsis of the entire 8-page letter by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. There is no doubt that today the most celebrated Nigeria leader and accepted all over the world though with a lot of misgivings is our own Ebora Owu, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR, the Nigeria's former President. One cannot be neutral to this man that has benefited immensely from God's Grace when you remember his antecedents and pedigree, from humble beginning to leadership; from leadership to prison and back to leadership. One then would expect wisdom, understanding and great knowledge from experiences garnered in all these phases over the years. One will also expect him to radiate love and freely extend same to others in exchange for the great love that he has benefited from God.

I am not particularly analyzing OBJ's character here but his 'Open Letter' to President Jonathan. No self pontification can justify a wrong concept. I was part of President Shagari's Government that was toppled in 1983 as a democratically elected member of Federal House of Representatives. The so-called reason based on corruption for the take-over has become a child's play with the expanse and monumental display of corruption in the Government thereafter. Chief Obasanjo cannot justify himself when he did nothing to stop the annulment of the most fair and freest election ever held in Nigeria that could have produced Chief M. K. O. Abiola's Presidency. Rather he said the winner of that election was not the Messiah Nigeria needed; has Obasanjo now become the needed Messiah? Why is it, that only his government or his participatory governance is good? This to me smirks of the 'Me' category person; self adulation, self pride, and self-arrogance.

The letter portrays to me a hidden wish to still want to be in-command. There is nothing new in the infested presidency that has not been there during OBJ's tenure. Maybe new actors, Yes! but same script. I am not saying we do not have serious concerns but who brought it upon Nigerians. OBJ has the onerous responsibility towards GEJ because he thrust power on GEJ. The failure of GEJ is the failure and foreclosure of OBJ. It is the height of corruption to use autocratic fostering of a preferred candidate on others. Autocratic and militaristic trained OBJ understands better than GEJ the importance of the encompassing five positions trust on the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria. During OBJ's time, he used theses positions to his advantage. The five positions are: Leadership of the ruling party, Head of the Federal government, Commander-in-Chief of the Military, Chief Security officer of the nation, and Political leader of the country.

The intention of OBJ was to plant a lame duck that can be stringed to him for presidency for ever but the string got cut and the duck turned to a dark horse. All PDP Chairmen have always played the tune dictated by the paymaster. Check out what happened to those chairmen out of tune during OBJ's presidency; they lost the coveted position. The duck learnt from its mother how to play deception game. Mute was the game during the third term saga until it failed woefully so also mute is the game of Jonathan for 2015 until he is forced out of contest or face the encumbrance and contest.

I am so happy that OBJ finally made a true confession on election 1979 in his letter that he worked for President Shagari to succeed him because Shagari could strengthen the unity, stability and democracy in Nigeria in his own view. OBJ worked against fair election, threw overboard the actual winner, Papa Obafemi Awolowo a fellow Yoruba man because in his own characteristically thinking, Awolowo could not unite Nigeria; so he made sure Awo lost the election; the wish of the majority trampled upon so as not to be viewed as an ethnic man. The 12 2/3 judgment still resonates in my mind. OBJ made Nigerians to loose the president that could have been the best in Africa.

There are so many issues surrounding GEJ Presidency and I sincerely agree with OBJ that GEJ does not need to bend to others will if his desire is to serve a term. If in pre-campaign 2011, he stated a single term of Presidency, he must abide by his word. At least Nelson Mandela spent only one-term of Presidency and his people continues to celebrate him even in death. If I were 'Mr. President' with all the occurring problems faced since 2011 and yet unsolved, I will graciously bow out. OBJ's reference to GEJ's support of non-PDP gubernatorial candidates looks to me as the pot calling the kettle black. OBJ carries on an open romance and support for the APC governor Amosun claiming he is the father of all. GEJ too could call himself father of all. We all witnessed what happened to governors like Fayose of Ekiti State, Dariye of Plateau State and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State. The G7 governors are core loyalists of OBJ and I know they will not take any step without due consultation with him. Can we then assume that the movement of Oyinlola and 5 governors to APC is to prepare ground for OBJ in APC. There is freedom of association and freedom of movement; so anyone has the right to associate and move to any party of his/her choice. So I am not judging any one for their choices.

On Boko-Haram: OBJ is very right on the issue of Boko-Haram. I have personally done an extensive research on the Boko-Haram Insurgency and I agree that multiplicity of factors is involved and one single prescription can not stop the Boko-Haram terrorism. Boko Haram's insurrection is not only a conflict of interest with the Federal Government; it is also a clear conflict between Good and Evil; between Justice and Injustice. Justice must be victorious to allow Peace to reign. Boko Haram suicide bombings are definitely sponsored for selfish political purpose. The diversity of the country is reflected not only in the multi-ethnic compositions, but also in the various cultures, languages and customs including the socio-economic and political dynamics of colonial and post-colonial, uneven social economic and educational development. The fear of democracy catalyzing disintegration due to cultural pluralism is rife but according to Claude Ake (1990:2), 'democracy implies precisely the assumption of differences to be negotiated, to be conciliated, and to be moved into phases of higher syntheses'. Economic injustice is an inseparable twin of ethnic injustice. You can never be right when you use negative options.

In all honesty, we can not sweep underground the grievous allegations of corruption against President Goodluck Jonathan and his government. He must come out to clarify issues; the serious allegation of non-remittance of about $7bn from NNPC to Central Bank from export of some 300,000 barrels per day. This particular allegation was buttressed by the governor of CBN in his letter to the president. It is time to unveil the truth. Also GEJ can not keep quite on the allegation of training snipers and other armed personnel for political purpose. He should answer this charge because his silence means affirmation as charged.

In conclusion, Chief Obasanjo's developmental patriotism is antagonistic to a vibrant development brought about by others. It only means when he is not in charge or dictate affairs from behind, he cannot appreciate others. Nigerians are truly suffering and smiling like Fela sang. I cannot but mention the peace OBJ has brokered in other Countries especially in Liberia. My appeal is that he takes to heart the dictum that charity begins at home and bring permanent peace to PDP and Nigeria. History of tomorrow is written today and the Americans always say "History is written by the winners". My concluding statement is that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan should focus on the present governance not 2015 and ensure:

  • Good Leadership & Good Governance by running a 'Transparent' Government.
  • Respect for the Constitution, especially under the fundamental human rights section.
  • Addressing the underlining Political issues fuelling Conflicts.
  • Continuous Dialogue, Discourse, Collaboration, Negotiation, and Communication.
  • Sound Education, Training, Re-Training and Creating Awareness on salient issues
  • Ensuring Love, Peace and Justice.

It is not how long that matters but how well you served the people. A word is enough for those with ears to hear.

JOSEPHINE OLATOMI SOBOYEJO is a former member of the Federal House of Representatives and former Ogun State Commissioner

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