President Goodluck Jonathan began his responses to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s blistering letter with a series of excuses – excuses that are wholly unnecessary. What I was expecting was a line-by-line rebuttal. And to, in the end, put a political noose around Obasanjo’s neck. Or, for Jonathan to confess and then resign or be impeached. But of course, nothing of such happened.What then is the truth? Nigerians deserve truthful answer to every one of those allegations. Otherwise, Obasanjo should be compelled to retract his damming allegations.
The way I see it, responding only to the “most serious of the charges which question my sincerity, personal honour, and commitment to the oath which I have sworn,” is not enough. At the very least, Jonathan needed to show that he was above board, incapable of the social, economic and political atrocities Obasanjo alleged. And even if he was capable of such iniquities, he was innocent of the charges.
To the President’s credit, he recognised the gravity of the Obasanjo’s letter when he said: “The purpose and direction of your letter is distinctly ominous, and before it is too late, my clarifications on the issues need to be placed on record.” Unfortunately, he responded to just a few charges and then went on to plead that he “cannot possibly find the time to offer a line-by-line response to all the accusations and allegations made in your letter while dealing with other pressing demands of office and more urgent affairs of state.” Really?
As I read Jonathan’s response, I couldn’t help but wonder if at all the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Dr. Reuben Abati, was directly involved in crafting the letter. If you read it the way I read it, you’d detect three-five voices and styles. Overall, the tone and style were somewhat baffling. A sitting President – striving to prove his mettle and with the power of the Presidency — ought not to respond in such a timid and contrite matter. Frankly, too much respect was shown to Obasanjo. But if Abati was not directly involved, well, he may have decided that the never-ending wahala between the mentor and the mentee was a party affair, an internal matter.
On the other hand, Abati may be the kind of fellow that does not want his head used in cracking coconut, or his hands used in catching the serpent. For such a young and brilliant man, there is life after politics. Abati is also aware of a simple constancy in Nigerian politics: When it is all said and done, the accused and the aggrieved will kiss and make up and go about “sharing and chopping.” Naïve and gullible foot-soldiers will lose out. Remember what Jonathan himself said: “At the heart of all the current troubles in our party and the larger polity is the unbridled jostling and positioning for personal or group advantage ahead of the 2015 general elections.”
There are parts of the letter where Jonathan supporters may rightly say, “Well done…great job!” For instance, we see Jonathan calling Obasanjo a liar, a hypocrite, a naysayer and an ignoramus who enjoys blackmail. But more than that, Obasanjo was painted as a man incapable of independent and unalloyed judgment while at the same time misleading the nation. The President also made it known that Obasanjo was a man filled with inordinate ambition and selfish interest — a man whose careless and unpatriotic actions brought Nigeria to where it is today. And in an indirect manner, the letter tells us that Obasanjo is a rumour-monger who peddles fear and wholesale lies, hence, he should never be trusted.
President Jonathan also made it clear that in spite of his gallant and progressive policies, he has, since assuming the Presidency, been a victim of the “high and mighty” that have directly and indirectly ruled Nigeria. Alluding to the myriad problems and challenges facing the country, Jonathan demurred: “Goodluck Jonathan was not the President of the country then… to present these problems as if they were creations of the Jonathan Administration is most uncharitable.” And in particular, he posited that Obasanjo’s eight years in office was basically that of miscalculations, wastes, futility, excesses, rascality, and military adventurism and was prone to unmeasured violence.
On the issue of corruption, Jonathan was not shy at all. He took Obasanjo to the cleaners: He totally, and without mercy, rubbished Obasanjo — reminding him that “your kinsman, the renowned Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, famously sang about it during your first stint as Head of State.” In other words, Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo was and continues to be the High Priest of corruption and depravities. What’s more, Jonathan asked us not to forget the most recent Siemens and Halliburton scandals. Obasanjo, he reminded us, was the man who refused to retire and or sack corrupt officials in the 1970s and who also refused to follow through with the Gen. Murtala Muhammed’s house-cleaning exercise.
In great contrast to Obasanjo, Jonathan portrayed himself as measured, compassionate, introspective, reasonable, diplomatic, and highly favoured by God and other divine forces. Hence, while Obasanjo was an election-rigger –rigging in Shehu Shagari and rigging out Obafemi Awolowo – he, Jonathan, has been honest and impartial and has taken the wishes of Nigerians into consideration. On the current state of anarchy and insecurity, he averred that they “were sown under previous administrations” and that he is working “assiduously to overcome” them.
As I said earlier, the Jonathan’s response was not sufficient and not at all compelling. There is a sense of ambivalence and too much deference for the former president. When your private and public honour and motives are being questioned, you do not hold back. You go all out! Now, was this a calculated attempt on the part of the President not to overheat the political space, or perhaps, he is afraid of Obasanjo? We may never know. Either way, Nigerians have been short-changed. They are worse off for it.
Sadly, in a couple of days or weeks, another scandal or political bomb will explode. And as usual, Nigerians will move on. Collective amnesia will set in. Men such as these will rebrand themselves. And our so-called men of God will point to one or the other and say, “There goeth the anointed.” The charade will continue. That’s the way it’s been so for decades. That’s the Nigerian way.