Sonala Olumhense: At the moment, ours is a country heading for hell

by Sonala Olumhense

Olusegun_Obasanjo_2

Many people have written to, and about, Obasanjo over the years.  I do not think he has read any of them.  Iyabo’s is different and epochal because we know he has read it, and that for perhaps the first time in his long life, that he has winced in pain, if not in guilt.

Writing about Nigeria in the past 13 years has often felt as if I wrote about one Olusegun Obasanjo.  Last week, his own daughter, in an outpouring of “frustration with you as a father and a human being,” completed the story in response to his own letter to President Goodluck Jonathan.

Iyabo Obasanjo confirmed that the man we know as Olusegun Obasanjo, who led Nigeria twice and who happens to be her father, is a liar, manipulator and hypocrite.  He is also a bad father and husband.

Iyabo described him as only someone who shares the same genes could have done, and in the process perfectly captured why Nigeria is stuck in the sands of shame.

Here is her key characterization of her father:

“You are one of those petty people who think the progress and success of another takes from you.  You try to overshadow everyone around you, before you and after you.  You are the prototypical “Mr. Know it all”.  You’ve never said “I don’t know” on any topic, ever.  Of course this means you surround yourself with idiots who will agree with you on anything and need you for financial gain and you need them for your insatiable ego.”

Iyabo’s bravery is to be praised.  Her critics should honour her courage and sacrifice.

The truth is that her intervention in Nigeria’s march to futility is not only about her father.  She may not have meant to, but she covered several demographics involved in Nigeria’s national disgrace.

Of those politicians and hangers-on who choose praise and worship of the tyrant for a spot on the route of power and privilege, she wrote: “You and your cronies mentioned in your letter have left the country worse than you met it at your births in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Nigeria is not the creation of any of you, and although you feel you own it and are “Mr Nigeria” deciding whether the country stays together or not, and who rules it; you don’t…”

She spoke about uncaring high-level politicians, including President Jonathan, recalling the PDP Presidential Campaign event in Abeokuta in 2007 when presidential candidate Umaru Yar’Adua was reported to have died.  As it turned out, he was only sick but had had to be flown abroad. Arriving for the 12 noon event at 11am, Iyabo was stunned to be told people were leaving because the Presidential candidate had died.  Reaching her father on the phone, he ordered her to announce Yar’Adua was only sick, and that the rest of the team, including Mr. Jonathan, would arrive shortly. “Your team didn’t arrive until 4pm and by this time we had just a sprinkling of people left.”

She wrote about Nigeria’s apathetic and self-deluding citizenry: “As the people that stole their millions are hailed by them the innocent is punished.”

She wrote about Nigerians abroad:  “I can speak for myself and many of them: what they are running away from is that they can’t even contribute effectively at the same time as they have to deal with constant threats to their lives by miscreants the society failed to educate; deal with lack of electricity and air pollution resulting from each household generating its own electricity, and the lack of quality healthcare or education and a total lack of sense of responsibility of almost every person you meet.”

She wrote about Nigerian journalists, recalling a case arising from her tenure as a Senator.  “Nigeria accused me of fraud with the Ministry of Health…When the court case was thrown out because it lacked merit even against the Minister, no newspaper carried the news. The wrongful malicious prosecution of an Obasanjo was not something they wanted to report; just her downfall.”

She wrote about herself: “I tried to contribute my part to the development of my country but the country decided it didn’t need me.  Like many educated Nigerians my age, there are countries that actually value people doing their best to contribute to society and as many of them have scattered all over the world so have many of your children… But it really wasn’t about me, it was about right and wrong in society…”

Her conclusion about all of this: “Nigeria has descended into a hellish reality where smart, capable people [in order] to “survive” and have their daily bread, prostrate to imbeciles.  Everybody [is] trying to pull everybody else down with greed and selfishness — the only traits that gets you anywhere. Money must be had and money and power is king. Even the supposed down-trodden agree with this.”

Of that characterization of Obasanjo’s Nigeria, she says to her father, “Your contribution to this scenario cannot be overestimated.”

Many people have written to, and about, Obasanjo over the years.  I do not think he has read any of them.  Iyabo’s is different and epochal because we know he has read it, and that for perhaps the first time in his long life, that he has winced in pain, if not in guilt.

For those hypocrites who say nobody should talk to a parent like this, I reply that it also takes a mortally-wounded child to say to a parent, “You are one of those petty people who think the progress and success of another takes from you…”

But that is one truth about being Olusegun Obasanjo. A master of the ad hoc, the haphazard and the whimsical, in 2003 he announced an “anti-corruption” campaign that was not meant to fight corruption, but to shield it.

In the end, his own anti-corruption czar, Nuhu Ribadu, explained what we all knew: Obasanjo was more corrupt than Abacha; he just knew how to cover his tracks.

He launched the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy launched in March 2004 as Nigeria’s ultimate home-grown economic reform programme which would transform Nigeria by 2007.  That programme did not even last up to four months, and Obasanjo did not care to mention it again.

This is where President Jonathan, a product of Obasanjo at his most manipulative, comes in.  It is interesting that in reference to Mr. Jonathan, Iyabo asks her father: “That letter you wrote to the President, would you have tolerated such a letter as a sitting President?”

Of course not, but President Jonathan would be mistaken if he thinks Iyabo speaks in his favour.  The truth is that the Obasanjo letters are actually one, not two.  Read them together and they are the tale of one evil, not two.

Mr. Jonathan may be dealing with some problems that he did not create, but he is one of the problems that Obasanjo manufactured, and he has performed that way.  While he is free to deal with his Obasanjo problem as he sees fit, it does not absolve him of responsibility for the issues raised in the older Obasanjo’s letter to him.  At the moment, ours is a country heading for hell.

The key challenge that Iyabo identifies is that of character.  Greed, self-centredness, indolence and hypocrisy run Nigeria.  In her father, she writes, “Your attitude is a reflection of the country. It is not certain which came first, your attitude seeping into the country’s psyche or the country accepting your irresponsible behavior for so long.”

I find no evidence that Mr. Jonathan is capable of elevating himself above the malfeasance.  What is even more important is whether Nigerians, as individuals and as groups, are capable of rising to a higher state of Nigerian-ness, citizenship and responsibility.

Otherwise, “As the people that stole their millions are hailed by them the innocent is punished.”

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This post is published with permission from Sonala Olumhense

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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