Gbenga Sesan pens an open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan and says: "Nigeria needs your leadership"

by ‘Gbenga Sesan

November 12, 2011
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR
President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Aso Villa
Dear Mr. President,


Thank you for your continued efforts towards improving Nigeria. Though I have my opinion on the impact of your efforts, but that is not the purpose of this letter.

Sir, as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, whose daily duty is to work with young Nigerians and ask them not to think of what Nigeria can do for them but what they can do to make Nigeria a better place, I have a problem. My problem is connected to the questions that I have had to struggle with over the years. One of the most popular is this: “You keep saying we should add value to Nigeria, but Nigerian rulers don’t care about us, so why should we care?”

Recently, a student stretched this question further: “Sir, if President Jonathan truly had no shoes, shouldn’t he at least understand the suffering of Nigeria’s 70%?” Our sessions are apolitical, so I always dwell on motivation and focus on personal development. “If we all become the best at what we do, as business(wo)men, social entrepreneurs, writers, footballers, musicians, politicians, etc, we’ll be able to connect the various islands of sanity we create in order to form a more perfect union,” I say to them.

Sir, the ongoing Fuel Subsidy removal debate has led to additional questions. “If the president can throw his wife a party in Australia and Senators earn millions of dollars a year, why does the president keep asking us, the people, to make sacrifices?” To this question, sir, I have had no answer. In fact, I also have questions. This was why I sent copies of “The Trouble With Nigeria” to you and your aides, with the hope that you’ll at least be reminded (again) of the similarity between our current dilemma and the documented tragedies of years past.

Nothing has changed, really. Yes, I know about the numbers and percentage points your aides quote to prove that things have become better under your watch, but this house is not in the best shape. Sir, I join my students and various participants at events where similar questions have been asked, to ask you a simple question: “If you really want us to make sacrifices, why have you not led by example, sir?” You are the number one citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and your “body language” carries more weight than what your senior aide posts on Facebook, or what the younger aides retweet.

Sir, on the front page of newspapers on Sunday, November 6, your words were boldly written: “Let’s Sacrifice For Our Country – Jonathan.” You were obviously hoping to ride on the message of the season, for which holidays were observed across Nigeria, but your actions are so loud that they overshadow the words that your aides speak for you. I wonder, for example, sir, why you have refused to make public your “Asset Declaration” details. If you have done so, please pardon my ignorance as I have not liked your page today, and I do not follow your tweeting spokesman.

In a nation where corruption is king, where public office is shortcut to “wealth”, sir, the least you can do is to show Nigerians that your days in Abuja have not changed you from the humble boy without shoes to a man with shoe factories abroad – that are “subsidised” by state funds. But then, you have only been in office (again) for 5 months, so maybe you’ll soon surprise us. All I can feed on is hope.

Actually, that isn’t 100% accurate; I have since moved from hope to patience, which used to be known by another word, “longsuffering”.
Sir, some of your enemies said that you have allowed some Heads of State use you, I mean Nigeria’s presidential jets in the last few weeks. First, they said you dropped the Mauritian president off at home before heading back home, on your way back from Australia. It can’t be true, so I’ll not allow the accusation to make me sad. Another president, who was stuck in the Lagos rain for almost an hour, and stopped over in Lagos for private business, was also a beneficiary of our presidential jet’s services. Sir, we cannot afford to live like kings when indeed our purse shows a different reality. But then, this may be the job of your political enemies, so let’s ignore them.

If you want Nigerians to make sacrifices, start from Aso Rock! A radical cut in the cost of government will be the first sign to Nigerians that you really mean what you say. When you reduce Abuja’s pay (and allowances), and achieve considerable savings in the volume of waste known with government’s many moving parts, you will see that it’ll be easy to ask the legislature to do the same. Then, and only then, will it be justified to ask those who already skip meals to skip meals. Some of your aides will say, “what is this not-so-young man saying, it’s a tough job to do,” and my response will be simple: there will be no transformation without sacrifice, and there will be no sacrifice from those already at the mercy of the price of kerosene and petrol until the First Citizen leads by example.

And sir, while still on the subject of leadership, there is another problem: criminals believe you have no bite. This is not a new problem, since this is the same country where the Attorney General was murdered in cold blood and the mystery is still unresolved. As Nigerians unfortunately start getting used to the headlines that use words like “bomb blast”, “67 dead”, “violence”, etc, without the sadness that comes with knowing that each casualty is a human being like ourselves, it is quite scary that we are yet to see anyone brought to book.

If your security appointees can’t deliver, why reward incompetence with VVIP tags? God forbid that it is true, sir, that you have outsourced your own personal security for the fear of being a target of attacks.

Nigeria is back at the age-old crossroads again (if we ever left temporarily), and you have a chance to step up to the challenge, sir. Lead by example, and you will spend less on SAs or SSAs whose job descriptions have suddenly reduced to “defend the president”. Lead by example, sir, and your words will carry more weight, even if not spoken with the aid of the media. Lead by example, sir, by cutting down the cost of government before asking Nigerians to sacrifice for a future they are not certain will offer their children the right to a social contract that guarantees the security of life (let’s even leave property for now). Lead by example, sir, and those who are waiting for your failure will edit their already typed-out columns. Lead by example, dear President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, and let the good luck spread to all.

Thank you.

Citizen ‘Gbenga Sesan

Comments (23)

  1. Wat he needs now 4rm we nigerians i our prayers.

  2. Comment If Jonathan does not turn the nation around – then the only way out is a bloodless revolution – We must make up for our mistakes – Corruption and Insecurity should be nipped in the bud – or else Nigeria will unenviably become a Banana Republic – it's not too late for a change

  3. What an awesome piece!!! First, for those who at one point in their comment referred to "the president being surrounded by corrupt people or well shielded by aides who feed him with positive things only" are wrong. It should have being the other way round because that is what it is. He purpotedly surrounded himself with corrupt minded people and aides because of his lack of vision n leadership so he could turn the blame on them. Second, the enormous issues addressed by the author were created my them so we could see something to talk about and they could have a reason to spend tax payers money lavishly. Perhaps, it has not occured to you past issues that has being addressed did not require any touch of ingenuity, but instead they only did because they have siphoned enough and needed to create anoda propaganda to work with. Finally, in my own opinion Nigeria (1914 – 2011) is just a little less than a century, as such she should be dead by now. Even God said 'three score and ten years' I have given thee to live. And if she is refusing to die why can't we kill it so we could live in peace. A pessimist idea!! Call it whatever you like.

  4. we want to see more of this letters not only to Mr president but to some thieving governors also

  5. Only if the presidents gets to read this he would be sober. He knows the truth & what to do, but the forces around him won't let him.

  6. Oh well said. Speaking our hearts and mind in the barest of terms. Thank u so very much for this letter.

    As for those asking for more patience, pls how much more is the limit? DurinG the next rounds of elections? Or wen I have to carry arms to protect me and the little that is mine? And ppl shud pls stop saying " will he see, hear or read it" its just wrong and irritating. Ppl pls nobody lives in that much of a bubble not to notice wen things go amiss.
    5 months ago we where fed with sob " I had no shoes look at now story". It show the Mr President knws more that 70% of us HAVE no shoes. The problems of our country is very glaring and the solutions even more so that its now a simply matter of common sense(which has been shown not to b so common).
    Its just sad that irrelevant issues like tonto dike's new tatoo/abia rape case(not trying to b insensitive) gets more media buzz and active social participation than our very many real problems.
    Wat am saying is that, media houses don't want to run Mr Sesan's letter fine. We can mail it, print and distribute it as flyers even send via SMS. There just needs to b a very collective shout to have our questions and solution attended to by Mr President not the badly crafted BS that we are fed it. We have to show the ruling class that no matter how great/big the iroko tree is, it doesn't make the whole fing forest!

  7. The letter is good but will it reach GEJ? Answer is NO. He is surrounded by a wall of corruption that will make him see what they want him to see. Maybe if u send it to all ministers on copy, one of them may show him, but is he intelligent enough to act on it? That's another question

  8. Weldone sire. But I still think we should exercise some more little patience. For within the shortest possible time after understanding the full power of his office, GEJ wil suprise nigeria

  9. I hope this gets to someone in the corridors of power. The reality of Nigeria saddens me no end. In addition to 'the problem with Nigeria' maybe you can add 'this house has fallen by Karl Meier' to it and it will help reiterate to them the lack of difference between then and now.

  10. I challenge every newspaper editor in this Country to publish this letter boldly on a full page. Y should we fear whether Mr. President will see this letter…in an age when traditional and new social media are in full swing and collaboration? It is the social responsibility of our print media to bring to the fore such representations as this to our political leaders…pls live up to this responsibility! Mr. Sesan has spoken our cillective minds…if u bury this letter, you have silenced us…but you can NEVER silence us or the truth. MR. PRESIDENT LIVE BY EXAMPLE OH!

  11. Will Xerxes listen?


    Worshipful stars heard
    Your reverence, your tongues
    For you missed our boat
    And you were not behind
    When you left
    And became god
    The deaf heard your prayer
    Musketeers sang it vivid
    Blunt crochets and lamp holders
    To the tomb, away at sentry
    When savannah caught up
    And torched our welcome
    Our boat had rocks
    As it burned through
    The long night to midgets
    When *Sango sent alien boys
    His anger under the water hearth
    After you became god

  12. I hope our president listens! Weldne Mr Gbenga

  13. Well thought-out, well-written, but just as the letter says; another question sir? WILL THE PRESIDENT READ THIS? Even if he does, will he act on it? My guess is as good as yours on both counts!

  14. If I were a naija citizen, I'd vote for this guy. I admire his sense of social responsibility

  15. May we not fall into anarchy.

  16. God bless u mr gbenga,u spoke the words of the masses,but will the president ever get the chance to read this. His aides shield him from letters like this and make him believe all his wel.

  17. This is good Gbenga, but the way you have put your letter not even his drivers or Mr. president will read it. Right now the presidence is more concerned with solutions to the problems its about to create.
    They know far more than what you have posted, infact they can educate you.
    So to get Mr. presidents attension your first paragraph should be a solution.

  18. 2 decades n counting of living the nightmare called leadership in dis country…
    even if we don't recycle our waste,we sure recycle our wasteful leaders

  19. He is just clueless, cos it wasn't his ghost that acted after Yar'adua's death.

  20. But will the man pay attention?

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