Letters of recent Nigerian history, By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

The book, Before We Forget: Obasanjo’s Letter To President Jonathan And The Aftermath; Francis Abayomi (ed), came to my table in an envelope as a kind of surprise. The accompanying letter signed by Francis Abayomi goes straight to the point thus: “We have the pleasure to present, to you, a book titled Before We Forget: Obasanjo’s Letter to President Jonathan and the Aftermath.

This publication by Peace and Development Projects (PEDEP) is aimed at documenting history and deepening engagement of Nigeria’s political and governance processes in the light of the popular debate elicited by the letter addressed to President Goodluck Jonathan by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and made public in December, 2013.

We found public engagement of issues around the presidential exchanges very critical to our polity, governance and continuous interrogation of leadership question in Nigeria. By this publication, our objective is to avail present and future generations the opportunity of appreciating the whole account of issues and contentions that dominated the historical debate.”

The drift of the book can be gleaned from the bold capitals of the blurb: “When former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote his ‘historic’ letter to President Jonathan, he probably expected a bouquet of flowers from a broad spectrum of Nigerians, but enlightened Nigerians, including his own daughter, easily saw through him. He didn’t bargain for what he got…”

It is indeed uncanny for a former president to criticize a current president elected from his party. Obasanjo happens to be the exception to every rule. It is not for nothing that many of Obasanjo’s critics see him as suffering from “The Messiah Complex”, that know-all habit of almost always having all the solutions to all the problems. The Vanguard columnist Obi Nwakanma is quoted at the back of the book, to wit: “The remarkable thing about Obasanjo is that he has all the answers when he is not in government.”

Before We Forget is divided into four broad parts, notably: the first part containing Obasanjo’s letter, President Jonathan’s reply, daughter Iyabo Obasanjo’s sending-up of her father, Chief EK Clark’s response, former Senate President Ameh Ebute’s missive, Alhaji Mujahid Asari Dokubo’s diatribe; the second part containing a broad spectrum of rejoinders from the media; the third part dealing with opinions from columnists, bloggers, sundry newspapers; and finally the fourth part compiling comments in various websites and social media platforms.

According to Obasanjo in his letter entitled “Before It Is Too Late”, “Mr. President, you have on a number of occasions acknowledged the role God enabled me to play in your ascension to power. You put me third after God and your parents among those that have impacted most on your life.” The letter “dated December 2, 2013, was leaked to the media on December 11, 2013.” Obasanjo states as a sort of epilogue that he had discussed the contents of the letter with General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, General Yakubu Danjuma and Dr. Alex Ekwueme “whose concerns for and commitments to the good of Nigeria have been known to be strong.”

In his reply, President Jonathan states, inter alia, to Obasanjo “that you have done me grave injustice with your public letter in which you wrongfully accused me of deceit, deception, dishonesty, incompetence, clannishness, divisiveness, and insincerity, among other ills.” As it happened back then, well before President Jonathan published his reply, Obasanjo’s daughter Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello had sent a stinker to his father as published by Vanguard. Quoting Menchus, the 4th Century Chinese philosopher, as per “The great man is he who does not lose his child’s heart”, Iyabo dismisses his father as a “Mr. Know it All” who insists on overshadowing everybody, stressing, “… you surround yourself with idiots who will agree with you on anything and need you for financial gain and you need them for your insatiable ego…Nigeria has descended into a hellish reality where smart, capable people to ‘survive’ and have their daily bread prostrate to imbeciles.”

In his letter entitled “Let The Truth Be Told Before It Is Too Late” Chief EK Clark writes: “My dear Obasanjo, your allegation that President Jonathan is training snipers in preparation for 2015, is a diabolical concoction and a figment of your imagination.” For Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, Obasanjo is spearheading a secret agenda.

The publication of Before We Forget may be viewed in certain quarters as serving some interests. What really matters is that this kind of documentation serves the distinct purpose of keeping records in the public domain. This way, Francis Abayomi and his PEDEP team have done us a world of good through the publication of Before We Forget.

Before We Forget: Obasanjo’s Letter To President Jonathan And The Aftermath; Francis Abayomi (ed); Peace and Development Projects (PEDEP), Ogba, Lagos; 2014; 273 pp.


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