by Fredrick Nwabufo
I was in a meeting when former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s “letter bomb” rent the “news-sphere”. When I received the news alert, I hastened my business because I was seized by capricious anxiety to read the former president’s missive.
I must say, Obasanjo has taken the art of letter-writing to an enchanted stratosphere. And I admire his preferred means of intervening in Nigeria’s socio-political malaise.
In December 2013, Obasanjo wrote an 18-page letter to former President Goodluck Jonathan excoriating him for incompetence and nepotism. He also advised Jonathan against binging on the Bacardi of sycophants and self-serving praise singers.
As a refresher here is the advice of the former president to Jonathan.
“Mr President, let me plead with you for a few things that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. Don’t always consider critics on national issues as enemies. Some of them may be as patriotic and nationalistic as you and I who had been in government. Some of them have as much passion for Nigeria as we have. May God save leaders from sycophants. They know what you want to hear and they feed you with it essentially for their own selfish interest. As far as you and Nigeria are concerned, they are wreckers. Where were they when God used others to achieve God’s will in your life? They possess you now for their interest.”
Sadly, five years after, Obasanjo is hitting President Muhammadu Buhari on the noggin for exactly the same reason he flayed Jonathan. In fact, I consider his letter to Buhari a classical dressing-down more gnawing than the bitter missive Jonathan had to chew.
In these words, Obasanjo convicted Buhari of the same offence as Jonathan: “The lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed – if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today.”
And then the finisher: “But there are three other areas where President Buhari has come out more glaringly than most of us thought we knew about him. One is nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court. This has grave consequences on performance of his government to the detriment of the nation. It would appear that national interest was being sacrificed on the altar of nepotic interest. What does one make of a case like that of Maina: collusion, condonation, ineptitude, incompetence, dereliction of responsibility or kinship and friendship on the part of those who should have taken visible and deterrent disciplinary action? How many similar cases are buried, ignored or covered up and not yet in the glare of the media and the public?”
However, can Obasanjo’s open criticism of Buhari cause him electoral fatality? (Considering that he also advised the president to jettison his second-term bid).
Although, Obasanjo is considered a “kingmaker” in Nigeria, I doubt he wields as much influence now as he did before. I believe his importance is exaggerated. But does his opinion count? Yes, it does. His letter is just ammunition for many Nigerians who are disillusioned with the Buhari government. It only has the power to excite and not to influence. And as such, I do not see it doing any collateral damage to Buhari’s quest.
In conclusion, Obasanjo remains one of Nigeria’s most successful leaders. His courageous and selfless interventions must be commended. When other leaders turn a blind eye to the problems of the country and scurry into igloos for sake of self-preservation, the former president is ready to take up the gauntlet.