Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan Writes Back

column

Last week this column dwelt on former President Olusegun Obasanjo's letter to President Goodluck Jonathan who himself in a letter published on Monday, 23 December 2013 has written back to explain and counteract many of the charges OBJ levelled against him.

The import of the president's reply was captured succinctly at the tail end of the letter:-"let me state", he wrote, "that you have done me grave injustice with your public letter in which you wrongfully accused me of deceit, deception, dishonesty, incompetence, clannishness, divisiveness and insincerity..." For me, this came as a surprise because the earlier part of the letter betrayed very little emotional outburst, though you could feel it bottled up beneath the surface as you read on, the president's reply was a study in civility and decorum.

This pained and plaintive note at the end of the letter was about the only openly expressed anguish by Goodluck Jonathan that he has been treated unfairly by being openly humiliated by his former boss. If Nigerians were expecting a tit for tat, brimstone and fire, no hold barred expose that threw caution to the winds and scattered insults, innuendoes and swear words, they got no such display. It was all a measured, calm and commonsensical debunking of one charge after the other, making him come across as a student putting forward the point counter point of the issues being debated. And the strategy was apt and effective as it allowed GEJ to retain the moral and ethical high ground.

His strategy was to pick one charge after the other, never for once denying there was a challenge but quickly following it up with what his administration has done, was doing and continuing to do to ameliorate the challenge, taking care not to arrogantly appropriate any breakthroughs or successes achieved unduly to itself. Now, you do not have to be swayed one way or the other by his claims but the candour, down to earth and matter of fact manner they were conveyed was calculated to win the hearts and support of Nigerians to his side in this drama of the absurd where the sitting president has found himself answerable not to the people nor their elected representatives in parliament but to a former president playing the role of the conscience of the nation and a stern and censorious father figure, all at the same time.

On the salient matter of security, GEJ took time to don the garb of the teacher which he once was, explaining that its cause was not only "multifaceted" but that it in fact predated his tenure, adding that kidnapping, armed robbery and piracy were all rife even before he assumed office. He further noted that on the vexed issue of the insurgency it was wrong to insist as OBJ has done that nothing has been achieved so far because GEJ's government was so wedded to the deployment of violence to the exclusion of other measures. According to him outside using force to quell the insurgency, the other intervention measures being pursued are instituting a committee on Dialogue and Security challenges in the North East to explore avenues of meeting minds with the insurgents as well as putting in place poverty alleviation and education programmes to lessen the poverty so prevalent in that part of the country.

The issue of whether or not GEJ's administration was too fixated with deployment of force or instituted "carrot measures," in other words ancillary policies on the insurgency is akin to whether the cup was half full or half empty. Defeating the insurgency by force was the initial reaction of government, an inclination that was to be expected judging by the novelty of the challenge and the threat it posed to the polity. A more far-sighted approach should have recognised that the violent drama had its roots in poverty which successive governments had done very little about except pay lip service to in the yearly budgetary ritual. That being so, what was needed was an elaborate social and economic programme to combat the violent menace which did not come until later after much pressure and promptings.

What is more, the tardiness that has overcome the recommendations of the committee on Dialogue and Security challenges and the allocation of a measly 2 billion naira recently by government give credence to the charge that GEJ would rather wield the big stick than play Father Christmas which would entail rolling out a more comprehensive social and economic reconstruction programme for the north east. A comprehensive plan to resuscitate the economy of that part of Nigeria can only be beneficial to the whole country as scores of jobs would be created for the millions of the jobless, some of whom have now become willing recruits for perpetrators of the insurgency.

GEJ dismissed the charge that he was perfecting plan to unleash snipers on those on the political watch list, dubbing it invidious and asked whether OBJ "can hold the Bible and say you truly believe this allegation." He added that in all his political career he has taken care to distance himself from political violence. In the three years he has been president, he said there has been no shortage of attempts to undermine him, particularly from the "high and mighty", a clearly not so veiled reference to you know who, but there was never a time any thought of taking the matter into his own hands to embark on any illegality struck him. He pointed out that there have been no political murders during his tenure, as happened in the immediate past administration. He proceeded to dismiss the charge as baseless and expressed the fear that he hopes devious elements would not begin to act out this allegation as contained in OBJ's letter aimed at discrediting him.

The drama of letter writing between two of Nigeria's political gladiators lends itself to different interpretations. It is at once tragi--comical, a political theatre as no other, where the protagonists publicly literally throw jabs and punches at each other on the pages of newspapers and in the process belittling the esteem of the high office they were at one time or the other called to occupy. Whosoever occupies the president's post owes a duty to give account of his stewardship, all the more so when things are not going on smoothly as obtains now. The account however must be given to the appropriate institutions and bodies as provided by the constitution.

Taking on a sitting president and accusing him of all manner allegations, some, as has been seen gleaned from publications that have since recanted is a bad augury for institution building. The presidency must be made to command the respect of all, including past presidents who must learn to repose confidence in the system as constituted. The presidency, as opposed to the sitting president, suffers irreparable diminution of aura and importance if the person occupying it is made the butt of insults and claims that ought to have been verified before putting them in the public domain, to which he has to rebut on the pages of newspapers. This should not be allowed to continue.

Last week this column dwelt on former President Olusegun Obasanjo's letter to President Goodluck Jonathan who himself in a letter published on Monday, 23 December 2013 has written back to explain and counteract many of the charges OBJ levelled against him. The import of the president's reply was captured succinctly at the tail end of the letter:-"let me state", he wrote, "that you have done me grave injustice with your public letter in which you wrongfully accused me of deceit, deception, dishonesty, incompetence, clannishness, divisiveness and insincerity..." For me, this came as a surprise because the earlier part of the letter betrayed very little emotional outburst, though you could feel it bottled up beneath the surface as you read on, the president's reply was a study in civility and decorum.

This pained and plaintive note at the end of the letter was about the only openly expressed anguish by Goodluck Jonathan that he has been treated unfairly by being openly humiliated by his former boss. If Nigerians were expecting a tit for tat, brimstone and fire, no hold barred expose that threw caution to the winds and scattered insults, innuendoes and swear words, they got no such display. It was all a measured, calm and commonsensical debunking of one charge after the other, making him come across as a student putting forward the point counter point of the issues being debated. And the strategy was apt and effective as it allowed GEJ to retain the moral and ethical high ground.

His strategy was to pick one charge after the other, never for once denying there was a challenge but quickly following it up with what his administration has done, was doing and continuing to do to ameliorate the challenge, taking care not to arrogantly appropriate any breakthroughs or successes achieved unduly to itself. Now, you do not have to be swayed one way or the other by his claims but the candour, down to earth and matter of fact manner they were conveyed was calculated to win the hearts and support of Nigerians to his side in this drama of the absurd where the sitting president has found himself answerable not to the people nor their elected representatives in parliament but to a former president playing the role of the conscience of the nation and a stern and censorious father figure, all at the same time.

On the salient matter of security, GEJ took time to don the garb of the teacher which he once was, explaining that its cause was not only "multifaceted" but that it in fact predated his tenure, adding that kidnapping, armed robbery and piracy were all rife even before he assumed office. He further noted that on the vexed issue of the insurgency it was wrong to insist as OBJ has done that nothing has been achieved so far because GEJ's government was so wedded to the deployment of violence to the exclusion of other measures. According to him outside using force to quell the insurgency, the other intervention measures being pursued are instituting a committee on Dialogue and Security challenges in the North East to explore avenues of meeting minds with the insurgents as well as putting in place poverty alleviation and education programmes to lessen the poverty so prevalent in that part of the country.

The issue of whether or not GEJ's administration was too fixated with deployment of force or instituted "carrot measures," in other words ancillary policies on the insurgency is akin to whether the cup was half full or half empty. Defeating the insurgency by force was the initial reaction of government, an inclination that was to be expected judging by the novelty of the challenge and the threat it posed to the polity. A more far-sighted approach should have recognised that the violent drama had its roots in poverty which successive governments had done very little about except pay lip service to in the yearly budgetary ritual. That being so, what was needed was an elaborate social and economic programme to combat the violent menace which did not come until later after much pressure and promptings.

What is more, the tardiness that has overcome the recommendations of the committee on Dialogue and Security challenges and the allocation of a measly 2 billion naira recently by government give credence to the charge that GEJ would rather wield the big stick than play Father Christmas which would entail rolling out a more comprehensive social and economic reconstruction programme for the north east. A comprehensive plan to resuscitate the economy of that part of Nigeria can only be beneficial to the whole country as scores of jobs would be created for the millions of the jobless, some of whom have now become willing recruits for perpetrators of the insurgency.

GEJ dismissed the charge that he was perfecting plan to unleash snipers on those on the political watch list, dubbing it invidious and asked whether OBJ "can hold the Bible and say you truly believe this allegation." He added that in all his political career he has taken care to distance himself from political violence. In the three years he has been president, he said there has been no shortage of attempts to undermine him, particularly from the "high and mighty", a clearly not so veiled reference to you know who, but there was never a time any thought of taking the matter into his own hands to embark on any illegality struck him. He pointed out that there have been no political murders during his tenure, as happened in the immediate past administration. He proceeded to dismiss the charge as baseless and expressed the fear that he hopes devious elements would not begin to act out this allegation as contained in OBJ's letter aimed at discrediting him.

The drama of letter writing between two of Nigeria's political gladiators lends itself to different interpretations. It is at once tragi--comical, a political theatre as no other, where the protagonists publicly literally throw jabs and punches at each other on the pages of newspapers and in the process belittling the esteem of the high office they were at one time or the other called to occupy. Whosoever occupies the president's post owes a duty to give account of his stewardship, all the more so when things are not going on smoothly as obtains now. The account however must be given to the appropriate institutions and bodies as provided by the constitution.

Taking on a sitting president and accusing him of all manner allegations, some, as has been seen gleaned from publications that have since recanted is a bad augury for institution building. The presidency must be made to command the respect of all, including past presidents who must learn to repose confidence in the system as constituted. The presidency, as opposed to the sitting president, suffers irreparable diminution of aura and importance if the person occupying it is made the butt of insults and claims that ought to have been verified before putting them in the public domain, to which he has to rebut on the pages of newspapers. This should not be allowed to continue.

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