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The Economist: Nigeria’s president Loveless letters



Two leaked missives to the president have sorely embarrassed him

Credit: PremiumTimesNg

Credit: PremiumTimesNg

GOODLUCK JONATHAN, Nigeria’s embattled president, has been infuriated and weakened by a couple of supposedly private letters to him that were leaked to the press. The first was penned by Lamido Sanusi, the central bank’s respected governor, who accused the state oil company of failing to account for $50 billion in oil sales, almost double the value of the federal government’s annual budget. The second, a few days later, was an even more explosive missive to Mr Jonathan from Olusegun Obasanjo, a former general who was Nigeria’s president in 1999-2007. Though he has been an ally of Mr Jonathan in the past, he has plainly turned against him, slamming his allegedly poor performance and telling him not to stand for re-election next time, in 2015.

Even in a country where corruption scandals and political mudslinging are routine, Mr Obasanjo’s vitriolic criticisms, which include comparing Mr Jonathan’s rule to that of the late General Sani Abacha, a widely hated former military dictator, still shocked Nigerians. Mr Obasanjo backed Mr Jonathan for the vice-presidency in 2007 and for election to the presidency in 2011, eight months after he had inherited the post following President Umaru Yar’Adua’s death in office in May 2010. In 18 withering pages Mr Obasanjo accuses Mr Jonathan of failing to tackle Nigeria’s main problems, instead letting insecurity spread across the country. Islamist insurgents, he notes, continue to run rings around the army in the north, while the oil-producing Delta region in the south still suffers grievously from piracy and oil theft.
The former general says Mr Jonathan promised to serve only one term after his election in 2011. The president has denied making such a pledge and has not said if he will run again. And Mr Obasanjo fails to mention that he himself tried to change the constitution as his second term drew to a close, in the hope of ruling for a third.

The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is divided over whether Mr Jonathan, a Christian southerner, should run again. Several of the party’s leading members, mainly from the Muslim north, have defected to a rival outfit, accusing Mr Jonathan of flouting an old agreement whereby the PDP’s presidential candidate should rotate between north and south every two terms.

“May God grant you the grace for at least one effective corrective action against high corruption which seems to stink all around you in your government,” writes Mr Obasanjo, who also called on Mr Jonathan to deal with Mr Sanusi’s allegations against the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the chief butt of Mr Sanusi’s letter. The All Progressives Congress party, the main opposition umbrella, is delighted by the furore over the letters and says the federal parliament should impeach Mr Jonathan.

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