Nigeria: Mixed Reactions Trail Obasanjo's Latest Missive to Buhari

Photo: This Day
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa (file photo).

Mixed reactions yesterday trailed another open letter former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari on the security challenges and other topical issues facing Nigeria.

While some of the commentators bashed him and called for the immediate arrest of the former leader, others gave him kudos for proffering solutions to the problems he identified.

Obasanjo is known for writing letters to criticise Nigerian leaders he disagrees with their governance style.

Among those who slammed Obasanjo over his latest open letter to Buhari on the insecurity in the country is the umbrella Fulani socio-cultural organisation in Nigeria, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, which demanded his immediate arrest.

Also, the apex northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum ACF), said that it was studying the letter and promised to make her position known soon.

The pan Yoruba body, Afenifere said that Obasanjo was fighting for all Nigerians while its South East counterpart, Ohanaeze Ndigbo called for a national dialogue on the way forward.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that Obasanjo's letter had vindicated its position that the current administration had not done enough to end the security challenges.

But the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) urged the presidency to "take the message and not the messenger."

In the letter which he titled: "Open Letter to the President", Obasanjo warned that the citizens could take recourse in anything and everything that can guarantee their security, "individually and collectively" should the federal government failed to act appropriately.

Obasanjo, who made copies of the letter available to journalists yesterday in Abeokuta through his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, said that he had chosen to make it open to the president "because the issue is very weighty and must be greatly worrisome to all concerned Nigerians."

It read in part: "Since the issue is of momentous concern to all well-meaning and all right-thinking Nigerians, it must be of great concern to you, and collective thinking and dialoguing is the best way of finding an appropriate and adequate solution to the problem.

"The content of this letter, therefore, should be available to all those who can help in proffering effective solutions for the problem of insecurity in the land. One of the spinoffs and accelerants is the misinformation and disinformation through the use of fake news. A number of articles, in recent days, have been attributed to me by some people who I believe may be seeking added credence and an attentive audience for their opinions and view-points," he said.

With particular reference to the killing of Funke Olakunrin, daughter of the leader of the pan-Yoruba social-culture group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranri, Obasanjo said that he was seriously worried over four "avoidable calamities" which the federal government needs to work on.

"To be explicit and without equivocation, Mr. President and General, I am deeply worried about four avoidable calamities: abandoning Nigeria into the hands of criminals who are all being suspected, rightly or wrongly, as Fulanis and terrorists of Boko Haram type.

"Spontaneous or planned reprisal attacks against Fulanis which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could happen and yet it happened.

"Similar attacks against any other tribe or ethnic group anywhere in the country initiated by rumours, fears, intimidation and revenge capable of leading to a pogrom.

"Violent uprising beginning from one section of the country and spreading quickly to other areas and leading to dismemberment of the country.

"With the death of Funke, Chief Fasoranti's daughter, some sympathetic Nigerian groups are saying 'enough is enough'. Prof. Anya, a distinguished Nigerian merit laureate, has this to say: 'We can no longer say with certainty that we have a nation'.

"Niger Delta leaders, South Eastern leaders, Middle Belt leaders and Northern Elders Forum have not remained quiet. Different ordinary Nigerians at home and abroad are calling for different measures to address or ameliorate the situation. All the calls and cries can only continue to be ignored at the expense of Nigerian unity, if not its continued existence," he warned.

He continued: "Without being immodest, as a Nigerian who still bears the scar of the Nigerian civil war on my body and with a son who bears the scar of fighting Boko Haram on his body, you can understand, I hope, why I am so concerned. When people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.

"For over 10 years, for four of which you have been the captain of the ship, Boko Haram has menacingly ravaged the land and in spite of government's claim of victory over Boko Haram, the potency and the activities of Boko Haram, where they are active, remain undiminished...

"The recent explanation of the Chief of Army Staff for non-victory due to lack of commitment and lack of motivation on the part of troops bordering on sabotage speaks for itself. Say what you will, Boko Haram is still a daily issue of insecurity for those who are victimised, killed, maimed, kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery and forced into marriage and for children forcibly recruited into carrying bombs on them to detonate among crowds of people to cause maximum destructions and damage.

"Herdsmen/farmers crises and menace started with government treating the issue with cuddling glove instead of hammer. It has festered and spread. Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country. The unfortunate situation is that the criminality is being perceived as a 'Fulani' menace unleashed by Fulani elite in the different parts of the country for a number of reasons but even more, unfortunately, many Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria attach vicarious responsibility to you as a Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigeria ship. Perception may be as potent as reality at times. Whatever may be the grievances of Fulanis, if any, they need to be put out in the open and their grievances, if legitimate, be addressed; and if other ethnic groups have grievances, let them also be brought out in the open and addressed through debate and dialogue.

" A stitch in time saves nine, goes the old wise saying. With the death of Funke, Chief Fasoranti's daughter, some sympathetic Nigerian groups are saying "enough is enough".

"We must pray and take effective actions at the same time. The initiative is in the hands of the president of the nation, but he cannot do it alone. In my part of the world, if you are sharpening your cutlass and a mad man comes from behind to take the cutlass from you, you need other people's assistance to have your cutlass back without being harmed. The mad men with serious criminal intent and terrorism as core value have taken cutlass of security. The need for assistance to regain control is obviously compelling and must be embraced now," Obsanjo said.

Miyetti Allah Calls For Obasanjo's Arrest

In a swift reaction, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, called for the arrest of Obasanjo over his latest letter.

The national secretary of the Miyetti Allah, Alhassan Saleh, in an interview in Abuja, said that the Fulani should not be blamed for the rate of insecurity in the country.

According to Saleh, Obasanjo should offer any information his status may have afforded him to solve the security crisis.

He said: "The fact that there is insecurity, I don't think the Fulani are responsible for it. The narrative that we are responsible for the insecurity is even the problem we have with the Nigerian state.

"When any crime happens, even before there is an investigation, people rush to the press and start accusing Fulani herdsmen. Herdsmen are supposed to be carrying herds of cows but if somebody is a criminal or an armed robber, he should be treated as such.

"But if Obasanjo, in particular, having ruled this country for so many years and with his network of security contacts, both locally and internationally, has information, I think he can volunteer it," Saleh said.

Asked about a proposed national platform for dialogue, Saleh said: "Which national dialogue? We have a National Assembly. Whatever they have, they should send it to the National Assembly. What is the function of the National Assembly? People lost power and don't want to agree that in a democracy, you may be in power and another time, you won't be in power.

"If we have confidence in those we elected, I think whatever issue they have, they can channel it to the National Assembly. They want another talk shop probably to come and reposition themselves and their cronies into another jamboree.

"Where is the Goodluck Jonathan conference report? Where are the other conferences' reports? They are just pushing an agenda; in fact, they are desperate and very diabolical in their attempt to cause a crisis in this country. My worry is that the government is not decisive in dealing with characters of that nature."

Saleh advised the Federal Government to take decisive action against all "elements" and their sponsors causing instability in the country, adding that Obasanjo may want to "destabilise the government."

We're Still Studying The Letter - ACF

On its part, the ACF said that it was still studying Obasanjo's open letter and would take a stand on it soon.

ACF National publicity secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, stated this in a short text message (sms) he sent to LEADERSHIP yesterday in Kaduna.

OBJ Fighting For All Nigerians, Says Afenifere

The pan-Yoruba socio-political political group, Afenifere, in its reaction said Obasanjo had spoken in a very frank, bold and unmistaken manner about the crisis of insecurity rocking Nigeria.

Its spokesperson, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told journalists in Lagos that the apparent state of insecurity in the country cannot be ignored by anybody who cared about the state of the country.

Afenifere said that with the sad development in the country, occasioned by what it termed "failure of leadership," life had become so short, nasty and brutish, declaring that Nigeria was being driven on the road to Kigali as its leadership lacked national outlook and only concerned about the "narrow, ethnic prism from which it operated.

"Well, Obasanjo has spoken in a very frank, bold and unmistaken manner about the crisis Nigeria is growing through and the failure of leadership as well as the inherent state of insecurity in the country where life is so short, nasty and brutish," Afenifere said.

The group expressed appreciation to the former president for speaking out boldly in this season when it was common to see people allow parochial interest to weigh down their people.

Odumakin said Obasanjo was working for the interest of all Nigerians, including his own people the way a leader was supposed to do, even as he recalled the "shoot-on-sight order the former president issued to the police against the Oodua People's Congress (OPC) during the crisis the Yoruba group had with the Hausa community in Lagos.

Ohanaeze Backs Call For National Dialogue

Similarly, pan Igbo group, Ohaneze Ndigbo, endorsed the need for national dialogue as advocated by Obasanjo to address the security crisis in the country.

Ohanaeze through the media aide to its president-general, Emeka Attama, told LEADERSHIP that "our reaction is that this is in tandem with the views canvassed by our president-general in a recent press release - a strident call for the convening of a national discourse on the way forward in the present security debacle.

"This is the only step that can assuage the current situation. It requires urgent action. We endorse his position absolutely. The sooner the better as things are really getting out of hand. Delay could spell doom for the country," Attama said.

Ex-president Has Vindicated Us - PDP

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that Obasanjo's letter has vindicated its position and that of millions of Nigerians that President Buhari has not done enough as the nation's chief security officer.

The PDP described the letter as "patriotic, momentous and captures the apprehensions of majority of Nigerians across the board."

In a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said that Obasanjo's letter re-echoes its numerous cautions against the "violations, insensitivity, impunity, vindictiveness, divisiveness, intolerance and dangerous sectionalism that characterise the Buhari administration and which are jeopardising our national unity."

The party urged the president to read between the lines and listen to the voice of reason from well-meaning Nigerians at this moment.

Obasanjo Didn't Say Anything New - APC Chieftain

Meanwhile, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abubakar Girei has said that Obasanjo did not say anything new in his latest letter.

Girei said: "But reading in between the lines I believe our security and intelligence agencies will do the needful to save us from the nefarious plans of the looters, bad political losers and other enemies of our dear nation. Obasanjo and his cohorts should know that there will be no hiding place for anyone who is bent on bringing down the whole roof over our heads.

"I will suggest that regardless of the well-known ill intention of the messenger, Buhari should also consider a political solution to our challenges to complement other measures. Creating avenues for dialogue and discussions at various levels is certainly a good option."

An elder statesman and strong voice from the North who did not want his name mentioned, said that various meetings on the said letter to objectively look at the merit or otherwise are ongoing. He said a formal position on the letter will be made public in due course.

A veteran journalist, Elder John Fwah, said Obasanjo may be known for letter writing, but the content of the current one should be treated based on the issues raised therein.

"The writer is equally a man who has governed this country as military head of state and a civilian president for eight years, so his views should be respected and given serious consideration for the overall interest of the country,' he said.

Take The Message, Leave The Messenger, CSOs Tell Presidency

To the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the presidency should to take the content of Obasanjo letter seriously and not the writer.

The group said that there were fundamental issues raised in the letter that needed to be addressed urgently by the federal government.

In chat with LEADERHIP last night, the executive director of CISLAC, Alhaji Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, insisted that the presidency must look inward and address the issues raised by Obasanjo.

He said: "The presidency should look at the issues raised in the letter and not the personality that wrote it. All that Obasanjo said must be look at critically with the sole aim of addressing them. They are begging for serious attention."

According to the political scientist and civil right activist, Obasanjo is a stakeholder in the Nigeria project, adding that the issues he raised were fundamental and needed urgent attention.

"As a government, they should work towards addressing the problems and not the personality that point them out," Awwal stateded.

Also, the Centre for Democracy Development (CDD) said that the letter was the best thing that happened at a time the country was getting tense.

The group, which has been working to entrench democracy, good governance and fight against corruption, added that the security challenges in the country were worrying.

CDD said that if the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) lawmakers were deliberating on the increasing insecurity in Nigeria, the coutry's leaders must rise to the challenge.

The director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, told LEADERSHIP that Obasanjo had helped reduced tension in the country by suggesting some solutions to the security problem.

"The letter is all about saving the lives of Nigerians. The level of insecurity is worrying and it's the executive that can address it. The UK lawmakers and their counterpart in the US have been deliberating on the security situation in Nigeria. If they are discussing about our issues, we must rise up and address it," Idayat said.

Obasanjo's Views In Order - Northern Groups

Reacting to the letter, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), which had spearheaded the issuance of quit notice to the Igbo in the region, said that haven studied the letter, it share the concerns expressed in a statesmanlike manner by Obasanjo, especially with regards to the disturbing security situation and the seeming non-existence of government or apparent loss of control by Buhari.

In a statement issued by the group's spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, the group said that "we acknowledge in Chief Obasanjo's letter, a u-turn from his earlier divisive and inflammatory standpoint which has unfortunately been orchestrated by some regionalists against certain sections of the country, notably the North.

"The attempt by Obasanjo to reclaim his statesmanship by taking a relatively balanced position on a security lapse that threatens the very existence of the country this time around, though an afterthought, nevertheless serves to strengthen CNG's emphatic repudiation of the vilification of one ethnic and religious group or the other for whatever reason or justification.

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