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Iyabo Obasanjo’s ‘Letter to my Father’ By Idang Alibi

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‘’The way children of certain celebrities write books critical of their parents makes you understand why certain animals eat their young’’.
–          The late former American President Ronald Reagan
Obasanjo and Daughter | Photo Credit: www.africanspotlight.com/

Obasanjo and Daughter | Photo Credit: www.africanspotlight.com/

In the early eighties when Ronald Reagan was president of the United States of America, there arose one great evil in that land which got many who value family deeply worried. You see, it became fashionable for children of certain celebrities to write books very critical of their parents. Some would write to accuse their parents, especially their fathers, of abusing them sexually. Some wrote to denounce their parents of physical abuse or some kind of cruelty. Some said their parents did not deserve the sort of glowing images they had; they were hypocrites of the worst kind.

Ronald Reagan, that no nonsense father figure and leader of the ‘free world’ who believed he had a mandate from God to bring down the former Soviet Union, a country he described as an ‘Evil Empire’, was compelled at the height of that madness to make the statement quoted above.
Now a similar evil seems to be emerging in our own land. In this season of letter writing in our country, Iyabo Obasanjo, who many thought was the beloved daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, has started her sub-genre of the epistolary tradition that is emerging as a socio-political tool in Nigeria. If you are seriously angry about a matter, pick up your pen and give whoever is at the receiving end a piece of your mind. And let the whole world know of your anger, frustration, disappointment and even your goal of plain mischief making. A pain shared brings some relief. Do not bother to think that of all the modes of communication, writing is the most self-defining. It reveals you to others like no other type of communication.
Perhaps now one of my prayer points will include: ‘’God, give me the grace or the wisdom not to pick up my pen at the slightest provocation to dash off a piece of my mind to whoever has offended me because a word released in a permanent form like writing cannot be retrieved and will stand as a testimonial against me forever’’.
But let us get back to Iyabo Obasanjo. I am not in any way opposed to the trend of public letter writing championed by former President Obasanjo and copied by CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. I am only worried about the sub-genre being pioneered now by Iyabo Obasanjo in which a son or daughter will write a public letter to his father calling him a liar, a hypocrite and an evil man.
I recently told a group of my friends in the Daily Trust a remark by Monsignor Father Hassan Kukah to the effect that if any man dares to hold an ‘Oputa Panel’ in his house in the hope that every member of the household can bring out their grievances so that reconciliation can be effected, such a man will discover how unpopular he is. We laughed heartily about this remark because everyone realised the truth contained in that remark.
It is remarkable how Father Kukah who does not have a biological family should have such a great insight into. There are some of us heads of families who know that if a democratic election is held today in our households, the father will lose resoundingly! In fact some men will not secure their wives’ votes. Ask them about their grouse against you and they will reel out a catalogue: you are dictatorial, unloving (unfeeling even), self-opinionated, miserly, quarrelsome and having a know-it-all attitude (pretty much like the allegations Iyabo levelled against her father).
What Iyabo has shown in her letter to her father is the truth contained in Father’s Kukah’s observation. Many children are ungrateful for the things that their parents did for them. In her letter, she mentioned that she went to Queen’s College, Lagos and that her father only part-sponsored her university education in the USA. Whatever else her father failed to do for her, she ought at least to be grateful that her father catered for her to have been able to go to school. It is very obvious that Iyabo feels she won election to the Senate in her own merit; her father had no hand in her emergence.
I am not writing this piece to defend Obasanjo or to defend fathers for that matter. I am moved to do it to tell other children that they should not copy Iyabo’s evil example so it does not become a trend like I have mentioned in the America of Ronald Reagan’s days in the White House. As a child brought up to revere parents and as one who is taught the rewards of honouring our parents no matter how evilous their actions may appear to us children as contained in the Bible and the Koran, let Iyabo’s trend not catch on. It is thorough evil. If you have nothing positive to say about your parents, do one decent thing: keep quiet.
From what I can deduce from Iyabo’s tale of woes, she expects that as an Obasanjo, she ought to have had a fairer share than she actually got in her life. I feel sorry for her, But as one of my favourite African novelists Mongo Beti (real name Alexander Biyyidi Awala) said in his enchanting novel Mission to Kala, ‘’Is there anyone on earth who can say with a straight face that I have got all I want from life. I ask for nothing more?’’.
As far as spiritual teachings go, let your father and mother be witch and wizard, let them be armed robbers; let them be hypocrites; let them be liars and nitwits; let them be murderers and adulterers; let them be all these and much more but their vices should not come from your mouth. If these persons who had opportunity when you were fragile and feeble to deny you a breath of air with a pillow, chose to nurse you to become the wise, strong, good person with the right to speak your mind that you way you do today, the least you owe them is gratitude. It is the thought of ingratitude of some children that as Reagan said, certain animals choose to eat their young.
I also think that even if you are a disciple of Thomas Malthus, it is not the place of a child to question his father about the number of children he has begotten as Iyabo sarcastically questioned her father. It is rude and it dishonours your father.
Preachers talk about the End Times when, among other things, children will turn against their parents and vomit all sorts of things that should not be uttered against even strangers. Have I lived to see such times? A child who sits down to write an 11-page letter to her father and pours out venom on him tells the world what type of child she is more than the type of person she says her father is. I will be inclined to regard her as the real evil and not the father she is trying to castigate. I truly wish that no Nigerian will copy Iyabo’s example.
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