Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another look at Obasanjo’s epistle to Jonathan

Opposition is true friendship. The man who tells you that you have a stinking rear is your friend. He is only drawing attention to your bodily filth and asking you to do something about it. He is better than a sycophant who says you can always come out of the sewage tank and smell of roses!

—Aristotle, in his Analytics

in the last one week, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s December 2 letter to President Goodluck Jonathan which was leaked to the media on Wednesday, December 11 has generated a lot of furore and brouhaha in the media. Opinions are divided on the propriety or otherwise of the 18-page missive. While many believed that it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black and that the ex-president has ulterior motive rather than patriotic reasons for writing the memo; others have also recalled the many woes of the Obasanjo administration while some others said he should not have made the communication public.

Yet, there are those who say “focus on the message and not the messenger”.  I belong to the latter group. There is a saying in Yorubaland that, ‘eni jin si koto ko ara yoku logbon’, which literally translates as, ‘he who falls into the pit serves as a moral lesson to other passersby’. While it may be true that Obasanjo committed quite a lot of missteps during his cumulative 11 years as Head of State and President, it should be instructive to his successors’ to learn from his mistakes. For those who think the letter should not have been made public, Obasanjo gave 10 reasons why he chose to make it an open letter.

I have twice read the letter from Obasanjo and should say that the Ota farmer should be commended for being courageous enough to say the truth that many people on the corridors of power would not want to tell the President. Indeed, Obasanjo’s antecedent as a military General robs him of diplomacy. He is always frank, blunt and fearless when saying his mind. This is not to say that the former president is always right. Yes, his record in office may not be as impressive as we may wish as Nigerians. Of course, if he had performed creditably, perhaps he could have won the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. However, whatever may be his governance or performance deficit, he is still very popular and is a sounding board for the international community who continues to engage his services as head of election observer mission and international mediator, among other international assignments.

I found the contents of the controversial letter didactic and instructive. It is an eye-opener on many national issues. The former president has put the issue of President Jonathan’s promise to do one term in office beyond speculation. It will be recalled that Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and several others had said that the president promised or even signed a pact to do one term in office. Now, Obasanjo has come out boldly to mention the communication on the matter between him and Governor Gabriel Suswam and the confirmation of President Jonathan to him to do one term.  Lest we forget, it is this second term ambition of President Jonathan that is at the heart of the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party. As chronicled by Obasanjo in the letter, it is the second term aspiration of the President that is making him to do deals with opposition parties in the South-West Zone particularly in Lagos State during the 2011 elections and in Ondo and Edo states during the 2012 governorship elections as well as in Anambra State during the November 16, 2013 governorship poll.

On the issue of insecurity which Obasanjo said is very discomforting, it is only someone living in a fool’s paradise who will deny that assertion. I have said previously that Nigerian leaders, past and present,  have failed signally to secure lives and property of the citizens as enjoined by Section 14 (2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended which says “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. I therefore couldn’t agree more with the analysis of Obasanjo that  “Drug,  indoctrination, fundamentalism,  gun  trafficking,  hate  culture,  human  trafficking,  money laundering,  religion, poverty, unemployment, poor  education,  revenge  and  international terrorism are among the factors that have effect on Boko Haram”. Prescription of a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the menace of insecurity cannot also be faulted.

The former president was also on point when he said, “To  allow  or  tacitly encourage  people of ‘Ijaw nation’ to throw insults  on  other  Nigerians from other  parts of  the  country  and threaten fire and brimstone to  protect  your interest  as  an  Ijaw  man  is  myopic  and  your  not  openly  quieting  them  is even  more  unfortunate”.  I shudder at the mere thought that Jonathan’s government may have put about 1,000 people on political watch and that snipers are being trained surreptitiously to deal with perceived enemies of the federal government. Like Obasanjo said,” If it is true, this cannot augur well for the initiator, the government and the people of Nigeria”. The insinuations that the Presidency may have remotely controlled the judiciary to allow someone to evade justice also leaves a sour taste in the mouth and further erode people’s confidence in the judiciary.

The former president was as well on point when he observed that:” Most  of  our  friends  and  development  partners …are worried about issue of  security  internally  and  on  our  coastal  waters,  including  heavy  oil  theft, alias  bunkering  and  piracy.  They  are  worried  about  corruption  and  what we  are  doing  or  not  doing  about  it……    They  are worried  about how we  play  our  role in  our  region  and,  indeed, in the  world”. There is no gainsaying that the world has become a hamlet and events in one country have implications on others. If it is true that some of Nigeria’s   development  partners  were  politically  frustrated  to  withdraw  from  the Olokola  LNG  project, and that the  major  international  oil  companies  have withheld  investment  in  projects  in  Nigeria or divesting,  then it’s a real cause for concern. .

 It is also bothersome to note that   the Port Harcourt water project, originally initiated by the Federal Government and to be financed by the Africa Development Bank, is being put in the cooler by the former because of the Amaechi-Jonathan face-off. Obasanjo said a director in the ADB informed him about this. If it is true, it goes a long way to confirm what Governor Rotimi Amaechi has been saying that all the Federal Government projects in Rivers State have been put on hold because of the misunderstanding between him and the President.

I find no fault in Obasanjo’s assertion that the most dangerous ticking bomb is youth unemployment, particularly in the face of unbridled corruption and obscene rulers’ opulence. Obasanjo was also spot on when he admonished that, “We  must  all remember  that  corruption,  inequity  and  injustice  breed  poverty, unemployment,  conflict,  violence  and  wittingly  or  unwittingly  create terrorists  because  the  opulence  of  the  governor  can  only  lead  to  the leanness of the governed.” I have said time and again that 10 aircraft in the presidential fleet, the countless bulletproof cars of the elected and appointed political office holders and ostentatious living of our leaders have contributed immensely to the worsening security situation in the country be it in terms of kidnapping, oil theft, pipeline vandalism, armed robbery and other acts of terrorism. We cannot continue to celebrate growth without development and watch as unemployment and poverty soar.

I do hope President Jonathan will adhere to the worthy counsel of Obasanjo when he urged him to, “Move  away  from  culture  of  denials,  cover-ups  and  proxies  and  deal honesty, sincerely and transparently with Nigerians to regain their trust and confidence.