Season of open letters By Emeka Omeihe

Some how, this Christmas period has turned out a season of open letter writing. But unlike the usual pleasantries and goodwill messages that have become the hallmark of the season, these letters are largely directed at either getting even with key personages in the nation’s leadership or defending sweeping allegations that have been brought to the court of public opinion.

Former president Olusegun Obasanjo fired the first salvo a forthnight ago when in a well publicised letter he accused President Jonathan of sundry misdeeds. The allegations were so weighty that the presidency directed all government functionaries not to comment on it promising that at the appropriate time, Jonathan will respond personally.

Ever since, there have been calls from several quarters for the president to respond to the indicting accusations and innuendos contained in Obasanjo’s letter.

Of all the allegations bandied by Obasanjo against Jonathan, two stood out in terms of their seriousness and overall impact for the peace, order and good conduct of governmental affairs in this country. These are the allegation that Jonathan was keeping 1000 people on political watch list, training snipers and other armed personnel secretly for political purposes like Abacha and in the same place Abacha trained his own killers. The other is the alleged non-remittance of about $7billion from the NNPC to the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN accruing from oil exports which Obasanjo said was further reinforced by the letter written by the CBN governor to the president on the matter.

The presidency has reacted to the first allegation asking Obasanjo to produce evidence of the training of snipers and killers especially since he claims to know where they are being trained. They are saying that the onus is now on Obasanjo to show evidence of this very dangerous allegation that is laden with vile innuendos.

For now, Obasanjo is yet to respond to this challenge. He may be hiding under the cover of such terms as “allegation” and “if it is true” which dominated the text of his letter. But that raises serious question on the motivation and intention of Obasanjo in making public weighty and destructive allegations even when he is yet to verify them. What of the suggestions that the training is taking place in the same institutions that a military dictator, Abacha trained his own killers? The purport of the comparison between Jonathan with Abacha given the sad end of that dictator may not be lost on very discerning people. It was therefore very uncharitable for Obasanjo to have gone public with such tendentious comparison if he was only relying on hearsay.

The other bothering on non-remittance of oil money has been substantially addressed by the same CBN governor when he said at the senate public hearing that the conclusion that $49.8 billion was missing is wrong. According to him, the letter he wrote to the president on the matter was an invitation to probe remittances to the Federation Account. He said that relevant agencies have commenced reconciling their accounts with about $12 billion still outstanding. With this clarification, we are inching closer to deodorizing the foul air generated by Obasanjo’s false and self-serving alarm.

Obasanjo’s letter has also attracted other letters from some of the personages he maligned. Politician and businessman Buruji Kashamu in his own letter has told whoever cares to hear that the aspersions cast on his person by Obasanjo’s letter cannot fly. He said that he is neither a convict nor a drug baron but a political son of Obasanjo. He recounted how Obasanjo used him to fight former Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel and wrested the structures of the PDP from him for he (Obasanjo’s) political advantage. He queried why it is now he is seen to be close to Jonathan that Obasanjo is realizing he is not a good person after introducing him into politics and using him to achieve his selfish ends. Obasanjo still has questions to answer in respect of the claims of Kashamu.

But as if this was not enough, a letter purportedly written by Obasanjo’s first daughter Iyabo in which she described her father in unprintable words calling him a manipulator and two-faced hypocrite determined to foist on President Jonathan what no one would contemplate with him as president came into public domain. She among others accused her father of having an egoistic craving for power and living a life where only men of low esteem and intellect thrive.

Though Obasanjo is yet to comment on the existence of the letter, former Ogun State governor Segun Osoba confirmed that Iyabo had complained to him along the lines of the issues raised in the letter and he made Obasanjo aware of it then.

Before this article is published, we may be treated with some other open letters. But more fundamentally, most of the issues raised in these open letters have thrown doubts on the credibility and propriety of Obasanjo to author the damning letter on the Jonathan administration. The letter from his daughter says it all. Even as Jonathan is yet to respond to the moral issues and moral authority of Obasanjo to lampoon his regime in the way he did, most of the reactions have been unanimous in the verdict that Obasanjo lacks the moral bearing to accuse Jonathan of the alleged misdeeds since his regime had a surfeit of them. Those with patronizing views would want the nation to take the message and throw away the messenger. But for a greater majority, both the message and the messenger should be consigned to the nearest trash can.

It smacks of crass dishonesty for Obasanjo to pretend he is not aware the party’s national chairman acts at the behest of the president when during his regime he forced out at least two national chairmen and replaced them at will. Obasanjo cannot claim ignorance of the fact that he determined who should contest what position at all levels of election in all the states. If there are reverses which the party currently suffers, their foundation were laid by Obasanjo and if that party and democracy collapse he should assume full responsibility.

Obasanjo said he wants nothing from Jonathan as God has been very kind to him. He positions himself as a patriot whose motivations should be seen from their altruistic value. But this claim cannot fly in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. A patriot will hesitate to bandy speculative allegations that can destroy his country if he is not moved by reasons that are less than noble. A patriot will not play God by talking down on the Ijaw ethnic group even when the nation’s resources are tapped from their backyard. It is not true that he wants nothing from Jonathan. He wants power. He is propelled by vaulting ambition to be the greatest Nigerian that has ever lived even when his ascendancy to power was largely accidental and opportunistic. And that is why he wants to control everything, anything. Now he is being consigned to the political dustbin for overrating his political relevance, the centre will no longer hold. That cannot qualify as an attribute of a patriot.

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