by Frank Onuoha
The truth is not convenient. It is nevertheless expected that everyone – especially leaders, should be brave enough to stand up, swallow their pride, damn the consequence for the truth. Every nation that made progress, arrived at the point where they could no more ignore the truth. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in authoring the recent letter that has become a subject of public discourse did Nigerians a favour. He told the truth.
While examining his moral rectitude for addressing such an accusatory missive to the President,, some commentators are of the opinion that he is as much culpable as the man he is accusing.
However, it is not entirely correct to say he has no right to complain of poor leadership and mind-boggling corruption in the Jonathan’s administration. By benefit of hindsight, events in the past and of recent buttress the old man’s standpoint. Sanusi Lamido recently revealed how NNPC has secretly cornered over $49 billion in the foreign reserve. Just this week, Julius Berger coughed out $32 billion as punishment for bribing Nigerian government officials in a US court. Tambuwal – our Speaker of the House has been forced to join the band of too-much-corruption-in-the-
A lot of people have made an issue about the “leaking” of the letter. A commentator who responded to one of my post on Facebook asked “why make the letter public? Why pose sanctimoniously as a latter-day saint, pontificating before the gullible masses in a vain attempt to exonerate himself of complicity in the mess in the country’s political space?” I don’t think anyone should be in doubt where the “leak” came from and why. The ex-president put the matter to rest in the letter obtained exclusively by Premium Times online newspaper that “I am constrained to make this an open letter to you for a number of reasons. One, the current situation and consequent possible outcome dictate that I should… Two, none of the four or more letters that I have written to you in the past two years or so have elicited an acknowledgment nor any response.”
Those who argue the purpose was for cheap publicity and exploiting public sympathy may be deliberately shying away from the truth – they are afraid to admit that there is substance to allegations contained in the letter. The name Olusegun Obasanjo has always been coterminous with the limelight. Mostly for the wrong reasons and a few times for the right reasons, the man has perpetually been in the public domain. The issue of relevance may not arise seeing that he heads several peace-missions in the international community, a rarity for some of our former Heads of State.
However, what everyone should not lose sight of are some of the weighty contents of that famous letter. No matter how anyone hate the ex-president he has unearthed topical issues we cannot just sweep under the carpet. One of them is the overriding issue of “personal and political interest” over “national interest” and being surrounded by self-centred advisers. Many of us can attest that this has been the bane of good governance in Nigeria. A situation where the likes of Tony Anenih notorious for all manner of political gimmickry insidious manipulation are still heavily patronized to the point of holding sensitive positions like the office of the chairman of the Nigeria Ports Authority and so on little for imagination of what else goes on within the corridors of power.
Other allegations include the existence of a clandestine “killer squad of snipers” and a political watch list containing more than 1000 names of political enemies; clannishness and ethnic factionalism in government by President in view of his bias towards his kinsmen and region to the exclusion of more competent Nigerians; the President’s attachment to notable militants and fire-spitting kinsmen; an intentional division between Nigerian Christians and their Muslim brothers; anti-party activities for political gains; shameless corrupt practices in the government and so on.
Obasanjo is not a saint by any moral standard. If nothing else, for the sole evidence – which he admits to in the letter, that he foisted Goodluck Jonathan on Nigeria. This was a man without a good leadership antecedent and every sign of condoning corruption. Chinedu Ekeke in his response to Obasanjo notes that “ May the General be reminded that, as at the night you conscripted Governor Goodluck Jonathan into the presidential race – to serve as Yar’Adua’s running mate – he had a huge case of corruption hanging on his neck” That notwithstanding, it is untenable to suggest that the ex-president chose Jonathan to continue to oil the wheel of corruption in Nigeria. In his words to the President “God only put you where you are… I want nothing from you personally except that you should run the affairs of Nigeria, not only to make Nigeria great for which I have always pleaded with you and I will always do so.”
Nigerian’s are still waiting and hoping that the various officials caught under this government will be prosecuted. Even Ministers who have clearly embarrassed with open scandals the government are being cuddled. The only chance of seeing political appointees or jobbers behind bars is if they are caught abroad – James Ibori and Julius Berger will testify to this. PDP’s house is in ruins, barely gasping for breath. There is a breakdown of leadership. The decline of what used to be Africa’s largest party is already in motion.
It is an inconvenient truth, but what Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has only done was reiterate what everyone already know – this government stinks of corruption and needs to be purged. If they won’t listen to the voice of an old man, 2015 I daresay might be too late.
Frank Onuoha is a Historian and public affairs analyst. He tweets from @iamfrankelean