Michael NnebeFriday, December 20, 2013




have no desire to get into a family squabble as I can only imagine the anguish on all sides of Obasanjo's family to have their dirty laundry displayed in front of a whole nation. At first, I thought, as was immediately reported by some, that the letter did not come from Iyabo. I have now waited for almost a week since the letter surfaced to hear about a denial from Iyabo, but that has not happened. Some of the contents were also too intimate that only Iyabo or someone very close to her must have known those details. It is true that Iyabo (if indeed she wrote it) wrote out of a long-suffering frustration and perhaps an attempt to save her father from himself. But what truly got my attention was how the letter, though addressed to Olusegun Obasanjo, actually spoke to Nigerians at large, and to me as a Nigerian. Her indictment of Nigeria was so sincere and so blunt that one had to be in denial to brush such things aside, and it is on those indictments that I wish to concentrate.

She began this letter by invoking a 4th century Chinese idiom that says "The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart." Surely it must have taken quite a lot of moral torture for Iyabo to decide to challenge her father and to do it so publicly. Let us not forget that such things are still a cultural taboo in most Nigerian cultures, especially in the Yoruba culture where they both belong. While I commend Iyabo for her courage I must advise her that the heat of this may linger on for many years to come. Her silence will not make this go away, and I think she must fortify herself for future onslaught from Baba's cronies; those sycophants she talked about, just the way her brother Gbenga was vilified after revelations from his secret divorce proceedings were made public. You are obviously a very wise woman, and at such had limited yourself. As I recently saw on a tweet, knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing not to put tomato in a fruit salad. Since you were blunt to us, I should be blunt in my advice to you, and perhaps I should do so in your Yoruba language. "?m? toni' baba ohun ko ni sun, ohun na ok ni' foju ko run." (Pikin wey say him papa no go sleep, himself no go even touch sleep kpatakpata.)

In the first half of her letter Iyabo wrote, "…I don't blame you for the many atrocities you have been able to get away with, Nigerians were your enablers every step of the way. People ultimately get leaders that reflect them." Here she dwelt a lot on the high level of sycophancy that exists within the political class, as well as the public's lack of willingness to stand up and challenge many wools that have been repeatedly pulled over our collective eyes. Often when something goes blatantly wrong, most Nigerians simply shrug it off, as if we are collectively powerless to do anything about it. Our passiveness in the affairs of our country has enabled our political leaders to act with impunity. Who can blame them for acting as they do, if they are absolutely sure that Nigerians will not react beyond our quiet utterances. Our psychic has been so thoroughly damaged that the average Nigerian rarely expects anything other than the norm from our leaders. After two years of improvements by INEC, our political leaders have now found ways to circumvent and in the process reverse all those gains by INEC. What is even more troubling is that if you attempt to speak out, you are branded an enemy of progress. For failing to speak up, we are enabling, and in the process getting the leaders that reflect us as Iyabo rightly said.

Those who dare the authorities are often victimized for standing for truth. Again here she says, "This punishing the innocent is part of Nigeria's continuing sins against God." Iyabo went on to narrate her personal travails in the hands of the EFCC as a result of witch-hunt from the Yara'dua's administration against her father. Perhaps on this point I must apologize to you, for I was one of those Nigerians who felt happy to see some measure of justice coming back to Obasanjo's fold. But, of course, we did not know the whole story until now. As is often the case with such things, your prosecution made headlines, but your legal victory was largely ignored by the media. I would not have known how your case was expunged if I did not read your very personal letter to your father. Our papers did not bother to print that. But as much as I sympathize with Iyabo for what she termed as punishments because of her surname, it is also worth mentioning that she could not have become a senator in Nigeria without her surname. And while I'm inclined to believe her that she had not made out like a bandit, it is however impossible to complete a term in the senate and tell me that she had not benefitted from Nigeria's loot. It is just impossible under our arrangements. It is not an exaggeration; I have friends in the senate.

The most significant of Iyabo's indictment, one that I have noticed many times is this, "…Nigeria has descended into a hellish reality where capable people to "survive" and have their daily bread prostrate to imbeciles. Everybody trying to pull everybody else down with greed and selfishness---the only traits that gets you anywhere." I could not agree more with Iyabo on this observation. It is quite terrible that this happens with an alarming frequency. I just don't understand why very intelligent and well-educated people feel compelled to prostrate to these imbeciles just for the privilege of a contract or some other patronage. I have long devised a method of dealing with friends who are in political offices; if they don't recognize me and treat me as an equal, they can go to blazes as far as I'm concerned. This stand is non-negotiable, period. People have told me that many of our elites become sycophants because of hunger. I beg to disagree; they are sycophants because that is who they are to the core. Even in starvation I will still tell my friend the truth, and all my personal friends who have attained high offices can easily attest to this. It is therefore not surprising that I have lost many while they are in office, but who cares.

Iyabo's letter has given us a glimpse about who we really are as a society. She had apparently gone through this fire and decided to walk away from it. The same experience has kept millions of intelligent Nigerians away from coming home to help develop this country, but who could blame them. Iyabo has a Masters degree in epidemiology from UC Davies, and a PhD in the same course from Cornell University; I therefore have no doubt that she would be ok where ever she decides to practice her craft. She is now a senior Fellow at Harvard University. Well, I am a big fan of women with brains, so go girl! The essential question is whether Nigeria will be ok. From ongoing political squabbles I sincerely doubt it, but we are watching. Political infighting and vibrant opposition is on the surface good for Nigeria, but it is all the mago mago that goes behind closed doors that make us all losers in the process, and yes, we deserve what we get as long as we are content to sit back, watch and pretend that it has nothing to do with us.

Michael Nnebe is a former Wall Street Investment Banker and the Author of several novels, including; Every Dream Has A Price, Riverside Park, Blood Covenant, Gloomy Shadows, Passing wishes, Prime Suspect, and others.