Nigeria Matters

Open Letter To Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello

Dear Iyabo,

It brings me no joy to have to write this…(sounds familiar? You opened your letter to your father with the same exact words)…but since I do not have your private email address or postal address, I am left with no other choice but to send this to you through this medium. This is a response to the one you sent to Nigeria’s (my Nigeria’s) former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, your father. I deliberately choose father instead of dad because you have demonstrated in your letter that you are only a child to him, not a daughter. I am sure with a PhD, you can tell the difference between “father” and “dad”, “child” and “daughter”. I am a true and proud son of my late dad.

Let me state from the outset that I do not intend to (and neither can I really) contend the veracity of the issues you raised in your letter. But I intend to provide the appropriate contexts which you deliberately left out. The first thing that jumps at any reasonable mind can be found in your opening paragraph, where you offered categorically that you were a child well brought up by your long-suffering mother in Yoruba tradition. You clearly but disingenuously employed the phrases “well brought up”, “long-suffering” and “Yoruba tradition” here. However, most reasonable people will agree with me that a child well brought up would not have written such a letter to her father even in private, let alone send it to a national daily. Your “long-suffering” mother clearly did not raise you properly in the Yoruba tradition or even in African tradition.

And I can understand why Mrs. Remi Obasanjo, your mother and first wife of Baba, might have failed in providing to you and your siblings – especially Gbenga – the proper moral nourishment that a child needs in order to navigate the complicated and turbulent waters of life. Since your letter, and since I decided to write this to you, I have painstakingly re-read your mother’s book “My Life with Obasanjo” and some of her interviews, particularly the one she gave to the Punch newspapers. So much of the venom that your mother has for your father is reflected in your letter to Baba, which leads me to conclude that you are fighting for your mother the battle she lost to Stella Obasanjo, our former deceased First lady.

In her book (which I understand you and Gbenga helped put together for her), she said so many normally unprintable things about her husband, part of which were that he was a serial philanderer and wife beater. She described how she engaged Stella in the usual “pami n ku sori bembe s’oko” thug mentality when she discovered that Stella was now the cynosure of your father’s eyes. “I told my husband that I had risen to the top with him by the grace of God. Now I was giving him a free rein to misbehave with his mistresses as I could not stay with him in Abeokuta”, she said. She admitted that your father had “earnestly” (her own word) begged her to relocate with him to Abeokuta upon handing over to Shehu Shagari in 1979. But because of the other women around him (he was still only married to your mother at the time), your mother refused to relocate to Abeokuta, preferring to remain behind in Lagos. Now, tell me how this was Stella’s or Baba’s fault. You stated falsely: “I stayed in my mum’s bungalow which she succeeded in getting from you after you abandoned her with six children to live with Stella.” Abandoned? Who abandoned who? Could it be that your mother, not known for allowing anybody to cheat her, was having a fling or two of her own in Lagos as revenge for your father’s infidelity? If your father was as bad as you portray him, would your mother have succeeded in getting a whole bungalow from him? And if your father was such a bad man, what does it say of your mother having six children by him? Did your father go bad after the sixth child?

Your mother also narrated how she approached the late MKO Abiola and solicited for his help because her husband would not give her money to start a business; and how, upon finding out, your father approached the Alake to prevail on MKO to stop meddling in his family affairs. Does it occur to your PhD mind today that even though Baba was a former military leader, he might truly have been unable to afford setting your mother up in the type of business in which she was interested? Why was your mother going around using your father’s name to collect import licenses when she knew that your father did not approve of such a thing at the time? (This was before he got into politics and used his influence to get you plum jobs.) Does it occur to your proper Yoruba upbringing head that your mother might have asked for too much money? Does it occur to you, as a woman who has had to divorce a spouse, that MKO, renowned for his legendary taste for wives of powerful people, might have been having an affair with your mother; or that, at least, your father suspected as much? Has it occurred to you that your mother might have been an incurable peddler of influence? Why would she ask General Murtala Mohammed for the two-bedroom flat to which you referred in your letter? And please tell me why you were “ashamed to tell my wealthy classmates from Queen’s College, Lagos we lived in the two room Boys Quarters or in the two-room flat on Lawrence Street.” What sort of a child is not satisfied with what her father can afford to provide for her? Did you expect him to steal in order to provide better living condition for you? Did your father live in a mansion that he owned while you and your mother lived in a two-bedroom flat? Again, have you asked your mother whose decision it was to move off the plantation?

I would think that normal children do not interfere in matrimonial issues between their parents because nobody, other than the two involved, could ever know the entire true reasons the couple are having problems. Even if I concede to you and your mother that your father serially physically abused your mother, why did your mother remain with him? Could it have been because she enjoyed the perks that came with being the wife of a promising military officer? How many of your father’s friends, military or civilian, did not cheat on their wives or marry multiple wives, or have multiple children? How many? How many of those children have written such disrespectful letter to their fathers? Only a spoilt ingrate would do what you have done.

Your mother admitted to making several tormenting calls to Stella who lived with your father then, even though it was your mother who chose to live off the plantation. She recalled how she called Stella to throw it in her face each time your father visited her in her Lagos apartment. She recalled vividly with glee how, when she had her sixth child, she phoned Stella to inform her that your father was at the naming ceremony to perform all the traditional naming rites. How fair was that to Stella that your mother who voluntarily moved out of her matrimonial home, paving the way for Stella and other women, now accused her and these other women of snatching her husband? I would rule her act as emotional and mental abuse to both Stella and your father, because, had your father been the one making such calls to your mother’s new husband (assuming she remarried), it would be termed emotional and mental abuse.

You accused your father of having a “narcissistic megalomaniac personality.” Have you forgotten that the man was a Nigerian military general? What is a Nigerian military officer if not narcissistic or megalomaniac? These were the attributes that enabled your father to rise through the military ranks to become a General and Head of State, affording you the rare privilege to live in Dodan Barracks. Had he not been megalomaniac and narcissistic, you might have

lived in the ghettos of Ajegunle and Ifo. But through this very hard-working man, you were able to attend Corona School, Victoria Island, Lagos; Capital School, Kaduna; Queen’s College, Lagos; University of Ibadan, Ibadan; University of California, Davis, California; and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

Speaking about schools, you wrote that while you were attending college here in the U.S., you had to supplement your existence by working in your school’s library and the IT lab. You made it sound as if it was heresy for you, the child of a whole former Nigerian president, to get her hands “dirty.” I wonder if you came across the many Nigerians, far better than you in intellect and family pedigree, who drove taxi cabs, washed dishes, distributed newspapers, and delivered pizzas to make ends meet while studying here in the U.S. Some till this day have to do all those menial jobs to support their families. Many Nigerians here will give their right hand for a father who is able to pay their tuition here like your father did for you. I know of Nigerians who incurred upwards of $200000 in student loan just for an ordinary bachelor’s degree. You really have shown so much ingratitude to your father. Even if your mother emphasized education and out of her six children, four of you have PhDs, I would give a lot of credit to the father who provided the financial wherewithal (according to your mother and grudgingly according to you) for the success.

By the way, how did you become Commissioner for Health in Ogun State soon after your return to Nigeria? Did your mother peddle her influential Obasanjo name, or did you peddle it? How come you are still Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello? What happened to Mr. Jimi Bello (not your son with the same name o) but your ex-husband? I shall return to that last question later. So, did your “stupid” father (you called him stupid, I didn’t) call up the governor of Ogun State and ask him to appoint you commissioner? I am not questioning your academic qualification for that post. In fact, compared to what we have in other states, you were eminently qualified. But were you the most qualified in Ogun State? I doubt it. You rode your father’s political coattails to prominence in Ogun State. And how did you become Senator? Is it true that your victory was rigged against a more qualified candidate in the PDP primaries? Is it true that your general election victory was also rigged against the AC candidate Remilekun Bakare? You and I know that the answers to the questions are “Yes” and “Yes.” And if your victories were rigged, do you think the PDP in Ogun rigged for you out of their overwhelming love for you or was it out of respect for your father? Who knew your “Okolo” in Oyo if not the Obasanjo in your name? Did you not, in fact, beg your father – this same “stupid” man – to use his influence for you in Ogun State? But in your characteristic lack of gratitude, you now write this about your father: “I had told you I wasn’t going to run in 2011 but you manipulated me to run; that was my mistake. Losing was a blessing. As usual you wanted me to run for your self-serving purpose to perpetuate your name in the political realm and as the liar that you are, you later denied that it was you who wanted me to run 2011.” Why then were you still bearing your father’s name even after you got married? What do you really want from this man? He is damned if he does something for you and damned if he fails to do something for you. You are clearly the kind of petulant and renegade child that no man should pray to have; a good example of why men should use protection when having sex. I wonder how he allowed you in his presence, for with so much hatred that you harbor for him, you could have poisoned your father! I know that like your mother, you will never be satisfied with whatever your father gives you. In fact, you will denigrate him in spite of whatever he does for you. You will speak ill of him to his sworn enemies like you shared your disgust with Segun Osoba.

Your mother wrote about how your father advised her to get into poultry farming and how he provided her a piece of land for that purpose in Ogun State. According to her, she decided to move “her” birds to Lagos after your father got into poultry farming as well. While moving “her” birds to Lagos, she stole your father’s entire birds, for which he got her arrested. While in police custody, your mother stripped herself to her panties (she later falsely accused the police of stripping her) and refused bail even after such prominent people like the late Kudirat Abiola visited her and offered to take her home. She was hell bent on humiliating herself and rubbishing your father’s name in the process. Till this day, your mother blames your father for her foolish act of stealing his birds! This was the kind of thuggery that you yourself demonstrated before leaving Nigeria. With all your education, you physically and verbally assaulted the governor of your state at a public function until you were restrained by his security aides; then you quickly sought refuge in your status as “a senator of the Federal republic of Nigeria.” But you did not have enough decorum to accord your state’s chief executive any respect. Was that the proper upbringing that you received from your mother?

You wrote to your father: “As you yourself know, both in Abeokuta and Abuja, I lived in your houses as a Senator.” So you collected all that housing allowance as a senator, yet you lived free-of-charge in your father’s houses? Did you pay him rent? I bet you were also using all his domestic staff in both locations while pocketing the allowances you received for such staff. This Abuja house is the same one that you vowed to not release back to your father unless he explained how he came about it. This was the same house that you have put up for rent as we speak. Did he give the house to you? When you rented out the house after leaving Nigeria, did you give the proceeds to your father? Did you share the proceeds with the rest of your siblings? If the man has about 20 children like you claim, does he have 20 houses to share among all of you equally? Why are you appropriating for yourself what the man has not given to you? Or have you seen his will already in which he willed the house to you? Do you want to carve for yourself his belongings before he dies? If you can do this now, only God knows what you will do when he dies. I am sure you will block all your half-siblings from getting anything of their father’s. We know people like you…greedy Agbojuloguns…you may even have them eliminated! It was this same sense of entitlement that led you as Senator to pocket more than N10 million remainder of the N300 million that the Senate Health Committee blew on some stupid retreat in Ghana. After everybody else returned their loot, you refused to refund your share. This was such an embarrassing scandal that led the Yar’Adua government to fire the Minister of Health, Professor Adenike Grange and the Minister of State in the Ministry of Health, Gabriel Aduku. You claimed, as you always did, that you were being targeted by the Yar’Adua administration because you were Obasanjo’s daughter. You stole that money. We all know that you stole that money. Please tell Nigerians if you could do such a thing in the U.S. where you now call home. The thing that people like you “Atokowabalejes” cannot do while abroad, you bring to Nigeria and try to bamboozle us with it.

Now, let us talk about your marriage and divorce to Oluwafolajimi Akeem Bello. As I said earlier, it is never a good thing to pry into why marriages fail because outsiders will never know the whole story. It is you and Bello who know the whole story. But we have heard rumors, which I would not have brought up had you not com

e out with such self-righteously indignant letter to your father about his marriage to your mother. Is it true that you did not let Bello live it down that you were the daughter of Nigeria’s former military Head of State and current (at the time in 1999) civilian president? Is it true that you did not think it was part of your wifely duties to cook for him and do chores around the house even though he did those things for you? If true, would that be tantamount to “narcissistic and megalomaniac” tendencies? Why exactly did the divorce court in North Carolina award custody of your then three-year-old son (Jimi Jr.) to his father? Nigerians reading this must know that unlike Nigeria, U.S. courts usually award custody of children, especially when they are as young as Jimi, to the mother, unless the court finds credible evidence against the mother of disqualifying factors such as mental instability, drug use, abuse or neglect. So, which one is yours? Not only did the court take the child from you, it ordered you to pay your ex-husband $875 monthly child support! What is the real story behind that? We know, because it is public record, that you abducted that child from his father’s house on 27 July 2004 (the thuggery trait you learned from your mother) and bolted to Nigeria. This caused the court to rule you in contempt and sought your extradition. To the best of my knowledge, you are still owing Engr. Bello (who, by the way, is now happily re-married) the sum of $35,000 in back child support. You were really very full of yourself to be living in a glass house and be throwing stones at people.

Perhaps what is more grating to me about your letter is the part about you coming home from the U.S. in 1999 for your father’s first inauguration and you “saw Stella and Stella’s family prominently seated…” You berate your father for knowing that you and your mother’s children planned to attend and yet did not make any arrangement to receive you and accommodate you. You really are something else? Your father sent you to the U.S. in 1989 for further studies. On 9 March 1995, he was arrested, tried for treason and sent to jail for 25 years. He was in jail until Sanni Abacha died on 8 June 1998. In all those years that your father was incarcerated, did you or your mother or any of your mother’s children or any of your mother’s family members visit him in prison? Did you not hear that his former deputy, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who was also arrested on the same day that your father was arrested, had died in prison? Did that not jar you to your senses, as the eldest of his children, to visit him in prison? Were you and your mother hoping that he died in prison so you guys could divvy up his belongings? Please don’t tell me that you were too busy studying. I live in America and I know that schools do go on break regularly. Also, don’t tell me that Abacha would not have let you see him because we know that Stella saw him regularly. The question I would love to ask your mother is this: if she had six children by the man, why did she not see it fit to visit him in prison? For all of MKO’s philandering, his wives fought like hell (and one gave her life) to save him. Could this be why your father did not send anybody to receive you? Could this be why Stella and her family members, who stood by him in his years of travail, occupied prominent seats at his inauguration? You were 32 years old in 1999 and had been living in the U.S. for about 10 years. As old as you were, why did you still need your father to receive you and provide you with accommodation when you visited Nigeria?

I really pity your father. With so many enemies within his own household, I wonder how he managed to govern Nigeria as well as he did. He had to contend with your mother’s perpetual cantankerousness; he had to deal with the bogus, who-will-believe-such-horrendous-lie that your brother, Gbenga, told the world about your father sleeping with his (Gbenga’s) wife; and then this from you. If you didn’t look so much like him facially, I would have sworn that you were a bastard. I would have suggested to him to take a paternity test. You ended your letter by telling your father: “This is the end of my communication with you for life.” I will call you a bastard to your face if you accept people’s entreaties and re-open communication with your father. Not even in the U.S. would any member of a political dynasty write so much garbage about the family patriarch. You now live in Massachusetts, home of the Kennedy clan; could you imagine the children of both President John Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy disparaging their parents publicly in spite of both Kennedys’ stories of womanizing? You were obviously in the U.S. when President Bill Clinton’s sexual scandal broke; what would you have done if you were Chelsea Clinton?

With family members like you, Gbenga and your mother, your father does not need any more enemies. I am sure your stomach turned and bile piled up in you when you saw how Buhari, Akande, Tinubu, Ajimobi, Saraki, Abdulfattah, Nyako, Ribadu, El Rufai and a host of other governors and prominent Nigerians fell over each other seeking your father’s blessing. I am sure those are the types of Nigerians that your uncouth mouth described as “minions.” You guys want him down and dead. But many Nigerians thank God for him. We know that on more than one occasion, God used him to right the capsizing ship of our nation. As the Yoruba people would say: Ile ni adie ko ti ni’yi. I hasten to add that “enu ti igbin fi bu orisa, o ni lati fi lo ile dandan ni.” You are a disgrace to Yoruba people, to Nigerians, to Africans and to human race. I have not met anybody in person, whether in Nigeria or overseas, who would do what you did. What a darn shame!

Sincerely,

Biodun Ladepo
Los Angeles, California, USA

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