Posted by Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire | 18 December 2013 | 2,977 times
Against any position to the contrary, President Goodluck Jonathan has a moral, political and even legal obligation to respond to the allegations made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the latter’s open letter. Jonathan’s delay or refusal to respond is suspicious and dangerous. Worse, it makes the allegations seem admitted as true.
Obasanjo’s open letter allegations, from whatever angle you view them and notwithstanding that those allegations are probably self-serving, are weighty and ominous. All the issues raised in that letter constitute the heart and soul of the controversy facing Nigeria today and directing its future. They touch on the essence of the Nigerian State, the relationship between government and the governed, and between the various segments of the Nigerian society. It is to the Nigerian people that President Jonathan owes the obligation to respond, and not necessarily to Obasanjo.
President Jonathan’s refusal or delay in responding has already led to some awkward events. For instance, the letter alleged to have been written by Obasanjo’s daughter Iyabo to her father, would not have assumed the significance it did were it not that some people sympathetic to President Jonathan had mistakenly assumed it was a victory to Jonathan. They believed that Ms. Obasanjo’s letter had taken the place of President Jonathan’s response. But no position could be more misguided than that. Iyabo Obasanjo is not President Jonathan. She has no public obligation to respond in place of the President. And clearly she did not really respond. At the best, she only aired her anger toward her father, albeit on maters that are partly of political import.
Ms. Obasanjo’s letter only impugns the motive and dispositions of Obasanjo without addressing the specific allegations made against this President. Also, it is natural to conclude that the President’s silence over the matter has made it easy for Ms. Obasanjo to deny that she ever wrote the letter, which immediately cast suspicion on the President and his men as to who could have authored that letter, if indeed it was not Ms. Obasanjo. In any event, it is quite belittling of the President for it to be said that the Nigerian President was saved from these allegations by the fortuitous actions of Iyabo Obasanjo. Such would be the kind of position the President would avoid being in.
So, President Jonathan must respond. He should have the capacity to respond. He should have the resources and opportunity to respond. Above all he owes it to the Nigerian people to respond. One way he could respond is to allow a press interview where the journalists would be free to ask him questions on the allegations made by President Obasanjo. And the best time to respond is now, not much later. One issue on the minds of many over these things has been in connection with Obasanjo’s motives and methods. If Obasanjo had set out to present himself as an honest Nigerian statesman who wished Nigeria well or who was genuinely concerned about Nigeria’s interest, it is clear that he failed. Obasanjo is not perceived favourably for several reasons. And it could be said that he has hurt his image more by his letter to President Jonathan.
First and foremost, Obasanjo did worse than any other President in Nigeria’s history, given the extraordinary opportunities he had. Second, Obasanjo, as a President, was extremely corrupt and he left office one of the richest men in Africa, all based on illegal and shameful accumulation of wealth. Also, Obasanjo was a brutal dictator, who supplanted the constitution and rule of law at every opportunity. On fighting corruption, Obasanjo was no better than Jonathan has been, except perhaps that Obasanjo lied better about his anti-corruption policies. The EFCC that Obasanjo established was merely an excuse to have his own private strike force for dealing with political opponents. Even today, Obasanjo’s collusive relationship with the EFCC probably remains strong. And the effort to blackmail President Jonathan over his anti-corruption effort is probably something initiated by the leadership of the EFCC in order to force Jonathan to release funds to the EFCC, which is understandably broke. As I began, I end by I reiterating that the President of Nigerian has a solemn obligation to respond publicly to the allegations made against him by his predecessor President. He cannot stay quiet. That would serve him badly and that would be a betrayal of his compact with the people of Nigeria.
•Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire, lawyer and activist, whose photo appears alongside this piece, wrote from Lagos.
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