SENATOR AMEH EBUTE, CON
(FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT)
31/32 MANGAL PLAZA, AREA 11, GARKI, ABUJA
RE: BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE
As discerning Nigerians who found the so-called “before it is too late” letter from Chief Olusegun Obasanjoto President Goodluck E. Jonathan, GCFR, ill-conceived, we decided to deconstruct the content to see if it meets the minimum demands of altruistic advice, given the writer’s pedigree as a former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an elder statesman. In doing this we were not unaware of the several public commentaries and reactions from a cross section of Nigerians, some of which posit that Nigerians should ignore the messenger and take the lessons from the message giving the critical weight of the issues raised. Much as this position may appear germane, it needs to be understood that whereas it is possible to separate the messenger from the message, it is nevertheless impossible to comprehend the meaning of a message without reference to the motive or intention of the messenger. The veracity and/or reliability of the message in the context of the motive could only be drawn if the messenger is altruistic in his motive.
Since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s one time military Head of State and former President, claims to be speaking from the rostrum of high moral rectitude because of his “overt” love for Nigeria, it is only apposite that in deconstructing the contents of the letter, without prejudice to the pleas of several public commentators, we glean the moral integrity and character qualifications of the messenger as a test of the reliability and value of the message. This is because whether we like it or not Chief Obasanjo’s vituperations have not only over-heated the polity but brought the nation to anaemic convulsion.
Chief OlusegunObasanjo’s ill-conceived letter no doubt is an open assault on the seat of power in Nigeria. For a former President who has unimpeded access to the President to nakedly dance this danse macabre in public on grounds that former letters written by him had not been replied only affirms what Theodore Roosevelt describes as the dangers of lack of morals when he said “to educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society”. Whether former President Obasanjo, has now become a menace to the Nigerian political landscape or otherwise would be better judged by discerning minds. But to us, he has merely epitomized the prescriptions of Noel Coward: “the higher the building the lower the morals”.
Further as Thomas S. Monson would remind us, “the surest test of an individual’s integrity is his refusal to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect”. Hence, in developed democracies, former Presidents hardly ever comment publicly on the policies and actions of their successors, evidently in deference to self-respect. They seek and utilize latent channels to communicate and offer their advice. And if we take to heart what Mark Twain said about character, “a man’s character may be learned from the adjectives he habitually uses in conversation,” then given Chief Obasanjo’s deleterious history of publicly criticizing heads of government in office that ended in ominous consequences, Nigerians should be circumspect and be resolved in one accord to defend our hard-won democracy.
As an obsessed letter writer, Chief Obasanjo may unwittingly view his tirades against sitting governments as building a legacy to be celebrated when he departs; he does not see the effects of debasement, deformation, destruction, disunity, hatred and defamation in his actions. Selfless leaders with character build peace, build harmony, build unity and build love. However, it appears our erstwhile President has lost it all. Like what Billy Graham said, “When character is lost, all is lost”.
Leadership in its broad spectrum is fraught with complex challenges, and nations that are progressively built always find patriotic leaders come around to contribute positively to governance and not indulge in self-adulation. Let us now evaluate the three (3) year old administration of President Goodluck Jonathan vis-a-vis Chief Obasanjo’s cumulative eleven years in office in the context of the five (5) prerequisite capacities of a President of the Federal Republic which Chief Obasanjo identifies, to wit: Leadership of the ruling party; Headship of the Federal Government; Commander-in-Chief of the Military; Chief Security Officer of the Nation; and Political Leader of the country.
a. Leadership of the Ruling Party:
It is ridiculous that Chief Obasanjo, a self-acclaimed democrat, should accuse President Goodluck Jonathan as the one responsible for the lingering crisis in PDP, which pre-dated his emergence as the leader of the party. President Jonathan’s alleged crime is his refusal to publicly denounce those craving his return in 2015. Chief Obasanjo further accused President Jonathan of clandestinely dictating the actions of the party Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. These unsubstantiated claims posit a curious but intriguing parallel and calls for self-examination on the part of the Owu Chief.
When in 2002, before INEC officially signaled political activitiesfor the 2003 elections, posters and propaganda materials adorned all nooks and crannies of Nigeria for Chief Obasanjo’s re-election, how many of such people did he publicly denounce? Even when it became open knowledge in 2005 that Chief Obasanjo surreptitiously attempted to use his cronies to insert in the output of the National Political Reform Conference a clause to elongate his tenure for a third term, since he thought it was only he who had the single inalienable right to rule Nigeria for life, did hereunder any public denial?
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has no moral credentials to accuse President Jonathan of responsibility for the travails of the PDP. These crises, as earlier noted, predate the incumbent leader of the party. Perhaps to refresh Chief Obasanjo’s memory, let him be reminded that Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu’s recourse to forming his own political party (PPA) to provide a platform for his nominee to contest the 2007 elections was a direct outcome of Chief Obasanjo’s arm-twisting military style to force him out of the PDP. The party eventually lost Abia State. Even as a presidential candidate, Chief Obasanjo reportedly lost his own ward and a number of South-West states in the 1999 elections. As the “emperor” of the Nigerian state, his back-handed defiance of democratic electoral process brought victories to PDP in some South-West states which could not endure. We eventually saw the so-called PDP victories upturned through the judicial process because, when he was the leader of the party, Chief Obasanjo could not secure defensible victories.
No period in the history of our fledgling democracy has witnessed a higher turnover of PDP National Chairmen than the eight year tenure of Chief Obasanjo as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. First, soon after the late Chief Solomon Lar steered the PDP to victory in the 1999 Presidential election, Chief Obasanjo booted him out of office. And of course the well-respected frontline contributions of the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi to the electoral fortunes of Chief Obasanjo had deservingly positioned him to succeed Chief Solomon Lar, yet our maverick democrat not only frustrated the elder statesman out of the chairmanship of the party but also ensured his untimely retirement from politics. Even Chief Barnabas Gemade, whom Chief Obasanjo backed to thwart Chief Awoniyi, was soon to be replaced as Chairman by Chief Audu Ogbeh, a very outspoken, purposeful and visionary leader, who craves for a peaceful and progressive Nigeria.
Chief Ogbeh was reportedly forced to resign as Chairman after having lunch with President Obasanjo. His offence was that he assumed the gauntlet to advise President Obasanjo to investigate the security challenges in Anambra state that threatened the life of Governor Ngige at the time. Interestingly, all these chairmen were elected for definite tenure as prescribed by the PDP constitution.
As Chief Obasanjo bestrode the PDP like an intimidating colossus, electoral decency was jettisoned, internal democracy trampled upon and good conscience buried as he dealt ruthlessly with all perceived enemies regardless of democratic culture and ethos. The following casualties of his high-handed leadership are dead and living testimonies: late Sen. Chuba Okadigbo; Sen. Ayim Pius Ayim; Gov. Peter Odili whom he used, milked and dumped; Gov. Joshua Dariye; Gov. Orji UzorKalu; Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi; Gov. Gbenga Daniel; Dep. Gov. Mukhtar Shagari; Gov. Attahiru Bafarawa; Gov. D. S. P. Alamieyeseigha; etc.
Therefore if upholding the rule of law and the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party is basis for accusation of the Presidency masterminding the PDP crisis, we are not convinced that President Jonathan has conducted himself in an unpresidential manner to attract these unwarranted innuendoes in any way.
It bespeaks a deep-sounding hollowness for Chief Obasanjo to make allusion to the fact that the crisis in the PDP is premised on whether President Jonathan should exercise his constitutional prerogative to contest elections in 2015. He is clearly on a protectionist mission, to create sufficient disaffection within the PDP to facilitate the emergence of his preferred candidates.
Nobody is against the aspirations of anybody to any elective office. Indeed, that is the beauty of democracy, where people freely chose to contest and are voted for. But why must an elder statesman embark upon such an unprovoked voyage of denigrating the person occupying the most exalted office in the land simply to make a point for his preferred candidates to take over? It must be unequivocally stated that neither Chief Olusegun Obasanjo nor his cohorts can determine the will of God; nobody can play God in the affairs of men, and in the affairs of our country.
Chief Obasanjo after being a military leader for 3 years, tried shamelessly to mastermind the extension of his constitutional two terms tenure as President to a third one (that is, after being head of government for 11 years, he wanted additional 4 years) until Nigerians cried foul. That he now attempts to stop President Jonathan from contesting for another constitutional term of four years, shows sheer wickedness and mischief. If Chief Obasanjo’s grand-design and deception to hoodwink Nigerians to endorse his phantom third term could not “spill the blood of Nigerians”, the call for the exercise of President Jonathan’s legitimate right to contest for a constitutionally guaranteed second term, if he accepts it, will not spill blood in this country. Or is Chief Obasanjo alluding to a grand plan by some elements in the country to cause mayhem should President Jonathan contest the 2015 elections? We find these comments very disturbing especially in the light of repeated public threats by one Junaid Mohammed. Chief Obsanjo not only knows the position of the law for making very reckless comments but also has experienced first-hand the consequences of such inflammatory comments to incite the populace.
We make bold to say here that President Jonathan has handled the affairs of the PDP and the nation with far greater inclusiveness and tolerance of dissent than Chief Obasanjo ever did. This broad minded and accommodating disposition of President Jonathan is further extended to even the ever-critical and often virulent opposition.
b. Headship of the Federal Government
It is perfidious for Chief Obasanjo to set the National Assembly against President Jonathan in discussing corruption. Let it be stated from the onset that we do not endorse corrupt practices in any form; in fact it is our position that President Jonathan should deal decisively with all proven corruption cases regardless of whose ox is gored. However, it is common knowledge that corruption attained monumental heights under the regime of Chief Obasanjo as President. Chief Obasanjo presided over the proceeds of Nigeria’s oil and gas for six years, without transparent accounting as the de facto Minister of Petroleum Resources. To perfect his plan, he appointed his kinsman and protégé Engr. Kupolokun who had retired, to serve as the Group Managing Director of NNPC. Nigeria’s oil and gas revenue was helplessly at the discretion of the duo. Where was accountability and transparency? It will be recalled that the CNPP petitioned the EFCC to investigate Chief Obasanjo as President for an estimated unaccounted sum of $133 billion in oil revenue from 2000 to 2006, the period he was the de facto Minister of Petroleum Resources.
We are inclined to think that part of the reasons for Chief Obasanjo’s double-standard romance with President Jonathan is the latter’s audacity to reopen up investigations, earlier ordered by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua into the Haliburton bribery scandal. If Chief Obasanjo’s former Personal Assistant, Mr. Bodunde Adeyanju, could be interrogated over allegations of millions of dollars bribery scam, it is more like the hand of Jacob and the voice of Esau. So where does Chief Obasanjo derive the moral qualification to accuse another government of corruption? When a sitting President influences major business tycoons who do business with government to launch and build a multi-million naira library in his village in his name, what does that amount to? When a sitting President, Chief Obasanjo, suddenly becomes a shareholder in Trans National Corporation of Nigeria Plc, a diversified conglomerate, owners of Transcorp Hilton and several oil and gas assets, what does that amount to? It should be in the normal course of business for a President. What accounted for the sudden transformation of the Ota farm, which had become the habitat for reptiles and weeds before Chief Obasanjo became Presidentin 1999? Or are Nigerians quick to forget the missing N2.8 billion under the watch of Gen. Obasanjo when Gen. Buhari was the Federal Commissioner of Petroleum Resources?
While Nigerians accuse the regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida of institutionalizing corruption, it is common knowledge that Chief Obasanjo planted the seed of corruption and elevated it to unimaginable heights.
On the claims by Chief Obasanjo that the economic performance indices are dangerously sliding, that is nothing more than a self-serving statement. Even the International Monetary Fund adjudged the Nigerian economy to be performing relatively better, with a GDP at 6.75%, the highest growth rate in Sub-Saharan Africa. And we are convinced that the Jonathan administration is doing everything to make the observed economic growth all-inclusive in the light of the policies and strategies being initiated to tackle the problem of unemployment and poverty eradication.
Nigerians of good conscience can all attest to the relative improvement and stability of electricity supply; the recent unbundling of PHCN and licensing of electricity distribution companies will no doubt enhance electricity supply to consumer I in the coming months and this will invariably positively impact both the manufacturing and small-medium scale businesses. Also, the resuscitation of collapsed infrastructure in the Aviation sector by the Jonathan administration has been a source of pride to Nigerians. The hitherto moribund rail transport system for which Chief Obasanjo pumped so much billions has been successfully revived. Nigerians now travel from Lagos to Kano by train.
God, in his divine grace, blessed Chief Obasanjo with incomparable opportunities of leadership to drive the fortunes of our country to enviable heights but the evident result is that the progress of the nation is impeded as he left only relics of collapsed infrastructure, monumental corruption, debased national psyche and a disillusioned polity. The myriad of problems and challenges bequeathed by the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo have made the work of nation building inexorably difficult for his successors.
The Jonathan administration is not only way ahead of the Obasanjo one in terms of recorded and visible achievements measured against the funds deployed but also has had positive impact on the lives of the citizenry.
c. Commander-in-Chief of the Military
To all discerning public observers, there is no argument that President Goodluck Jonathan has employed the adroit strategies and demonstrated statesmanship in the handling of critical national challenges, deserving of a democratically elected President. Because he knows his primary responsibility to the people is protection of their lives and property, President Jonathan’s style has not only assisted in sustaining our fragile unity as a country but has made him no less a Commander-in-Chief.
Given the destructive tendencies that characterized Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s rule as President during which period human rights abuses and defiance of the rule of law were the norm,we are at a loss to unravel the import of Chief Obasanjo’s assertions in this respect. As stated earlier, Chief Obasanjo’s impulsive decisions culminated in the destruction of communities, killing and maiming of innocent lives by the Nigerian military at the least provocation. That was the case of the sleepy town of Odi in Bayelsa State, which was completely destroyed because of the activities of a few miscreants that led to the death of some Police officers. So too was the case of Odioma town also in Bayelsa state. Today, the Federal Government is to pay N37.6 billion in compensation to the people of Odi, as ordered by the Federal High Court, for that tactless act of a President. Similarly, Chief Obasanjo deployed heavy military arsenals to trouble spots in Benue state and destroyed, maimed and killed innocent people in Zaki Biam town, and other towns in Katsina-Ala LGA and Logo LGA. Whereas the military deployed by Chief Obasanjo never went after any of the suspected criminals but to kill innocent citizens, President Jonathan’s humane characteristic ensured that no innocent citizen was deliberately affected by the activities of the military. The purpose being to curb the Boko Haram insurgents, Nigerians are relieved that about 500 insurgents are to be arraigned. A remarkable difference in strategy and tact!
Nigerians are also not in a hurry to forget how the apparatus of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was deployed in the name of fighting corruption to hound perceived political opponents. The selective approach in the fight against corruption made a mockery of the entire anti-corruption exercise as loyalists were shielded and enemies persecuted.
And so who has indeed deferred to the sacrosanct role of the military in the best interest of the nation, a Chief Obasanjo who recklessly deployed military might to kill innocent Nigerian souls or a President Jonathan who deploys tact in dealing with restive spots to minimize collateral damage, even in the light of a far more sophisticated, hitherto unknown security outfit, the Boko Haram group? Interestingly, when Chief Obasanjo declared a state of emergency in Plateau state, he gave no respect to the preservation of the democratic institutions. In contrast, when the Boko Haram inspired insurgency in some parts of the north unabatedly threatened the peace and stability of the country, President Jonathan went on a wide range of consultations with all stakeholders before declaring a state of emergency. Hence today, all democratic institutions in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, the frontline states where President Jonathan declared a state of emergency have remained functional. A true democratic practitioner!
d. Chief Security Officer of the Nation
It is pathetic that Chief Obasanjo’s sense of history could be so easily demented. Without extending the searchlight to other trouble spots, we wish to recall the ineptitude and abysmal failure of Chief Obasanjo’s strategies in managing the militancy in the Niger Delta area. Even when the activities of militants brought the economy to knee-jam and oil production plummeted from 2.5 million barrels a day to 700,000 barrels a day, his barking bull strategies brought no solution to the crisis. It took the sagacious strides of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua/Jonathan, working with critical stakeholders, to make peace without spilling blood and today Nigeria is the better for it, with greater capacity to meet government obligations because of enhanced revenue profile from increased foreign receipts. So where is Chief Obasanjo’s pedigree in managing crises?
Another gory absurdity is Chief Obasanjo’s allegation that President Jonathan is training snipers where Abacha trained his killer squad and that there are about 1000 high profile politicians on a watch list. For an allegation as weighty as this we are sure Chief Obasanjo knows the import of the law for such blatant insinuation that qualifies for libel. Chief Obasanjo should know, if he does not already, that the onus of proof lies on him. We demand that the relevant security agencies like NSA, Directorate of State Security (DSS), Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Nigeria Police, should immediately take decisive appropriate action to investigate this very sensitive national security issue and make their findings public. The security services must carry out this investigation with dispatch because we suspect that there is a grand plan to assassinate some high profile Nigerians, in the context of this very dangerous allegation, to intimidate and coerce President Jonathan to abdicate his right to contest in 2015. To us it merely shows that our aging Owu Chief certainly deserves more rest at Ota to avoid going beserk.
However, Nigerians will continue to hold Chief Obasanjo accountable for the several high profile unexplained killings for which no culprits have been unearthed years after. Notable among the list of those assassinated without conclusive investigations under Chief Obasanjo’s watch were Chief Bola Ige, Obasanjo’s first Minister of Power and later Minister of Justice and Attorney General; Chief Marshall Harry; a former National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party; Chief Aminasoari K. Dikibo, also a former National Vice Chairman of the PDP; Chief Funsho Williams, a former PDP governorship aspirant of Lagos state; ChimereIkoku and a number of other unexplained deaths.
In contrast to Chief Obasanjo’s alarmist averments the most dreadful security challenge today remains the Boko Haram sect which, in itself, devolved from Chief Obasanjo’s dereliction of his constitutional duty to guarantee the secularity of the Nigerian state. And of course we need to be mindful of Chief Obasanjo and his ilk whose appetite for uprisings and revolutions akin to the Arab Spring seems to be growing proportionately daily. Chief Obasanjo should be reminded that if Nigerians were to agitate for a revolution, and particularly the Ghanian type, Obasanjo and his likes would not be spared the wrath of Nigerians.
e. Political Leader of the Country
No President of Nigeria under our democratic dispensation has been more Nigerian in disposition and conduct than Dr. Goodluck E. Jonathan. It is unfortunate that Chief Obasanjo could degenerate to fan the embers of ethnicity in such an insidious and reckless manner. For a man who claims to be a detribalized Nigerian to infer that no other minority in this country could be entrusted with the leadership of the country, because of his myopic assessment and conclusion that President Jonathan has not performed to satisfy his whims, evinces clearly a chronic obsession of hate. But we must remind Chief Obasanjo that Nigeria is not an enterprise of an oligarchy and that the days of hegemonic rule are gone. Chief Obasanjo should extricate himself from the garb of narrow mindedness and pettiness and be broad in his perceptive values. Nigeria belongs to all, majorities and minorities alike.
On the fight against corruption, we observe that the agencies tasked to deal with corruption must be given a free hand to work. If the EFCC is hamstrung to perform its assignments creditably then we shall be concerned. Today neither the EFCC nor ICPC is pressured and tele-guided to pursue perceived enemies. The reported concern, raised by the Central Bank Governor, over unremitted accruals of about $49.8 billion is being reconciled by a joint team of NNPC, FIRS, DPR and CBN. Chief Obasanjo should have shown a more statesmanlike conduct and decorum before dancing to the public gallery. As it has now been revealed, with the false alarmist, CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanisu publicly apologizing, the joint reconciliation exercise has confirmed that only $10.8 billion is yet to be reconciled even as the exercise is still on going. Clearly, the initial claim was a false alarm orchestrated to incite the general public against President Jonathan, and Chief Obasanjo also demeaned himself to join the foray of dubious whistle blowers.
Till date no Nigerian, excepting Chief Obasanjo, has seen a presidential reception organized in honour of Major Al Mustapha. Whereas Chief Obasanjo thinks that every sitting President obstructs the course of justice as was his own mercurial practice, President Jonathan has continued to show maximum resistance to interfere with the judicial process. It is only in the imagination of Chief Obasanjo that the Presidency celebrated Major Al Mustapha’s release. This is understandable since he must loathe Al-Mustapha for his incarceration by Abacha for life imprisonment.
What Does Chief Obasanjo Want?
In all these posturing of sainthood and angelic patriotism, what does Chief Olusegun Obasanjo aim to achieve? We state that Chief Obasanjo’s letter is at best self-serving and holds no grain of patriotism and national interest. Through this blatant charade of promoting falsehood, innuendoes and untruths, Chief Obasanjo attempts to raise a mob action against President Jonathan, a crafty follow-up to the rebellion he used the G 7 governors he planted in the states to stir up crisis in the PDP in order to stop Jonathan in 2015. Since he considers time to be running out he needed to commence the campaigns for his anointed protégés. For Chief Obasanjo’s project to succeed, President Jonathan must be destroyed first, in the court of public opinion.
Nigeria is not a fiefdom in the stranglehold of Chief Obasanjo. If he chooses to squander his privileged opportunities to offer leadership to this country, and to think he can rule Nigeria like his private estate from everywhere, he has failed. Must Chief Obasanjo continue to breath hard on President Jonathan because he claimed he made him President? Even so, that is not a stand- alone act because Chief Obasanjo himself was a beneficiary of God using Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma and Gen. Abdulsalami to make him President in 1999. Even his emergence as Head of State in 1976 was the sacrifice of Gen. Danjuma and others. These people never publicly dictated to him how to govern Nigeria. Most importantly, they never did anything to bring him into public odium despite the numerous problems his administration created for the polity.
While we know that politics is a game of numbers, we would also hastily add that no one person can make a President; it is the people of Nigeria that can decide who should become their President, as God wills. If Nigerians think President Jonathan has delivered on his electoral mandate, they can freely entrust him with another mandate and that cannot be subject to the whims of any Chief Obasanjo. We therefore urge President Jonathan to remain focused, undeterred and committed to delivering on his transformation agenda.
Chief Obasanjo having succeeded in persuading his cronies to stir unending controversy within the ranks of the PDP, and indeed the nation is certainly on a mission to destroy the party, truncate our hard won democracy and plunge the nation to cataclysm for his personal gain. We therefore call on the leadership of party to take decisive action against him as nobody is greater than the party. Chief Obasanjo to all intents has demonstrated more anti-party activities than any one else in the history of PDP.