APC says Jonathan's letter crosses line of decency

•Lai Mohammed

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has deconstructed President Goodluck Jonathan’s response to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s scathing open letter and its verdict: Nigeria’s presidency has been greatly diminished by Jonathan’s decision to throw decorum to the wind and engage former President Olusegun Obasanjo in a hot exchange of words.

In a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said while it
is not interested in joining the fray over the issues contained in the letters written by both men, the decision by the President to go personal in his reaction crossed the threshold of decency and brought the presidency – and indeed the country – into disrepute.

It said in other climes, the President would have simply issued a terse response to such a letter denying the allegations that border on national security, if any; as well as saying the former President’s observations have been noted, and that the government would study them and then engage with the former President in private, while assuring that the ship of state is on course.

Lai Mohammed: Jonathan's response diminishes Nigeria's presidency
Lai Mohammed: Jonathan’s response diminishes Nigeria’s presidency

”Instead, the President’s response read like the stuff of gossip magazines, and the exchange of words felt like what one would have expected in a beer parlour. At the end of the day, the Presidency allowed Obasanjo to take the higher moral ground by simply insisting on the allegations he made in his letter and saying he would not respond to the presidency’s reply

”The President, who accused Obasanjo of doing him a great injustice, has himself done a great injustice to the Presidency,
which is an institution in which he is only a tenant. In the end, the President of Africa’s most populous nation, the leader of the foremost black nation on earth and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria simply desecrated his own presidency and allowed those who can only be likened to gravy train passengers, rascals and knaves to seize the initiative from him.

”This is what happens when a President is surrounded by self-serving, boot-licking and dishonest people, at the expense of seasoned technocrats and veteran policymakers, who would have reminded the President that while critics can afford to fire all sorts of darts at him, as the custodian of the presidency at this point in time, he cannot afford to respond in kind because, in doing so, he would be debasing the presidency as an institution,” APC said.

The party said the President was not unaware of this because he struggled in his letter to maintain some minimum level of decorum, and then quickly lost control and engaged in a bare-knuckle fight.

”The President himself knows that he ought not to have engaged in such exchange when he wrote early on in his letter: ‘It is with the greatest possible reluctance that I now write this reply. I am most uneasy about embarking on this unprecedented and unconventional form of open communication between me and a former leader of our country because I know that there are more acceptable and dignified means of doing so’.

”However, he quickly jettisoned such reluctance and, in an unfortunate debasement of the tone and quality of statecraft, went full blast, calling the former President a liar, a conflict instigator and an unreliable ally, among other inferred derogatory labels that may have now shut the window to reconciliation between him and his political God-father, in addition to portraying Nigerian leaders as delinquents.

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”To worsen matters, President Jonathan could not restrain himself from using even the revered and ecclesial platform provided by his appearance at a Church service on Christmas day to further lambast his critics and spew out hot words. This, surely, is not what is expected of a President, a leader and anyone who wants to be a nation builder. It is time to call a truce!” it said.

But in its reaction, Presidency said it was the opposition party and its cohorts that were desecrating the Presidency.

It said Jonathan did no wrong by responding to the letter by Obasanjo.

The Punch online quoted the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Mr. Ahmed Gulak, as saying that because the former President raised germane issues in his 18-page letter, Nigerians were waiting for the President to respond.

He said a letter that emanated from Obasanjo could not be described as an ordinary one because he had written to ex-Presidents in the past.

He said, “A letter from Obasanjo is not an ordinary letter and the former President is not an ordinary person. You know he has been writing former Presidents before now.

“He raised issues that were germane and Nigerians were expecting the President’s response. The President has therefore responded.

“There is nothing like desecration of the Presidency in this matter. It is the APC and its cohorts who do not see any difference between politics and national issues that are desecrating the Presidency. Nigerians are wiser.”