By WILLIAM BOZIMO
I FIND it extremely sad to run a Commentary on two presidential pals: one, a former ‘godfather’, Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ and the other, President Goodluck Jonathan, the beneficiary of OBJ’s political support in the past.
An 18-page letter by OBJ chronicling some ALLEDGED misdeeds by the present regime sounded more like the kind of reasons offered by military adventurers in the past when they mounted the rostrum, shooting their way to power.
But my fear after reading through the private-open letter had to do with a freaky feeling that if these were not the type of things OBJ did during the dragon-ridden days of our most maligned leader, late General Sani Abacha that led to his being detained and sent to prison.
In a letter titled “Before It Is Too Late’’, OBJ, a former military leader turned civilian President from 1999 to 2007, piled up several misdeeds, which he, OBJ believed were capable of tearing the country apart or polarising the country along religious lines as he alleged corruption in high places and several unprintable charges that may border on treasonable felony.
One of the core ‘concern’ painted by OBJ is this: “The current situation and consequent possible outcome dictate that I should before the door closes on reason and promotion of national interest, alert you on the dangers lurking in the corner.’’
As a former military head of state, he ought to know better, having earlier in his military career, participated or was drafted into coups which ousted General Yakubu Gowon in 1975 that threw up General Murtala Ramat Muhammed during which he was made the second in command as Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters under Murtala Mohammed.
OBJ’s anger and cup of bitterness spilled over, ostensibly stemming from four or five unreplied letters he had written to Mr. President, whom he supported to become vice president and perhaps, expected democratic returns, either on a personal level or other ways.
A sensitive portion of OBJ’s letter comes out in these lines where his phobia against the late Abacha seemed to have taken a great hold on his persona when under a fit of hysteria, OBJ intoned “I could sense a semblance between the situation that we are gradually getting into and a situation we fell into as a nation during the Abacha era. Everything must be done to guard, protect and defend our fledgling democracy, nourish it and prevent bloodshed, we must away from advertently or inadvertently dividing the country along weak seams of North and South, Christian and Muslim.’’
His unreplied letters may have angered the former president to the point of virtually calling a sitting President names when he spoke about corruption in this brutally frank sentence: “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’’.
At this point, one is pained that a former president of the pedigree of OBJ could say this. This is a former military Head of State from 1976 to 1979 and became an elected civilian president courtesy of top members of his military constituency in former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, IBB and General Abdulsalaam Abubakar whose conduct of a short and swift handover/transition from Military to civilian democratic government made OBJ a president sponsored by the military officers over whom he was Commander in Chief.
OBJ may have come out openly to disagree with his godson, Jonathan but for crying out loud, on what platform is OBJ drawing his strength to dictate to a sitting President on how to run his tenure? Reading between the lines and the longish, rambling thoughts on unsubstantiated accusations such as the training of snipers, and the charge that over 1000 Nigerians are under watch by the Presidency for possible sanctions if they misbehave.
These are weighty issues oozing out of the mouth of a former president under whose eight year tenure, the country witnessed unresolved high profile murders and assassinations, beginning with a former minister of Justice and legal luminary, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Harry Marshall, Chief Dikibo and others.
Beyond the letter, which the Presidency has described as “self- serving and in bad taste”, to me, the letter smacks of vindictiveness, which over time, has become OBJ’s trademark. One recalls a similar letter OBJ wrote to a former PDP Party Chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh, both exchanged similar letters before he was summarily removed as the PDP National Chairman; and funny enough, after a round of pounded yam and bush meat at Audu Ogbeh’ s house.
With the mysterious and unresolved deaths of politically highly placed Nigerians like Bola Ige, the Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, at a time, was forced to describe the ruling ‘pastor’ as harbouring “a nest of killers.’’
These examples have become apposite in the light of unsubstantiated allegation of the training of snipers in an undisclosed locations and it is instructive to note that in the past two years of President Jonathan’s administration, no high profile killing has occurred except perhaps, the state of emergency imposed on three states in the North East, namely Borno, Adamawa and Yobe where Federal forces are daily battling with the Boko Haram insurgents with the permission and approval of the National Assembly.
If there is any iota of truth in OBJ’s charge that President Jonathan is polarising the country along certain divides- North and South or Christian and Muslim, it can only be traced to the crisis within the PDP where seven, then five serving PDP governors carpet crossed into an opposition party, the APC.
If the terrorism perpetrated by Boko Haram is not divisive or polarising enough to draw the anger and fury of former President OBJ, then we must reach for a new definition of polarizing the polity.
It is unhealthy and ennobling for a former president,to incite Nigerians against their president, Goodluck Jonathan.
in a letter that may well have been written by gutter snipers or junk journalists in our clime.
People easily refer to the massive killings in Zaki Biam in Benue State and other parts of the Middle Belt and many Nigerians also saw the Odi Massacre under OBJ’s watch as the ugliest face of misuse of presidential power ever exercised by a Nigerian leader in peace time.
I respect and adore OBJ, who in many ways, had come out any time Nigeria was on the brink of disintegration just as he received the surrender papers from General Phillip Effiong to end the civil war and saved us from the designs of Colonel Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to carve Biafra out of Nigeria.
But this time around, he cannot justifiably and clandestinely work so assiduously with opposition parties to pull down the edifice he had installed in 2011. To want to do so in whatever form would amount to initiating what may amount to a phoney coup as happened under the Abacha era and he does not deserve another visit to prison. I do not think President Jonathan would be persuaded to run OBJ out of town and country.
For a President, who is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the country, he does not need any extra military outfit or snipers to do his bidding.
At the end of the day, the open letter which is causing a lot of dust in high and low places, is equally capable of provoking a revolt as it is patently provocative and divisive. Someone whispered to me: “when will OBJ declare for APC?’’
For all practical purposes, OBJ’s letter may have unwittingly jumped political boat and worked for APC and he is perfectly entitled to pitch his tent with brother Tinubu. The last portion of the letter which did not portray OBJ as a patriot is the allegation that President Jonathan is being clannish and pro-Izon in his appointments.
With Dr. Doyin Okupe and Dr. Reuben Abati as his spokesmen, President Jonathan belies the charge as the twosome are proud sons of the Yoruba nation. In fact, when a minority is in power, he is always blackmailed by the majority tribes to gain more favours from the president while his own people, who could perform the media roles, are left in the rain, vegetating.
What is happening through this letter to Jonathan by OBJ can be likened to a former imperial presidential kettle calling an incumbent Presidential pot black. That is the beauty of politics in its ugliest form and scale. As they exchange letters, the masses are waiting in the wings. They should settle their friendly disagreements and leave the rest of us out of it!