That former President Olusegun Obasanjo loves writing letters is no longer a matter of conjecture. He has written many epistles and when “duty calls”, he does not shy away from writing more acerbic notes to the man in power, where he had once held sway.
However, Obasanjo appears to be luckier than most of his compatriots on the seat of power being the longest in service. Providence had put the highest office in the land on his laps in 1976 after the murder of General Murtala Mohammed. The same divine power gave him the presidency in 1999 after he passed through the shadow of death, but was released from the late General Sani Abacha’s gulag by General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Many believe that given Obasanjo’s classic position in the scheme of things in Nigeria, he has always taken the bull by the horn to speak the truth to anyone at the helm of affairs – the incumbent president.
Love him or hate him, Obasanjo is not a saint, he has his own weaknesses, but he has created a niche for himself as one daring, blunt Nigerian leader that has always risen as occasion demanded, especially at critical moments when the nation is at the crossroads, to say things the way they are, using the instrumentality of his letter.
He has remained fearless when expressing his statesmanlike patriotic positions on the state of the nation.
Of course, Obasanjo is not unaware that he is stirring the hornet’s nest, but does not seem to care whose ox is gored. He did not start his letter-writing episode with the President Muhammadu Buhari government.
Indeed, he also wrote to former President Goodluck Jonathan who he literarily imposed on Nigerians at the twilight of his administration.
In his 18 -page letter to Jonathan entitled: “Before it is too late,” Obasanjo accused the then president of ineptitude and taking actions calculated at destroying Nigeria.
“Nigeria is bleeding and the hemorrhage must be stopped”, Obasanjo had warned Jonathan.
When he first wrote to Jonathan, he acknowledged that his letter would provoke cacophony from hired and un-hired attackers, but said he would maintain his serenity because, by the letter, he has done his duty as a statesman to warn on the dangers ahead if the advice was ignored.
It is a conviction he still holds till date, the reason he has spared no opportunity to bomb Buhari each time he noticed that the nation was drifting into an avoidable abyss.
In one of his letters to Jonathan, Obasanjo noted: “I have passed the stage of being flattered, intimidated, threatened, frightened, induced or bought…death is the end of all human beings and may it come when God wills it to come.”
Since then, he has remained unrepentant in his indulgence to letter writing, unperturbed with the consequences and attendant verbal attacks on his person.
In fact, in one of his interviews, he said he does not dignify the government with a response after he has made his views known.
The fact remains that Obasanjo alone does not possess the monopoly of knowledge about Nigeria, but unlike the few in his personality class, he has become more vocal and more daring.
Although some of his attackers say they see him and his actions as theatrical and that he has no moral right for his invective, but the majority of Nigerians, going by verifiable checks believe that the retired Army General is always on point on national issues raised irrespective of what could be the motive.
Many Nigerians, as expected, have taken to social media to react to his latest letter: Olumuyiwa Ariyo wrote on Facebook: “Obasanjo is obviously not writing this letter for his own sake, but for us. He is old and has achieved what anyone may be dreaming of. I pray the government listens.” On Twitter, @Mohammed said: “Just imagine that Buhari listens to some of these good criticisms and fix Nigeria. Who will take the accolades? Is it Buhari or the critics?”
There is no gainsaying the fact there was instances of impunity during the reign of Obasanjo as president. For example, on November 20, 1999, the Nigerian military, acting on his orders invaded Odi, a predominantly Ijaw community in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, and wreaked monumental havoc on the community that observers described as a pogrom. Nigerians will not also forget in a hurry soldier’s massacre of civilians in revenge attack at Zaki Biam community in Benue state.
But political commentators seem to be unanimous in their verdict that never in the history of Nigeria that the country is deeply divided as it is today. The reason is simple: cover-ups, denials, actions, inactions of leadership.
This is Obasanjo’s third letter to President Buhari in which he has always warned on the danger ahead after each of his interpretative survey of the state of the nation.
Indeed, Obasanjo in his latest letter released on Monday again had forewarned Buhari of the imminent crises that could engulf the country if some issues were not properly addressed.
According to the former President, the country is on the edge of a precipice and all hands must be on deck to prevent it from collapsing.
He had called for urgent actions to tackle Nigeria’s challenges and offered pieces of advice that could help combat the challenges.
Expectedly, the content of the letter encapsulated the present security challenges the country is faced with, and the potentiality of it escalating to a genocide, which could lead to total breakdown of the nation.
Despite the weighty allegations raised in the letter, the government is yet to come up with a comprehensive response of rebuttal, fueling the impression in some quarters that the Federal Government seems to be playing the ostrich, living in denial.
Predictably, some groups have cautioned Obasanjo not to inflame an already tense situation.
Political watchers say that even those who may pretend to take no notice of the messenger may be deluding themselves to disregard his message.
Most Nigerians agree that since global organisations like the International Crises Group began to warn of the possibility of a humanitarian emergency in the country in 2019, sustained focus should be total commitment on building proactive scenarios to tackle the issues raised in the letter rather than attack Obasanjo.
Some political analysts were quick to point out that OBJ is one of the greatest and most intelligent persons to have ruled Nigeria, advising that Buhari takes time to address the issues he raised in his letter, as well as act immediately if he is sincere in the task to salvage Nigeria.
They contend that abusing Obasanjo would not do the country any good.
Obasanjo, a career soldier, was born on March 5, 1937. He served as military Head of State from February 13, 1976 to October 1, 1979 and a democratically elected president from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007.