The former president, on February 2018, sent a similar letter to Buhari, accusing him of failure in leadership. He urged Buhari not to contest the 2019 presidential election.
In the latest letter, dated Monday, July 15, 2019, copies of which were released to journalists in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, Obasanjo said that he decided to make it open because the issue is very weighty and must be greatly worrisome to all concerned Nigerians. To him, the issue being addressed borders on “life and death and, therefore, cannot be ignored or treated with cuddling glove.”
Obasanjo listed what has been giving him a headache and sleepless nights as the precarious security situation in the country, especially the Boko Haram insurgency that has been on for 10 years, and the atrocities of herdsmen. To him, both issues have been mismanaged.
The letter reads in part: “With the death of Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Afenifere leader, Chief Ruben Fasoranti, Nigerian groups are saying ‘enough is enough’.
“I am constrained to write to you this open letter. I decided to make it an open letter because the issue is very weighty and must be greatly worrisome to all concerned Nigerians, and that means all right-thinking Nigerians and those residents in Nigeria.
“Since the issue is of momentous concern to all well-meaning and all right-thinking Nigerians, it must be of great concern to you, and collective thinking and dialoguing is the best way of finding an appropriate and adequate solution to the problem. The contents of this letter, therefore, should be available to all those who can help in proffering effective solutions to the problem of insecurity in the land.
“Mr. President and General (Buhari), I am deeply worried about four avoidable calamities:
• abandoning Nigeria into the hands of criminals who are all being suspected, rightly or wrongly, as Fulani and terrorists of Boko Haram type;
• spontaneous or planned reprisal attacks against Fulani which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could happen and yet it happened;
• similar attacks against any other tribe or ethnic group anywhere in the country initiated by rumours, fears, intimidation and revenge capable of leading to pogrom; and
• violent uprising beginning from one section of the country and spreading quickly to other areas, and leading to the dismemberment of the country.
“Without being immodest, as a Nigerian who still bears the scar of the Nigerian civil war on my body and with a son who bears the scar of fighting Boko Haram on his body, you can understand, I hope, why I am so concerned.
“When people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.“
The main issue, if I may dare say, is poor management or mismanagement of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and most important assets. As a result, the very onerous cloud is gathering. And the rain of destruction, violence, disaster, and disunity can only be the outcome.”
Obasanjo, who said nothing should be taken for granted, warned that the clock was ticking with the cacophony of dissatisfaction and disaffection everywhere in and outside the country. “The presidency and the Congress in the United States have signaled to us to put our house in order. The House of Lords in the United Kingdom had debated the Nigerian security situation. We must understand and appreciate the significance, implication and likely consequences of such concerns and deliberations,” he said.
On how to tackle the situation, Obasanjo called for “mobilisation for national unity, stability, and security”, saying “there is no cooperation, development, growth and progress, there is no consensus.”
His letter further reads: “Like in the issue of security, the government should open up discussion, debate, and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels and the outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference to come up with the solution that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive and shared society.
“It will be a national programme. We need unity of purpose and nationally accepted strategic roadmap that will not change with whims and caprices of any government. It must be owned by the citizens, people’s policy and strategy implemented by the government, no matter it’s colour and leaning.
“Some of the groups that I will suggest being contacted are: traditional rulers, past heads of service (no matter how competent or incompetent they have been and how much they have contributed to the mess we are in), past heads of paramilitary organisations, private sector, civil society, community leaders, particularly in the most affected areas, present and past governors, present and past local government leaders, religious leaders, past heads of state, past intelligence chiefs, and relevant current and retired diplomats, members of opposition and any other groups that may be deemed relevant.
“The president must be seen to be addressing this issue with utmost seriousness and with maximum dispatch and getting all hands on deck to help. If there is a failure, the principal responsibility will be that of the president and no one else.”
According to Obasanjo, the nation needs cohesion and concentration of effort and maximum force – political, economic, social, psychological and military – to deal successfully with the menace of criminality and terrorism separately and together.
“Blame game among own forces must be avoided. It is debilitating and only helpful to our adversary. We cannot dither anymore. It is time to confront this threat headlong and in a manner that is holistic, inclusive and purposeful.”
He concluded the letter thus: “For the sake of Nigeria and Nigerians, I pray that God may grant you, as our President, the wisdom, the understanding, the political will and the courage to do what is right when it is right and without fear or favour. May God save, secure, protect and bless Nigeria. May He open to us a window of opportunity that we can still use to prevent the worst from happening. As we say in my village, ‘May God forbid bad thing’”.
In a reaction, elder statesman and former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Abdukadri Balarabe Musa, urged Nigerians to protest against the alleged poor handling of the nation’s affairs by President Buhari, in order to avoid the looming doom in the country.
Musa, who is also the Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) said: “It is time Nigerians should come out and protest against this insecurity in the country and the level of poverty in Nigeria today.
“We should not be afraid to tell the government the truth. It has never been so bad in the country. This government of Buhari is the worst in the history of Nigeria. And every patriotic Nigerian should come out and talk to Buhari and save the country from war.”
According to Musa, if the President cannot handle the security challenges, poverty, unemployment, and the gloomy crisis, “it shows that he has failed”.
But the former Kaduna governor argued: “Obasanjo should not be the one saying it, because during his tenure, he did not perform well and even the Yoruba knew this and did not support him.
“All that he said in the letter is the truth. Buhari’s present government is the worst in the country. He is not uniting the country. What is happening today in Nigeria is not helpful to peaceful coexistence. The insecurity in the country, poverty, unemployment, and threat to the unity of the nation are unprecedented and Nigerians should rise up to protest against these. There is nothing to fear about it. Let us save the nation,” Musa added.
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), in a text message to The Guardian by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Mohammad Ibrahim Biu, said: “We are studying Chief Obasanjo’s open letter to President Buhari and will make our position known soon.”
The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) and the socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), commended Obasanjo for having the courage to once again write President Buhari on the threatening state of insecurity in the country.
Also sharing similar views with YCE and ARG, a Second Republic lawmaker on the platform of defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Prof. Seth Akintoye said the former president had consistently exhibited courage and statesmanship in speaking truth to the government when necessary.
The Secretary-General of YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, noted that the former president has the right to talk, irrespective of whatever anybody feels, having been twice at the helm of affairs in this country as a military head of state and civilian president.
“What Obasanjo said in his new letter to Buhari is germane because a situation seems to have been created under the current government that a particular section and race in the country is more sacred than the other. This was completely different from what Obasanjo exhibited during his tenure as president in 2002 when the crisis of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) started under Gani Adams. Instead of treating the issue of OPC then with a kid glove of ethnic sentiment, Obasanjo was all out after Adams and he (Adams) was imprisoned. Tell me how many of the so-called herdsmen have been apprehended by this administration since this crisis started?”
Olajide said the current security situation in Nigeria “is not only detestable, but it is also threating the corporate existence of the nation under Buhari because an impression has been created that the Fulani people are a different species that must not be touched under Buhari’s government.”
The YCE scribe, however, differed a bit with Obasanjo by putting the blame for the escalating insecurity the Southwest region on the doorsteps of the governors, instead of the Federal Government.
“I think southwest governors should wake up to the task of security in the states because to me, the idea of flocking our major highways with soldiers as suggested by the Federal Government will not work. The various state houses of assembly in the region must-pass bills that would empower the governors to appropriate money to buy drones that would man out forests from where the bandits are operating.”
The YCE urged President Buhari to change his negative disposition to the demand for restructuring, saying the only solution to the situation in Nigeria is to return to true federalism where each state and region will have its own security apparatus and programme.
“Obasanjo’s letter is apt, timely and right. There is mutual and dangerous suspicion among the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria today,” he said.
The Chairman of ARG, Mr. Wale Oshun, said: “If we all keep silent, this situation will one day consume us all. So, Obasanjo speaking or writing a letter to the president is not out of place.
“The Federal Government owes Nigerians the responsibilities to ensure our borders are appropriately manned and secured to prevent illegal immigrants that are now constituting a security threat to us. Even the ECOWAS treaty says you must come into another country with the necessary documents, but today our nation is currently flocked with illegal immigrants.”
Akintoye flayed Buhari’s style of government, describing him as a type of leader who does not care or feel concerned about what is happening to his people as long as his personal agenda and ethnic interest are intact.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) urged the Federal Government not to treat Obasanjo’s letter with levity.
PANDEF Secretary-General, Alfred Mulade, told The Guardian that all the four major issues raised by Obasanjo, such as the spontaneous attack against the Fulani which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into a pogrom, are all a possibility.
Mulade warned that except the government attends to the issues raised in the letter, the desired peace would continue to elude Nigeria and stall her advancement.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that Obasanjo’s letter vindicated its position and that of millions of Nigerians that Buhari has failed as the nation’s chief security officer.
The party described the letter as patriotic, momentous, adding that it captured the apprehensions of the majority of Nigerians.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday, the PDP noted that the letter re-echoes its numerous words of caution against “the violations, insensitivity, impunity, vindictiveness, divisiveness, intolerance and dangerous sectionalism that characterise the Buhari administration and which are jeopardising our national unity.”
The PDP urged President Buhari to read between the lines and listen to the voice of reason from well-meaning Nigerians at this moment.
Former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, urged President Buhari to urgently address the nation on the perennial security challenges and how to provide a lasting solution to the menace.
“He needs to come out clearly now, address the nation, outlining clearly his war plans to safeguard the life and property of all Nigerians in all states.
“Nigerians want to hear him directly not through an aide or party chiefs. He is the one they voted for as commander-in-chief and not anyone else.”
Oyinlola gave the advice yesterday in Akure, Ondo State capital while paying a condolence visit to the Leader of Afenifere, Pa. Reuben Fasoranti, whose daughter, Olufunke Olakunri, was killed by unknown gunmen.
“The murder of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin in broad daylight came as a shock and .a rude reminder to all of us that our country is in terrible times.”