Epistolary history is replete with open letters that rocked the intended audiense. In his “Letter from Birmingham jail,” the late Martin Luther King, jnr wrote that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The letter rankled the conscience of the world on the raging black rights movement of the time and screwed up the basis for the seeming equality of all races in the United States today.
Nigeria’s former president, Dr Matthew Olusegun Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo has made a good job and convention of writing letters at critical junctures of the nation’s odyssey. His letters to ex- president Ibrahim Babangida, the late Gen Sanni Abacha, and ex- president Goodluck Jonathan critically and literally drove the nail into their political coffins. On Tuesday, he again did what he is adept at doing, releasing a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him not to re- contest in next year’s presidential elections.
The tone, content, dialectics, clarity and message are no less different from previous ones. Beyond the sabre- rattling and brawling equivocation, Obasanjo is regurgitating the romantic past of the world of letter writing. He tends to walk with Lord Byron that “letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company”. He, like the Austrian writer and philosopher, Sigmund Freud “considers it a good rule for letter writing to leave unmentioned what the recipient already knows, and instead tell him something new”.
In dignity and fecundity he is the quintessence of generosity caught in the heart of a busy man without a corporeal friend. It is a savvy way of opening fresh vista of hope, rekindling new thought patterns, recollecting thoughts and rekindling courage as a form at the testing point. Through letter writing, among other strengths, no man here has come so near our own definition of a constitutional statesman, a first-rate patriot and the new pantheon of puzzles. Employing Jane Austen’s injunction that “a person who can’t write a long letter with ease cannot write ill,” the ex- president has morphed into a great leader with a heart for people, a time for people and who in spite of his warts and all see them as the bottom line. He deploys the knowledge and art of when nothing else will do, give the word.
Obasanjo has found heaven in writing letters. When he writes from the sidelines, he sees the star in him shine in situ. With each letter he rolls out, a brush stroke of beauty, defiance and genius are rekindled. He sees a significant memorial he can leave behind him. He communicates to the imagination, to the wary, to the transcendental floundering lives. He postures as a cameo, the grand- old man of insight and a bulwark of transient progressivism and the supreme good. He must express himself in every smallest act of his votary.
He makes it easy, writes it strongly. He writes to power as the shadow in the garden. He offers his advocacy in cadences that enthrall. He drives his points home with deliberate words that grill with intensity. He is the lord of the mega verse. He is like the Sumerian pantheon, duty – driven to appeal to sensibilities in their own sphere. With depth and soul, he laughs in his letters, he mocks the temple of power, he seers through the home gods, musing and glistening on his unseen lips. Just like Icarus took to the sky, he gleefully waits to see your fall just as sweet.
He was born on May 5, 1937 in Abeokuta, Ogun State to his father Amos Adigun Obasanjo Bankole and his mother Ashabi. He is a former Nigerian Army general who was president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. He became an orphan at the age of 22. In 1995, he was imprisoned by the late General Abacha after he wrote him a letter on his obnoxious policies and authoritarian rule. The United Nations, UN inducted him as special envoy of Africa and he has been overseeing democratic elections of countries across the African continent representing the “African Union and Ecowas”. He is married and has several children living in Nigeria, the US and the UK.