Of this season of letters and hidden truths By Yomi Odunuga

Let’s face it, no one in this country of ours has a monopoly of the art of letter-writing regardless of what authority such a person has exerted in the shockingly repellent race to rape and plunder Africa’s sleeping giant. And so, I am writing this letter without any formal courtesies or obeisance to such persons who have written before me.

However, it is expedient to state, without any equivocation, that this letter is solely for the attention of the esteemed clique of political rapists and official kleptocrats who gloat about their ‘achievements’ and ‘anticipatory achievements’ in power. Sometimes, I believe we are cursed to suffer as unwitting captives of ‘one chance’ adventurers in positions of authority. And that’s why I think that the bleating ex-Senator daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Iyabo, hit the nail on its damn head when she said “Nigeria has descended into a hellish reality where smart, capable people to ‘survive’ and have their daily bread prostrate to imbeciles!” Ouch!

But, talking seriously, if we ignore Iyabo’s grammatical logjam and instead try to deepen our understanding of what she is trying to pass across in the open letter to her ‘dear daddy’, we would come to the conclusion that those hard punches are simply the bitter truths that we all hate to talk about. But for the harvest of letters authored and ‘leaked’ by those an almost teary-eyed Iyabo derisively called ‘imbeciles’, how would we have known that things have irreparably fallen apart even within the rank and file of the high and mighty? If they had not chosen to sing discordant tunes like the canary with the broken beak, how would we have known that all the plastic laughter, bear hugs, firm handshakes and photo-ops are powered by greed and selfishness and not how to change the fortunes of the crumbs scavengers?

So, Iyabo knew all this and she failed to do anything about it whilst living lavishly on state funds as a Senator? Or was she placed under oath to never see or hear any evil? How come she just suddenly realised that her dear daddy and his ilk have been milking us dry in this ‘hellish reality’ called Nigeria? But then, this letter is not about Iyabo and her anguished cry. It is something deeper. It is more about the untold stories of our lives and the sinking ship of state. The intriguing thing about us as a people is the criminal equanimity with which we accept our fate in the hands of these characters.

At a time when other communities have gone past bothering their leadership over issues relating to quotidian living, we are regaling in the allure of celebrating the mundane. Okay, I agree that this feast of letter- writing in high places provides a veritable platform for some persons to score cheap political points. What is not clear to me is how that affects the price of fish in the market. So, Obasanjo writes a scathing letter to his estranged political godson, Jonathan, who later responded by claiming that landmines are being placed before his future political compass and we were expected to take them seriously? Have we forgotten, so soon, the story about how political bombs were used to pave the way for the one who is now crying foul? When Peter Odili and others were – literally speaking – bombed into relinquishing their presidential ambitions in December 2006, just to We are coming to the end of 2013 and are glad that we are alive today and pray that we will make it into the New Year. I am particularly happy that my daughter is here today. For us, 2013 was a tough year for all of us in the family especially for her. The year started with a bang for us. My daughter, my only child was barely two months old then. It is needless to say that I and my wife just commenced our parenthood and were both immature at the time.

On that New Year’s Eve, we noticed that our daughter was having difficulty breathing. We called her doctor and he asked us to remove her mosquito treated net. This we did to no avail. He then asked us to bring her to the hospital. This was 10:12pm We went through Gbagada Phase II and didn’t bother to take the Lanre Awolokun Road as it is always locked by 7pm so we drove through Olumoroti Jaiyesimi Street and on getting to the gate, we were told that the gate was closed for the night. All our efforts to make them understand that this was an emergency fell on deaf ears as they left us and walked away. As we had no time to waste, we had to go back and use the expressway. That meant that we had to make a U-turn at New Garage and go to Anthony and make another u-turn at Town Planning Way and back to the expressway to Charly Boy Bus Stop, Gbagada, where the hospital is. It was another round of negotiations at KKK Street but these security men were more understanding and they let us pass when we explained we were going to the hospital. We eventually got to the hospital by 11:15pm. A journey that would have taken us 15 minutes eventually took over one hour. At the hospital, she was admitted to the ward and was given series of transfusion and intravenous injections to stabilise her. In the course of her examination, the doctor asked if any of our families had a history of asthma and we answered no. She asked us to describe our environment and we did. Our kitchen is far from her room, we were not frying, our house is tiled, her net is even child-friendly etc.

Our answer didn’t satisfy her curiosity. She expressed her surprise and told us that our daughter was showing symptoms of asthma, albeit at a very tender age. “Please always ensure that her room is well ventilated and not stuffy,” she advised. Then was when it struck. Smoked had filtered into our room earlier that night, as some people in the neighbourhood were having a bonfire to usher in the New Year. We came out of the hospital a week later and after two monthly checkup appointments, she was given a clean bill of health. This is how some people’s ‘enjoyment’ could have brought terrible sorrow to our family. This is Lagos.

Everyone is in pursuit of his or her own happiness and hardly pays attention to how our ways of life actually affect other people’s lives. It is in Lagos that one resident will decide to close the street because he is celebrating the birth of a child. It is in Lagos that some driver will change his flat tyre in the middle of the road instead of driving it to the kerb. A danfo driver will park in the middle of the road while his conductor goes to solicit for passengers. Market men and women will block half of a major road with their tables as they sell their wares to their customers. Tanker drivers will line up and almost block the expressway as they queue for fuel at the various oil tank farms in Lagos. Some landlords’ associations have banned commercial vehicles into some of the estates, not minding that these estates are maintained by tax payers’ money. People indiscriminately cut the roads to lay their water pipes without properly filling the roads thereafter. The list goes on and on. We are not interested in the hardship other people suffer on account of our actions.

A few years ago, the Lagos State government abolished the erection of gates and directed that these gates, if they are to be allowed, must not be locked before 12 midnight and 5am.It also directed that such gates must be manned during the time they are locked. Men from the state’s Ministry of the Environment actually enforced this order at the time but the situation has returned to status quo today. The day the government goes to demolish these illegal structures and arrest the offenders; arrest those who block the roads for parties; arrest those who trade on the roads; confiscate the tankers that block the expressways etc., we will start shouting that the government has no human face etc.

The question is: should we wait for the government to come and arrest us before we know that we hurt others. Don’t these landlords associations know that there are people who do not have cars of their own and depend on taxis for movement; don’t those who lock the gates know that there could be emergencies and people may need urgent medical attention; do these people who block the road not see the traffic jam they cause innocent road users etc? It is high time Lagosians stepped back and assessed their behaviour and how this behaviour impacts other people. For everything we do, we need to do a social impact assessment to know how the society is affected by our activity. We do not need to be prodded by government always.

The same way we pay for our children’s school fees; take them to hospitals when they are sick; and give them food when they are hungry; is the same way we could accommodate the society in our actions. We only can make that resolution and all of us will be the beneficiaries of the better society we create with this resolution. •Ekechukwu writes from Lagos clear the podium for Yar’Adua and Jonathan to mount the saddle with unusual ease, did the beneficiaries of such manipulations cry blue murder and injustice then? Or didn’t they know that, in the final analysis, what goes round would naturally come round? If they don’t know, the self-styled architects of modern Nigeria are responsible for its gradual descent into a failing state.

This is a country with many statesmen but no single hero. By the way, we have our peculiar way of making a statesman out of ‘mistake’ in the corridors of power. It is the same way we have, over the years, made gods out of every reluctant candidate in Aso Rock. Obasanjo was one. The late Umaru Yar’Adua was one. And Jonathan is one. And so, for all his canticles on graft, political assassinations and landmines, one wonders why he still sits pretty on his hands when, as President and Commander-In-Chief, he could have initiated a probe into all the innuendoes he alluded to in his response to Obasanjo. Unfortunately, we ended up with a letter that was, at best, specious in content and poignantly beggarly. With the ‘vicious’ tone of Baba’s letter as identified by the current ‘Baba’ in Aso Rock, most Nigerians had expected that the issues raised would be thoroughly and frontally addressed.

Unfortunately, Jonathan is as guilty as Obasanjo sans his sanctimonious preachment and flexing of presidential muscle, to wit, he wrote about subversion and threat to national security. It is clear that Nigeria will continue its movement without motion as long as it suffers the misfortune of having leaders who would rather blame others for their incompetence or conveniently enjoy the luxury of placing the fault at the doorsteps of their predecessors. Of course, like Iyabo rightly pointed out, they go away with this criminal attitude because they have the backing of an eternally docile populace–those she called the downtrodden. It’s amazing the way our leaders have mastered this art of shifting responsibility.

When Obasanjo expressed fears about the general insecurity in the land and the need to be more proactive in tackling it, Jonathan was quick to point out that he never did any better when he was in the saddle. When he wrote about allegations that snipers were being trained to eliminate some 1, 000 top politicians placed under surveillance, Jonathan said more unresolved political killings took place under the Obasanjo regime. Not only that, he would want the former president to hold the Bible and swear if he truly believed that a self-confessed dove like Jonathan would even order the killing of a fly! When Obasanjo raised concerns about those who threatened war if their ‘son’ was not re-elected in 2015, Jonathan said the noisemaker from Ota Farms couldn’t have been speaking on his behalf. Okay, maybe they are not speaking for you but what did you do about it, Mr. President? And when the issue of corruption is mentioned, Jonathan said corrosive corruption started under the military and became systemic under the Obasanjo presidency. He fell short of calling Obasanjo a direct beneficiary of an enduring legacy of graft, which is meant to be a devastating technical knock-out. But is it? And so, we ask: what could have stalled investigations into the Halliburton and Siemens’ bribery scandals in Nigeria since President Jonathan made allusions to it in his letter? If he says he is locked in a bitter war with corruption, then it must be one hell of a fight where the ‘combatants’ share the spoils on the dinner table! If Jonathan says Obasanjo played a critical role in frustrating people like the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Late Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Tom Ikimi and Okwesilieze Nwodo out of the ruling PDP, it would not have been out of place for him to tell us who frustrated Chief Vincent Ogbulafor and Nwodo out of the chair of the PDP and for what reasons. He should have also explained why notable personalities continue to defect from the party in droves since he appears to have elevated his office to be high and above the “unbridled jostling and positioning for personal or group advantage ahead of the general elections.” Is this man who craves nothing but the whole truth speaking the whole truth?

However, I must admit that this art of letter-writing has exposed so many hidden truths, including the manipulations that led to the callous electoral heist of five South-West states in the 2003 elections by Obasanjo. Of course, no one had expected Jonathan to dwell more on this as he had vented his anger on retired Justice Ayo Salami for allowing the reclamation of stolen mandates through the Court of Appeal. The truth may hurt but if hidden secrets would be revealed through such exchange of letters, then let the tradition continue. It’s pointless for Jonathan to admonish certain individuals for “doing what they ought not to do, making statements they ought not to make and writing letters they are supposed not to write.” If the people must be set free from the stranglehold of ‘imbeciles’, then this latest fad of writing letters must be allowed to thrive. Who knows who is next in line to write another bombshell of a letter? For now, we are content to know that, while one heavyweight has accused another of being clannish, deceitful, dishonest, incompetent, divisive and plainly clueless as the ‘chosen’ captain of the ship of state, the other has equally labelled his mentor as not only hypocritical but also treacherous and a looming danger. Interestingly, there is also that one that sees her own ‘dear daddy’ as a liar, a manipulator, and a two-faced hypocrite.” Can any of these characters hold the Bible and swear that they are not guilty of one or two of these grave allegations? Can they? Clearly, these are not the attributes that mark out truly great leaders of great nations. I just hope we have not sold our future to one-chance ‘imbeciles’ in our polity? And so – To Whom It May Concern – kindly accept the assurances of my highest consideration and warm regards!

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In the beginning...Let there be Light

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