24 September 2018

Nigeria: Coalition Seeks UN's Reversal of Obasanjo's Appointment

A coalition of Nigerian and South African citizens has sent a petition to the United Nations Secretary-General seeking the reversal of the appointment of Nigeria's former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, as a member of the United Nations high-level advisory board on mediation.

The coalition in an open letter to Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, the UN scribe, stated that it was particularly disturbed by Mr Guterres' "special commendation" of Mr Obasanjo for his mediation role in ensuring smooth political transition in Liberia.

The signatories to the letter are Ademola Araoye, former Head of Office for the Consolidation of Democratic Governance (United Nations Mission In Liberia, UNMIL); Essop Pahad, former Minister in the Presidency, South Africa; Kunle Ajibade, Executive Editor TheNEWS/PM NEWS; and Garth Le Pere, Extraordinary Professor of International Relations, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

"The United Nations should be protected from contamination from the likes of Obasanjo, whose life career has been antithetical to the Charter of the United Nations and has undermined the ethics and values of this great organization," the group said.

"This protection is required in order for the United Nations to remain a highly valued, constructive partner of the peoples of the continent, and to be perceived as such by African peoples.

"Given his character, the controversial history and debilitating outcomes of his personal involvement in Nigerian affair, Obasanjo has been publicly declared as unfit to lead a mission to rescue Nigeria and restore the nation to sanity. He, therefore, cannot be fit to rescue Africa or the world."

Mr Obasanjo was named among 18 internationally recognised personalities appointed to the UN Secretary General's High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation, last year, to advise Mr Guterres on mediation initiatives and back specific meditation efforts around the world.

The board comprises of current and former global leaders, senior officials, and renowned experts.

But the coalition arguing against Mr Obasanjo's appointment to the board said the former president's "well documented sordid profile" makes him unfit for the task.

"Given this profile, we affirm that his association with the United Nations is a grave error fraught with potentially incalculable harm to the already fragile ethical fabric and upended value systems of not just Nigeria but the totality of African society.

"And in view of the dangers implicit in the association of Obasanjo with the United Nations both to the organization, Africa and Nigeria, and indeed the world in its entirety, it is our hope that as Secretary General, you would, as a matter of priority, nullify this unmerited association of your highly valued organization and historic partner of Africa with an immoral man possessed of stout anti-democratic credentials."

The group pointed to the string of political assassinations that took place across Nigeria between 1999 and 2007, during Mr Obasanjo's civilian presidency, as well as the killing of over 300 unarmed university students and civilians in 1978 when he was a military ruler.

"About the same time, Obasanjo's 'unknown soldiers' raided and burnt down to rubble the home of iconic cultural figure, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, whose octogenarian mother, Mrs Funmilayo Ransom Kuti, an icon in the pantheon of historic anti-colonial figures in Nigeria, died of wounds sustained from that incident," the open letter continued.

"The deployment of mindless violence has since become Obasanjo's default approach to crisis management in all settings."

Also, the killing by armed soldiers of hundreds of civilians in Odi, Bayelsa State, in 1999 and Zaki-Biam, Benue State, two years later are evidence of Mr Obasanjo's unfitness for the position, the coalition said.

They also accused the former president of seeking to undermine the country's constitution by attempting to secure an illegal third term in office.

"In his nuclear family, Obasanjo's scandalous life has remained shocking in its violent repudiation of the established norms and moral codes of decency of every society.

"In a 2008 book, Bitter-Sweet, My life with Olusegun Obasanjo, Oluremi, his first wife, paints a portrait of her husband as a vindictive 'master of decoy,' a 'violent and unrepentant wife-basher,' and a man whose 'womanising knows no bounds.' The book contains evidence of Obasanjo's domestic violence that has not been repudiated.

"This is a man who keeps hoodwinking international community, parading himself as a pan-African statesman, second only to Kofi Annan."

The group described Mr Obasanjo as a "deeply flawed man" whose life substantially negates the Charter of the United Nations and violently assaults the values as well as ethics of the organisation.

"His association with the United Nations can only deepen cynicism on a continent in search of authentic heroes to lead the charge to rectify the devalued codes of decency in its violently abused societies. Olusegun Obasanjo does not belong to this rescue vanguard brigade."

When contacted, Kehinde Akinyemi, an aide to Mr Obasanjo, told PREMIUM TIMES his principal is in New York for the UN General Assembly and would need time to respond to the open letter.

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