An open letter to articulated Atiku
By Tunde Odesola
London, Jan. 21, 2019 (AltAfrica)-Dear Turaki, I congratulate you on your triumphal entry into the US after many years of blacklisting induced by plenty corruption allegations. I also wish you success in your fifth shot at the Presidency – having failed in 1993, 2007, 2011 and 2015.
Though the son of somebody, I’m a nobody. Somebody, in this context, is ‘Lagbaja’, the faceless Nigerian man on the street. My mother was Tamedo, a name for the anguish of the Nigerian woman.
Your Excellency, I bet there’s no way you can ever recall meeting a fry like me because royalty and peasantry don’t mix. But fate crisscrossed our paths a few times when I was hounding news. I was that big-eyed, lanky lad that interviewed you, in company with some colleagues, at the Osun State Government House, Osogbo, during the governorship of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
It’s been a long, long time. I know you can’t possibly recall my first physical encounter with you. And Your Excellency doesn’t need to risk a headache trying to recall meeting a nobody like me; you’ve daily come across an army of my ilk in the past few months while campaigning for votes nationwide. Every four years, you come across my type, the labourers of the scorched earth called Nigeria.
Every four years, your bag of promises makes stampede crush a people in want of meaningful existence.Today, you’re one of the two-most-talked-about men in Nigeria, the other being an incumbent failure, whose head the crown doesn’t fit again. I’ll write him a letter soon, too.
Turaki Adamawa, there’s hunger in the land. There’s also no water, though we’re in the rainy season. Poverty is second skin. Disease is a playmate. Death is the next-door neighbour.
I must state from the outset that this letter isn’t an attempt to diminish your chances in the February 16, 2019 presidential election. Rather, it’s a window to the heart of the common man on the street, whom you intensely seek to govern. This letter will neither praise nor abuse you. It’s merely an intimate outpouring of innermost emotions depicting the tragedy of the Nigerian state, and her leadership, which you represent.
Sir, when I say death is next-door neighbour, it’s an understatement. Death daily dangles its club above the skull of every Nigerian, menacingly. Nobody is safe. A fatal blow to the head spurts blood and eyes close eternally in auto accidents, diseases, stray bullets, murder, suicide and sundry other fatalities.
I know these are what you’re coming to change if voted into power, but these problems didn’t just grow in the last four years; your party, the Peoples Democratic Party, sowed the seeds of corruption and stacked backwardness, profligacy and pervasion in barns for Nigerian generations yet unborn.
You were the deputy to President Olusegun Obasanjo when billions of dollars were pumped into endless tunnels in search of electricity. It was also a time when the US courts found an American congressman, William Jefferson, guilty on 16 charges and handed him a 13-year jail term for a multimillion-dollar scandal in the Halliburton joint-venture with Nigeria, designed to build a Liquefied Natural Gas plant on Bonny Island, Rivers State.
The shady deal earned some other Americans various jail terms, but just as the former PDP Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, bestrode Nigeria in saintly cassock before the hammer squished him in faraway England, your name was loudly mentioned in the Halliburton scandal.
Another ex-PDP governor, Lucky Igbinedion, of Edo State, didn’t have the luxury of escaping abroad as a Federal High Court sitting in Enugu handed him a six-month jail term over a multi-billion naira fraud just as the late PDP Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, pleaded guilty to allegations of multi-million-dollar corruption charges in December 2005, earning just a two-year jail sentence.
Your Excellency, the ridiculous jail terms handed down to corrupt officials during your joint ticket with Baba Obasanjo cemented the foundation of corruption in the judiciary, a cancer which your administration failed to fight.
The ongoing lopsided anti-corruption mockery by the Muhammadu Buhari-Yemi Osinbajo presidency is evidence that both your party and the All Progressives Congress are spineless, visionless and self-serving. But you can win some converts to your side by putting to rest the ghost of the Halliburton scandal in a detailed explanation stating your side of the story and why it has taken you this long to visit the US.
Sir, I sincerely wish you prove your innocence over the mountain of corruption allegations the APC is leveling against you, not because the ruling party is unblemished, but to highlight the hypocrisy that made the APC prevaricate on horrendous scandals such as the Gan-dollar of Kano, Maina-gate, multi-billion naira Daura-gate, Babachir Lawal’s golden grass cutting, N919m NHIS scandal, herdsmen bloodletting, the immoral pardoning of accused former PDP leaders who defected to the ruling party, etc.
Government inertia and corruption since 1999 have worsened socio-economic infrastructure and service delivery such as roads, hospitals, schools, airports, seaports and security. This phenomenon has proliferated deaths on Nigerian roads, produced dunces in Nigerian schools and metamorphosed our general and teaching hospitals into kiosks and mortuaries – all in the land which you superintended for eight years as vice-president before ambition and corruption allegations erupted a volcano of hate between you and your former boss-turned-curse-now-lord.
Two dear family friends, Mrs Olufela Ebisemiju, and Mrs Olusola Toyin-Fidudusola, recently died in auto accidents in Abuja and Osun State respectively in circumstances that could largely be prevented. I lost my mother in a similar circumstance in February 2008.
A junior colleague, Mrs Bola Ogunboyowa, is still lying critically ill in hospital after sustaining injuries in an auto accident. The Federal Road Safety Corps on Saturday said 393 children were involved in 2018 end-of-the-year crashes even as five persons were killed along the Molete-Ibadan Road a day ago.
Your Excellency, you can see that death is cheap and available in the country you crave to govern. I’m sure that during your recent visit to the US, you noticed the sanctity of life and the dignity of living. I’m almost certain you’re driven to the airport in a siren-blasting convoy with immigration officials and the police falling over themselves and breaking protocols to clear you for the vanity trip.
But, I would rather you visited the nook and cranny of the country to see the suffering afflicting the masses. I noticed you walking side by side with Senate President Bukola Saraki like ordinary citizens at the Washington Dulles International Airport, Washington, without gun-wielding security agents, convoys, touts, hungry praise singers, and party members shouting themselves hoarse.
Personally, I don’t support the American circus which election into Nigeria’s highest office has been turned into, but now that you’ve visited and returned, you might as well take some lessons from the trip.
Sir, did you notice the seriousness attached to governance in the US as opposed to the tragicomedy constantly on display in Nigeria? I’m sure you didn’t see any university named after Nigeria in your jiffy visit. Did you notice that no private Nigerian university or nursery/primary or
secondary school compares with any public school or university in the US? Did you see any Almajari children roaming the streets? Aren’t you envious of the level of sophistication and courtesy displayed by the American police and military? I’m sure you felt safer in the US than in Nigeria. I’m also sure you noticed that every American pays tax unlike in Nigeria where only the poor pay tax.
Did you observe that insurance is a major pillar of the American economy? Did you see dust, let alone sand or stones or refuse on their roads? I’m sure you’ll agree with me that if funds meant for power were embezzled, light won’t be constant in America.
Turaki, I wish you luck.
Punch Newspaper Nigeria