by Dele Momodu
Your Excellency, Assalam Alaikum. It has been over six months since you graciously invited me to your office in Abuja. I must note once again that I was truly honoured and humbled by our one-on-one meeting. We spoke and interacted like two old buddies. What was more, I was all alone with you without a third party in the room. We spoke candidly and cracked jokes freely. I remember presenting you with an advance copy of my forthcoming book and you even requested me to autograph it for you which I did with such pride and gratitude in me. We took loads of pictures before and after the meeting. I left you reassured in my belief that Nigeria is in safe hands.
Sir, a lot has happened since that meeting took place. In fact, so much water has passed under the bridge. Let me take you down memory lane a bit. You started contesting the Presidential election as far back as 2003. For three consecutive times, you lost and it seemed all hope had evaporated. In 2011, we were co-contestants. I was driven to your house one night by Prince Lanre Tejuoso (now a Senator) who wanted me to tone down my criticism of you and opposition to your candidacy. I was totally disarmed by your humility and simplicity. You spoke softly and candidly. I felt you were too old to return to a post you left nearly 30 years ago but you were certain you still have so much in you to offer Nigeria. The Jonathan government that won the election at that time was ushered in with so much hope and promise. After that election, you said that you would never seek elective office again. After three arduous attempts, you must have felt it was all a bloody waste of time seeking an opportunity to rebuild an irredeemable country that seemed determined to be plunged into the abyss by those you were convinced did not mean well for the country. But the government that promised us fresh air soon lost its sail and floundered aimlessly.
It wobbled and fumbled till it became obvious that something had to be done to avert a monumental catastrophe, the kind that you had foreseen. The situation became so bad that most of us were left with no choice but to see you as our only God-sent redeemer. This was how the stone previously and repeatedly rejected by the builders suddenly transfigured into the much needed cornerstone. Your most caustic critics soon became your ardent fanatics. We were hypnotised and mesmerised by your new look. You were repackaged as a reformed and born again democrat. We studiously ignored your military credentials and dictatorial proclivity. The young and old screamed your name from the rooftops. Many youths were ready to march for you and even die in the process. The last time we witnessed such a phenomenon was in 1993 when Chief Moshood Abiola contested and won the June 12 Presidential election which was later annulled by your former colleagues in the army. You and your political party enjoyed a whirlwind romance with Nigerians. The covenant was based on mutual trust and the hope that you had robust knowledge of Nigerian history as well as vast experience in governance. Your avowed integrity was the icing on the cake. We expected you to inspire us as a veritable example of honestypersonified. The election came and you won almost effortlessly. What mattered to us was for someone to liberate and remove us from the suffocating yoke of the PDP. You looked the perfect man to do it. Of course, to whom much is given much is expected.
The burden of proof and expectation hung around your neck like an albatross. Soon, it seemed Nigerians thought and assumed that they had voted for a magician and so expected miracles to happen instantaneously. Trouble started very early. You inherited a government with plummeting revenues as the crude oil which greased the economy had suffered a massive collapse in price thus emasculating our country’s fortune and reserves. In addition, just before you returned to power the outgoing government had twice devalued the Naira leaving you with a currency that was set for free fall. In short the Government that you assumed control of was one which was like a disaster waiting to happen. Nigerians are generally impatient. We are action-packed and expect talismanic results. Unfortunately that has not happened and is not likely to happen soon no matter how hard you try. Sir, let me stop the introduction and go straight to the crux of the matter. While I do not want to sound like a doomsday prophet, I wish to alert you that there is fire on the mountain. This is not a subtle or covert attempt to create any panic. As a war General, I’m certain you have enough liver to withstand shock. But what I wish to say without mincing words is that we are yielding grounds to the enemies. Hard core supporters of your campaign like me are being derided by those who feel you are not living up to expectations. I know your handlers are likely to dismiss this as crying wolf where there is none but please, don’t listen to them.
The situation is very critical and may even get out of hand if not carefully and delicately managed. You are going to be against corruption is wonderful, it pales into irrelevance and insignificance where hunger, deprivation, poverty, unemployment, poor education, ignorance, diseases, insecurity of lives and properties and other complications are concerned. Many people are going to hail you for arresting the thieves but the same people will soon turn around to attack you when they can’t feel the effect of the war positively on their bodies and souls. In case you are shielded from reading the comments making the rounds, let me inform you Sir, that people are already saying they would rather have corruption back, out of the desperation and suffering they are going through. And these are not the so-called looters but the ordinary Nigerians. Nothing illustrates this more poignantly than the video posted by Instablog9ja on Instagram and other social media platforms yesterday showing a man that looks like a taxi driver being interviewed. The man said he is so frustrated that he wants Nigeria to perish and all of us with it instantaneously. He wished that we all die simultaneously, at once and suddenly. The clip has already gone viral globally. Therefore, if anyone tells you only the elites are grumbling, they are telling you a blatant lie, Sir. The poor who were your best friends and biggest supporters appear totally confused, disillusioned and ostensibly tired of the endless excuses coming out of your Administrations spokespeople.
I read somewhere that your foot-soldiers will soon embark on town hall meetings but I can assure you it won’t achieve anything. Why do you want to engage in campaign after election? Some expert scammers would just collect money for these jamborees. Nigerians want positive change and not a cacophony of lies bandied at stage managed, hurriedly assembled meetings populated by sycophants and glory hunters. They are ready to sacrifice but not when they think things are going from bad to worse. There is so much to do but without an agile economy nothing tangible can be achieved. The economy itself cannot be fixed in an atmosphere of permanent strife. One year will soon pass by next month and a second year shall begin. It is time to bite the bullet and take the economy head on. Forget about all distractions and concentrate on what really matters to the generality of our people. You will find out that once the economy is tamed all else will follow suit and the successes that you crave in your corruption crusade will start being manifested. I pray you will hearken to my humble advice and concentrate your energy on resurrecting the economy instead of embarking on a war of attrition.
You will be judged ultimately by the comfort you bring to your people and not the self-immolating pain you inflict on real and imaginary enemies. May Allah grant you the wisdom of Nelson Mandela who chose the path of reconciliation and national rebirth above the tempting choice of prolonging the horror of racial segregation. My warmest regards to you and yours always. I remain yours sincerely. told the usual tales and rigmarole of how corruption is fighting back. Yes, perhaps corruption is fighting back truly but it is because you did not prepare adequately for the backlash. The style and manner of the war you are waging has not been novel. The approach has been a rehash of the Obasanjo era with Nuhu Ribadu in charge. What would I have done differently if I were you? I would have traced and located the loot as much as possible before launching my attack. Surprise is one of the most effective weapons of war. And you are without doubt an accomplished General. It is only in Nigeria that investigators announce in advance who the next set of villains they are coming after will be. I would have gone to the courts to seek permission to freeze the looted funds. Thereafter, I would have asked my operatives to show evidence of the identified perpetrators and located the looters and ask for their cooperation in gently signing the purloined money back to the State without hullabaloo. I will then exchange a grudging handshake and tell them to sin no more. Those who wish to be difficult would be treated like hardened criminals and the full weight of the law would descend powerfully on such recalcitrant fellows. I would have kept the promise you made prior to assumption of office of drawing the line after being sworn in on May 29 and punish any fresh acts of rascality and irresponsibility. I will ensure there is a uniform treatment for all Nigerians, rich or poor, members of my party and others.
I will avoid anything that would suggest I’m principally after my perceived enemies and opponents. I will not create tension and confusion within my own party and accept the verdict of the people in their collective wisdom or stupidity. A house divided against itself cannot stand, I read in the Holy Bible. I would also make sure that as much as possible I would internalise the process and not wash the country’s dirty linen in public. Such tactics only tends to frighten away those who would assist us and make life unbearable for our citizens abroad. If we require assistance from other countries to repatriate our looted resources I would have engaged the leaders of those countries privately and sought their co-operation surreptitiously. I would have realised that even if they desired to assist my government they would be hampered by the rule of law enshrined in their respective jurisdictions and recourse would be required to the judicial process in those countries. My silent approach to the recovery of the looted funds would also ensure that the expectations of the people of this country would not be unnecessarily heightened. The money Abacha pillaged is still being recovered in staccato and stuttering fashion almost 20 years after his death. It is important for you to realise that corruption will fester and even explode when it is incubated in an economy approaching a comatose state as people seek to survive by all means possible. I will therefore make the economy my utmost priority. Trust me Sir, as important as the war.
- This Best Outside Opinion was written by Dele Momodu/Thisday