A rather tongue-in-cheek observation was posted on a closed internet site last week. In response to the letters that have held Nigerians in thrall these past few weeks, a perceptive observer said unwittingly, in an age of obsession with FDI, Nigeria might have stumbled upon a new export: letter writing! We will export to the ECOWAS region the art of letter writing.
We can even capture the continental market for letters, from Cape to Cairo, with copyright wholly Nigerian (ruling class). Away with flagellations about oil revenues; the Transformation Agenda itself will witness a financial transformation. This is the equivalent of the Euro-American discovery of oil by ‘fracking’!
It was Pliny the Elder who said something new always issues forth from Africa; how the Roman gentleman would have savoured this moment in Nigeria! In a season of letters limitless possibilities appear to shine light into the dark recesses of Nigerian ruling class life. When the old soldier, General Olusegun Obasanjo blazed the trail, he probably didn’t have the foggiest thought that letters were going to take a life of their own. But here we are today!
We were still dissecting Obasanjo’s letter to President Jonathan, when VANGUARD newspaper of Wednesday, December 18, 2013, came out with Iyabo Obasanjo’s bombshell, fille to pere! There must have been hands-wringing gloating inside Aso Villa. Here was the self-righteous General Obasanjo’s daughter putting him in his place in that devastatingly personal manner that only a daughter could have her father.
Iyabo described Obasanjo a liar, manipulator and two-faced hypocrite, attempting to foist on Jonathan what he wouldn’t have taken, while he ruled the roost. He is, she said, possessed of a “narcissitic megalomaniac personality”. To underline her pain, Iyabo ruled out further communication with her father till death, in the OPEN LETTER TO MY FATHER, which poignantly opened with a 4th Century Chinese proverb by Mencius: “The great man is he who does not lose his child’s heart”. Iyabo’s letter was clear evidence that Obasanjo never had his daughter’s heart. As the Holy Bible says, out of the fullness of the hear, the mouth speaketh! Iyabo’s heart spoke loudly through that open letter to her father.
We might state that whatever transpired between Pere et Fille (father and daughter), is not, strictly, our business. But the private lives of public figures seep into the social space, affecting us in often direct and tangible manners, to allow us a peek and obliging us the opportunity for commentary.
Was Iyabo not a senator? Didn’t she serve as commissioner in Ogun state? She even told us how the father wanted to perpetuate political existence through her own political involvement. And despite vigorous denials, Iyabo affirmed that Obasanjo attempted to manipulate the constitution in the infamous Third Term bid! And as the well-educated observer of the Nigerian political space she evolved into, Iyabo saw the manipulative role played by sycophantic aides around Obasanjo, affirming the captive state of leadership in Nigeria, which turns leaders into tin-gods, sitting atop huge resources that they greedily steal in cahoots with fawning courtiers, as the nation gradually descends into an abyss.
But the irresponsibility, she noted, extends to the followership. A country gets leaders which reflect the state of followership. Nigerians, according to Iyabo Obasanjo, “are people who see conspiracy and self service in everything because…they believe everyone is like them”. This cruelty at the heart of Nigeria is what its ruling class has foisted on the country and in her words, “Nigeria has descended into a hellish reality where smart, capable people to ‘survive’ and have their daily bread prostrate to imbeciles.
Everybody trying to pull everybody else down with greed and selfishness the only trait that gets you anywhere. Money must be had and money and power is king. Even the supposed downtrodden agree with this”. Nigeria is a Hobbesian jungle with the distinction that Iyabo accuses her father of being its architect (and by extension, members of the fraudulent ruling class!).
This “fractured state” that is Nigeria is Obasanjo’s legacy, according to the daughter, and that fracture “you created because, it was always your way or the highway”. In my view, a daughter of the ruling class has provided justification, drawing from the pains of her lived experience, for the Nigerian people, who she has not spared, to find a means to overthrow this fractured state. Because what is on ground today, according to Iyabo, is clearly not sustainable !
The long-expected riposte
from Jonathan to Obasanjo finally issued forth. And the point that came to mind was whether it was a fitting riposte or an anti-climax. Jonathan accused his erstwhile godfather of a deceitful manipulation of facts and figures, in the effort to impugn Jonathan’s credibility. He was also reminded of his hypocrisy since Obasanjo was guilty of many of the crimes he accused Jonathan of having committed.
There was a tit-for-tat element to some of the accusations and they really did not illuminate the essential issues of governance, which would benefit Nigerians. Jonathan for example exhumed ghosts from Obasanjo’s past, reminding the old soldier that he was to have been thrown out of the military regime of Murtala Muhammed in the 1970s for corruption and closer to our times, Obasanjo’s part in the Haliburton and Siemen scandals.
He went further to quote how Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti cited cases of corruption against Obasanjo. It is therefore a question of I have my cases of corruption and you have yours; so why cast stones? Amongst thieves, Jonathan was reminding his old boss, there are unspoken rules. Yes we are all bandits, he reminded, let no one pretend to be saintly!
Don’t endanger the “Republic of Banditry”, otherwise all bandits will suffer dire consequences, when the people, the true owners of the country, wizen up to the wiles of the bandit ruling class. Jonathan’s riposte is clearly a warning that the ruling class project is being endangered by its leading lights.