By Rotimi Fasan
CHIEF Olusegun Obasanjo’s December 2 open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan certainly did more damage to the President than either he or his supporters care to admit. Aside the fact that Jonathan’s response to his estranged benefactor’s letter lacked both the interest and passion generated by the initial letter, his reply appealed more to the zealotry of his own supporters than it addressed the substance of Obasanjo’s allegations.
He was hardly convincing and appeared to have had little to say by way of response which explained the delay in responding. And but for the family dimension brought into the matter by Iyabo’s letter, an intrusion which seemed to have worked to the advantage of the President and no doubt emboldened him, things could have turned out very differently.
But for this interruption from Iyabo, it is doubtful if Jonathan would have had any meaningful thing to say, to say nothing of him having the balls to respond to Obasanjo at all. But respond he did and with what would seem the right a mount of bravura. Indeed, his aides and supporters would want us to believe that his response has so rattled Obasanjo that the presidential letter writer is aggressively seeking reconciliation.
The talk of reconciliation sounds to me like part of the rhetoric and psychological skirmish directed at Obasanjo by the Jonathan team. So far there is nothing to suggest that Obasanjo is bothered by Jonathan. Iyabo’s letter certainly bruised his ego. But that’s as far as it goes. He must have got over that the same way he got over similar public spats with Iyabo’s mum, Remi, and her brother, Gbenga. But Obasanjo is too thick-skinned to wallow too long in sorrow for such public fights with family members.
Jonathan’s response can hardly pluck a strand off the hairs on his body. Obasanjo is certainly aware of the damaging effect of his letter on Jonathan. He anticipated this in his letter when he spoke of attacks on his person as a consequence of his letter from both hired and self-appointed supporters of Jonathan. His stand to respond no further to Jonathan or those who have spoken on his behalf rests on this fact.
While Obasanjo has maintained studied silence since his letter shattered the pre-Christmas peace of Aso Rock, even vowing not to respond to any kind of response from Abuja, neither Jonathan nor his supporters have had the same presence of mind to ignore further jibes thrown at them by Nigerians who liked Obasanjo’s message even if not the messenger.
If any thing, the President’s cheer leaders have been trying their best to get even with Obasanjo. This is proof if no other that the Jonathan team knows who Nigerians are listening to. Since Obasanjo’s letter, at least three open letters and or interviews aimed at taking out Obasanjo have been launched by supporters of the President. The last is from Chief Edwin Clark whom Obasanjo identified as one of Jonathan’s ethnic supporters that have turned his presidency into a sectional conclave of tribesmen and tribeswomen.
Chief Clark’s letter reeked of such bilious disclosures as draw attention to his personal desire to speak on behalf of a President Jonathan he believes has been reduced into some kind of damaged political product. Among other things, he spoke of Obasanjo’s corrupt past as a co-member of the Gowon regime which nothing Obasanjo’s letter to Jonathan could get him to talk about until now.
Chief Clark surely felt the need to bring Jonathan under his wings and to protect him from a bullying godfather. Except that his remarks portrayed him as someone desperately straining to smear Obasanjo with the same corruption tar as Obasanjo had thrown at Jonathan.
While Jonathan’s supporters keep up their damage control activities, their job is nowhere made easier by the manner supporters of the PDP appear to be deserting it for the ACN as if from a sinking ship. From Sokoto to Rivers, Adamawa to Kano, it’s the same old song of carpet crossing.
The PDP looks like the remnants of a defeated army or, indeed, a battalion of deserters. The party has never been so vulnerable. The pressure of these desertions like the strike-induced pressures of ASUU, NUPENG, PENGASSAN and the NMA must be getting to Jonathan, no thanks to Obasanjo’s letter that has compounded everything. And rather than things easing up, the kitchen only seems to be generating more heat for Jonathan and his aides.
The media was awash last week with news that the presidency wanted the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi out, to wit, to proceed on terminal leave. Matters took on the colour of urban legends with online media reports. They suggested Sanusi had refused to tender his resignation as demanded by the President who he had engaged in a verbal altercation. Beyond the media exaggerations, it is obvious that the centre can no longer hold between Sanusi’s CBN and the Jonathan presidency.
Aso Villa is apparently smarting from the pain of ‘leaked’ letters as are agencies and or ministries controlled by members of the president’s kitchen cabinet- from NAMA under Stella Oduah to the Finance Ministry under Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. One wonders what is so secret about letters in possession of several persons at a time. But Abuja seems fixated on scapegoating some people.
Sanusi might have either exaggerated or got wrong the amount it claimed the NNPC had failed to remit to the Federation Account. But there is no denying that very substantial sums, as much as US $10 Billion at least, is yet to be accounted for. That’s surely a huge sum the presidency should not shy away from accounting for. The rumoured forced or voluntary departure of Sanusi from the CBN or otherwise does not absolve the Jonathan administration of responsibility for the missing fund.