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Iyabo’s public flogging of her father okay but…

By Rotimi Fasan

AFTER the initial attempt at putting up a disclaimer by an impostor Nigerians including her befuddled father must now be reconciled to the fact that Iyabo was the author of the letter that exploded the burble created by OBJ’s own letter to Goodluck Jonathan. It was beginning to look like a comedy of the absurd of the Baba Sala variety when the impostor purported to be Iyabo sent out her disclaimer denouncing the letter which was the equivalent of a public flogging of her father as a fabrication and threatening legal action.

The grammatical infelicities were obvious but that did not remove from the possibility that a big fraud might have been imposed on Nigerians. This in spite of the fact that Iyabo’s letter sounded true enough; a fact that could only at the time have been very clear and believable to people familiar with her writing style and the details recounted in the letter.

The general formal tone and outlook of the letter with her professional titles and all heightened the fear that an impostor, probably in the pay of her father’s enemies, might be on the loose. Nobody writes to their father in such terms. Iyabo’s letter was obviously meant to be read by the public.

But all doubt seemed at an end after Vanguard updated its story the following day. And even then many might still be pardoned to think that Iyabo would yet claim to be a true and properly groomed daughter of her father not to say a ‘Yoruba woman’ and distance herself from the letter. Not the least of these was the former president himself who was quoted by Vanguard as boasting that Iyabo would finish them in court.

Obasanjo must be so sure of himself, of his total mastery of his daughter, he just couldn’t believe she would fling him off the crest of attention into the dunghill of public ridicule just a couple of days after speaking with him. Which leaves one wondering if the impostor pretending to be Iyabo had the say-so of her father to issue her disclaimer.

She had in that disclaimer wanted her readers/listeners to believe she was so close to her father that they talk everyday! But all of that is now history if we are to believe Iyabo’s letter. Yet like all family disputes that are resolved without any invitation to the public I won’t be surprised to hear of or see Iyabo visiting her father, prodigal son style, sooner or later.

One can only urge some understanding for Iyabo. Hers was a bitter letter that mirrored her pain and that of her siblings and mother under the suffocating imposition of their father and the husband of their mother. It’s not difficult to imagine what life must feel like under an overbearing man like Obasanjo. Not only is Obasanjo a domestic bully he wields political clout and power in addition.

Which means few who cross swords with him have any chance of survival or being heard. He is full of himself, believes he is always right and would stop at nothing to rub that in the face of anyone who comes in contact with him except those able to stand up to him. Nobody with opinion can survive in the presence of such a man. His most public-spirited action is invariably motivated by self interest bordering on self-aggrandisement. Those closest to him, as Iyabo’s letter attests, are bound to suffer most. Which explains his meager political capital and no-love-lost relationship within his immediate circle of friends, fami
ly and the wider Yoruba public.

That said Iyabo’s letter remains what it is- a private communication between an estranged daughter and her father. In the context of the wider public debate it serves the important purpose of reminding Olusegun Obasanjo, as Iyabo noted, that Nigeria does not belong to him. He is but one person and no more no matter what he may think of himself or how he may view himself.

It points at Obasanjo’s own complicity in the tragedy Nigeria has become. In his case there is the private dimension of a dysfunctional family in full display. But outside of this, Iyabo’s letter is a powerful put-down of Obasanjo that should proof a psychological boost for Goodluck Jonathan and fuel private excitement in his camp. But that is the most he can hope to get from this letter.

The point must be clearly made that Iyabo’s letter was neither intended to nor is it an apologia for Obasanjo’s letter to Jonathan. There are very serious allegations in the former president’s letter that Iyabo’s private outburst cannot answer or obviate. Goodluck Jonathan still has enormous responsibility to respond to that letter in full or forever live with the fact that he is guilty of the charges leveled against him and the harsh verdict of history on that. As far as they concern public issues, Iyabo’s letter told Nigerians nothing they didn’t know about Obasanjo. It couldn’t have been more revelatory than her mother’s own memoir.

Thus Jonathan and his team must not see Iyabo’s letter as their own answer to Obasanjo’s letter. These are two separate issues. And in case they need to be reminded, Iyabo doesn’t think much of Jonathan, his administration or indeed of the general Nigerian attitude to condone mediocrity. She holds Nigerians responsible for the foolishness that has resulted in the likes of her father and Goodluck Jonathan, among many other misfits, controlling their betters in many respects.

There is no relief yet for Jonathan as Iyabo’s letter further indicts him and places greater moral responsibility on him to respond to Obasanjo’s letter directly and without equivocation. It is a shame though that more than a week after that letter emerged in the public no matter how- it is a shame that two weeks after Obasanjo’s letter, Jonathan with his tens of advisers, speech writers and ministers are yet to respond with a single line. They’ve been caught pants down? A big shame indeed. But they must respond. Any thing else is a red herring.  Merry Christmas Nigerians!


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