Speaking Truth to Power:‘An Open Letter to Mr President

Mr President, I greet you in the most excellent name of our maker and send greetings from the many in Diaspora and wish you the best in your health.

Beyond the engagement of formalities above I am concerned that Nigeria has fallen to a ravaging and confounding enemy whose name is corruption, therefore I urge you to permit me to continue this letter with some confessions.

For I belong to a generation of Nigerians drip fed on hope and promise, but are now fed up, frustrated and tired. I belong to those who benefited from an exclusively government sponsored education but are now left bereft, directionless and confused. I hail from an era of wealth and abundance when Nigeria had an ‘excess’ of petrodollars but saw no impact on daily lives. I was conceived by parents who were a select and advantaged group, went to United Kingdom in search of the proverbial Golden Fleece and remained ensconced abroad. I am part of a group of ex-Nigerian students, who at the universities were steeped in the struggle for a better life against successive military regimes but failed to see any dividends for the struggle.

The confessional journey has driven many others including myself into an urge, a desire to be part of those speaking truth to power. Speaking, because in speaking brings the possibility and hope that our words will transform Nigeria. I also speak because I believe that the real court of power resides not in Aso Rock, the Judiciary nor the various Houses of Assemblies but ultimately, in the minds of those whom we might enlighten.

In speaking I realise that a single, seemingly powerless voice, like Miss Uzoma Okere, who dares to cry out the word of truth and to stand behind it with all of her person and all her life, ready to pay a high price, has, surprisingly, greater power, though formally disfranchised than do thousands of anonymous voters in Nigeria.

Mr President, these urgings are so powerfully situated within me causing frustrations enough to bring persistence to my speaking truth to your government. I crave some indulgence as I seek to address this in further in the next few paragraphs.

Please forgive me for I had to borrow extensively from another speaker of truth because of the potency his words brings to a situation such as ours which seems barren, devoid of hope and littered with corruption of the scale of the grandeur.

Today, I will draw from some of Jesse Jackson’s words. It is quite evident from my narrative above that Nigeria like many other nations is very far from perfection. Mr President, It is obvious that you have an ‘imperfect’ mandate and you run and ‘imperfect’ government. I accept that like many of Nigerians I am very imperfect, yet, I believe that in Nigeria today, you, the erstwhile acclaimed ‘servant leader’, by seeking to adorn this ‘title’ have by default called yourself to into a ‘perfect’ mission.
The mission of feeding the hungry; clothing the naked; housing the homeless; teaching the illiterate; providing jobs for the jobless; and choosing the human race over the corruption race.

My generation, the independence generation of the 1960s did not choose the age or circumstances in which we were born, but we believe that through the right leadership we can transform the age in which we were born into an age of enlightenment, an age of jobs, and peace, and justice.

So where do you come in Mr President? You enter the frame precisely because it is only a genuine leadership at the heart of your government, and that intangible combination of gifts, the discipline, information, circumstance, courage, timing, will and divine inspiration that can lead us out of the cul de sac of moral and abject crisis in which we find ourselves.

I dare to hope against all hope that your leadership still has the opportunity to begin the mitigation of the misery of our nation, compounded in the last eight years by the Generalissimo and his fellow ‘comrades in arms’. I do believe that your leadership in Nigeria can still part the waters and lead our nation in the direction of the Promised Land, that your leadership can lift the boats stuck at the bottom.

But, Mr President, you must also realise that history teaches us that leaders must be tough enough to fight, tender enough to cry, human enough to make mistakes, humble enough to admit them, strong enough to absorb the pain, and resilient enough to bounce back and keep on moving.

Yes in Nigeria we have had democracy of some sorts with our own unique narrative, but General Obasanjo more than anyone has taught us that democracy only guarantees opportunity, not success. Democracy guarantees the right to participate, not a license for either a majority or a minority to dominate.

Mr President, it so tempting to see your own brand of ‘servant leadership’ as parading scapegoats or to seek refuge in reaction rather than to see it as one with the power of possibilities, possibilities to make progress and transforming the lives of millions of dispossessed Nigerians.

Mr President, I have heard that “real leadership” is defined as “the willingness to talk truth to power.” and I suspect that is the crux of what am trying to articulate.

The mid-year of your tenure is fast approaching, not much progress yet but it is not fool hardy to hope you can help us change the narrative, that you can change our direction and make us the masters of our own destiny, restoring the unfulfilled promise of a generation. However, you must be wary of the fact that there is no such thing as an invisible legacy.

Written by
Olu Ojedokun
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1 comment
  • I agree with you but you fail to mention the GREED and CURUPTION of many NIGERIAN. No amount of wealth one has – you can not take it with you. One can only drive one car, sit on one side of the vehicle, sleep on one bed, lay on one side. So why waste the nations fortune.

    A millionaire that lives among poverty is full of poverty.