The time will come when any person aspiring to any political office in the nation will be required to have at least a credit grade in English language. This will at least balance the 1979 mathematical equation which Chief Richard Akinjide posited in the court during his submission on twelve-two third (12 2/3) of 19 states. Nigeria, a Wonderful country, shall never cease of both natural and human-abraca-wonder.
The current phase of wonder is ‘open letter’. A platform through which the tough and the weak explore to vent their disagreement about the subject of their concerns. Ordinarily, letter is a communication medium. It could be formal or informal. Regardless of its nature, it is used to share information from one person or organization to another. It’s recipient is usually the addressee who has exclusive access to its contents.
However, a public letter is a letter that is written by a person or an organization to another individual or authority about the subject that attracts the writer’s interest. It could also be defined as a written and published letter of protest on a subject of general interest, addressed to a person but intended for general public readership.
Open letter in Nigeria political scene is not a new phenomenon. It is dated back to the first republic if not beyond. Politicians use the medium in lieu of press release. The undisclosed reason of the writer is either to protest or express concerns about the state of affairs of the nation, proffer solutions to identified problems ; or to expose the indecorum of the addressee, be it individual, organization or government. The tone and style of such letter is direct, pungent and critical.
Since the 70s Students Union Leaders and other pressure groups have written and published several public letters to the President, Governors and other top government officials and decision makers on the subject of national interest which were considered to be at- stake, vulnerable, abused and or in jeopardy. Some were also written to expose the unethical and indecorous behavior of a public officer. For example, a published letter of corruption against J.S. Tarka by Godwin Dabo during General Gowon’s administration;- “if you Tarka me, I will Dabo you”.
Late sage, Chief Awolowo wrote a public letter to President Shehu Shagari titled “My dear Shehu”. In this letter Papa Awo attentioned President Shagari about the collapsing state of Nigerian economy and its implication on the common man. Suggestions and advice were offered by Papa Awo in the letter to his political opponent, who neither paid attention to “voice of reason” nor “voice of wisdom’. The consequence was the Military coup of 1983 led by the duo of Major-Generals Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon.
Other public letter writers were inspired by either the spirit of nationalism or sense of patriotism. Their role is that of a whistle blower. They intended to cry out and notify the innocent public about an observed shady and gullible behavior of a public officer or government policy that is considered unfair and unjust. The most resent of these letter-writers is the retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, former President and a respected elder statesman. His critical writing and fierce outspokenness is dated back to the regime of Buhari/Idiagbon, when he sternly warned the junta coup plotters to stay away from his administration’s legacies, when the former tagged themselves as an off-shot of Muritala-Obasanjo regime.
Obasanjo did not spare the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida of his open letter. IBB has introduced economic policy of the Structural Adjustment Program, SAP in 1986 as a major economic initiative that he claimed, would forever change the shape and structure of the Nigerian economy for good. It, however, came with much pain that first led to the devaluation of the naira. Obasanjo therefore in 1987 came out publicly and challenged IBB to touch SAP with “human face”. That is, to restructure SAP to bring relief to the Nigerian people.
As a result of his boldness, bluntness and courage to stand tall even in difficult situations, following the tensions at the time of General Sanni Abacha’s death, it was again to Obasanjo that the military looked up to save the country. Against his initial objections, he was heralded in as the first president of the Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999.
After his exit on May 29, 2007 having spent two terms in office, Obasanjo has again and repeatedly played the role of an active observer and king maker. In this due role, Obasanjo, positioned himself as the much needed Nigerian political and economic ‘massiah’ who must be heard and consulted on all domestic, international, and party matters before decisions are made. Having lived a sizable part of his adult life in authority. He finds it difficult to function out of power. He enjoyed it, he loved it and unwilling to part with it. Even when his third term agenda was frustrated by the people, he still finds a way to carve and wield political power around himself. He became an emergency king maker, who must be heard at all cost. This niche comes with intended and wide political patronage. Consequently, OBJ exercise his freedom of speech freely without caution as expected of an elder statesman. His choice of words and manners of communications are sometimes reprehensible.
President Umaru Yar‘Adua was known to be OBJ’s product, but unknown to many, Obasanjo wrote to the new president to carve a unique identity for himself. In a letter dated May 30, 2007 written obviously a day after he handed over to the new president, Obasanjo wrote thus:
“As you know, for the next few months, perhaps years, your government will be regarded as being in the penumbra of the Obasanjo regime given the situation that brought you into office.
“Against this you must toil to carve out a unique identity for yourself and administration. To do this, you must choose wisely your vision and the folks in your cabinet to drive this vision”.
Having been on his own and piloted the affairs of the nation thus far from one crisis to another, Obasanjo’s latest intervention came with his blasting condemnation of Dr. Jonathan as having disappointed God and man. The letter dated December 2, 2013 was obviously not the first from the former president to the incumbent as Obasanjo stated in the letter that Jonathan had neither bothered to act or acknowledge earlier letters sent to him. The 18 page letter literally drips anger at the president’s perceived failure as he (OBJ) described President Jonathan as deceitful and a danger to Nigeria’s corporate existence.
Incidentally this letter has generated responses that are unique and unparalleled. It has led to letters and counter letters written either to attack OBJ or to defend JGL depending on the side of equation which the writer belongs. The nation was also treated to a letter that was purportedly written by Senator Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo, and several others.
One clear factor that eluded all the reaction letters was that none of them refuted the allegations of the Obasanjo’s letter. Reactions were centered on the tone, the style and the absence of civility with which OBJ wrote his letter. Ironically this implies Nigerian’s acceptance of the culture of indecency in the public office. Most of the response, even from the elder statesman Chief Edwin Clark did not addressed the substance of OBJ’s letter. I hope future reactors and letter writers will desist from chasing the shadow and call a spade a spade!
It is only in Nigeria that the political profiteers and despicable public office holders will shamelessly demand to be treated with civility, when in actuality they deserve vilification. A person entrusted with public office is expected to uphold the sanctity of the office. When the code of o
ffice is abused and the people’s trust betrayed, they neither deserve to be treated with civility nor respect. They have proved themselves to be ignoble; therefore they should not be dressed with garlands of honor. After all a thief is a thief, whether he lives on the rock with tribal mark or in the swamp with frozen brain .
There is no iota of doubt in my mind that neither former President Obasanjo and incumbent President Jonathan GoodLuck is fraud-free. I am not equally insensitive to the fact as expressed by Chief Edwin Clark that Obasanjo is an hypocrite who is equally guilty of impropriety. What bothers my mind is the naivety with which some Nigerian people minimized the value of decency and integrity. Obasanjo accused Jonathan of being a political fraud. People who knows OBj closely said he is guilty of same, yet neither Obasanjo nor Good Luck came open to refute the accusation or defend the allegations.
To add salt to injury, some people suddenly became President Jonathan’s defenders; they want to crucify Obasanjo for expressing what was obvious. To them OBJ was loud, lousy and excessive; but where are these people when Obasanjo was been lampooned by the likes of Late Akhigbe when he was the Lagos State Governor. Where are these emergency defenders when T.Y. Danjuma called Obasanjo a Pauper ? where are they when IBB referred to OBJ as a bigger fool? Where are they when the legal luminary Femi Falana challenged OBJ to explain the missing 20 billion naira from the stabilization account? I mean where are these people?
I am not asking these rhetorical questions to validate OBJ, After all his updated public record of wealth is an attestation of unexplained transformation. (Read the letter of Chief Edwin Clark for details). My curiosity is why is it all of a sudden that what is good for the geese is no longer good for the gander? Why could Obasanjo be justifiably dressed down in the pages of the newspapers and it is improper, and unethical for Jonathan Good Luck? Is this an issue for moral relativism? Or the elite’s conscious redetermination of what an acceptable value should look like?
In a democratically spirited country, with incorruptible judiciary and the dependable fourth estate, the two presidents should have been taken to task to at least defend the allegations and accusations levied against them. Yet both of them among others remain a sacred cow, walking our streets and parading themselves in a holier than thou pretense.
It must be reiterated that the contents of OBJ’s letter remain relevant, and it is in the interest of the nation and the incumbent president to address it honestly and sincerely. I am not persuaded by anybody’s perception or acceptance of Obasanjo, it is obvious that it takes a thief to follow the foot-steps of another thief. If OBJ who was reported to have declared twenty thousand naira in his bank account in 1999 (Code of Conduct Bureau), end up living in a multi-billion naira edifice that was constructed on Abeokuta rocks before the end of his two terms in office could depict President Jonathan Good Luck as “deceitful and dangerous to Nigeria’s corporate existence”, He must have seen something that most of us are not privy to.
It will amount to intellectual suicide to consider the cross letter wars between the two presidents as a figment of class conflict. JGL is a product of OBJ’s political school. Why should Nigerians not take him serious? Why should JGL window dressed the issues raised in OBJ’s letter? Why was he evasive in his 10 page reply? Why was he unduly sentimental and emotional in his 10 page reply? President Jonathan GoodLuck has the right to confirm, refute or defend himself of the allegations. What Nigerians will not settle for is an evasive letter that is tainted in sentiments and emotions. Nothing short of sincere and concrete answers and explanations to his predecessor allegations will make a difference.