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HomeOpinionX-Raying Obasanjo’s open letter

X-Raying Obasanjo’s open letter

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“The Supreme Court is not the highest court in our land. Our highest court is the court of public opinion which meets every hour”

—Seitel (1987)

Nothing warrants the reactions that characterised former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent use of analytical method to advise President Muhammadu Buhari, on the current state of the nation.

Obasanjo, as an elder statesman, apart from enjoying the constitutional backing as enshrined in the nation’s 1999 Constitution (as amended), to express his opinion, the open letter remains the most dynamic and cohesive action expected of a past leader of his class to earn a higher level of respect.

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As we know, in problem-solving, it is vital at the start to formulate the questions in a way that will facilitate the discovery of solutions. Likewise, the open letter; from its tone, one can situate that its target was to remind the President that public order, personal and national security, economic and social programmes, and prosperity are not the natural order of things but depend on the ceaseless efforts and attention from an honest and effective government that the people elected.

In view of the above, the description of Obasanjo by some commentators as someone that thinks of himself as more generous, more nationalistic, selfless, honest, kindly, intelligent than others, may not be fair after all.

Notably, Obasanjo’s action is not without precedent at the global stage as history indicates that Lyndon Johnson, a one-time President of the United States of America, was stopped from seeking a second term in office by virtue of such letters. It was after incessant letters from his predecessors and other well-meaning citizens condemning his poor handling of the war against the Vietnamese that he (Lyndon) issued a statement which read in parts: “I shall not seek and, I will not accept the nomination of my party as president’’.

Indeed, like the Rotary International Club’s Four-Way Test, instead of the Federal Government telling the former president to watch his words, what should be its preoccupation, in my views, is to introspectively find out if the open letter contained the truth, is fair to all concerned, and has the capacity to build goodwill and better friendship.

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By contrast, Obasanjo’s letters to the present administration could be likened to temptation; which in the words of Thomas Akempis comes to instruct, humble and purify. But if the tempted flee them outwardly, and do not pluck out the roots, they will profit little; nay, the temptation will soon return and the persons will find themselves in a worse condition.

Studying the content of the last letter and drawing useful lessons from it should be a solution that will fit the circumstance.

The reason for the opinion is not far-fetched.

First, recall that President Buhari, according to reports, had in March 2015, among other things, described Obasanjo as a courageous patriot and statesman who tells the truth to power when he is convinced that leaders are going wrong. It is my prayer that Buhari will heed this truth that is now coming from that same courageous patriot.

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Second, Obasanjo in a similar letter in 2018 complained about 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.” And those fears later became realities that Nigerians now worry about.

Now that another “political prophecy” has come, expressing deep worries about four avoidable calamities listed in no particular order as abandoning Nigeria into the hands of criminals who are all being suspected, rightly or wrongly, as the Fulani and terrorists of Boko Haram type; spontaneous or planned reprisals against the Fulani which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could happen and yet it happened, similar attacks against any other tribe or ethnic group anywhere in the country initiated by rumours, fears, intimidation and revenge capable of leading to pogrom and violent uprising beginning from one section of the country and spreading quickly to other areas and leading to dismemberment of the country.

I think there is an urgent need for us to listen.

Particularly since these worries are by no means unique to Obasanjo as the like of Professor Wole Soyinka, and Adewale Martins, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, have at different times and places raised strong voices against the Federal Government’s inability to manage our diversity and security. While Soyinka called on Nigerians to defend their lands, Martins on his part noted that the Federal Government is presently not doing enough to ensure security of lives and property.

Jerome-Mario Utomi, Lagos

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