By Femi Odere
Whether its founder(s) had intended it to be integral to the foundation that gives it its enduring sustenance (now called a “dividend”) or it became one of its unintended consequences, the citizens’ right to express their displeasure—-if not anger—-through open letters or memos to their political leaders about the state of affairs in their society and/or how they’re being governed without the fear of any harmful repercussions, have become part of the fixtures of democracy. Perhaps because of the dynamism embedded in the world itself which compel humankind to continuously push the envelope to frontiers that were previously unimaginable, as witnessed in the social media phenomenon that has now enabled people to see through their societies’ iron curtains, they’re now embolden to not only challenge the dominant paradigms but also deliberately subvert them for the public good. Thus, they have become keenly aware of what politics ought to produce.
Probably no one has exploited this “Open Letter/Memo” writing dividend in Nigeria’s representative democracy more than Chief Dele Momodu, publisher of “Ovation International” magazine and author of “Pendulum,” a weekly column in ThisDay newspaper. Were President Muhammadu Buhari to display in his office memos received from his fellow Nigerians, Momodu’s would most certainly constitute the most ‘memorabilia’ that guests and visitors to the nation’s Number One office—-no matter how visually challenged—-could not have missed. Or were there to be trophies dedicated to who writes the most open letters/memos to the Nigerian president—-no matter how worthless—-Momodu would have had more trophies than anyone by now.
Besides the several motives (virtually all of which are patently ulterior in nature—-if not sinister) which may have informed his newfound zeal in presidential memo writing and his penchant to always remind us mere mortals of his own sense of importance in these memos, it may also not be inconceivable that Momodu is probably more eager to go on record as the first person whose memo ushered in the New Year for President Buhari, judging from the last phrase in his latest memo.
For someone who had boasted in a different (not for the public eye) letter to the presidency not long after the president’s inauguration that he “single-handedly” brought Buhari to power and therefore expected to be rewarded with not an existing portfolio, but suggested that a new portfolio be minted for him (which the presidency found not only laughable, but also quietly expressed its concern if Momodu truly appreciates, from his vantage position, the extent and gravity of the economic ruin which Jonathan had plunged the nation), one doesn’t have to be a political scientist to figure out that Momodu’s mountain of open letters to the President Buhari may not be altruistic after all, as he wanted the Nigerian public to believe.
Since he knew he had been kindly and gently rebuffed and laughed at for claiming that he “single-handedly” brought Buhari to power, Momodu’s next move was to set the stage in casting aspersions on Buhari, ‘weaken’ him politically and manufacturing alternative facts about his presidency by leveraging on his celebrity status, his weekly column and his other vast media platforms. Thus, Momodu’s so-called memo writings are integral to the grand scheme of the political class whose cause he’s cleverly championing (and his enlightened self-interest) to shout—-until he’s overwhelmed—-at the president not to present himself for re-election in 2019. Before one begins to interrogate his latest memo in order to show its empty and alarmist nature—-if not its worthlessness—-it is important to take a few extracts from a couple of his previous open letters since the Buhari presidency to buttress the point that the stage was insidiously being set by Momodu for a pre-determined narrative in which its end goal is to make Buhari a one-term president no matter his accomplishments, some of which are quite unprecedented in the annals of governance in this nation.
In his June 2015—-less than two months after the president’s inauguration—-Momodu, after lecturing us about what he did to bring the president to power through his constant denunciation of Jonathan and his government (as if he was the only one involved in that enterprise) said that “the goodwill garnered during your [Buhari] campaigns and the jubilation that heralded your recent victory are fast fading and you need to, as a matter of urgency, convince the people of Nigeria that you’re now ready to hit the ground running. They are not going to listen to excuses since you had 30 years after quitting the high office to [onerously?] prepare for the job again. For them it is immaterial that you met an empty treasury or that you are mostly surrounded by selfish, corruptive influences and impostors….Nigerians have become totally impatient and what they expect of you is tantamount to performing the miracle of turning water into wine or raising Lazarus from the dead.” Really?
Though one is not a lawyer, but it beats the imagination why Momodu found it fanciful to approbate and reprobate in the aforesaid. It also beggars belief why, in less than three months, Momodu would want people with sound minds to believe the ridiculous claim that Buhari’s “goodwill” had all but evaporated and that it’s “immaterial” to them that the president “met an empty treasury.” If Momodu didn’t see the contradictions in this statement, one hopes that someone could have pointed out to him how ridiculous, if not unintelligent this statement. It’s only a mentally deranged that would admit that a country’s treasury was left ‘empty’ by someone, yet expected another person who took over to perform “the miracle of turning water into wine or raising Lazarus from the dead” in less than three months into his steering the ship of state. It doesn’t get any more asinine than this.
In April 2016, almost a year into the Buhari administration, Momodu shot another memo to the president. Hear him: “While I do not want to sound like a doomsday prophet, I wish to alert you that there is fire on the mountain….The situation is very critical and may even get out of hand if not carefully and delicately managed. You are going to be against corruption is wonderful, it pales into irrelevance and insignificance where hunger, deprivation, poverty, unemployment, poor education, ignorance, diseases, insecurity of lives and properties and other complications are concerned. Many people are going to hail you for arresting the thieves but the same people will soon turn around to attack you when they can’t feel the effect of the war positively on their bodies and souls.” Again, it beats the imagination why Momodu was of the opinion that Buhari had ran into trouble with the electorate because the anti-corruption war “pales into irrelevance and insignificance” in the face of “hunger, deprivation, poverty, unemployment, poor education, ignorance, diseases…” as if all of this were added into the nation’s misfortunes with Buhari’s advent. The onus is, therefore, on his presidency to solve these socio-economic maladjustments in not four years but one. Otherwise, “there is fire on the mountain.” Momodu’s crying wolf where there was absolutely none reeks of nothing but the basest ulterior motive that could only have come from an unthinking mind. It should be stressed, however, that the publicity that Momodu’s memos gained in the media is a reflection, unfortunately, of how society has elevated quantity over quality. In serious climes that demands that rigor and quality thoughts be brought into public discourse, Momodu’s vacuous and unintelligible memos would never have deserved any other place than the dustbin.
In his latest memo entitled “Mr. President, Man Shall Not Live by Power Alone,” Momodu would rather want us to believe that he “definitely want [Buhari] to succeed” when he had all but condemned his administration with all the debilitating adjectives he could muster in both his previous memos and this latest one. After his usual reminder of how he helped drove out the Jonathan administration for Buhari and also his self-worth, Momodu’s first salvo to the man he has gotten used to kicking around was that he “never expected that our situation could ever get worse under the APC government that almost literally promised heaven and earth.” He added that “it has become evident that it is easier to govern by words of mouth than by force of action.” Nothing can be farther away from the truth. It’s utterly disingenuous if not outrightly fallacious for Momodu to have claimed that the country’s situation is worse under the APC government.
If the country’s situation can be said to be worse, it’s because of the transparency and accountability that this administration brought into governance that made it possible for Nigerians to now see that what they thought was progress was nothing but fleeting illusion that the Buhari administration decided it would not paper over but take the economic road long abandoned for sustained growth and development of the nation and its people. If the country’s situation can be said to be worse under this government, then it is because it’s no longer business as usual for the big-time thieves and the unproductive political elite whose stock-in-trade has always been the cornering of the nation’s patrimony with reckless impunity. And these are people with whom Momodu is deceptively in cahoots.
It’s a wicked exaggeration to have insinuated that the Buhari government “almost literally promised heaven and earth.” The Buhari government did not promise “heaven and earth.” It’s probably pointless to educate Momodu here since a predetermined ulterior motive has been established, which must be followed by a particular narrative no matter what the facts are to the contrary. Buhari promised the electorate that he would focus on three core areas like a laser beam out of the many afflictions bedevilling the Nigerian state. The president has performed beyond expectations in these three areas as can be attested to by the international community and even those who had been in his position before him with their commendations of the man.
Momodu’s next jab at the president was his assertion, which was in itself contradictory that his “unequivocal verdict, without any fear of contradiction is that things are very bad” adding that “while I will not, in all honesty, totally heap the blame on you, there is no doubt that your government has been less than competent.” One must ask Momodu who must have been responsible for decimating Boko Haram to such extent that the terrorist organization that controlled at least 14 Local Government areas during the Jonathan years in Borno State can now only engage in hit-and-run operations. May one ask our expert in presidential memo writing who took us out of recession within a year that the Jonathan government set the stage for with their reckless looting? May one also ask him who created the economic atmosphere by which states are now falling over themselves to become the Number One producer of rice (Nigeria’s staple food) that its importation days are now literally numbered? One cannot but wonder if Momodu was referring to Syria or South Sudan in his “unequivocal verdict…that things are very bad.” Could all this have come from a government that “has been less than competent?” Momodu was just being clever by half in his submission that “in all honesty,” he would not “totally heap the blame on Buhari” when he already had.
One is not be astonished that Momodu frantically brought into the fore all manners of lapses—-big and small (even those that should rightly have been laid on the doorsteps of the nation’s judicial and legislative bodies) in this dispensation in order to maintain his condemnatory trajectory of the Buhari administration. His assertion that Buhari’s “acolytes are virtually getting away with murder” because some “birds of the same feathers” had gathered themselves together “to conjure and compile the most disgraceful list of political appointees ever and yet nothing has happened to those who brought such perfidious insults on our nation” was not only a testament to his over-dramatization and over-exaggeration, but a reflection of his lack of depth on issues of national importance.
Apparently referring to the presidential list of appointments of more than 1, 200 Nigerians as chairmen and members of the Board of federal government agencies and parastatals where about eight Nigerians were found to have since died, Momodu probably doesn’t have the presence of mind to realize that if the errors were to be ascribed a percentage, it wouldn’t have been up to 1 percent of the total number of people who’re still alive. Moreover, the names were compiled in 2015 by various party chieftains and state chapters of the party and submitted not directly to the president but the presidency. A wordsmith that he is, his qualifying the list as the “most disgraceful” that “brought such perfidious insults on our nation,” was not only such a wicked and unpatriotic commentary to describe some minor administrative oversight, but a disingenuous attempt to call a hunting dog a bad name in order to hang it so that the hyenas can make a comeback. How would Momodu have described the impending ballistic missile attack dispatched to cell phones of the people of Hawaii in the United States a few days ago where the world saw how people were running helter-skelter and calling their loved ones to bid them the final goodbye?
Since his newfound craving for presidential memo writing is all about creating unfavourable perception of the president among the electorate before the 2019 presidential election, which is why he said in his memo that he “really do not know what [the government] hope to tell and sell to the electorate this time, particularly after the colossal failure of the last three years,” Momodu should be rest assured that there’s a lot to tell the electorate should President Buhari decide to put himself up for re-election. Until he publicly declares his willingness to throw his white cap into the presidential contest, one may have to stop here in the meantime.
Femi Odere is a media practitioner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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