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Obasanjo’s Letter: Who Has the Moral Right?

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo

By Leonard Karshima Shilgba

Obasanjo’s December 2, 2013 excoriating letter to President Jonathan has elicited diverse reactions from Nigerians. While some see the letter as appropriate, others have asked what “moral right” President Obasanjo has to write such a letter to President Jonathan.

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo

First of all, I should provide what to me were highlights of the letter, and my personal observations:

  1. President Jonathan has deliberately yielded to the temptation of sectionalizing his presidency as an Ijaw or South-South presidency and gloated in the highly provocative utterances of his kinsmen such as Asari Dokubo, Edwin Clarke, and Ankio Briggs. I have written against such unguarded show of sectionalism and clannishness. In January, 2012, in the heat of massive fuel subsidy protests, Ms Briggs said on national television, “If Nigerians don’t want Jonathan then they don’t need our oil.” Following that, there have been threats by some strategically placed members of Jonathan’s ethnic group that if Mr. Jonathan would not be president after the 2015 general elections there would be no Nigeria. What nonsense! Some of Jonathan’s tribal folks have even threatened to “disown” him should he refuse to contest. And has President Jonathan publicly distanced himself from such ethnic patronizing? No! Accordingly, President Obasanjo has warned that with such “possessive” tendencies of an Ijaw presidency under Jonathan, it would be difficult for another Ijaw man to be trusted by Nigerians to become their president in the near future. The chronicles of the sad ethnicization of the Nigerian presidency by Jonathan and his tribalists will not be expunged from our history even by an expensive wish.  Only few days ago, a fellow Nigerian from the North was arrested for saying some “inciting things” against the Jonathan government; but the bellicose Asari Dokubo rather gets presidential encouragement in spite of his often more acerbic verbiage.
  2. President Jonathan’s actions and inactions have encouraged unprecedented levels of corruption in our national life. Exponential increase in spending on “fuel subsidy” under Jonathan to trillions of naira annually from a few hundred billions under Obasanjo’s regime and Yar’Adua’s government (although I had written to express my concerns during the Yar’Adua government, that expenditure on the same item had suddenly increased by about 100 per cent over the Obasanjo era’s). Moreover, no government official who appeared before the House committee on fuel subsidy last year was willing to answer the question, “Who authorized the extra-budgetary expenditure on fuel subsidy in 2011?” We can conclude that the big elephant in government did, and none of the officials was willing to attract his wrath. A letter of complaint by the nation’s central bank governor to President Jonathan about non-remittance of about 8 trillion naira has not got his official response about three months after. Jonathan has “not given a damn” about how Nigerians feel about his management of our commonwealth. Consistently this year, the prices of crude oil have hovered above 100 dollars, yet we have heard every so often that there is not enough money to share among the three tiers of government. Public revenues have been under-announced, accruals to the Excess Crude account have been diminished without transparency, and public opinion is treated with disdain.
  3. President Jonathan’s government has had poor handlers, encouraging division and national tension rather than diminish it. He has been a source of much suspicion even within his party, resulting in anti-party activities against his party candidates, most recently in Anambra state. He is the first ruling party president under whom sitting governors have decamped to another political party. Jonathan has a great taste for criminals whom he loves to shield from justice and reward with party leadership. His government has no respect for the judiciary or rule of law. Abuses of power in Rivers state, Abuja, Lagos state, against the national secretary of his party, etc., testify to his undemocratic credentials.
  4. There is growing economic tribulation under Mr. Jonathan’s watch. Investors in the oil industry are withdrawing from the scene. During his government African countries like Angola are overtaking Nigeria as the largest producers of crude oil on the continent. The Petroleum Industry Bill, initiated by President Obasanjo’s government has not been passed more than three years into Jonathan’s presidency, which is an evidence of his lack of leadership. While some Niger Delta ex-militants have been made multi millionaires and private jet owners by President Jonathan, the Niger Delta people’s fortunes have not improved even under the presidency of their son. President Jonathan’s lack of vision and understanding of his multi roles as president, commander-in-chief, party leader, national political leader, and chief security officer has turned himself into a rainfall that leaves nothing behind even as he antagonizes public goods projects in his vicious political tackles against just an individual.
  5. President Obasanjo mentioned specifically his discussion in 2011 with Governor Suswam on President Jonathan’s promise to run for only one term in office. This was a deliberate move to expose the hypocrisy and insincerity of some Nigerian politicians who have refused to serve the interest of truth for selfish reasons. If Suswam had said what Obasanjo reported then how can you place this beside what he said in September this year on the subject? Governor Suswam said, “Those who are calling President Jonathan not to contest again are ignorant of Jonathan’s massive achievements. The president has done very well and by the way, he never signed any agreement limiting him to one term in office; nor did he ever tell anyone at any time that he won’t run for a second term.” A true leader should at least be truthful even if the truth hurts or inspires anger rather than lie. I suppose many are so “ignorant” of those “massive achievements” and the presidency is doing rather a poor job at enlightening them.

I make it a habit to read views of Nigerian readers on every news item or article that I read. What I have observed are as follows:

  1. The Nigerian reader is generally vulgar in their comments to other people’s position on a matter. If they don’t agree with your view they would abuse you, question your education, soundness of mind, credibility, motive, and may even abuse your parents.
  2. The Nigerian reader may be too hasty to comment on your views before they understand them.
  3. Our poor formal education, which does not encourage debates at school, polite classroom discussion, language use and culture, and polite disagreement with another’s ideas and views, has produced many poorly educated citizens who, when they cannot stand intellectual dexterity, only reply with vulgarities.
  4. The Nigerian reader leaves the issues in discourse and goes on a voyage of motive enquiry.
  5. The Nigerian reader can be easily distracted. Just follow a trail of comments on an issue. After a few comments you may discover that the initial issue gets drowned up by petty hostile disagreements and quarrels by readers who have never met each other.
  6. The Nigerian reader is often protective of their ethnic turf at the expense of truth.

Those six issues in observation represent what is wrong with Nigeria—the people. I have read how some Nigerians have asked what moral right President Obasanjo has to write the kind of letter he wrote to President Jonathan. My question is who gives that moral right? Moreover, who has that moral right and is not using it? Is it the General Overseers of big “Christian Ministries” who are too concerned with their “prosperity” messages and would receive any amount of money from just anyone in whose heart “God has laid” something to bring to the “man of God”? Is it the turn-coat public writer and critic who jumps at any available opportunity to serve (their lust)? The person who has the moral right to criticize an incompetent leader is the one that is courageous enough to use it. And if the informed Nigerian elite who have the moral right have rather elected to hoard that right until their graves feast on it, then the one who uses his courage to lay it all out gets my respect.

At this time of growing and worsening impunity in Nigeria, anyone courageous enough to confront the monster government of Jonathan should be encouraged by Nigerians that seek a country that works for all and not just for a few. Have I heard some say it is not appropriate for a former president to publicly criticize a sitting president? When the only thing that can move a president who “does not give a damn” to public opinion and private letters from even elders such as Chief Bisi Akande and President Obasanjo is an excoriating public letter from a former president, then the question is unnecessary. See how the presidency did not respond until the content of the letter became public knowledge more than one week after it was written?

I can only say, Good morning, Nigerians. It is at the door— a new dawn. Rejoice and lift up your eyes. Those who have plundered and robbed us, we shall bury. Within seven months from now it shall be done:

For seven months the house of [Nigeria] will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. Indeed all the people of the land will be burying, and they will gain renown for it on the day that I am glorified, says the Lord God [Ezekiel 39: 12, 13].

Then behold, at eventide, trouble!
And before the morning, he is no more.
This is the portion of those who plunder us,
And the lot of those who rob us
[Isaiah 17: 14].

Leonard Karshima Shilgba.

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