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Former President Obasanjo (L) and President Jonathan of Nigeria

Revisiting Jonathan, Obasanjo feud: Issues in governance

By Osmond Ekwueme

As a concerned Nigerian, who has benefited from the country in the form of federal scholarships to medical school in Europe and post-graduate education in the United States, I write to ask President Jonathan and former President Obasanjo to sheath their swords.

I have taken time to consider the contents of your open letters to each other. We know how they always end but please save yourselves and our wonderful country, Nigeria, from this callousness. Try to share an honorable trait from late Mandela who you adored and respected…..the ability to look beyond personal disappointments and embrace one-time adversaries as friends. You might disagree as much as you want, but such disagreements must not punctuate your civic discourse.

As the saying goes in Europe: ex Africa semper aliquid novi….always something new from Africa. Yes, how come two honorable men who should be working together for the advancement of peaceful coexistence of various ethnic groups in Nigeria are at each other’s neck…washing their dirty linens in public? You probably forgot that the social media is intensely alert to the social and political realities of our times.

What discourages me and many others is not the debate. It is the debasement of the debate. Debate is fruitless when you don’t agree on common rules, facts and suppositions. But more than what was written we were never destined to know the truth, though there was much which we might surmise. While political arguments have been going on for a millennia, arguing did not necessarily mean eviscerating your foe and taking no prisoners (so called ‘do or die’ affair). I suppose I would see things not as inflection points, but as indicative. And what they are indicative of is an exhausted political and economic system running itself slowly into the ground by default. You don’t have to operate with a malicious spirit to do tremendous harm. Insensitivity and hatred are sufficient.

The first salvo was unleashed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. His trying to justify his open letter to President Jonathan Goodluck is like a man trying to be a judge in his own cause…nemo iudex in causa sua. The explanation of the accusations is less clear than what it tries to explain. It is all becoming tiring and unnecessary. It is like watching gratuitous violence in movies. I read the ‘open letters’ and found a lot objectionable to morals in content, offensive to the conscience and to a sense of justice. The letter made an argument that, while possibly valid, doesn’t prove or support the proposition it claims to. The write up was made in anger rather than reason. His style of addressing the audience is borderline nauseating, transparently expedient and bordering on defamation.

The accusations flying left and right reached to the point of being silly and nonsensical. It is human nature to hate a person whom you have injured. Probably, the former president never meant it or it was just a peevish delight. They presented their cases in public and the public who know these honorable gentlemen are getting “sick of it”.

President Jonathan Goodluck, being accused, is entitled to make a plea of not guilty. A silence would have suggested his inability to counter argue validly. The open letter must have been et tu Brute moment for him….a betrayal of someone so close, a mentor and an ex-President. Some commentators had been telling the President to clear the air in some of the accusations…..just like telling someone to look for and bring out a black dog in a dark hole; a dog that was never there in the first place. Impossible, you can’t win. He is the President and deserves respect. The eagle does not catch flies….the commander does not bother with the smallest things. I salute my fellow Nigerians here and in Europe and thank them for taking the trouble to put their thoughts in writing. President Goodluck has been a breath of fresh air escaping from the closed and cloistered minds of people who have set themselves up as being divinely chosen to be Presidents. He did make a couple of mistakes. At the root of things what is wrong with Goodluck’s presidency is that the business-as-usual crowds are still in business.

Former President Obasanjo (L) and President Jonathan of Nigeria
Former President Obasanjo (L) and President Jonathan of Nigeria

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s contentious allegations were on democracy, security and corruption. If you do your best to cripple a runner, you have no right to be angry and complain when he doesn’t run very well. This President, Jonathan Goodluck, has faced the most scurrilous opposition in modern Nigerian presidency. Endless accusations of crypto-fascism, some northerners refusing to accept his legitimacy…..Boko Haram killings to make a point and take Nigeria back to somewhere in their fantasy land and etc. They find elections to be an inconvenient and unwelcome impediment to their unbridled rule by divine right. The hatred exudes from them as well as their psychological propensity for projection and cognitive dissonance boggles the mind. So, when they express outrage and concern for Nigeria, I usually scoff at their newfound, professed concerns about how it’s going. Let me get this straight. You hold a gun to someone’s head and tell him to jump off a bridge. He refuses so you shoot him, but it’s his fault because if he had jumped you would never have had to shoot him (aka the open letter). Got it!

The corruption in Nigeria dates back to when the colonial masters inflated the census figure by millions and allocated the numbers to one ethnic group. Since then there has not been any real census. On assumption of office, late Gen. Mohammed scrapped the 1973 census result and reverted to the 1963 census for official purposes (based on the ones colonial administrators enumerated). Why? Everyone will agree that Nigeria is faced with systemic corruption except those who profit from them as people usually don’t like to hear an argument that cuts into their revenue. The task of reforming every institution in our Nigerian society will take decades and we will get there. We are looking forward to the oncoming National Conference…before the ship capsizes.

However, if we can’t get our act together then the demise of Lugardist-Structure of uncommon marriage between North and South should be considered in 2015 after the centurion 1914-2014. It will not be the first. The motto of Austria-Hungary before it was divided and separated into independent states in 1918 was “indivisible and in separate”. So, what happened? If we can’t live together with clarity of vision of what being a Nigerian is, we can at least separate with our dignity and self reliance intact but I will hate to see us go this path. UNITY IS POWER always!!!

We can accomplish necessary changes without bloodbath, through forgiveness and mutual respect. Late Mandela had shown us how to do it. He was a bright and shining example of the best in human nature.
Let’s hope that 2014 doesn’t bring this type of diatribes. All I have to say is that ‘none of us is perfect’. Not you and certainly not me. We all make mistakes and say things we wish we could take back. To err is human; to persist in committing such error is of the devil .. errare humanum est, perseverare aulem diabolicum.

Osy Ekwueme MD. Ph.D., a physician and public policy analyst wrote from Wisconsin.

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