When I grow up, I want to write just one letter and control the weather! Then, walk around with a wheel-barrow gait. Or do a Ph.d-dance like “egungun” masquerade; munching booli (roasted plantain) or Make-me-well to the beat, while my “worshipers” clap and smile sheepishly. When I grow up, I want to be like Baba Obasanjo!
Chai! Since ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote one long “letter”, recently, he’s been controlling the weather – of national discourse. From focusing only on the murderous herdsmen, talks and analysis spread to cover the entire political-economy, courtesy of Obj’s letter. Suddenly, politicians, even in APC, found their voices. The clergy, too. And the civil society. And the traditional institution. Everyone in now granting copious interviews. Just one letter!
Since my childhood, I’ve been trying to write impactful letters to no end. I almost stopped trying on the advent of text messages and death of post offices. But my hope has been rekindled that if I try hard enough, I might just write “something” that looks like a letter one day. Once, my mum asked me to write “a thank you letter” to Grandma. Can’t even remember what grandma did for me, though. But, just when I started, mum complained: “Your handwriting seems very large”. My reply shut her up: “Well, Grandma’s very deaf, so I’m writing very loudly!”
Well, Obasanjo’s letter was very “loud”. But then, it wasn’t an “ordinary” letter. It wasn’t even a letter. A “Special Statement”! Back in secondary school, I was taught letters had basic structures. Salutation, for instance, was said to be key. So my love-letter once started thus: “My dearest, sweetest, fondest, fantastic, extra-ordinary, paragon of beauty a.k.a Nkoyo, I hope this letter meets you in a fabulous state of metabolism, if so doxology”. The “principal aim” of such letters was always to “ gravitate” the girl’s mind towards something. In my case, it was towards Nkoyo being “the only sugar in my tea, the only fly in my ointment, the butter on my bread, the grey matter of my system, the oxygen in my head, the planet of my universe, the wall clock of my room”. To make her “the metaphor, oxymoron, thesis, antithesis, irony, gerund, conjunction and the adverb of love.”. To be Romeo to her Juliet and Adam to her Eve. But it never worked.
I swear, my then English teacher passed El Rufai-like teachers’ test. Hence, I trust he knew his onions. And cucumber(?). Which is why I believe Babasanjo’s letter wasn’t, well, a letter. When Baba wrote President Goodluck Jonathan, he addressed the latter, directly. But Babasanjo’s letter to Baba Buhari had no such salutation. Instead, it addressed us “all Nigerians”. Well, it had a “principal aim”, but no “doxology”!
Still, his “letter” made a lot of impact. Suddenly, everybody is discussing aloud what we’d been whispering all along. Economy is bad. Security is low. Anti-corruption fight is selective, etc. But “based on logistics” of who the messenger “be”, the message fell on a good soil and germinated. Hence, even the president didn’t argue; didn’t even try to defend himself. He merely gave Obasanjo a presidential attitude in Addis Ababa. Ordered some positive actions like EFCC arresting Bachabir. But reportedly reined-in his media aides. About Obj, even the most loquacious liar speks with measured words. If you think I’m lying, ask Lai Mohammed!
When I grow up, I want to be like Obasanjo, jo! I want to be able to attack you with the truth and stick out my tongue. Ntoor! That’s when you’d know that I, by myself, am the opposition. And a coalition! Obasanjo is already a coalition, in case you missed it. He belongs to no political party, right now. Rose to the Presidency on the platform of PDP and dumped it. Aided APC into the Presidency, without becoming a card carrying member. Now, he’s probably dumping it for a “third force” – a coalition! Baba, the only one-man coalition, has volunteered to “join” a movement that would save(?) Nigeria from the two evils(?) – PDP and APC. Are the members expected from Mars? Curiously, the moment the envisaged “coalition” becomes a political party, Baba says he will step aside. In other words, he will resume his one-man coalition-cum-opposition status. Back to his observatory. In that station, he does no wrong and takes no blame. There, he’d remain sanctimonious and all-knowing. Highly influential and well, feared(?).
Like or hate him, Obasanjo can’t be waved aside easily. He makes sure of that. Just when you think he’s done, he reinvents himself. He’s been high and low; timber and caterpillar. He’s been to the apogee of life from different angles. He’s been an army General; a civilian President; a farmer; etc. Now, he’s a Ph.D holder in…wait for it… Theology! Pronto, no subject escapes Obasanjo’s authority. With a Ph.D., he’s complete “in character and learning”. Before now, Baba only had Ph.d (pull-him-down) in character. Now, he’s Ph.D (Doctor of Philosophy) in “learning”. And, according to him, he has “age and authority” in addition. No wonder his message carries weight.
Since Baba’s “Special Statement”, there’s been a revival in the various professions. For instance, writers now coin new lexicons and craft near melodious pieces. Politicians have become bolder in discussing national issues. Within APC and PDP, some members openly criticize fellow members and party policies. Some even pretend to be speaking for their people. Engineers have gone back to review the foundation and structure of Buhari’s government. Journalists are publishing volumes from the stories and analyses of Baba’s “letter”. Security agencies and authorities have renewed their never-ending ”vow” not to leave any stone unturned. Even criminals, including herdsmen, are engaging in tougher efforts to reinvent themselves.
Only a Babasanjo can say certain things in this country and get away with it. Even the few who disagree with him are only tired of his face. Fayose and Falana are among the few who insist Baba should remove his face from their TV screens. Haba! Isn’t Baba tired of attention? They’ve been hearing of, reading of and/ or looking at him since they were in secondary school. And it’s not as if he’s growing more handsome. They argue that Baba should retire. I guess for Obasanjo to remain on the scene, he might need plastic surgery to have a new impression on Fayose, et al.
But will Baba hear? Not as if he’s deaf, though. And he doesn’t even have Buhari’s ear problems. Yet, old habits die hard. Remove Baba from national and media focus and he probably would fall ill. One idiot even said Babasanjo talks like Donald Trash, sorry, Trump. He talks as he pleases and cares less about your feeling. He puts his opinion forcefully, yet says you don’t have to take his “advice”.
And Buhari may not. One ignorant critic said Buhari has hearing problem, hence no Obj noise will “affect” or change him. Me? I doubt! Another said the president doesn’t read long letters, hence Baba’s “special statement” is a waste of time. Me? I no know book o. At least, they didn’t say he doesn’t understand English. He just spoke turenci to African leaders in Addis Ababa. Even if he didn’t, Femi Adesina would’ve read and Garuba Shehu would’ve interpreted in Hausa. Shikena!
Hence, Buhari and Obasanjo have some things in common, including stubbornness. Buhari is “cattle-rearer” (I almost said herdsman) and Obasanjo is a (chicken) farmer. So they can look eye-ball to eye-ball. And they can settle whatever is between them over a phone call. I wont take Panadol on their behalf. But to say Obasanjo’s message should be ignored because it came from a “tainted” messenger is faulty. And I’m not talking about reelection.
If Buhari likes, let him recontest. But he needs to take Obasanjo’s message seriously. Why? Because some of the contents of that “letter” represent the views of a majority of Nigerians. His appointments; anti-corruption project; economy, etc, need rejigging; refocusing and new vigour. Improving in line with the letter’s suggestion might even be an advantage in 2019.