t is ironic that Obasanjo and Tambuwal have suddenly decided to draw attention to the apparent ineffectual leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan and the extent of corruption in his government. In a democracy such criticisms are needed, even if they are not welcomed by the target. In fact, they are encouraged because it prevents representative democracies from becoming democratic dictatorships of the type Nigeria had under Obasanjo or tyranny as we had under Abacha and Babangida. However, what I find intriguing is the people making these allegations, their timing and the way and manner they have gone about it; considering that they have unfettered access to the president and are in positions where they could do more to remedy what they are complaining about. It would seem that they are content to identify what they think is wrong when it serves their short term political interests, but ignore their role in the creating of the problem in the first place, and what they must do to make things better. They seem to have no sense of their responsibility and complicity in the ills they condemn and how to remedy them.
No doubt, Obasanjo raised many issues in his letter. If everything Obasanjo said in the letter is true, Nigeria is practically finished and may be very near point of no return. I continue to wonder why Obasanjo made the letter public without giving the president time to see what he will do with the bomb shell. Is this the way a true friend or father behaves? What Obasanjo is saying is that President Jonathan is subverting his own party for his selfish political goal, aiding and abating corruption and surrounds himself with people with questionable characters. It is simply damming. In this piece, I will try to stick to the facts Obasanjo divulged in his letter and examine why he chose to make it public.
No doubt, there are deep dichotomies in Nigeria for which we are challenged every day. These include the dichotomies of ethnicity and nationality, Christianity and Islam, North and south and moderates and extremists and sadly, the government is not doing enough to narrow the gulf these differences create in the country. The religious reductionist perspective to reality, which is often too narrow to encompass the range and complexities of human behaviour, is a problem, as it continues to blur the boundaries between values and facts. The challenge in Nigeria is not to find a leader who will magically solve all the complex problems which confront Nigeria, rather a leader who recognises that complexity of the problems and at the same time, realises that change and solution can only come by use of existing services and new methods to solve small part of the complex problem which is what I suppose Jonathan may be doing.
In this wise Obasanjo is right. But what did he do when he was president? Obasanjo accuses Jonathan of dividing Nigeria and this is a serious allegation to levy against a president of a country. He is in fact setting out grounds for the impeachment of Jonathan. Is it really true that Jonathan is diving Nigeria? No doubt, some people from Niger delta have been making some ill-advised and nonsensical comments and threating fire and brimstone if Jonathan does not retain power come 2015. Oil bunkering seems to have increased since Jonathan became president, but we know that it is masterminded by very high people in government. Well in a country where 83% of the oil allocation is held by the north, is there any wonder that some people from Nigeria delta may feel justified to take what rightly belongs to them. The issue is more complex than the way Obasanjo has presented it. He seems to have selectively abstracted and arbitrarily inferred to make his point that Jonathan is corrupt. But, is there evidence that Jonathan is behind their utterances. If Jonathan is complicit in this, it is grievous and unforgiveable.
I think the allegations are motivated by other factors apart from the one he stated in his letter and it is very emotive coming from an ex-president. He should only make allegations he can substantiate with evidence. This again gives a clue to his real motive. The fact is that the person who divided Nigeria is the one who did nothing when the north declared Islamic republic and introduced sharia laws in a secular democracy. The person who divided Nigeria is the people who shared oil allocations amongst his colleagues in the army and friends and families and gave 83% of allocations to northerners and almost nothing to people from Niger delta and Eastern region from where the bulk of the oil is found. The people who are dividing Nigeria are those who talk about placating terrorist without saying a word about their victims. The person who divided Nigeria is the person who pursued a scotch earth policy against Igbo states and did not allow federal investments in Igbo land during his term. The people who are dividing Nigeria are those who are sponsoring Boko Haram, pursuing Islamic economic and social agenda for Nigeria and threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable if Jonathan becomes president of Nigeria. Instead of writing a sanctimonious letter to Nigerians under the guise of righting to the president, Obasanjo should be apologising to Nigerians for unleashing Jonathan and Musa Yar a Dua on them.
I am very suspicious of the motive behind this letter. Obasanjo has ampule opportunities to raise these issues with Jonathan and persuade him to do the right thing, if in deed as he claims; he is acting in the best interest of Nigeria. This letter is a desperate attempt to stop Jonathan from contesting in 2015, so that Obasanjo can install a northerner as another president of Nigeria so that they call off their attack dogs and claim to be the only ones who can bring peace to Nigeria, I am forced to speculate. It is a high octane political move to force Jonathan to abandon his plans to contest in 2015. Obasanjo knows the Nigerian constitution, if all the allegations he made are true, why did he not present them to the national assembly to investigate and if valid, institute impeachment proceeding against Jonathan?
Nobody who is involved in the kind of criminal and anti-party activities, Obasanjo alleges against Jonathan, is fit to hold public office. Why does he think that a man who associates with drug dealers and aids them to escape justice is fit to hold the office of the president? I am not sentimental about politician in Nigeria; if this is what has been going on under the presidency of Jonathan, Nigeria is finished. But, I have my doubts. Obasanjo did not say anything about Halliburton case which took place during his term. Obasanjo’s letter says one thing, Nigeria needs a public judicial inquiry into corruption in the country headed by a reputable high Court Judge, where all the people involved would be forced to give evidence in public under oath so that the truth can established. This is the only way forward now. Simply denial by Jonathan will not suffice.
I can understand Obasanjo’s anxiety about the collapse of PDP. I do not think that Nigerians will lose sleep, if PDP collapses. However, I do not think it will be because of Goodluck Jonathan. It would be because PDP is a house of cards and not an ideological political party. It would be because it is a contraption to gain power to serve selfish and sectarian interests and the members no longer feel it serves their selfish interests. PDP has been collapsing since Obasanjo attempted to get a third term and dealt with all those who opposed him. Ask erstwhile governor of Abia state Orji Uzor Kalu. He knows how Obasanjo deals with those who opposed his third term ambition and critics.
I am surprised by Obasanjo’s sanctimonious attitude and rehashed criticism of Jonathan and find it self-serving, hypocritical, and diabolical. He is as much a part of the problems he condemns, as those he now blames for them. During his term, Bola Ige, his attorney general was murdered in cold blood and he did not even address the nation about it and those accused of his murder, made it to the Nigerian senate during his watch. I wonder the difference between an admistration which shelters murders and the one which shelters drug dealers? I suppose it is time to let Obasanjo and his failed generation to know that politics should not be an arena where the worst of us compete on who would steal most from the rest of us, but a stage where the best of us contest to do the most for the rest of us. It should not be a chance to give expression to our primordial sectarian prejudices, but an opportunity for us to showcase the best humanity can offer in honesty, humility, service, justice, equality, tolerance and probity. This has not been the case in Nigeria and it is time for people like Obasanjo to show some humility and remorse for the mess they have made of Nigeria and stop over heating the polity because they want to have their way.
Nigerians, who understand the games politicians play, rightly hold Obasanjo responsible for creating the situation that led to Goodluck Jonathan gaining power. Obasanjo knew that Jonathan was not the most qualified person for the job, when he selected him for the post of vice president, knowing that Musa Yar Adua was a very ill man. Obasanjo chose Jonathan for the very reasons he is now complaining and condemning his leadership. He chose him because; he thought he was a quiet man who he could control from Ota farm. Unfortunately for him, he has found out that even though Jonathan is a quiet man and appears naive to some extent in power play, he is his own man and has his own mind and selfish agenda. Obasanjo seems to find it hard to accept that Jonathan knows what he wants to do with the power which is now in his hands. As a general, Obasanjo must be ruing how he underestimated Jonathan and decided to go on the offensive. This letter is not an advice from a friend, it is a killer shot from a disgruntled benefactor, who is trying to destroy who he made.
I am not an apologist of Jonathan. I am disappointed that he has not been as bold as Nigerians want him to. I believe he showed poor judgement by failing to declare his assets and stop his wife from accepted the post of permanent secretary in Bayelsa as she can be prosecuted for fraud after office, if she receives any payment from the post during this period. If as Obasanjo said, he is undermining his own party and associating with criminals to steal from Nigeria, then it shows that he does not have the qualities for the office he occupy. But he is the president and the buck stops with him now. It is his political capital, and it is up to him to spend it the way he likes, but Nigerians will hold him accountable. However, the question remains, what is Obasanjo’s true motive for delivering this killer punch to Jonathan at this time? It is difficult to see the evidence that Obasanjo is motivated by the higher values he appealed to in his criticisms of the leadership of Jonathan. It would seem that he is motivated by his legendary huge ego, selfish and sectarian considerations which have guided his politics.
If he is truly as patriotic as he claims, and loves Nigeria as he stated; why did he do the things he did, when he was in power? Why did he not do more to lay the foundation for a transparent and accountable democracy? Why was he rigging elections in favour of PDP and disenfranchising Nigerian voters? Why did he not empower EFCC sufficiently and made it independent to enable it function effectively as an anti-graft organisation? Why did he allow EFCC to be under the presidency and used it as instrument to pursue his political enemies? Why was he selective in his fight against corruption? Why did he not lead by example? Why has he not accounted for his stupendous wealth? Why did he do nothing when northern governors declared Islamic state in north Nigeria? The questions are endless.
To be fair to President Jonathan, his government has been reactive in correcting whatever the majority of the people condemn. He has also demonstrated that he can be swayed by public opinion. He has listened to Nigerians and granted the national conference, even though I believe it is not the best response or step to solving the problem he believes the national conference would address. For this, and more he deserves some credit.
While Jonathan has also shown signs of abuse of power, it cannot be compared with what went on during the term of Obasanjo era. When there has been overt abuse of power in the administration of Jonathan, he has not defended them, but acted quickly to remedy them, unlike in the time of Obasanjo, when he paid no attention to whatever anybody said. Obasanjo is a leader who thinks he knows everything, while Jonathan is a leader who knows that no one knows everything. It is inevitable that sooner, rather than later, they would disagree on methods. I am glad that the government of Jonathan has learnt to accept criticism, but it is also important for critiques to accept that the government has a right to have its way. This is how democracy works. When critics become subversive and seek to undermine the ability of the government to govern, it is time for the government to use every legal means to preserve its right to do what it considers to be in the best interest of the country, irrespective of what the critics say. Unfortunately for people like Obasanjo, they believe that one must do as they say, because of their superior knowledge. They are not content to have their say, they must have their way.
The only unfortunate thing is that Jonathan does not seem to have the right kind of people around him to advise him on how to deal with people like Obasanjo, Tambuwal and the other people ganging up against him because of their political differences. He also does not appear to know how to regain the initiative and confidence of the people.
As a matter of fact, Obasanjo's letter would seem like a choreographed attempt by him, northern oligarchy, APC and those who own 83% of oil wells to undermine the government of Jonathan, because they may have hard intelligence information on what he plans to do in the oil industry and the other injustices in the Nigerian polity. Those who are benefiting from Nigeria in its present state do not want change. They are startled by the establishment of national conference which is the first step in sensitizing Nigerians to the injustices in the system and the need for change. They would like to stop this on its tract. Tambuwal is in a position to help bring about the changes Jonathan wants through the national assembly, but would not, for sectarian and selfish reasons, which is why Jonathan set up the national conference to discuss what legislators are elected and paid to do.
Sadly, Jonathan does not seem to understand that in politics, one's safest strategy is to have the people on one’s side and ensure that the law is applied equally to all. If he had implemented this policy, People like Obasanjo and Tambuwal would be too busy answering for their crimes against Nigeria and humanity to have time to plan against him. If he was a true prince, and understands how power should be secured and retained, he would not have this resurgent opposition of discredited and failed leaders who have no sense of probity, humility and true patriotism.
It is not too late for Jonathan, there are still one or two things he can do to regain the momentum and change the tide in his favour. It is clear that this is first and foremost, a struggle for power and in such struggles, truth is casualty. If those around Jonathan know their job, they should know what to do. After all, Jonathan is paying them a lot of money, they should earn their money.
Jonathan is paying the price of his timidity, mediocrity and inability to rule by example and weld the long knife when he needs to secure and consolidate his position. He is ruling by faith, forgetting that prophets who do not bear arms come to ruin. He does not seem to realise that in politics, one has to be a fox to spot a trap and a Lion to frighten a wolf. When one is in politics, one must know how and when to move against those who are determined to stop you from doing what you believe is best for the people, no matter who they are. Jonathan lacks the courage to use the enormous power he has as Nigerian president to make Nigeria better and those who he has been trying not to offend, have now turned against him. If Jonathan does not act swiftly and assert his powers and authority, and dispel the allegation that he is deep into corruption, he will realise when it is too late, that no one can achieve greatness with power, when he is afraid to exercise power to preserve his mandate, fight corruption and injustice, and ensure justice as fairness. I fear that Jonathan may end up as a lesson on how not to exercise power.