Before we forget,
Publisher: Peace and Development Projects, Lagos, 2014,
Editor: Francis Abayomi,
Reviewer: Bayo Ogunmupe
BEFORE we forget is a compilation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to President Goodluck Jonathan and the attendant uproar it engendered from the public. When Obasanjo wrote the letter, he didn’t expect the kind of rebutted from the broad spectrum of the society, much less his own daughter, Obasanjo didn’t bargain for what he got.
Obasanjo isn’t the proper person to pass judgment on Jonathan’s presidency. Fresh in the collective memory of Nigerians is his ignominious role as an effective cause of Jonathan’s perfidy, ineptitude and the monstrosity his letter decried, was Guardian’s opinion of the affray. This book however, deals with more than Obasanjo’s letter. It covers President Jonathan’s reply, an open letter to my father, by Iyabo Obasanjo Bello; let the Truth Be told by Chief Edwin Clark and an assessment of the letter from Alhaji Mujahid Asari Dokubo.
The in part two, the publishers reported reactions from Jonathan’s bootlickers, Part three contains reactions from the Nigerian press. And part four contains the reactions of the common people as recorded by disdaylive, saharareports, daily trust and the publishers conclusions. In its introduction, the publishers, Peace and Development Projects assert that the letter did not receive a unanimous accolade. That Obasanjo received applause mostly from the political opponents of the President whom Obasanjo was believed to be fronting for. Obasanjo was soon playing host to them at his Hilltop home in Abeokuta.
Indeed, many of Obasanjo’s critics saw the letter as part of a larger plot t intimidate Jonathan and distabilise him politically. But the idea of publishing this book is for record purposes. The peace and development projects promotes peace and development and it believes that a dialogue of this nature deserves a special attention. The exchange of letters is historical with the reactions being very interesting and educative. The reactions give us an insight into the hearts and minds of Nigerians. The lines of arguments are diverse that you cannot but appreciate why Nigeria is such a blessed country. Besides, it has been alleged these problems, criticisms arose from the fact that 83 per cent of oil blocs licenses belonging to Northerners and former military leaders would expire in 2015, which is why they want to destroy Jonathan in order to obtain smooth sail with oil licenses renewal.
In part one, former president Obasanjo in his letter to Ebele Jonathan gave reasons why he had to alert the president on the dangers lurking in the corner foreclosing good governance. Obasanjo alleged that Nigeria was slipping into the Abacha era. Obasanjo then accused Jonathan of reneging on his one-term pledge by seeking a second term in office. He said the president was weakening the party by supporting other parties against the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidates for state governorships. Obasanjo notified the president that as head of state he was dividing Nigeria along North-South, Christian-Muslim lives in his re-election campaign.
Indeed, in his letter Obasanjo analysed the grievances of Boko Haram as having many strands. He manned Drug, indoctrination, fundamentalism, gun-running, hate culture, human trafficking, money laundering, religious bigotry, poverty, unemployment, poor education, revenge and international terrorism. He advised Jonathan to apply various means of conquering Boko Haram, and one dimensional solution would not solve the menace. That one single prescription cannot cure those ailments of insurgency. He told Jonathan that we should not wage war against violence without understanding the root causes of this insurgency. Obasanjo accused as an Ijaw man rather than as a detribalized Nigerian. He also alleged that the commander in Chief was keeping a hundred Nigerians on a watch lest for elimination and that he is training snipers secretly like the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha. He alluded for restraint sitting Egypt which has not settled even with two military coups. Obasanjo also called the Demon of Owu, out reverence for his fearlessness, great energy and drive, accused the president of assisting murderers to evade justice.
By innuendo, Obasanjo said when the thief becomes the guard, nothing is safe. He affirms that corruption, inequity and injustice breed poverty, unemployment, conflict, violence and terrorism because the opulence of the governor can only lead to the leanness of the governed. But God never sleeps. He is watching, waiting and biding His time to dispense justice.
Also, the former president further alleged that the Africa Development had informed him that Jonathan had dropped financing the water project for Port Harcourt because of the Jonathan – Rotimi Amaechi face-off in Rivers state. He urged Jonathan to rise above such pettiness. In the letter dated 2nd December 2013, Obasanjo informed the president that he had shared its contents with General Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Yakubu Gowon and Dr. Alex Ekwueme, and indicated he might extend sharing its contents with many more.
President Jonathan’s rebutted of the contents of the letter was to be expected. Thieves never own up – even at the scaffold. The most damaging revelation was the letter purportedly written by Senator Iyabo Obasanjo – Bello to her father. In it she castigated her father being a megalomaniac. That means that her father is afflicted with a form of mental illness marked by delusions of greatness and wealth. But Obasanjo proved himself the demon of a leader when he said: “ I would rather die than have Yar Adua die at this time.” That was how Iyabo reported how Obasanjo felt over the rumored death of the then presidential candidate, Umaru Musa Yar Adua.
Like Iyabo’s letter, another letter ghostly penned in support of the commander-in-chief was the one sent in by Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark. There was no justification for Clark to write the letter other than to sympathise with Jonathan over the Obasanjo bashing. He also had to show his concern as Jonathan’s bootlicker and beneficiary.
Indeed, most of the commentators listed in here are either people who have benefited from Jonathan or those who hope to do so in the future. This book is a good testimony for future generation of Nigerians on our politics, culture of betrayal and the limits of our intellect. It however broke many conventions of historiography. The publishers never disclosed the names of its editors, some of the commentators were not identified. However, the book is a good volume of living history and valuable for record purposes. I commend the publisher for its good and expensive print. As an author I know the book would have cost millions of naira to the publishers. It made interesting reading.