Leave Office Gracefully

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Leave Office Gracefully

Awoniyi tells Obasanjo

 

 

An open letter of appeal dated Monday April 10, 2006 from Chief Sunday Awoniyi (Aro of Mopa), to President Olusegun Obasanjo.

 

 

 

Dear Segun,


Many times in the last several months (before the armed attack on me on Sunday 12th March 2006 in my bedroom in Abuja) I have had repeated strong feelings to write you an open letter on the affairs of our country under your stewardship in the last seven years. I refrained from doing so on each occasion because as one executive outrage of your government followed the other, young men and women, especially journalists, some of whom are in the same age bracket as your children and mine, write on the issues concerned with so much feeling, eloquence, logic and intelligence than I ever could.

 

Segun, although you probably will not believe it, it is nonetheless true that for some unaccountable reasons I still have some soft spot for you. I pray for you and wish you well. That partly accounts for this letter. I thought, may be if I am able to show you openly and unflatteringly the other side of the coin from the one displayed to you by those who behave as if they love you better than you love yourself, you may change tack and find a way out of the cul de sac into which you have been boxed.

 

What the vast majority of Nigerians and particularly the knowledgeable, experienced, patriotic lovers and leaders of our country have felt increasingly in the last seven years are mostly silent bewilderment, unbelief, deep pain and sorrow for you and for our country rather than just futile anger. They are embarrassed to see their once beloved leader waddling naked on the national and international stage while flatterers praise his robes as being more resplendent than those of the biblical King Solomon.

 

It is painful that the unequaled opportunity that providence and the good peoples of Nigeria gave you in 1999 to bind the nation's wounds and to strengthen its internal cohesion, through the various prescribed democratic institutions and organs, in freedom, justice and fair play, in an all inclusive manner have been so needlessly betrayed.

As you will recall, nobody thought that the task given to you in 1999 was going to be easy. At my own level, in spite of my initial grave doubts about your temperamental suitability for the job, I was persuaded from our many honest discussions over weeks and months that if you performed half as much as you sounded, we would succeed.

More importantly, from the stimulating seminars and retreats which we organised at which you participated and spoke eloquently about democracy and the team work that would be needed to revamp the nation, you made the leadership of the party that brought you to power and its vast followership to believe that you were a leader worthy of trust, who would midwife the democratic ethos we needed in our national life.

 

In addition, your comments, posture and activities after your military presidency, your Leadership Forum at Otta, your countrywide lectures on the virtues of democracy and your warnings to past and current leaders of the day not to take the good nature of Nigerians for granted, all helped to convince Nigerians that you were a committed democrat.

Furthermore, Nigerians had put religion behind them in the Abiola/Kingibe Moslem/Moslem presidential ticket as a major factor in the choice of their leader. And in your election, Nigerians decided to put ethnicity behind them as a major factor in their choice of the leader. They voted massively for you regardless of religion and ethnicity all over the country while your own people rejected you and humiliated you at the polls. These were two of the greatest achievements of Nigerians in nation building.

 

Segun, those were heady days, full of hope and expectations. I thought that if I could rekindle for you some sparks of the high ideals of those days, particularly at this period, when we have a confluence of spiritual preoccupations, and prayers by Nigerian Moslems and Christians alike (prophet Mohammed's birthday, PBUH, Lent and Easter), you may prayerfully join them and rethink where you have led Nigeria and how you can get her out of the jam into which she has now been landed.

I thought also that instead of the usual abuse from your image makers and beneficiaries of the present situation, may be men of knowledge and experience, particularly those of our generation from all walks of life - administrators, professionals, businessmen, etc. - will break their silence and speak to you or find ways of speaking to those who can influence you.

 

What finally pushed me to write you in this manner?

I decided to shrug off all inhibitions to write this letter because of an incident that nearly brought tears to my eyes yesterday. My physiotherapist here in the UK has prescribed a set of exercises for me to follow strictly to aid my recovery. One of the exercises is to take some walk little by little, and slowly, slowly daily. Yesterday, as I walked past a Request Bus Stop my eyes caught a notice board with the flags of some thirty nations drawn on it. I ran my eyes over them and behold, I saw my country's beloved green white green flag - so simple and so beautiful. I suddenly heard myself singing alone that portion of our original national anthem relating to our flag. I probably did not get all the words right after some forty years, but its words struck a deep chord in me:

 

Our flag shall be a symbol

That peace and justice reign.

In peace and battle honoured

And this we count as gain.

To hand on to our children

A banner without stain.

O God of all creation,

Grant this our one request,

Help us to build a nation,

Where no man is oppressed.

And so with peace and plenty

Nigeria may be blessed.

 

Segun, I plead with you, please ponder over these words and see how you can bring our country back to the path of mutual accommodation and progress, so that:

 

"Though Tribe and Tongue may defer,

In brotherhood we stand.

Nigerians all and proud to serve

Our sovereign motherland."

 

Let us not betray these visions of our great Founding Fathers.

 

God has been Good to you

God has been magnanimous to you Segun. For instance, to give just one example, every one of our past Heads of State has been used by God to aid you at all stages of your career. You benefited where others had sown. They saved you from death. They saved you from impeachment. They even tried to make you Secretary General of the United Nations until one of the major European countries said that what the United Nations wanted was a Secretary General, not an Army General.

One of our most respected distinguished Generals recommended you to Nigerians as a man they could trust. He was even reported to have threatened "to checkout" of Nigeria like Andrew, if you were not elected President.

In all humility, ask yourself what kind of truly beneficial relationship you have with them today. The truth is that today, you hold them in derision, and their views count for nothing with you. Surely, this cannot be right.

 

Why I feel able to write you

I feel qualified to write this letter to you for several reasons. But I will mention only three. Firstly, providence brought us together and we have come a long way together and I know you more than most people and still feel for you more than most. With a few exceptions, most of the people around you dread you. The law they obey is the law of survival in office no matter the cost. They cannot tell you the truth. Well, in spite of recent events, I am still foolhardy enough to risk offending them and offending you by telling you the truth.

Both of us are over 70, i.e., the biblical three score and ten. We are not half the men we used to be.

 

Let us face it. Let us accept it that TIME and the biological ravages that accompany TIME have taken their inevitable toll. We are old and should not hanker after a new career of fame or world acclaim. National and world fame will come if they are merited. Leave your place in history in the hands of your Creator.

At our age we should be more reflective and more accommodating, less impulsive and less combative.

 

As we prepare for the great beyond, we should work and pray to be remembered for sowing the seeds of good accord and not for fanning the embers of discord between and amongst our peoples. We should not pitch the South against the North, or vice versa; nor should we manufacture new areas of disharmony where none existed before. Let us help the young to grow and grow aright. The future is theirs. They are bright and impressionable. Let us give them good example for their interpersonal and communal relationship. We owe them this debt.

 

I write this letter, secondly, as a fellow Christian; and more especially as a fellow member of the Baptist Denomination. I urge you to ponder and accept the biblical injunction that if we are truly born again, we would be Christ-like in our actions, and conduct ourselves in ways that will make our "light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." I write this letter, thirdly, as a fellow Yoruba man.

As I have said over and over again in many gatherings, the one thing on which the Yoruba man cannot be faulted is in his expression and display of gratitude for good done to him. A Yoruba man would express gratitude for the good done to him yesterday. Years later, he would greet his benefactor and tell him that he has not forgotten the kindness of yesteryears.

 

God has been very good to you, Segun. He has used good men, many of whom I came to know, to help you in your private life, in your profession and in your political career. Please ponder on how you have repaid their kindness to you.

 

The answers to our current problems

Now, what are the answers to all the mess we are in? I believe you should know much better than anybody. You know how you got us into it.

First and foremost, you as the undisputed leader today must have the humility to accept that you are human and that mistakes have been made that need urgent correction. And as they say, if you want to get out of a hole, you must stop digging.

 

Therefore, whatever solutions you may have to offer, for them to have any chance of success, you must begin by mending fences and regaining the trust of those leaders and groups of influence whom you have grievously and so needlessly let down.

 

You must call off the harassment of all those opposed to you or those whom you are opposed to, including your Vice President. It is disingenuous to pretend that you have no hands in these harassments. It is like hiding behind a finger and pretending that people do not see you. Although I believe that you probably did not order these harassments, those who did believe that you would not object provided they are not directly traceable to you. It is disgraceful and dangerous considering the men of high repute and service to this nation that are the victims, including the Vice President. Habba, Segun! Please order immediately, firmly and publicly, that they must stop.

Show gratitude to Nigeria and its people by putting an end to all actions that can plunge it into communal or sectarian strife and possible civil war.

Look up the recommendations of the Etsu Nupe Committee on the ways to tackle the problems of 2003 rigged elections. They are relevant to the present situation.

 

And now to the big one! The third term

The way the third term project was conceived in brazen deceit and contempt for all decency, and the ruthless methods being used to force feed it into an unwilling populace by intimidation, blackmail and all manners of corruption, are in complete contradiction to your administration's sermons on integrity, transparency and accountability. They are immoral. They are irreligious.

Therefore, I beg of you, for your own good and for our country's good, make a simple announcement to say that you are not interested in a Third Term and that you plan to go back to Otta in 2007.

This will bring down the political temperature dramatically. You will be amazed at the favourable public and nationwide reaction to such an announcement. Your credibility nationwide will be considerably restored. Some of those around you will certainly not like it, but most of them who have been battling with a moral dilemma on their conscience on the project will be greatly relieved.

It will then be possible to consider seriously a meeting of the various leaders of our country - political, professional, traditional, etc., etc., to discuss issues. Please think on these things.

 

Finally, please rejoice with me as a fellow Christian, that from the bottom of my heart I have forgiven those who violated my privacy and wounded me. Whether their reasons were economic or political or both, as our president, the ball is in your court to restore the right economic, political and security atmosphere to Nigeria to obviate these outrages. Segun, at my level I intend to continue to endeavour to work for the emergence of a Nigeria where their children will have no cause to earn their living by criminal activities.

Please refer to the recommendations of our "Whispering Palm Presidential Retreat" of April 1999. They are still relevant.

 

Generally, Nigerians are forgiving. They are particularly generous in forgiving the aberrations of their rulers, particularly if they leave office gracefully. Leave gracefully, Segun. Save Nigeria from unnecessary social and political trauma, besides which the horrors of Rwanda and Burundi will be child's play. I pray God to bless you abundantly and grant you the humility, wisdom, righteousness of spirit and courage to do so.

Thank you very much for your visit to me at Abuja following the armed attack. I am grateful. I am getting better, "slowly slowly."

 

I wish you well.

 

Yours sincerely, as always.

 

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