Continued from last week
‘My goodness, how can anyone say such hurtful things against one’s own father?’ I wondered aloud, looking up at Tahir.
‘When one is sufficiently convinced that his or her father deserves to hear no less.’ He replied.
‘But so publicly, I mean why couldn’t she have written a private letter and poured out her aggrieved heart in any way she wanted. But to make all this public?’ I queried.
‘Maybe because that’s what the old man deserves for being so vengeful and hypocritical towards other leaders. Just read on, there is more to learn from this tell-all treatise.’ Tahir urged.
‘But how do we know that all she’s saying is the truth?’ I asked.
‘When you read on, the events and issues narrated speak for themselves. No one can make up a story with such accurate instances. Believe me this is the gospel truth, and according to the eldest child of the family too.’ He insisted. And I continued:
Open Letter to Olusegun Obasanjo, Part Two
I left Nigeria in 1989 right after youth service to study in the US and I visited in 1994 for a week and didn’t visit again until your inauguration in 1999. In between, you had been arrested by Abacha and jailed. We, your children, had no one who stood with us. Stella famously went around collecting money on your behalf but we had no one. We survived. I was the only one of the children working then as a post-doctoral fellow when I got the call from a friend informing me of your arrest.
A week before your arrest, you had called me from Denmark and I had told you that you should be careful that the government was very offended by some of your statements and actions and may be planning to arrest or kill you as was occurring to many at the time. The source of my information was my mother who, agitated, had called me, saying I should warn you as this was the rumour in the country. As usual you brushed aside my comments, shouting on the phone that they cannot try anything and you will do and say as you please. The consequence of your bravado is history.
We, your family, have borne the brunt of your direct cruelty and also suffered the consequences of your stupidity but got none of the benefits of your successes. Of course, anyone around you knows how little respect you have for your children. You think our existence on earth is about you. By the way, how many are we? 19, 20, 21? Do you even know? In the last five years, how many of these children have you spoken to? How many grandchildren do you have and when did you last see each of them? As President you would listen to advice of people that never finished high school who would say anything to keep having access to you so as to make money over your children who loved you and genuinely wished you well.
At your first inauguration in 1999, I and my brothers and sisters told you we were coming from the US. As is usual with you, you made no arrangements for our trip, instead our mom organized to meet each of us and provided accommodation. At the actual swearing-in at Eagle Square, the others decided to watch it on TV. Instead I went to the square and I was pushed and tossed by the crowd. I managed to get in front of the crowd where I waved and shouted at you as you and General Abdulsalam Abubakar walked past to go back to the VIP seating area. I saw you mouth ‘my daughter’ to General Abdullahi who was the one who pulled me out of the crowd and gave me a seat. As I looked around I saw Stella and Stella’s family prominently seated but none of your children. I am sure General Abdullahi would remember this incident and I am eternally grateful to him.
Getting back to my mother, I still remember your beating her up continually when we were kids. What kids can forget that kind of violence against their mother? Your maltreatment of women is legendary. Many of your women have come out to denounce you in public but since your madness is also part of the madness of the society, it is the women that are usually ignored and mistreated. Of course, you are the great pretender, making people believe you have a good family life and a good relationship with your children but once in a while your pretence gets cracked.
When Gbenga gave a ride to help someone he didn’t know but saw was in need and the person betrayed his trust by tapping his candid response on the issues going on between you and your then vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, you had your aides go on air and denounce the boy before you even spoke to him to find out what happened. What kind of father does that? Your atrocities to some of my other siblings I will let them tell in their own due time or never if they choose.
Some of the details of our life are public but the people choose to ignore it and pretended we enjoyed some largesse when you were President.
This punishing the innocent is part of Nigeria’s continuing sins against God. While you were military head of state and lived in Dodan Barracks, we stayed either with our mum in the two-bedroom apartment provided for her by General Murtala Mohammed or with your relatives, Bose, Yemisi and your sisters’ kids in the Boys Quarters of Dodan Barracks. At Queens College, I remember being too ashamed to tell my wealthy classmates from Queen’s College, Lagos we lived in the two room Boys Quarters or in the two room flat on Lawrence Street.
No, we did not have privileged upbringing but our mother emphasized education and that has been our salvation. Of my mother’s 6 children 4 have PhDs. Of the two without PhD, one has a Master’s and the other is an engineer. They are no slouches. Education provided a way to make our way in the world. You are one of those petty people who think the progress and success of another takes from you. You try to overshadow everyone around you, before you and after you. You are the prototypical “Mr. Know it all”. You’ve never said “I don’t know” on any topic, ever. Of course this means you surround yourself with idiots who will agree with you on anything and need you for financial gain and you need them for your insatiable ego. This your attitude is a reflection of the country. It is not certain which came first, your attitude seeping into the country’s psyche or the country accepting your irresponsible behavior for so long.
Like you and your minions, it’s a symbiotic relationship. Nigeria has descended into a hellish reality where smart, capable people to “survive” and have their daily bread prostrate to imbeciles. Everybody trying to pull everybody else down with greed and selfishness – the only traits that gets you anywhere. Money must be had and money and power is king. Even the supposed down-trodden agree with this.
Nigeria accused me of fraud with the Ministry of Health. As you yourself know, both in Abeokuta and Abuja I lived in your houses as a Senator. In Lagos, I stayed in my mum’s bungalow which she succeeded in getting from you when you abandoned her with six children to live in Abeokuta with Stella.
I borrowed against my four-year Senate salary to build the only house I have anywhere in the world in Lagos. I rent out the house for income. I don’t have much in terms of money but I am extremely happy. I tried to contribute my part to the development of my country but the country decided it didn’t need me. Like many educated Nigerians my age, there are countries that actually value people doing their best to contribute to society and as many of them have scattered all over the world so have many of your children.
I can speak for myself and many of them; what they are running away from is that they can’t even contribute effectively at the same time as they have to deal with constant threats to their lives by miscreants the society failed to educate; deal with lack of electricity and air pollution resulting from each household generating its own electricity, and the lack of quality healthcare or education and a total lack of sense of responsibility of almost every person you meet. Your contribution to this scenario cannot be overestimated.
You and your cronies mentioned in your letter have left the country worse than you met it at your births in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Nigeria is not the creation of any of you, and although you feel you own it and are “Mr Nigeria” deciding whether the country stays together or not, and who rules it; you don’t. Nigeria is solely the creation of the British. My dear gone Grandmother whose burial you told people not to attend, was not born a Nigerian but a proud Ijebu-Yoruba woman. Togetherness is a choice and it must serve a purpose…..
You called me after your vengeful letter as usual, looking out for yourself and thinking you will bribe me by saying the APC will use me for the Senate. Do you really know me and what I want out of life?
Anyone that knows me knows I am done with anything political or otherwise in Nigeria. I have so much to do and think to make this world a better place than to waste it on fighting with idiots over a political post that does no good to society. That letter you wrote to the President, would you have tolerated such a letter as a sitting President?
As I said earlier, this is not about politics but my frustration with you as a father and a human being. I am not involved with what is currently going on in Nigeria, I don’t talk to any Nigerian other than friends on social basis. I am not involved with any political groups or affiliation….
In 2003 I ran because I wanted to and I thought getting to the central government I will be able to contribute more to improving lives and working on legislation that impacts the country. I found that nothing gets done; every public official in Nigeria is working for himself and no one really is serving the public or the country.
The whole system, including the public themselves want oppressors, not people working for their collective progress. When no one is planning the future of a country, such a country can have no future. I won’t be your legacy, let your legacy be Nigeria in the fractured state you created because, it was always your way or the highway.
This is the end of my communication with you for life. I pray Nigeria survives your continual intervention in its affairs.
Iyabo Obasanjo, DVM, PhD