By Jerome-Mario Utomi
The Supreme Court is not the highest Court in our land. Our highest court is the court of public opinion which meets every hour.—Seitel (1987).
It is a common knowledge that one of the intrinsic privileges participatory democracy and election of leaders confer on us is the enjoyment of access to ‘free flow of information which gives each individual more standing within the society without reference to a class or fortune- to claim a measure of dignity equal to all others and empowers individuals to scrutinize the use of power by those in government’.
Considering this fact, I found nothing out-of-ordinary to warrant the ripple reactions that characterized former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent use of analytical method to advise President Muhammadu Buhari, on the current state of the nation.
Chief Obasanjo, as an elder statesman, apart from enjoying the constitutional backing as enshrined in the nations’ 1999 constitution (as amended), to express his opinion, the open letter remains the most dynamic and cohesive action expected of a past leader of his class to earn a higher height of respect.
In my understanding, the letter is not only a strategy to assist a leader gain significant ground and tackle the job of leadership, but a conventional approach aimed at making the leader recognizes that it takes a prolonged effort to administer a country well and change the backward habits of the people.
As we know, in problem-solving, it is vital at the start to formulate the questions in a way that will facilitate the discovery of solutions. Likewise the open letter, from its tone, one can situate that its target was to remind the president that public order, personal and national security, economic and social programmes, and prosperity is not the natural order of things but depends on the ceaseless efforts and attentions from an honest and effective government that the people elect.
In view of the above, the description of Obasanjo by some commentators and public affairs analysts, as someone that thinks of himself as more generous, more nationalistic, selfless, honest, kindly, intelligent or good looking than others, may not be fair to his personality.
Notably, Obasanjo’s action is not without precedent at the global stage; as history indicates that Lyndon Johnson, a onetime President of the United States of America was stopped from seeking a second term in the office by virtue of such letters. It was after incessant letters from his predecessors and other well-meaning citizens condemning his poor handling of the war against the Vietnamese that he (Lyndon) issued a statement which read in parts ‘’I shall not seek and, I will not accept the nomination of my party as president’’.
Indeed, like the Rotary International Club’s Four-Way Test, instead of FG telling the former president to watch his words, what should be their preoccupation in my views, is to introspectively find out if; it contained the truth? Fair to all concerned, and has the capacity to build goodwill and better friendship?
By contrast, Obj’s letters to the present administration could be likened to temptation; which in the words of Thomas Akempis comes to; instruct, humble and purifies. But if the tempted flees them outwardly, and do not pluck out the roots, he will profit little; nay, the temptation will soon return and the person will find himself in a worse condition.
Studying the content of the present letter and drawing, useful lessons from it should be a solution that will fit the circumstance.
The reason for the voiced opinion is not far fetched.
First, it could be recalled that President Buhari according to reports had in March 2015 among other things described Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as a courageous patriot and statesman who tells the truth to the power when he is convinced that leaders are going wrong. It is my prayer that PMB will heed this truth that is now coming from that same courageous patriot.
Secondly, Former President Obasanjo in a similar letter in 2018 complained about the ‘lice of poor performance in government- poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed-if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality’’ And those fears later became realities that Nigerians now worry about.
Now that another ‘political prophecy’ has come, expressing deep worries about four avoidable calamities listed in no particular order as 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 pogrom and violent uprising beginning from one section of the country and spreading quickly to other areas and leading to dismemberment of the country.
I think there is an urgent need for us to listen.
Particularly since these worries are by no means unique to Obasanjo- as the likes of Professor Wole Soyinka, and Adewale Martins, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, among others have at different times and places raised strong voices against the Federal Governments inability to manage our diversity and security. Observably, while Professor Wole Soyinka called on Nigerians to defend their lands, Adewale Martins on his part noted that the FG is presently not doing enough to ensure security of lives and property.
In view of the above, it will be gratifying in both political and socioeconomic terms if President Buhari studies and adopts useful information from the letter to help his government provide people-purposed leadership.
Except in a peripheral way, the insight from former president Obasanjo’s letter remains credible, and should be encouraged to concentrate on preaching; honesty in governance and a need for a multicultural society of equal citizens, where opportunities are equal and a person’s contribution is recognized and rewarded on merit regardless of tribe, language, religion or culture-with lives and property secured.
Finally, the crucial point we must not fail to remember is that our political challenges were created by our leaders, accelerated by the masses, and can only be reduced by all of us. Hence, learning from the silent points raised by former President Obasanjo is important.
Jerome-Mario writes via; firstname.lastname@example.org