Letter to the President

 

Dear Mr. President, please, forgive me for choosing to reach you through this open medium on a matter that would have been best handled privately. My reasons are two-fold. First, if I tried to book an appointment, my chances of getting to the front of the queue in six months would probably be nil. Second, if I sent you a private mail, the official screening process before it gets to your desk would certainly ensure that this one ends up in the bin. Yet, to me, this is a matter deserving urgent attention.

I am one of the millions of Nigerians who saw your emergence as Acting President and eventually President as an act of divine providence. I am one of those who felt that the emergence of a “minority” President from the South-South was the much needed elixir for Nigeria, given her sad history of ethnic politics and “majority” domination. I am one of those who deeply felt that a President like you, with a PhD, would do our country some good seeing that most of our past leaders were persons of rather uninspiring intellectual standing. Today, I am one of those who feel that your Presidency has been unfairly hamstrung by insurgency and the Boko Haram phenomenon, none of which you had a hand in creating.

Yet, Sir, you have managed to make solid progress in the areas of free and fair elections, and in upholding the independence of democratic institutions like the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Judiciary in a way that no leader in our recent past has done. One only needs to recall the conduct and outcome of elections in Edo, Anambra, Osun and Ekiti states to buttress the point that under you, the era of “do-or-die politics” in Nigeria appears to be in retreat. You have also overseen a vital phase in the power sector reform programme by ensuring handover to private entrepreneurs of electricity generation and distribution companies. Although actual results may be slow in coming to light bulbs across the country, most people would acknowledge that the right foundations have been laid. For these and other accomplishments which I may be blind to, Mr. President, history could be kind to you.

But all that depends on how you navigate the next few months leading up to the 2015 general election. Early signs are worrisome. In recent weeks alone, you have been labelled as “clueless” on the security challenge, scored “below average”, compared to King Nebuchadnezzar and accused of “not showing good example.” Whereas not all the assessments may be accurate, the sound bites are clearly turning negative. Mr. President, Sir, I believe you missed a chance to leave in a blaze of glory when you accepted to carry the flag of your party in the next poll. I know, as your supporters say, that you have a constitutional right to contest another term. I know that your kinsmen in the Niger Delta would like you to spend another four years to “exhaust their turn” at the helm. I know you feel that walking away now would make you seem like a weakling, hounded out of office by the opposition. But by taking the bait to try to stay on, Sir, you have chosen the wide and easy road which nevertheless seldom leads to the kingdom of respectability. Such was the path taken by men like Olusegun Obasanjo, Sani Abacha, Ibrahim Babangida, Yakubu Gowon, Robert Mugabe, Moammar Gaddaffi, Napoleon and many others. It rarely ever ends well. The truth, Sir, is that it takes much more courage and character to walk away from power on your own accord than to try and hang on for as long as possible until compelled to.

If you ask me, Sir, the overriding question should have been: What is in Nigeria’s best interest – for me to stay or not to stay? The honest answer to that question today is not to stay. At the very least, that would give the country another chance to re-engage on the insurgency challenge and perhaps stop the bloodbath. Considering the number of people that die each day, the virtual desolation of a zone of the country, and the steady slide in the nation’s fortunes arising therefrom, taking the constitutional exit door in 2015 would have been the wiser and more honourable thing to do. It would have been an act of sacrificial leadership and true statesmanship. And you wouldn’t have had to leave like a wimp. You could have raised a number of strong candidates in your stead, any one of whom would have given the opposition a good contest and Nigeria a fresh hope.

Mr. President, Sir, when your party, the PDP, says that all organs of the party had unanimously resolved to give you the ticket to run for the top job in 2015, it does not mean they love you and appreciate your work. It only means they hope to use your enormous power of incumbency to retain tenancy of Aso Rock Villa and other state houses across Nigeria. They know that in the present circumstances, their chances of staying in power on merit are quite slim. They are not thinking of your interest or legacy. Likewise, when your kinsmen from the South-South say you must stay another four years to “complete their turn”, they actually mean their benefits from the amnesty programme must not be jeopardised for as long as possible.

In effect, Sir, you have become a prisoner, held hostage in part by the selfish calculations of your party, in part by the pecuniary considerations of your kinsmen, and in part by your own ego. A dangerous brew, indeed. The truth, Mr. President, is that power belongs only to God and He gives it to whomsoever He pleases and for His own purpose. Your own life story and the chronicle of your rise to power are, like many others, a vivid testament to this truth. When we begin to scheme and try too hard to gain or hold on to power, we deny its source and sabotage its purpose. We set ourselves up for failure. May that not be your story, Sir. And just in case you are driven by a desire to achieve more and at least slay the Boko Haram dragon before bowing out, I only need to remind you, Sir, that governance is a continuous process and no leader ever finishes the tasks at his table. Besides, sometimes, more is achieved in life by retreat than by engagement. Ask Nelson Mandela and Abdulsalami Abubakar.

One last thing, Sir: The Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria is probably doing more to tarnish your image than you can imagine. It reminds us of the infamous Youths Earnestly Asking for Abacha. Everyone knows TAN is an instrument of propaganda created and funded by you at public expense. We were thus appalled by the drama whereby TAN was made to appear to lobby you to run, and after thinking “long and hard” about it, you decided to “oblige the people’s will.” No one was fooled, Mr. President. In the eyes of most right-thinking Nigerians, that was a piece of cheap puppetry or political voodoo. We thought you were too polished for that.

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