So long a letter

Posted by: Olakunle Abimbola in Columnists, Olakunle Abimbola 11 hours ago
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Senegalese, Mariama Ba (1929-1981), wrote So Long A Letter, a semi-autobiographical novella, that chronicled the plight of the African woman, under the combined pressure of African and Islamic cultures.

The male chauvinists that dominate both worlds would scoff at the late Madame Ba’s “ranting” against the marital status quo, so violently skewed against the woman in both cultures. But her 1980 classic has provided gender rights activists, determied to right these age-old wrongs, an evocative literary tool.

On December 12, former President Olusegun Obasanjo made public his own long letter, not for any overriding public good, but a litany of woes against his estranged protégé, President Goodluck Jonathan. Obasanjo played his usual grandstand as some self-appointed overseer of Nigeria; and postured without end as the all-consuming patriot.

Yet, it was nothing but another unabashed glorification of the Obasanjo self — that ever intrusive persona that, on the balance of fair evidence, can’t even pass the muster of the model citizen.

Like most of Obasanjo’s hyper-reported public interventions, it was another grand show of a show-actor craving a stage and cheap applause — cynical applause at the expense of some political foe. The former military head of state (1976-1979), two-term elected president (1999-2007) and fundament of the Nigerian problem is crying wolf!

Yes, there is indeed some “wolf”. But Obasanjo himself was its author and finisher: Goodluck Jonathan, after all, was Obasanjo’s political creation. But the creator would rather Jonathan was some tabula rasa — on which he could write and erase at will — which the protégé has resisted.

Godson cannot, therefore, hear the godfather. Things have fallen apart, so mere anarchy, to paraphrase the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, is loosed upon their once cosy world! But how is that a problem of Nigeria and Nigerians as Obasanjo now trumpets?

Indeed, Yeats in his poem, “The Second Coming”, somewhat echoes the loud but empty Obasanjo interventions: “The best lack all convictions, while the worst are full of passionate intensity!”

That brings the discourse to Obasanjo’s “permission” to share the Jonathan letter with the quad of Generals Theophilus Danjuma, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and 2nd Republic Vice President, Alex Ekwueme — to earn some high profile sympathy? Ah!

But which of these, aside from Abubakar, has not tasted Obasanjo’s rather crude tongue, in his endless playing to the gallery?

Is it Danjuma who, not long ago in a fit of media anger, dismissed Obasanjo as “Aremu of Ota”?

Or Babangida, who earlier as self-proclaimed “military president”, endured the Jonathan treatment, the same grand hypocrisy the grim Sani Abacha could not stand and, before the infernal theatrics started, despatched the grand dramatist to gaol on phantom coup charges?

Or is it Ekwueme that Obasanjo muscled into silence while, as president, he started destroying the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the logical conclusion of which he now, ironically, accuses and ridicules the luckless Jonathan, though his name be Goodluck?

If Jonathan has his Bamanga Tukur, didn’t Obasanjo have his own Garrison Commander, Ahmadu Ali, both relentless presidential puppets that smashed the ruling party so a bully president could stand tall, like some Gulliver in Lilliput?

Yet, no tears for President Jonathan. He plunged his knife into a dead hippo, fallen by the pool; and he richly deserves his running diarrhoea. There is always a stiff price for crass opportunism!

Besides, despite being the first Nigerian president to bear the academic prefix of PhD, Jonathan’s actions have no rigour, no grace, no gravitas, just plain humdrum! Indeed, by his actions and inactions he has, perhaps more than any other, afflicted his presidency with a rare pull him down (PHD) complex.

His is a grand study in wilful conspiracy against self; and the resultant harsh wages of promotion beyond competence. His presidency is therefore a grand let-down, right from the beginning — and there appears no redeeming factor.

Indeed, as one contemplates the Jonathan Presidency, with its welter of terrible constitutional infractions and heinous allegations, and the man at the vortex of it all feigning none the wiser, the disturbing image of the Biblical wolf in sheep’s skin floods the mind.

But even as the president sweats under the crushing weight of his elephantine troubles, his feet, in fatal distraction, appear still foraging for needless troubles with ants.

The induced Rivers crisis is an abiding case in point, with the Police not even hiding their hideous partisanship; and rogue legislators, backed by rogue “federal might”, threatening to plunge that state into anarchy.

Then there are opposition allegations of Jonathan turning the Ecological Fund into some crony gravy — allegedly rewarding friends, punishing foes.

Of course, there is also the abiding allegation, supported by CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is undercutting the country and the president doesn’t appear to have a clue about it all.

That these allegations are made at all show the near-hopeless depth the Nigerian presidency has plumbed under Jonathan. That is unfortunate. But even more grievous is Obasanjo’s allegation that Jonathan is arming snipers to despatch political foes.

Though the now crusading Obasanjo had more than a fair share of unresolved politically motivated killings during his presidency, this is one allegation Jonathan must deal with, if only to clear his presidency’s sagging reputation.

But aside from this alleged killer squad, most of Obasanjo’s charges, in his long epistle of lamentation, were pure gas. There was nothing Obasanjo accused Jonathan of that he himself did not do during his best-forgotten presidency.

NNPC is opaque. But how open was it during Obasanjo’s term, even when he was his own oil minister?

On corruption — what has Obasanjo to teach, after his Obasanjo Presidential Library’s bared-faced extortion? If Jonathan responded with a contractor building his village a marvel of a church, it is evidence that Jonathan is master of his political father’s rotten tactics, corruption be damned!

Jonathan wants to run for second term — and so what? Didn’t Obasanjo do two legal terms and was plotting an illegal third? Fortunately, Jonathan is doing more than enough to be guillotined at the polls. So, let the people decide his fate.

Therefore, to now grandstand at some ogre, hinting at some non-democratic change, under some pseudo-messianic complex, is not only cheap but outright subversive. But it is another cynical drama, for Obasanjo knows that he too would vanish without trace, should Jonathan meet his electoral waterloo. So, would his and Jonathan’s credo of power without responsibility; and lollies without service.

Obasanjo and Jonathan are an inglorious past and ignoble present that must be electorally swept away, from polluting the future. The Ebora Owu’s long letter of tumbling adjectives, and buzz words like honour and credibility that, from Obasanjo’s own conduct in office hardly meant anything, is his way of buying time and shopping for new puppets.

He fails — except, of course, with the gullible and the excitable!

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