In contemporary time, there seems to be a perceptible decline in letter writing, especially personal ones. This is quite understandable, considering current upsurge in Information Communication Technology across the world. The social media, in particular, has made communication much easier, convenient and exciting. Technology has, thus, dealt a fatal blow to the art of letter writing.
Buhari and the deflation of a famed letter-writer
But then, a few folks, especially the old brigade, still indulge in letter writing. Former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, belongs to this class. He surely loves writing letters and they are mostly highly volatile. So venomous are his letters that they have been overtly and covertly responsible for the collapse of not a few governments in the country. On October 1st, 1979, Chief Obasanjo made history by willingly handing over power to the Sheu Shagari led National Party of Nigeria, NPN, government.
However, a few years later, Obasanjo wrote series of letters through which he accused the Shagari government of ineptitude and unbridled corruption. On 31st December 1983, four years after Obasanjo handed over power to it, the Shagari administration was toppled in a military coup. Till today, many strongly believe that Obasanjo spiteful letters were partly responsible for the collapse of the Shagari government.
Buoyed by the efficacy of his letters, Obasanjo became more committed to the art. From 1984 to 1999, there was hardly a government in the country that did not get a dose of Obasanjo’s deadly letters. However, from 1999 to 2007, his propensity for letter writing sharply declined. This is quite explicable as the Owu born chief was at the helm of the nation’s affairs under the umbrella of the People Democratic Party, PDP.
All that, however, changed not long after he handed over power to his own chosen successor and political son, late Umar Musa Yar’Adua whose administration was largely marred by his failing health which nearly threw the nation into a political crisis of sort. Characteristically, Obasanjo picked up his pen, once again, and there began series of another set of caustic letters that hugely undermined the Yar’Adua administration.
In-spite of being active in his emergence as president, Obasanjo later became a major thorn in the flesh of the Jonathan administration.
Obasanjo embarked upon another voyage of lethal letter writing. Like those before it, the Jonathan administration couldn’t survive the onslaught. It was roundly beaten at the 2015 poll by President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressive Congress, APC.
Typically, Obasanjo openly courted the Buhari administration at the early stage. But as usual, the love between the duos didn’t last. By late 2016, he has started making damning remarks about the administration. By 2017, he was fully back in business as series of noxious letters that roundly condemned Buhari and his administration started flying around. In one of such, he openly advised Buhari to head back to Daura, his ancestral home, and retire in peace. In another, he was short of saying that the President no longer had a sound mind!
But then, unlike in the past, the famed Obasanjo’s letter seems to have lost its potency. Not only did Buhari trounced, Abubakar Atiku, his closest rival at the poll, he won convincingly in places where book makers had earlier opined he might not do well.
Now, how did Obasanjo’s fiery letter miss its target this time around? Well, the answer could be multifaceted. For one, it appears Nigerians have suddenly discovered that Obasanjo is a crafty old war horse who enlists an unsuspecting public to be part of his personal battles against past leaders. It has been alleged that the former President often resort to his legendary toxic letter writing art whenever the government in power refuses to do his selfish bidding.
Also, Nigerians might have become tired of his overbearing meddlesomeness in the nation’s political realm. Since 1979, Obasanjo has been directly or indirectly involved in the emergence of every leader in the country. For instance, he greatly influenced the emergence of Yar’Adua and eventually Jonathan as presidents respectively, only to come round and fiercely criticize same leaders.
The point here is that if his past judgment that initially influenced his endorsement of these leaders was bad, why should Nigerians trust him again?
The Buhari phenomenon has merely exposed Obasanjo as a hypocritical and self-centred man who thinks mainly about himself, while pretending to be driven by patriotic considerations. In as much as he has the right to continue writing his letters as well as the right to support any candidate of his choice in any election, he has lost the right to tell Nigerians whom to vote for. Buhari’s latest victory has effectively checkmated his capacity to meddle needlessly in the nation’s political space.
If he really knows what is good for him, this is really the time for him to take a cue from past leaders such as Yakubu Gowon and Abdusalami Abubakar and toe the path of a true statesman.
Ogunbiyi wrote in from Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.