OBJ’s Letter: The unsettling silence of a President

on   /   in Politics 2:12 am   /   Comments

By Levinus Nwabughiogu
More than one week after grave allegations were leveled against President Goodluck Jonathan by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the President is yet to clear the air prompting a festering of suspicions. Saturday Vanguard x-rays what it portends for the President especially with 2015 elections inching close.

Politicians are not known to be too patient. It is not also in their totem to  stomach what they consider nonsense dished out to them by their opponents. In fact, they can go miles to clear themselves of any kind of allegations leveled against them.

Recall what transpired between former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and former President Olusegun Obasanjo when IBB, as Babangida is fondly called clocked 70 years in 2011. IBB had chosen to lambast Obasanjo for not doing much in the power sector after 8 years of rulership.

From left: President Goodluck Jonathan; former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar; and former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at the opening of an international seminar on peace support operations organised by the Ministry of Defence in Abuja, yesterday.

From left: President Goodluck Jonathan; former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar; and former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at the opening of an international seminar on peace support operations organised by the Ministry of Defence in Abuja, some years back.

Hardly, had Obasanjo got wind of that that he gave a rebuttal, saying “Now, he has the audacity to talk about anybody; I think that is unfortunate. I also read where he said  that in his time, he gave the dividends of democracy and at the same time he regretted. When I read that, well, I said Babangida should be pitied and shown sympathy, rather than anger or condemnation because the old saying says a fool at 40 is a fool forever and I would say a regret at 70 is a regret too late. Well, a regret at 70 is a regret to the grave.”

Another handy instance that reveals the impatience and intolerance of politicians was what also occurred between Chief Edwin Clark, former Federal Commissioner for Information and IBB over Clark ’s charge on him to publicly condemn Boko Haram and their activities. For one week or beyond, both men continued to make headlines.

But in the case of Obasanjo versus President Goodluck Jonathan over grave concerns raised by Obasanjo in his recent letter to Jonathan, mum has been the word contrary to sundry expectations that the President would give vent to the issues raised.

At the wake of the development which was greeted with utmost bewilderment, President Jonathan’s media handler, Dr. Rueben Abati swiftly put up a response, describing the letter as an item of mischief, promising also a full reply by the President himself.

Hear him: “We have noted the publication on several websites today of a letter recently written by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

“The Presidency acknowledges that it has indeed received the said letter from Chief Obasanjo.

“We however find it highly unbecoming, mischievous and provocative that a letter written by a former Head of State and respected elder statesman to President Jonathan has been deliberately leaked to the mass media in a deplorable effort to impugn the integrity of the President and denigrate his commitment to giving Nigeria the best possible leadership.

“While many patriotic, objective and well-meaning Nigerians have already condemned the leaked letter as self-serving, hypocritical, malicious, indecent, and very disrespectful of the highest office in the land, President Jonathan has directed that none of his aides or any government official should join issues with Chief Obasanjo over it.

“The President himself will, at the appropriate time, offer a full personal response to the most reckless, baseless, unjustifiable and indecorous charges levied against him and his administration by the former Head of State.”

Remarkably, it is been more than one week since the letter hit the public domain, yet the President has not responded. Instead, he has allowed Nigerians to debate the content.

Obasanjo in his letter raised salient issues such the training of snipers by President Jonathan whose target included 1000 political opponents, the dwindling of the  economy, corruption, the promise of one term rule amongst others.

He said: “Allegation of keeping over 1,000 people on political watch list rather than criminal or security watch list and training snipers and other armed personnel secretly and clandestinely acquiring weapons to match for political purposes like Abacha and training them where Abacha trained his own killers, if it is true, it cannot augur well for the nation, the government and the people of Nigeria.

“Although you have not formally informed me one way or the other, it will be necessary to refresh your memory of what transpired in 2011. I had gone to BenueState for the marriage of one of my staff, Vitalis Ortese, in the state. Governor Suswam was my hospitable host. He told me that you had accepted a one-term presidency to allow for ease of getting support across the board in the North. I decided to cross-check with you.

“You did not hesitate to confirm to me that you are a strong believer in a one-term of six years for the President and that by the time you have used the unexpired time of your predecessor and the four years of your first term, you would have almost used up six years of your first term and you would not need any more term or time. Later, I heard from other sources including sources close to you that you made the same commitment elsewhere, hence, my inclusion of it in my address at the finale of campaign in 2011 as follows:

“…PDP should be praised for being the only party that enshrines  federal character, zoning and rotation in its Constitution and practices it. PDP has brought stability and sustainability to the polity and to the system. I do not know who will be President of Nigeria after Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

“Let me repeat that as far as the issue of corruption, security and oil stealing is concerned, it is only apt to say that when the guard becomes the thief, nothing is safe, secure or protected in the house. 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. But God never sleeps. He is watching, waiting and bidding his time to dispense justice.

“The serious and strong allegation of non-remitting of about $7 billion from NNPC to Central Bank occurring from export of some 300,000 barrels per day, amounting to $900 million a month, to be refined and with refined products of only $400 million returned and Atlantic Oil loading about 130,000 barrels sold by Shell and managed on behalf of NPDC with no sale proceeds paid into NPDC account is incredible.”

Lawmakers’ Reactions

Speaking with Saturday Vanguard, two members of the House of Representatives agreed that Obasanjo raised issues of grave concern which should not be ignored. Hon. Danile Ofongo represeting Sounthern Ijaw , Bayelsa State said. “For me, Obasanjo’s letter to Mr. President, if it is not borne out of mischief or if there is no hidden agenda in it, there is nothing wrong in a former President writing a letter to the present President.”

Similarly, Hon. Bimbo Daramola representing Ekiti North Federal Constituency 1 in Ekiti State said “ I believe that there are some germane things: 1000 people are being penciled down for elimination, the economy is grinding to a halt, you can’t deny that. You can’t fault those things. So, what we need to do is to look at that, use the fine tooth comb to identify those that very germane, those things that the man said and then we can deal with those issues.”

Enter Iyabo Obasanjo’s letter

No one had expected that Obasanjo’s letter to President Jonathan would elicit another one from his daughter. On the heels of the letter came another one so volatile from former Senator Iyabo Obasanjo telling her father that he does not own Nigeria . The letter has equally divided Nigerians between the beliefs that it was induced by certain quarters considering the time frame between the two.

She said: It brings me no joy to have to write this but since you started this trend of open letters I thought I would follow suit since you don’t listen to anyone anyway…Like most Nigerians, I believe there are very enormous issues currently plaguing the country but I was surely surprised that you will be the one to publish such a treatise…For you to accuse someone else of what you so obviously practiced yourself tells of your narcissistic megalomaniac personality.”

APC’s calls for Jonathan’s impeachment

For a Presidency that has not given a response to the allegations, it was rather surprising hearing it threaten the members of the leading opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) with treason  over the party’s call for the impeachment of President Jonathan. The party had cited massive unemployment, insecurity, amongst others as grounds for the impeachment. All was ignored by the presidency .

“The Jonathan Administration does not need Lai Mohammed or the APC to remind it of its constitutional responsibility for the security and well-being of Nigerians. The President will continue to do his utmost best to achieve positive national transformation in all areas in spite of efforts by the  opposition to thwart or disparage the work of his administration.

“In this regard, we  have noted the undisguised threat by the APC to foster public insurrection against the Federal Government. We urge Nigerians to take special note of this boastful indication of an intention to resort to lawlessness.

“The Presidency warns that the APC and any persons who make themselves its willing tools for the breach of public order and safety will be made to face the full sanctions of the law. Those who are threatening fire and brimstone should be ready for consequences of treasonable action,” Abati said in a statement.

Bottomline:

For President Jonathan, most analysts believe that silence to the allegations raised by Obasanjo in his letter is not the best. According to them, the President owes it a duty to Nigerians who voted him into office to lend a voice and clear any suspicions that must have arisen. Politicizing or trivializing the issues can only make matters worst especially now that 2015 elections are a matter of months.

But will the President budge?

Only time will tell.

    Print       Email