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Frisky Larr (MA)
Journalist/Interpreter
Author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.
Bochum, Germany
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A Quick Review of President Jonathan’s Response:

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On the whole, the tone of the President's letter captures the reader's base emotions and comes across as presenting the President as a victim of aggression and manipulation by enemies and people who do not wish him well. This is simplistic and misses the point seriously and will resonate best with mean-minded consumers of cheap propaganda for whom hard facts will always weigh less than sensational poison arrows. Disparaging Obasanjo, engineering Iyabo's letter, etc. only achieve the goal of heightening the negative perception of Obasanjo and the general hatred that the old man has long to terms with. Yet the accusations in his letter to President Jonathan remain not convincingly debunked.


Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.

President Jonathan’s response to the 18-page letter written by former President Obasanjo is an emotionally very well composed expose that is largely short on substance. The bunch of swipes at the former President for his personal weaknesses based on past records almost washes away the need for a fact-focused presentation. It almost sings from the same hymnbook as Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello claiming that the former President is attacking the incumbent President from megalomaniac motivations.

One fact attracted my attention though that I also wholly agree with. It is a fact that the Boko Haram rampage of daily bombings has been curtailed and contained while yet nowhere near complete eradication. Whether or not this can be hyped as a major achievement or down-played as too little too late, is a matter of opinion. The truth however is that Boko Haram is still very potent and deadly if not more sophisticated than a year ago given the intricate international Al-Qaeda link. Snubbing Obasanjo's initial efforts and suggestion of the carrot and stick approach was a major blunder that President Jonathan should acknowledge and actually apologize for if apologies are to play any role. It doesn't matter whether the “Carrot and Stick” concept was the brainchild of the former President or not. Whipping up sentiments about Odi and Zaki Biam will not change a thing on the President’s failure in tackling Boko Haram.

While Sanusi Lamido Sanusi took the bold step to publicly correct his irresponsible, unfounded and improperly vetted information that $50 billion was not remitted to the state coffers by the NNPC at the expense of his own reputation, he has nonetheless reduced the amount involved to $10.8 billion that the NNPC did not remit to the state within 9 months. Asking Obasanjo to apologize to President Jonathan and Nigerians for raising the issue in his letter does not explain what happened to this $10.8 billion, which the Minister of Finance says will be accounted for. The President should have obtained a final and clarifying explanation from the technocrats first, before commenting on the issue and demanding an apology. The frequent resort to abusive, vindictive and confrontational vocabularies in the incumbent President’s letter is fully unnecessary and cannot be justified by the claim that the former President did same. The incumbent should, in my opinion, have sought more avenues to defuse tension than boost confrontation. It is a strategy that will definitely provoke more reaction and a further heating-up of the general polity. On the face of it, the pacific option is proving impossible for President Jonathan because the key to dousing tension would be to bow out of the 2015 race. The President’s desperation to run for a second term amid the chants of prolific cheerleaders has placed him in a tricky box.

The President shies away from addressing the issue of Al-Mustapha in the necessary detail while simply referring to the response made by Kashamu as part of his own response. The issue of 'Watch list' is simply denied while the issue of training killers at the same place where Abacha trained his (supposedly North Korea) and the stockpiling of arms is also simply denied. The President sought to counter issues of corruption with rhetorical sweet-coating albeit in a very unconvincing manner. The picture that meets the eyes in today’s political reality tells a different story altogether. Veiled reference to the shambolic prosecution of Bamanga Tukur’s children while the Delta region is flooded by illegal refineries (with new ones replacing captured and dismantled ones) and illegal exporters selling crude oil below market prices does not change the living reality. Reports that private entities vested with the duty of monitoring and protecting pipelines are the actual thieves are not unknown to the President. Due process does not explain inaction on Nuhu Ribadu’s report. Due process does not justify the diversion of attention from the detailed work of the Farouk Lawan committee with a stage-managed sting operation.

Moreover, freedom of speech or due process cannot have stopped the President from calling Asari Dokubo to order for once when he voiced his divisive vituperations. If anything was capable of subverting Nigeria’s political order, it was Asari Dokubo’s firebrand provocations that was neither rebuked nor prosecuted by the President. Compared with Asari Dokubo’s wild charges, Obasanjo’s open letter was a selfless service to Nigeria.

The President’s strategy of appealing to sentiments and arousing emotions is strongly ill-advised. If anything, this is the major goal achieved by the constant reminder of ex-President Obasanjo’s alleged failures and weaknesses in the President’s letter. The President seems to re-echo the generally propagated theme of “moral right” and “moral justification”. After all, if Obasanjo has done worse in the areas he is accusing Jonathan of, he would be lacking the “moral right” or “moral justification” to call him to order. This is a wrong strategy indeed since “moral right” or “moral justification” cannot and will never be a prerequisite to telling the truth. The strategy of defining President Obasanjo’s motives (self-serving or good faith) should have been one that President Jonathan should have allowed aides outside his government to pursue while he personally would have stuck strictly to the facts and facts alone! This goes a long way to underscore a competence deficiency in the type of handlers the President keeps. In the end, he has played into the hands of people who suspect the President’s hands in the sudden outburst of Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello. The President’s submission follows precisely the same pattern. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello’s letter sought nothing else but to abuse and insult as well as smear the reputation of her father in clear diversion from the central facts that President Jonathan is accused of by her father.

On the whole, the tone of the President's letter captures the reader's base emotions and comes across as presenting the President as a victim of aggression and manipulation by enemies and people who do not wish him well. This is simplistic and misses the point seriously and will resonate best with mean-minded consumers of cheap propaganda for whom hard facts will always weigh less than sensational poison arrows. Disparaging Obasanjo, engineering Iyabo's letter, etc. only achieve the goal of heightening the negative perception of Obasanjo and the general hatred that the old man has long to terms with. Yet the accusations in his letter to President Jonathan remain not convincingly debunked.

Follow me on Twitter @FriskyLarrimore, Watch out for my new book “Africa’s Diabolical Entrapment”

Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.

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