December 19, 2013 | Opinion
RE: MR PRESIDENT! MAY I REMIND YOU
December 16, 2013 President Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR Former President of Federal Republic of Nigeria Hilltop Mansion, Abeokuta, Ogun State RE: MR PRESIDENT! MAY I REMIND YOU Your Excellency, having perused carefully your open 18 paged letter to Mr. President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, it dawned on me that you obviously were too busy to read my five paged letter to you dated December 22, 2004 during your second tenure in office as a democratically elected President of our nation. In the last paragraph of the letter titled 'Mr President! May I remind you', I had noted that 'In your controversial book "Not My Will", you had alluded to Zik as one who started his career on a very high and admirable plane as Zik of Africa and whittled to Zik of Igboland, who should not end up as the "Owelle of Onitsha". It is your action today that will place you in history as "Nigeria's finest statesman " or the " Balogun of Owu". The timing of your own letter to the President in relation to the huge eulogies rolling in after the demise of the international icon, Former President Nelson Mandela did not go unnoticed and at that point I remembered my letter to you at a period when you had just issued a rejoinder to a letter written to you by our erstwhile National Party Chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh. Your rejoinder was to a letter similar to what you had just written to President Jonathan which was also leaked to the press just as yours was leaked. Chief Audu Ogbeh had admonished you to act and save Anambra state and democracy following the attempted abduction of Governor Chris Ngige and arson on Government property by politicians and thugs in Anambra state. In that letter he expressed concern about the drift of the nation and expressed the fear that the regime may crash like the second republic did. Your reply was loud and unrestrained, calling him a long term saboteur whose true colour had now been revealed. Worse still you wondered if Ogbeh would rather a coup detat take place. What followed was political brigandage as all attempts were made by your government to unseat him as National Chairman until he was supposedly forced to resign through 'gunboat diplomacy'. As I had stated in the letter under reference (check it out at http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2004/dec/232.html) , without prejudice to the terrible human rights records of your government in the seventies which included the shooting of protesting students and destruction of late icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's home, I shared the general view that you had improved yourself in terms of your view and understanding about democracy and the proper role of the military in the new world order and was worthy of the national honor of hero and statesman. However all that has changed in my view as looking back at the lost eight years of what you failed to offer our country and the bastardisation you brought to the ruling party that provided the platform for your election which is now becoming the butt of jokes by Nigerians, because of the notoriety you left behind. Mr. Former President, I can understand if you consider my letters as irritants, or wonder who the heck I am to interfere in Presidential correspondences. I wish to remind you that I am following in your footsteps, as you once stated on 25th May 1993, that "all that is necessary for the enthronement of evil is for good people to remain silent and inactive'. Whilst the position of President is an opportunity provided only by God Almighty, Almighty God provides all of us opportunities to make choices and I have elected not to keep quiet on this letter whose intent can never mean good. Mr Former President! May I remind you, that in response to a similar letter from the National Chairman of our party, Chief Audu Ogbeh whose constitutional role it was to promote and defend the integrity, policies and programmes of the party, you asked him if he would rather a coup d'état take place. So I would love to ask you the same. I am not competent to either speak for President Jonathan or defend the allegations you levelled in the body of that letter. However, I stand on firm ground on behalf of thousands of honest, committed and well intentioned PDP stalwarts whose dreams of offering good service have been subdued by the legacy of imposition, intimidation and intolerance of positive criticism that you left behind with a torn umbrella that had provided shade for you in 1999. I was peeved at the insinuations you alluded to, especially with respect to corruption and insecurity, two monsters consuming our country. On four different occasions as I read the letter, I had to go back to see the addressee for it seemed as if it was former President Ibrahim Babanginda writing to President Obasanjo. Three of these occasions were, 'As a leader, two things you must cherish and hold dear among others are trust and honour both of which are important ingredients of character. I will want to see anyone in the Office of the Presidency of Nigeria as a man or woman who can be trusted, a person of honour in his words and character';'conventional military actions based on standard phases of military operations alone will not permanently and effectively deal with the issue of Boko Haram' and 'Knowing what happens around you most of which you know of and condone or deny, this letter will provoke cacophony from hired and unhired attackers but I will maintain my serenity because by this letter, I have done my duty to you as I have always done, to your government, to the party, PDP, and to our country, Nigeria,' There is no issue you raised in your letter whose genesis cannot be traced to your doorstep. Most recently in 2011, at a debate organised by the Club de Madrid, you stated that 'Ten per cent of that contract was taken to develop the party, for the party fund and all that and then, of course, it went beyond 10 per cent to 20, to 25 and, at times, it grew so large that in fact, when you were given a job, you wouldn't just care to do it. You would share the money or whatever they called it. That was very bad. So when I became President of Nigeria, the first thing I did after my election was to establish an independent body to fight corruption. That body was so effective, in fact two bodies; one was a commission against financial crimes and they were both so effective that ministers of government, the head of the police and the heads of parastatal [agencies] were put in jail..' Whilst it is true that your administration established EFCC and ICPC to fight financial and economic crimes, yet you did not hide the fact that your anti corruption crusade was selective. ICPC under your administration was underfunded but employed when the need arose to hound persons with divergent political views. When Dr Mimiko defected from the PDP to Labour party in 2007 you were reported to openly boast that since he had ignored your advice not to defect you were going to send the EFCC after him. You assumed the role of Minister for Petroleum for seven years in your administration and according to the former National Chairman; no memo was ever brought to the Federal Executive Council 'for the award of oil bloc or contract in the Petroleum Sector'. You personally failed to lead by example as your presidential library, establishment of Transnational corporation testify to your conduct. It was under your control of the Ministry of Petroleum that we continued to import more petroleum products refusing to revive the refineries, and bunkering gained notoriety. Your administration even put all manner of price increase on petroleum products promising to develop the health, education and transport sectors. Even the 16 billion dollars drain pipe in the energy sector bewilders those of us who once believed you were the ideal Nigerian hero. All these brought our party into public ridicule and disrepute. As one of the founders of Transparency International have you bothered to check the trend of Nigeria's position on the corruption index since 2000? Permit me to inform you that we slid from 90 in 2000 to 148 in 2007 when you left office. We were 144 in 2011 when Jonathan was elected and are currently 143 in 2013. There is no doubt that this hydra headed monster has been the major cause of our slow progress. Whilst praising Mr. President for the subsidy probe and arraignment of some prominent Nigerians for stealing subsidy money and monies belonging to pensioners, I still look forward to Mr. President's promise of zero tolerance to corruption and would have been most delighted if he could employ the strategy of dealing with the bigger 'thieves' first so as to inflict fear in the smaller ones. As such I would have wished if you had employed your position and influence not only to cry out against 'burgeoning corruption' but to advise him specifically to begin by dealing with outstanding and notorious cases one of which in my mind is the Haliburton affair. I support his dealing with this immediately because of the negative international image it has attracted for our nation especially as other countries have convicted and sentenced persons and corporations with regard to the case. I would not want to believe that you have not insisted on this because you are alleged to be one of the culprits? After all, you put under investigation your bosom friend late Chief Sunday Afolabi and have claimed on many occasions that no sacrifice is too great for our nation There is no doubt that insecurity is a major headache for the present administration and increasingly making all of us uncomfortable. I find your advice this time at variance with your earlier advice at a public function in Warri, Delta state when you 'rebuked' Mr President for being weak in handling Boko Haram alluding to the decisive manner you dealt with Zaki biam. Had Mr. President decided to employ your advice and massacred persons many who will be innocent being collateral damage, would that have made him a good President in your sight? During your administration, this group that has assumed a monstrous threat today was at it's infancy. Why it was not dealt with at that time with all the money being expended on security as even NNPC was funding anything without appropriations from the National Assembly beats my imagination. Who killed Chief A.K. Dikibo? Who killed Harry Marshall? Who killed Chief Bola Ige, Minister of Justice & AG of the federation just to mention a few of the high profile assassinations that took place during your tenure? You had preached at Ibadan in 1993 "Fear of being arrested is what leads to reduction in crime. When crimes are perpetrated with cover-up or non-detestability of culprit crime will thrive" Till date your government never caught the culprits and even when you as the president witnessed the confessions of Chief Chris Uba and Dr Chris Ngige as to how they rigged the elections, you failed as the chief custodian of the law to put them under investigation talk less of a trial. It was your comment on their confessions that necessitated my earlier letter to you, as you breached the constitution of the Federal Republic which you had sworn to uphold. You described Chief Chris Uba and Dr Chris Ngige as two armed robbers who had confessed their crime to you and you asked them to go away. In essence people confessed a crime to you and you asked them to go away because you are the President? It brings me to the reference of our state, Anambra in the letter you wrote to the President. You alluded that President Jonathan conspired with the APGA to deny PDP victory. It is quite understandable that your lacking in democratic ideals has beclouded your understanding that the position of the President of the country is distinctly different from the role of the National Party Chairman. I have participated in three primaries processes towards the nomination of a governorship candidate for the PDP in Anambra state. In 2006, under your watch as President, the PDP could not hold free and fair governorship primaries and INEC disqualified the ANPP and ACN candidates obviously to ensure PDP had a free ride to government house. In 2013, under the watch of the current President, there was a free though not fair primaries which was nationally televised and no candidate of other parties was disqualified. Did you expect Mr. President to employ INEC to rig the election for us? Would that have made Dr. Jonathan a good President in your eyes, and emphasised his preference for PDP to win the election in Anambra state? PDP lost in Anambra state mainly because of our disunity which was sown in 2003 if I have to remind you when you refused to allow Dr. Mbadinuju aspire for second tenure just like his colleagues. Afterall, in 2007 towards your quest to stop your vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from succeeding you as President, you resorted to all manner of blackmail, and as usual revealed the militocracy in you when you suspended him from the party unconstitutionally for more than one month denying him his priviledges and caused INEC to refuse to place him on the ballot. Let me remind you that in the runup to the 2007 elections you were reported to have stated on February 10, 2007 at Abeokuta that the general elections would be a "do-or-die affair". All these went in no small way to bring our party into disrepute. If there is one thing that I am glad about, it is that President Jonathan has endeavoured to keep to his promise about free and fair elections with electoral reforms. Even as Vice President on Nov 12, 2009 at the Anambra State National Summit on Security and Development, Dr Jonathan had given an insight into what to expect from him when he stated, 'We are quite sad because we believe that PDP, being the ruling party, should lead by example, if we have to do primaries, we have to express that look, we can elect people democratically but under the circumstances the party found itself, it had no option than to say okay, we have to pick one person among all.I assure the Anambra people that for the next election, we will provide enough security so that at the end of the day, it is the person that the people want that will emerge as the governor of the state.' He did keep to those words as he midwived the February 10, 2010 election in Anambra state, and since emerging as President he has continued to insist on this, obviously to the anger of the intimidating minority that believe we must take it by force thus, calling him names such as weak or aligning with the opposition. In my letter to Dr. Jonathan as Acting President dated March 13, 2009, I like most citizens desirous of positive change wrote; 'His Excellency, I am convinced, and I believe all right thinking Nigerians also believe, that the way forward for our country is to have, as we do now, leaders whose commitment to societal good is not only unquestionable, BUT HAVE SOUND DEMOCRATIC CREDENTIALS, AND A TRACK RECORD OF HONESTY AND INTEGRITY IN PUBLIC SERVICE, such that Nigerians shall witness a fresh will and genuine effort at people-centered governance that will lead to the path of all-round socio-economic recovery and true greatness within this short period' His commitment to the democratic ideals of allowing and encouraging INEC to provide a level platform for all parties, commitment to allowing opposing views within his party which has earned him jabs from both the hawks and the liberals are in my view a marked improvement from your perilous time. I remain proud about the democratic credentials of Mr. President so far and pray that he does not succumb to the hawks within our party that believe we must win by 'do or die'. His administration has brought some fresh air into the PDP giving room for frustrations to be expressed openly, internal oppositions to help grow internal democracy. Though I continue to urge our members to remember that there is a very thin line between internal opposition and anti party agents, and we must be able to recognise that. This was different from your period when you changed party chairmen and officers like one changing wrappers. I recollect the clandestine way you seized the position of BOT chairman, or is it the forceful use of Local government funds to build bogus Primary health Care centers? What would you say now about your failure to act appropriately when the late Ibadan garrison commander was found with INEC registration machines in January 2007? Today within the PDP family, the most belegueared zone in crisis is the south west zone and is President Jonathan the cause? Permit me to enlighten you Sir, that the beauty of democracy is the freedom of expression of thoughts and speech. The worst form of any democratic government is still better than the best military cartel. Today, majority of Nigerians recognize that the world has no future for military excursions into governance. However, Nigerians are desirous of enjoying the dividends of democracy and quickly. 2015 shall not be a "do-or-die affair" for the Nigerian Political class. I want to remind you that in 2002, not a few Nigerians desired that you act Mandela like and do one term, and many articles were awash in different newsreels canvassing for that; yet you went ahead to exercise your right to aspire for a second term which you won. This legitimate aspiration, you did not permit Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to exercise as you explained in an interview how you foreclosed Abubakar's ambition because of several factors, particularly for destroying the foundational trust. 'Within two years, I knew that he was unlikely to be the man because he had shown that he was not that type of man'. If President Jonathan elects to contest in 2015, it is his inalienable right and what is important is that you play the appropriate role of ensuring that the Presidential Primaries is free and fair. The most disturbing part of your letter to President Jonathan is your allegation that the administration is training snipers in a foreign country and there are 1000 Nigerians already on their watch list. This is causing a lot of national anxiety and is likely to pit public opinion against the PDP led administration. Granted that you are very honourable having been a former President and a grand Commander of the Federal republic of Nigeria with a vast network of essential contacts and information built over the years, and also granting the President the same benefit of doubt as one who had always professed his belief in the rule of law and in free and fair elections, we could then imagine that some elements within the administration are behind these heinous activities without the knowledge of the Commander-in Chief, which could be possibly the reason why you elected to bring it to his notice (since the letter was never intended for public consumption). Now that the information is at our public domain and is causing panic and apprehension as none of us have the privilege of knowing if we or our loved ones are on the list, I strongly advise that you direct a letter also to the National Assembly specifically on this matter. Otherwise, it may be an inadvertent action that will threaten our collective security as a nation. I make bold to advise you to take this path expected of one who has some information about crime being perpetuated for two main reasons. The first is going by your antecedents in handling information relating to commission of crime, the most recent being your own confession that you took the confession of 'two robbers' and failed to act. The second is that my people, the Igbo nation have always borne the major brunt of civil disturbances and strife in this country. I need not remind you that even the massacre by your government at Zaki Biam and Odi had Igbos as casualty. Who will speak for us? I wonder whether Nigerians would have had the priviledge of reading about your discontentment had the President acted favourably on your letter dated September 16 2011 which you denied writing when it became public knowledge and even threatened to sue the Nation newspaper until they published a copy of the letter. Therein, you advised President Jonathan to sack five heads of Federal Government agencies who were all of Northern Origin. Today, you have assumed to speak for the North. You summed up your life remarkably well when you stated in an interview that all your achievements have been by accident, stating that 'Perhaps the only thing that I can say that I have done voluntarily and consciously done voluntarily and conscientiously by myself is being a farmer which is going back to where I started from'. To me as a Nigerian and a member of PDP, Jonathan administration may not have been perfect but it is definitely a massive upgrade on your administration. Yes Sir, I respect you as a former President who has contributed to the development of our country. However, you must allow us decide who else will win our hearts and get imprinted on our ever elastic memory bank, because there is a hero for every match and many matches to go. Finally, I am at a loss as to why you would choose to copy your letter to someone you had referred to as a septuagenarian fool for daring to state in an interview in celebration of his 70th birthday that 'somebody for eight years managed affluence and achieved failure.' And followed it up by reminding you that revenues that accrued to your government in eight years were more than those that accrued to the nation from independence till 1999 before you took over, when you know his view on your own administration. Were I to advise Mr President on what should be his reply to your letter Sir, I would remind Mr President of your recent comments on a similar matter where you stated, "I keep quiet because when you say something about me or against me, I find who said it, and what was his motive. When the motive was unwholesome, then I keep quiet because the Bible says don't answer a fool, otherwise, you may be taken for a fool yourself. So the next verse - Proverbs 26:5 says answer back a fool otherwise, he may think that he is a wise man...Now, the question is, at what point do you know when to answer back a fool and when to keep quiet and let the fool continue to fool himself? ...So, when people are fooling themselves, I just keep quiet and when there is an occasion that I believe I should answer them back, I don't answer them back through the law because I am still laughing". I remain, Alex Obiogbolu Former Governorship Aspirant & PDP stalwart
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