19 Mar 2015

Letter To Mr President - by Niran Adedokun

Forgive me for attempting to engage you through this medium, that is if you get to read it, although I pray, fervently, that you read this if not any other letter. You must from the beginning know that this is not one of those letters that come out of a determination to run you down. On the contrary, it is inspired by genuine love for you and concern for your place in history.

For, come to face it, I see you as one of those people who have passed through leadership in Nigeria with a determination to, permit me to borrow the Nigerian lingo, move the country forward even if the countless challenges that the country currently faces make all your efforts look like nothing. My hope is that even if no Nigerian appreciates you, you shall find the grace to go ahead and do the best for the country as we move into what may be the end of your reign as president of the country or the beginning of another term. That would be the only way to justify the humility that those who claim to know you say you are endowed with.

It would also show that you realise that attaining the height you are is only by God as you have said on a number of occasions. In case you are tempted to forget that it is God that brought you this far and that you owe God the duty of doing your best for the country, just think about the number of children with whom you walked the streets of Otuoke in your childhood. How many of those children are even alive today, let alone dream to be president of the world’s most populous black nation.

It is on the strength of the need for you to understand the importance of this divine appointment that I am writing to draw your attention to some unsettling issues over which you need the most honest counsel at the moment. These issues are essentially part of the same transactions and I am convinced that the forthrightness and courage that you bring into tackling them will determine your place in the history of Nigeria.

The first issue of concern is the unceasing rumour that the elections now scheduled to begin on March 28 may not hold after all and that instead of the elections, we might have an interim government. I recall that you had denied this on a number of occasions in the past and I believe you. However, there are frightening signs that threaten to impeach your position on this matter. Just a few days back, a former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, alleged that you invited him to be part of the interim government plan just as a former Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, claimed that the All Progressives Congress had evidence of the overture made to Tinubu. I haven’t heard of any attempt to deny this position and I find that very worrisome.

Anyhow, I am writing to appeal that you do not contemplate anything that would stop us from having these elections. One of the promises that you made to Nigerians is the reform of the country’s electoral system and if you have not achieved anything at all, a lot of Nigerians and friends of the country are happy with the progress that we have made with the integrity of elections in the past few years. Any attempt to postpone these elections would reverse this progress. It may also throw the nation into confusion and send negative signals to the world about Nigeria’s preparedness for electoral accountability.

An extension of the cloud of doubts over the dates of the 2015 elections is the growing demand for the sack of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega. Again, I agree that you have categorically denied any plan to sack the INEC chairman in spite of all insinuations to the contrary, but demands for his resignation or outright removal grow by the day. And to add fuel to the fire, these demands come from people who are perceived to be close to you. It is on record that some of your aides have recently made the criticism of Jega a secondary duty, while Chief Edwin Clark, widely regarded as your godfather, has unequivocally called for Jega’s resignation.

Last Monday, a faction of the Oodua People’s Congress who pledge allegiance to your candidacy literally shut down the Lagos end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway holding commuters and motorists to hours of traffic congestion. In addition to the lawless disruption in the daily activities of Lagosians, there were reports of varying levels of destruction that followed the Monday rally by these elements, all in the name of campaigning for you and asking for the removal of Jega.

While the argument that you have nothing to do with the requests of these groups may be tenable, you are in a position to advise your supporters to stop making demands that would discredit your commitment to credible elections. If that is not done, Nigerians may begin to equate this to a voice of Jacob and hand of Esau situation.

While we cannot say that Jega and his INEC have done everything right in the preparation for the 2015 elections, removing him at this moment portends a reputational injury that you do not even want to deal with. To start with, Jega’s presence in INEC is, to your own admission, a unique proof for the body. Removing him, especially at this time, would ab intio remove the faith that the world has in your good intentions and then prepare the ground for possibly the most contested elections in the history of Nigeria. But you can save this blessed country this scary prospect by pursuing your vision for the sanctity of the will of the people. Let the elections go on, let Jega conduct the elections even if it means you will lose unfairly. If you lose and you believe it is not a fair loss, the courts are there to hear your case and it would be to accept whatever verdict comes from the court. Then, you would have shown yourself to be a leader who loves and would sacrifice his own ambition for the country that he loves.

A lot of people, including your dear wife, have espoused many reasons why you must win these elections. I sympathise with them all, in fact, many share the same sentiments but this is democracy where only the will of the majority should prevail. And if the desire of the majority is not that you continue in office, you must accept that reality and save Nigeria from violence and a possible break-up that may result. History will surely vindicate you as a man who put the nation first.

When the Holy Book, which I believe you are familiar with, speaks about choosing between life and death, it does not speak of immediate literal death; rather, it speaks about choosing between good and evil in that order. As we move towards these elections, Mr President, life and death are set before you. My prayer is that you find the grace to choose life, which will put you among those men who worked for the survival of Nigeria against all odds. May the good Lord help you make the right choice even as I wish you the best in the coming elections, which I believe you would not allow profiteers to stop.

Thank you for your time and God bless

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