- Management Trainee
•It’s not a good story about Nigeria –NLC
•Allegations weighty, worrisome, say Sagay, Ubani, others
•Obasanjo, Jonathan meet in Kenya
By Chesa Chesa (Abuja)
Temidayo Akinsuyi (Lagos)
Reactions came in torrents on the trail of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s stinking letter to President Goodluck Jonathan in which he accused him (Jonathan) of not only aiding and abetting corruption, but also polarising Nigeria along ethnic and religious lines.
Many believe that the allegations contained in the letter can cause “a great deal of anxiety” and tension in the land.
However, while Nigerians busy themselves debating an apparent frosty relationship between Obasanjo and Jonathan, Obasanjo on Thursday morning made a surprise visit to Jonathan in Nairobi, Kenya, where they both attended that country’s 50th Independence Anniversary.
Reports from Nairobi indicate that Obasanjo showed up at the presidential suite of Intercontinental Hotel where Jonathan stayed and they both had breakfast together there.
The former President thereafter left the hotel while Jonathan later departed for the Safaricom Stadium in Kasarani, Nairobi, where the 50th independence celebration was marked with some other African leaders in attendance.
Regardless, back home while speaking on a Channels Television proramme, ‘Sunrise Daily’, on Thursday, Vice President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Isa Aremu, said (Obasanjo’s) letter makes him feel “diminished as a Nigerian”.
“Whether you take the reaction of the Presidency or the letter itself, certainly this is not a good story about Nigeria,” he said.
Aremu added: “The fact that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a member of the PDP to which President Jonathan belongs, had helped the current administration get into power, is the author of the letter which levels strong allegations against the incumbent President portends an unpleasant story for the entire continent.
“Several issues raised in the letter, including oil theft and lack of accountability, corruption have been debated by Nigerians, hence Obasanjo only increased the ‘noise level.”
The labour leader called on Jonathan to respond to all the allegations raised by the former President, but equally called on Obasanjo to share in the blame for all the problems of the nation.
“What should worry us (Nigerians) including Obasanjo is that the country he presided over, for almost a decade (democratically) and the party he left for us, including those people he recommended for us, put us in this mess.”
Like Aremu, former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, said Jonathan should find “the courage to personally answer the charges and address the message” in Obasanjo’s letter.
Obasanjo in the letter, dated December 2, also accused Jonathan of taking actions calculated at destroying Nigeria, by fanning the embers of ethnicity, encouraging corruption and also training and arming a killer squad.
Obasanjo also told Jonathan in the 18-page letter: “Nigeria is bleeding and the haemorrhage must be stopped before it is too late.”
He said the President had betrayed God and the Nigerian people that brought him to power, adding that he (Jonathan) has been pursuing selfish, personal and political interests based on advice he receives from “self-centred aides”.
And continuing in his reaction, Fani-Kayode added: “The President should find the courage to personally answer the charges and address the message rather than get his aides to attack the messenger. As Baba said, Jonathan is ‘bleeding Nigeria to death’. It is time for change.
Constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Itse Sagay, also spoke, saying the allegations made by the ex-President are shocking and can cause Nigerians a great deal of anxiety. He added that as a former President, Obasanjo couldn’t have lied about the content of his letter given the fact that he was a former Head of State who was also instrumental to the ascendancy of Jonathan to the number one office in the land.
“It is a very serious allegation and it could set the whole country on a state of alert and anxiety. Because for somebody at the level of Obasanjo, former Head of State and I will say, the mentor of the current President, to have made this very serious accusations, it sends an alarm bell ringing which could be troubling to every rational citizens. I am indeed very troubled.
“And not only that, the one that even frightens me most is the allegations that snipers are being trained in the same school where the Abacha killer squads were trained and there are some Nigerians under political watch list.
“That is very frightening because it is not something you expect under a civilian democratic regime except under a military dictatorship.
“So, it is very frightening and I am very unsettled about it, particularly given what happened to Prof. Iyayi whose cause of death has not yet been resolved. It is very, very disturbing,” Sagay said.
Also speaking, another lawyer, Ladi Rotimi-Williams, who described the content of the letter as very powerful, the President to take the corrections in good faith and act fast to prevent the nation from drifting further.
Rotimi-Williams, who agreed with Obasanjo that a whole lot is going wrong in the country, said Jonathan will be doing a great disservice to himself if he considers the content of the letter as insulting rather than taking appropriate action on the issues raised.
“The President is like a son to the former President Olusegun Obasanjo. A father from time to time may deem it necessary to tongue lash his son when, in his own view, the son is going in the wrong direction.
“And this is what the former President has done. If I were privileged to advise President Jonathan, I will tell him to take it in good faith.
“The criticism is very powerful but I believe it is because of the love Obasanjo has for the country. He should not be misled by people, who in the first place did not even have a hand in how he became the President of Africa’s most populous nation.
“He should read the letter and act on it rather than consider it to be insulting. There is no doubt that a whole lot is going wrong in the country,” the lawyer said.
Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja branch, Monday Ubani, who also expressed grave concern over the allegations, said something urgent must be done to nip the issues raised in the letter in the bud.
“It is a very grievous allegation. And if those allegations are true, then something needs to be done very fast in order to nip all those things in the bud.
“Clearly, Nigeria is on the verge of liquidation and if you place over 1,000 people on watch list and you are going to use snipers to eliminate them as the President of the country, then that is very grave for this country.
“And then, given the fact this allegation is coming from Obasanjo, a top notch of the PDP, tells you that there is more to it than meet the eye,” Ubani said.
Another Lagos based constitutional lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, also described the allegations as “weighty” which should not just be waved aside.
According to him, Obasanjo is not a flippant personality who makes unfounded allegations.
He, therefore, urged the President to urgently address the issues raised rather than resort to name-calling.
“To place over 1,000 Nigerians on political watch list and be training snipers to eliminate in a democratic system of government is to say the least disturbing. You cannot be dragging us back to the dark old days of Abacha after 14 years of democracy,” Ogunye said.
Spokesman of pan-Yoruba socio political organisation, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, however said as serious as the allegations are, Obasanjo’s motive for writing such a letter should be treated with suspicion given the fact that he did worse things than Jonathan during his eight-year reign as President.
Odumakin added that Obasanjo, who has lost his grip in the ruling PDP, may be looking for ways to regain his stronghold, hence his motive for writing the controversial letter.
He added that the former President has no moral right to be the conscience of the nation.
“It is a serious allegation that the Presidency would have to confirm or deny as it has to do with fundamental liberty of Nigerians.
“It is important to address the issues because we have had so many politically-motivated murders over the years. Interestingly, many of the assassinations took place under Obasanjo’s presidency.
“No doubt the country faces so many challenges but Obasanjo’s motive is suspect as he has always exploited situations in the country to further his personal grip on the country.
“There is nothing he accuses Jonathan of that he didn’t do worse things. Obasanjo has committed too many atrocities that he can’t be the conscience of the country,” the Afenifere spokesman said.
Interim Deputy National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nasir el-Rufai, also advised the Presidency to respond to the issues raised in the letter rather than attacking the former President.
“Now that Obasanjo has written, the generality of Nigerians demand answers not rabid attack and name calling. It is our affairs and our lives,” he said.