POWER, MOST TRANSIENT, those who hold power, fail to recognize this. Easily, they forget that they hold power in behalf of those they lead or govern – be it civilian or military dictatorship. Leaders, intoxicated by power, ignore the history and lessons of power, that when the ultimate time comes, power slips off, and becomes irretrievable. Nigeria is replete with the history and lessons of power.
Olusegun Obasanjo is not a man you can forget in hurry. Indeed, not a man you would like to forget. To his advantage, Obasanjo has vast national and international leadership exposure, knowledge and experience. He is recognised internationally. His words are his bonds, lucid in mind, polemics in engaging, fearless and forthright in articulating and addressing issues.
Despite occasional flaws in Obasanjo’s engagements over time; his large image on national and international discourse might not diminish, now or in future. Obasanjo is a privileged Nigerian statesman and a world class citizen. His writing letters to former presidents did not begin with Buhari. He wrote former president Goodluck Jonathan, but he has written more letters to Buhari.
Again, on Monday, Obasanjo, through his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, released an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari that: “Nigeria is on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay”.
In his latest letter to Buhari, Obasanjo said: “I am constrained to write to you this open letter. I decided to make it an open letter because the issue is very weighty and must be greatly worrisome to all concerned Nigerians and that means all right-thinking Nigerians and those resident in Nigeria.
“The issue I am addressing here is very serious; it is the issue of life and death for all of us and for our dear country, Nigeria. This issue can no longer be ignored, treated with nonchalance, swept under the carpet or treated with cuddling gloves.
“The issue is hitting at the foundation of our existence as Nigerians and fast eroding the root of our Nigerian community. I am very much worried and afraid that we are on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay”, Obasanjo said.
Obasanjo said, for over ten years, four of which Buhari has been in charge, Boko Haram has “menacingly ravaged the land despite government’s claim of victory” over the terrorists. He said the potency and activities of Boko Haram in their active areas, remain undiminished, “putting lie to government’s claim”.
On Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, recent claim, that non-victory over Boko Haram, was due to lack of commitment and motivation on the part of troops, bordering on sabotage, Obasanjo said 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. And Boko Haram will not go away on the basis of sticks alone, carrots must overweigh sticks. How else do you deal with issues such as only about 50% literacy in North-East with over 70% unemployment”? Obasanjo asked.
On herdsmen/farmers crises, Obasanjo said government was “treating the issue with cuddling glove instead of hammer”, as a result, it has festered and spread. “Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country”.
Obasanjo said poor management or mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity, which is one of the country’s greatest and most important assets is the main issue. He said the result is that very onerous cloud is gathering. “And rain of destruction, violence, disaster and disunity can only be the outcome”.
He said the “clock is ticking with the cacophony of dissatisfaction and disaffection everywhere in and outside the country”. He said the “Presidency and the Congress in the US have signalled to us to put our house in order. The House of Lords in the UK had debated the Nigerian security situation. We must understand and appreciate the significance, implication and likely consequences of such concerns and deliberations”.
Obasanjo listed four avoidable calamities to include: “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”.
As well as “similar attacks against any other tribe or ethnic group anywhere in the country initiated by rumours, fears, intimidation and revenge capable of leading to pogrom; and violent uprising beginning from one section of the country and spreading quickly to other areas and leading to dismemberment of the country”.
Obasanjo said government should open up discussion, debate and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels. The outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference, that will come up with solution that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive and shared society.
He suggested list of those to be contacted to include “traditional rulers, past heads of service; past heads of para-military organisations; private sector; civil society; community leaders particularly in the most affected areas; present and past governors; present and past local government leaders; religious leaders; past Heads of State; past intelligence chiefs; past Heads of Civil Service; and what he described as “relevant current and retired diplomats; members of opposition and any groups that may be deemed relevant.”