Reflections on the ‘Historic’ and Disturbing Letter by Obasanjo


President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Photo credit: naija247news.com

Last night, I was distracted from concluding my tribute to Mandela which I started writing a few days ago. This distraction was the lengthy 18-page open letter (PDF) written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Goodluck Jonathan. I took my time to read the letter described as ‘historic’ by Premium Times (which broke the story) in detail. For obvious reasons, this document and its contents have gone viral within the Nigerian online and mainstream media, public discourse and even the international media.

What frightens me deeply about the contents is not the allegations made, but that General Obasanjo (the President’s mentor) made these grave accusations. Disturbingly, the allegations only confirm many rumours that have been going round (most of which I hitherto refused to believe in) such as:

  1. Clannishness and ethnic factionalism in government on the part of the President in favoring his Ijaw kinsmen principally, and his region to the exclusion of other Nigerians;
  2. Deliberate polarisation of Nigerians across a North-South and Muslim-Christian divide to such a level not seen since the Civil War, to further narrow political ambitions;
  3. The President’s tacit support to some of his aggressive kinsmen and known militants who threaten others for disagreeing with him;
  4. Brazen corruption and impunity in government on a scale unrivaled in Nigeria’s post-independence history (the $50 billion unremitted by the NNPC surpasses the $12bn windfall earnings which disappeared under General Babangida. This is just one of numerous cases) — crude oil theft and systematic plunder of the nation’s wealth by powerful people;
  5. Indirect fueling of the Boko Haram insurgency by refusing to take concrete and feasible steps to address it;
  6. Extreme intolerance by the government for any form of dissent by opposition politicians or civil society;
  7. The existence of a clandestine “killer squad of snipers” and a political watch list containing over 1,000 names;

…and many other such allegations.

Where are we heading to in this country!?

Just on Monday this week, we found out about the Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s letter alleging that $50 billion (N8 trillion) went missing under NNPC’s watch between 2012 and 2013. Then on Tuesday, the Speaker of the House of Representatives accused the President of encouraging grand corruption. Then on Wednesday, this scathing letter from Obasanjo was published.

All this is barely two months after the corruption scandal involving the President’s close ally, the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah. Nothing yet has been done about this.

This systematic plunder of our country’s resources and values is perpetuated against the backdrop of monumental crude oil theft in the Niger-Delta and other numerous scandals.

Is this a country we can thump our chests about? What example are we setting for the rest of Africa? Is this the leadership that will create a strong and united country? What future (or lack of) are we building for our offspring?

President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo at a campaign rally. Photo credit: Y!Naija

True, General Obasanjo is not at all blameless in all this and he is one person whose intentions are always, always, ALWAYS suspect. We vividly recall how his ambition to elongate his tenure beyond the constitutionally mandated two-terms threatened to plunge the country into chaos between 2005 and 2007. Perhaps, as the late Whitney Houston once sung, Jonathan “learnt from the best”.

Yet, given Obasanjo’s close relationship (as a mentor) with President Jonathan, it would be extremely naive and foolish to dismiss these allegations in their entirety.

Say what you want about Obasanjo, but at the very least, his administration established a relatively effective EFCC to fight corruption, established an effective NAFDAC, reformed the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Customs service and many other institutions. Where are all these institutions today? Where is the EFCC today? How many parallel, overlapping, redundant and toothless committees have been set up to do the work that the EFCC has been obstructed from doing?

I ask this question, where are we heading to?

To the Nigerians reading this, put aside your ethnic, religious and regional allegiances briefly and please ask yourself sincerely: ‘Is this the Nigeria I want, is this a country I am proud of’?

The late Madiba, Nelson Mandela expressed his anger at the behaviour of Nigerian leaders. This is a prime epitome of the leadership Mandela was referring to.

One interesting thing to note is that this is a toned down version of the letter. The original version, according to Thisday newspaper was so harsh that former Head of State General Ibrahim Babangida advised Obasanjo to revise it.

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39 thoughts on “Reflections on the ‘Historic’ and Disturbing Letter by Obasanjo

  1. GEJ’s 50 billion may look bigger than IBB’s 12 billion numerically, but logically, IBB’s 12 billion may be greater than GEJ’s 50 billion if you consider the present worth value (PWV) of the IBB’s 12 Billion. Thanks for the thought provoking piece….I do not subscribe to any of OBJ or Jona but something tells me that there had been several warnings before this OBJ scathing write up and I smell more revelations from other players soon…My envious heart flees Reuben Abati this time…

  2. Well said zainab, the EFCC, the ICPC seems like they are no more. I knew his sentimental campaign speech about not wearing shoes was crap which unfortunately bought lot of nigerians over to him. 50 billion dollars missing……….. Speechless about that. In my own opinion GEJ is the worst president nigeria has had and a missed step him being the presdient of this country to making Nigeria a great nation.

  3. I totally agree that:
    1) OBJ’s letter is not a referendum on whether he ran a good government or not; there’s merit in his letter regardless of our opinions of his stewardship.
    2) A lot of what is said merely confirms what we already knew either from rumours of just intelligent deductions from the apparent.
    3) We absolutely MUST overcome primordial instincts and look beyond our divides lest we all are consumed by the intense negativity.
    4) Trolls are a pain!

    • But a lot of the things that made up the list of ‘what you already knew’ have all come from the same source as the letter. So if all this is ‘untrue’, the only person that has been staged is you. Adding Obj to equation only makes allegations more ‘believable’ as it were but not necessarily true.

      I will tell you how this is going to play out.. This matter will not be brought up in anyway you or the persons that compiled the letter expects (hang me, but I am still quite doubtful that document came from OBJ). The whole thing looks more like something painted to provoke GEJ into saying IF he will or not go for a second term. There will be confused anticipation for a fiery response and there will be none. No more than a note conceding that the matters raised will be looked into. Then after a while, there will be noise about how weak GEJ is not to respond and denounce the claims. There will be no point in OBJ denying that he is not responsible either.

      Most minds out there are too feeble to accommodate that possibility and will only resort to another fresh set of regressive debates.

      In all it is a clever move but if you care to note, pet monkeys and dogs can also be described as ‘clever’.

      • You are “doubtful the letter came from OBJ” despite his name on the letterhead, his signature and the fact that he hasn’t come out to dissociate himself from the letter?

        If we’ve learnt anything from the way OBJ operates, that letter as many of us suspect was probably meant to embarrass Jonathan and achieve a certain objective many of us seem not to understand for now. Clearly, Obasanjo knows the letter will in no way stop Jonathan from seeking re-election. I will not be shocked at all if OBJ and GEJ openly “reconcile” soon, but that will not mean that Obasanjo has not achieved his goal with it.

        Nigeria is a country of a powerful elite, run by the elite, for the elite. There seems to be serious infighting among them, and most of the elite seem to be unhappy with the President. For now, it seems the interests of the Obasanjos accidentally coincide with that of ordinary Nigerians. There’s no telling how long this phase will last.

        The dangerous trap many Nigerians can’t seem to resist falling into is to take sides with either camps, or to think this is a merely a “Northerners” vs. “South-Southerners” squabble. Far from it.

      • unfortunately some people like you are thinking with their legs! Read your comment and save it for your grand child to know that he is at least not as dumb.

  4. Obasanja’s letter is the last straw that broke the camel’s back. GEJ & his government have exhibited all that was stated in the letter and perhaps, more. Contents of it should have come as no surprise to any Nigerian that follows the current situation of the country.

    I get impatient when we know these facts and then complain endlessly about them. My question: What can we collectively do to change or attempt to change the discourse?

  5. A very good reflection from the mind that sees,undestands and explains better in a simple language for all to digest.Keep it up Zainab.

  6. Wonderful analysis as always! Its painful indeed the situation we find ourselves in this country; I ask, how on earth did we get here? Though I stilll hold Obj responsible for the mess we are in today, I still pushed my grudge aside and focused on the message.. GEJ is indeed a curseon this nation!

  7. I was so glad reading all this obvious fact from the mentor to GEJ, well since nigeria has remain a country that a common man has no says, I believe we’ve actually got no option than to remain on our poor bench seat and watch what the whole outcome of this so call historical letter probably conclude to.

  8. While I agree with most of these points, I vehemently disagree with this.

    “Deliberate polarisation of Nigerians across a North-South and Muslim-Christian divide to such a level not seen since the Civil War, to further narrow political ambitions;”

    Northern Nigeria was polarised LONG before Jonathan became president. Yerima’s “political sharia” added another layer of polarisation to already existing layers. There was serious blood-letting in Kaduna, in Yelwa, during the Danish Cartoon riots and during the Jos crisis. These predate Jonathan & it will be extremely unfair to attribute this to him.

    Then Boko Haram comes along – and an unfortunate by product of Boko Haram is even further polarisation between Christian and Muslim communities.

    If Jonathan’s crime is exacerbating this polarisation by failing to deal with the root causes of ethno/religious clashes, then not just him, but virtually all Heads of State are guilty of the same crime – Obasanjo inclusive, who did nothing serious to identify and punish the perpetrators responsible for e.g. the Jos Crisis.

    Jonathan’s open courting of a vocal CAN president doesn’t produce the right atmospherics, but Northern Nigeria is dealing with very serious issues in managing its diversity – & these issues will have to be solved by Northerners, not by pointing accusing fingers at Jonathan.

    Five governors left PDP, four of them would not have left PDP if Jonathan either was a Northerner or if he agreed to serve only one term & then step down for a Northerner. Do you think Nigerians can’t read between the lines or they can’t see this is all sectional politics – which further contributes to this “polarisation”?

    Obasanjo was better at managing the “elite consensus”, but Nigeria was tearing apart at the seams during his rule – Niger Delta crisis, Jos crisis, Odi, Zaki Biam, “political Sharia” & its consequences.

    We need to tell ourselves the truth & stop seeking the intellectually easy way out – the only way Jonathan can stop this “polarization” is if he doesn’t contest in 2015. Many people hate Jonathan simply because he is not a practitioner or their religion or he “is taking the North’s turn to rule Nigeria”.

    So I disagree with this.

    • Mr.Chike, thanks for your view, I share your sentiment, I want to know in your view if Jonathan has done enough to ask for second term? Apart from ex-militant and Clark that enjoying public resources ordinary Bayesa people are suffering. Jonatgan inability to do well as President is his own doing since he choose to punished the people that voted him.

      • I don’t think, at this point in time, that Jonathan has done enough.

        However, blaming him for “polarisation” in Northern Nigeria when some prominent Northern leaders promised to “make Nigeria ungovernable” should he be re-elected, is nonsensical.

      • The exact same way Asari Dokubo, Edwin Clark and others from the South-South have not only promised to make Nigeria “ungovernable” but threatened “war” if Jonathan is not re-elected. These are people very close to the President. He hasn’t for once come out to deny it. Many of those “northerners” making those threats you mentioned are spent forces trying to get noticed. At the end of the day Jonathan does need votes not just from the “Core-North” but from the Middle-Belt and the South-West. You do not get votes by threatening an entire country, you get votes by building alliances and bridges. We never learn from history in this country. IBB came and left us. Abacha came and left us. Ditto Obasanjo! 2015 will be interesting. May innocent lives be spared, that’s just my prayer. Somehow, Nigeria will pull through and persevere. We shall not be torn apart by the interests of one man and his small coterie of rabid supporters.

      • Okay, let me retrace my steps.

        It is true that statements from Asari Dokubo, Edwin Clark and Junaid Muhammed can inflame ethno/religious tensions, but they are not the cause or even the remote cause of the growing ethno/religious polarisation in Northern Nigeria.

        If we must tell ourselves the truth, Northern Nigeria introduced religious politics to this country. That is an undeniable fact.

        Goodluck Jonathan wasn’t responsible for the introduction of “political sharia” (of course, timed to coincide with the assumption of office of a Christian president). Goodluck Jonathan did not derisively refer to Makarfi as “Pastor John” for rightfully trying to stem the blatant intolerance demonstrated by the advocates of “political sharia”.

        Goodluck Jonathan didn’t also drive the religious politics in Jos or the ethno/religious segregation of Jos & Kaduna – (two of Northern Nigeria’s most important cities, which were largely peaceful in the 1990s). Goodluck Jonathan wasn’t behind Kwankwaso’s exaggerated religious piety (destroying N48 million worth of “alcohol” for the television cameras – neither did Jonathan tell Kwankwaso to send the hisbah to “arrest gossips”).

        I could go on and on. Goodluck Jonathan didn’t precipitate the massacre of Muslims by Christians in Yelwa or Zonkwa.

        If Jonathan can be blamed for anything, it is his inability to arrest a growing trend of religious polarization in Northern Nigeria, which long predates his presidency – then again you can blame every Nigerian leader from Babangida to present for the same thing.

        I spent the greater part of one year in Gombe State. The tensions are there, the religious polarization is real. I was advised to pass through Kaduna from Abuja (i.e. from the South) because “I am Christian”.

        How did we get to this point?

  9. Only a gullible nation like Nigeria can give a thought to what a human like Obasanjo of all people is saying or writing. Obasanjo remains one of the greatest evils that have bedeviled Nigeria and Nigeria as a nation and a people shall continue to writhe in pains as long as this evil human is breathing.!!!

    • Mr. Vitalis, it would be foolish not to give heed to words from a man who has ruled this country for almost 12 years, both as a military and twice democratic elected president. He may be the greatest evil but someone had to say what he said and there is no one without fault. If we wait for the most righteous, we would be waiting for a long time.

  10. What Moral right does OBJ have to indict a president when he him self is guilty of the same crime, You are pointing a finger at someone while 4 fingers are pointing back at you. OBJ had the opportunity to transform Nigeria what did he do? is it not the same president that shielded the daughter over fraudulent activities, Oh he has repented, his now a born again or born against. Oh its Mandela Euphoria. In as much as i am not happy with GEJ govt but what do you expect from a student who learnt from his master. All these people are not our leaders, they are opportunist, As i always tell people until we as Nigerians become ready to die for this country to change that change will never manifest itself.

  11. What Moral right does OBJ have to indict a president when he him self is guilty of the same crime, You are pointing a finger at someone while 4 fingers are pointing back at you. OBJ had the opportunity to transform Nigeria what did he do? is it not the same president that shielded the daughter over fraudulent activities, Oh he has repented, his now a born again or born against. Oh its Mandela Euphoria. In as much as i am not happy with GEJ govt but what do you expect from a student who learnt from his master. All these people are not our leaders, they are opportunist, As i always tell people until we as Nigerians become ready to die for this country to change that change will never manifest itself.

  12. You ingrates, instead of you to appreciate Baba’s wisdom all you do is to make unfounded allegations. I am very likely going to vote for Jonathan if he wins for his youth-friendly initiatives, but OBJ does not deserve the wrong assessment all you lazy observers have for him.

    • Do you know the number of people Obassanjo killed?

      Do you know the suffering he brought upon the people of Odi and Zaki Bam?

      Obassanjo is ten times more criminal than Jonathan.

  13. Well done Hajia Zee, its quite astonishing, it mesmerise my own thinking practicability. Your thought on this issue has disproportionately elongate and put my egocentric assumptions of who Jonathan is became too narrow to explain. We need to do right thing at the right time before we gat crushed. He Jonathan is “Mad”

  14. Zainab as much as I agree with your analysis in some respects I also believe that Obasanjo’s Letter was on Point, a reflection of our everyday thoughts and a reflection of the rumours we live with everyday, regardless of all our negative or possitive views about Obasajo.

  15. I’m not surprised that Obassanjo wrote Jonathan this open letter. Writing open letters is the vogue thing to do if your a political-jobber in the cesspit Nigeria and many of Nigeria’s political-jobbers have been doing it. It was simply a matter of time before Nigeria’s “big men” started sending each other open letters.

    What surprised me is that you (Zainab) would write an article in regards to this letter. There is nothing historic or even disturbing about the contents of this letter. I find this article to be divisionary to say the least.

    Less political-jobbing and more intellectual musings please.

  16. Envy is going to kill some of us here, with the comments i see here, only God can save Nigeria. Keep it up Zainab, we are proud of you.

  17. There is no gainsaying the fact that Jonathan GoodLuck has polarized Nigeria. I can remember Adamu Adamu, a Nigerian journalist and columnist of repute, quoting Mr. President congratulating the Northern Christians for voting him in the 2011 election, at a church service. The president talks as if Christians were the only Nigerians that voted for him..

    The allegation that government is complicit in the current odious crime of oil theft in the Niger Delta has exposed the president as the only president in Nigeria who could not see anything wrong with his tribe. Even before Obasanjo’s letter, the president had been accused of conniving with the former militants who are now given the responsibility of providing security in the Niger Delta. Often times, the oil thieves have come out publicly to tell the world that it is an insult to address them as thieves, because you cannot steal what by rightly belongs to you. The same people have threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable, if their son does not return as the president of Nigeria by 2015. No malice intended, but the truth is no people in the whole of this country speak as callous as the president’s men. The list of atrocities and heinous crimes the President’s men did against the Nigerian state is endless. Never had there been a time when he came out to distance himself from such recklessness and very inflammatory utterances. More worrisome is in fact the politicization of the Christian Association of Nigeria [CAN].by its president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. Oritsejafor has made CAN look like its another arm of the government of the day. From which ever angle one looks at President Goodluck Jonathan, one will see in him a man who clandestinely promote ethno religious politics in Nigeria.

    The earlier Mr President and the cortery around him understand the import of Obasanjo’s letter the better. Yes, agreed that Obasanjo could not be exonerated from abuses of office while he was at the helm of affairs of the nation, but nobody will deny that his letter has raised many valid questions that deserve the attention of the president.

  18. There is no gainsaying the fact that Jonathan GoodLuck has polarized Nigeria. I can remember Adamu Adamu, a Nigerian journalist and columnist of repute, quoting Mr. President congratulating the Northern Christians for voting him in the 2011 election, at a church service. The president talks as if Christians were the only Nigerians that voted for him..

    The allegation that government is complicit in the current odious crime of oil theft in the Niger Delta has exposed the president as the only president in Nigeria who could not see anything wrong with his tribe. Even before Obasanjo’s letter, the president had been accused of conniving with the former militants who are now given the responsibility of providing security in the Niger Delta. Often times, the oil thieves have come out publicly to tell the world that it is an insult to address them as thieves, because you cannot steal what rightly belongs to you. The same people have threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable, if their son does not return as the president of Nigeria by 2015. No malice intended, but the truth is no people in the whole of this country speak as callous as the president’s men. The list of atrocities and heinous crimes the President’s men did against the Nigerian state is endless. Never had there been a time when he came out to distance himself from such recklessness and very inflammatory utterances. More worrisome is in fact the politicization of the Christian Association of Nigeria [CAN].by its president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. Oritsejafor has made CAN look like its another arm of the government of the day. From which ever angle one looks at President Goodluck Jonathan, one will see in him a man who clandestinely promote ethno religious politics in Nigeria.

    The earlier Mr President and the cortery around him understand the import of Obasanjo’s letter the better. Yes, agreed that Obasanjo could not be exonerated from abuses of office while he was at the helm of affairs of the nation, but nobody will deny that his letter has raised many valid questions that deserve the attention of the president.

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