Former military governor of old Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar … a 10-page open letter to Chief Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

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January 22, 2004

Former military governor of old Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar

a 10-page open letter to Chief Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria


The full text of the letter is published below:

Mr. President:

Although this wish or prayer may be totally unnecessary, since leaders who believe they are divinely appointed and inspired don’t need prayers, I still volunteer to wish you and your well endowed family a very merry Christmas and happy New Year in arrears. It was impossible to reach you before the events because while you were busy running court and entertaining your new friends and well-wishers and thanking the Lord for continuing to subjugate us to you, I was in far away Niger Republic for what I now regard as a convalescence holiday.


You may not believe it, Mr. President, that as materially poor as Niger is, it is a more amenable human habitat compared to our vastly endowed Nigeria, thanks to the Lord who has been so merciful in guiding their leaders. The journey from Kaduna to our border with Niger was a very bad experience. However, the trip from Kamba, our last border town, to Niamey was physically refreshing but psychologically torturing. The torture was caused by the realisation that Niger is a very poor country that imports bitumen from Nigeria. But its roads resemble the German autobahns all due to the good and honest management of resources by its leaders. We did not encounter a single pothole throughout. Nigeria supplies electric power to Niger. Yet while power outages are a daily routine here, Niger enjoys uninterrupted power supply. Consequently, its few industries are functioning.
The police in Niger are some of the most courteous and duty conscious that I have seen. They don’t demand nor do they expect bribes. There is evidence of good governance. The leaders are evidently honest which makes the followership content in their relative material poverty and willing to make sacrifices for the common good. Niger is a true nation.
If one could place God in time and space, one could safely conclude that He is now in Niger and no longer in Nigeria as was once supposed. President Tanja Mohammadu is a humble man who is busy doing his duty without laying any claim to the monopoly of Gods grace. He, apparently in doing so, does understand the Lord very well, going by our standards here!

It was on my way back at Birnin Kebbi, my hometown, that I read Mr. President’s end-of-year testimony, given at Owu Baptist Church in Abeokuta. In the testimony, you once again engaged in your usual blasphemous chest-beating. You claimed that your 2003 reelection was one more miracle performed by the Lord, considering the forces arrayed against you. Perhaps, because of my Niger experience and a definite feeling of pity for Nigerians who are currently saddled with a deluded leadership that is set on the course of national destruction, I decided to write you this open letter. The aim, of course, is to cause you to seek proper understanding of the Lord and to purge yourself of pagan beliefs. In doing so, I will not pretend to be an Imam or Bishop, neither will I resort to extensive quotations from the Holy Scriptures because I know how proficient you are in the latter. I will rather write as a simple believer in the omnipotence and omniscience of the Supreme Being, as one who has fully internalized the truth of the description of this transient world in the book of Ecclesiates as “vanity of vanities.” I also speak as one who has cried out twice in the past, at great personal peril, when I perceived dangerous clouds gathering in our national firmament.
Mr. President, I have in the last few years, been curious to study the life and particularly the background of the man Obasanjo. In view of your past apotheosis and your shocking dismal performance so far, it is, however, not necessary to reveal my findings now since they have been adequately addressed by some of your close associates and subordinates like Gen. Oluleye, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Allison Ayida and General Theophilus Danjuma. From their accounts, it is now clear that you have escaped public scrutiny through mis-representation, manipulation and cunning ` la Abacha. It will suffice to review your performance as the democratic president between 1999 and 2003 and how you re-emerged in the 2003 elections in order to demonstrate that you derive your inspiration from some other being, which you tragically mistake for the good Lord.

For four years, Mr. President, the nation had accorded you such servile obeisance on the understanding that you inherited a weak state and that anything after Abacha was tolerable. The people were optimistic that you had the credentials to lead them to the Promised Land. What will now pass as your mythical image of a great achiever and statesman prevailed on even the doubting Thomases to believe that you were divinely anointed. But barely two years into your first term, it was clear to even your most jaundiced admirers that you are not after all the Messiah this nation has been waiting for. If in the past, the ship of state became rudderless due to poor handling by unskilled captains, you as the present captain decided to go to sleep dreaming that the Lord will steer the ship physically. When you awaken, you operate a theocracy, ruling from the pulpit. Your first term had therefore been characterized by too much sermonizing about very attractive ideals which, we now know, that you don’t even believe in. The result has been a worsening of our situation. But, let us see how, by reviewing your scorecard in the handling of the economy and socio-political development of the country.
It is incontrovertible that your government inherited a very weak economy that is precariously mono-cultural, depending on oil as its sole engine of growth. All other sectors had faced serious neglect. Excessive corruption had further compounded the problem. You had correctly identified this as an anomaly in your many beautiful speeches and promised to reform. Theoretically, you had some of the best plans for economic recovery. But insincerity and ineptitude ensured that such plans remained mere paper tigers as the economy continued to nosedive. For example, while you had consistently and routinely drawn budgets which were grudgingly passed into law by the National Assembly, your government circumvented them and illegally adopted other ways and means of misappropriating public funds. Accountability, which is the key to good management, is consequently sacrificed. There is therefore very little evidence of how a total revenue of about N3.5 trillion has been spent in the first term.

There is, however, ample evidence to show that most of it has found its way out of the economy. Otherwise, how can one explain the deplorable and worsening state of our infrastructure in spite of the colossal sums released for its rehabilitation? Over N300 billion was supposedly spent on road maintenance. Yet there is not a single road that has been rehabilitated, including the one leading to Otta. Over $2 billion has been spent on NEPA. Yet power outages have worsened nationwide except perhaps in Abuja. The refineries remain shut in spite of the billions spent for their rehabilitation. This poor infrastructure has necessitated the closure of many of our industries. Capacity utilization for the remaining industries has fallen below 35%. This has impacted adversely on the employment rate. The naira has lost more than 50% of its value in the last 4 years. There is little evidence to show that the economy is being diversified, the media hype about telecommunications notwithstanding.

The apparent success recorded in that sector is more than offset in macroeconomic terms by the massive daily outflow of our scarce foreign exchange through the purchase of recharge cards, which could easily be manufactured in Nigeria. Your government thus resembles one giant multinational oil company even though its sisters are better managed.

The social service sector has faced worse neglect. Most tertiary institutions here remained closed for well over two years of your first term. Education is apparently not one of your governments priorities. At this rate, it will take about 10 years for a university student to graduate. Very soon, this country will resort to the import of professionals just as we are about to do with farmers from Southern Africa. Our hospitals have since declined from their consultancy status to mortuaries. At this rate, those hospitals will adopt traditional methods of healing since our universities are likely to lose their accreditation to train doctors and paramedical staff due to poor funding. Nigerians, you must be told, have never experienced this level of social distress and dislocation. Over 70% of Nigerians have fallen below the poverty line, thanks to your inhuman policies. Due to mismanagement, your government is always short of funds even though the price of oil has consistently been well above the budgeted figures. Your response has always been to devise an easy way out by further taxing an already over-burdened citizenry. While the payment of salaries and pensions, including those of ex-servicemen whose contributions have made it possible for you to claim a civil war hero’s status, have remained haphazard, your government has engaged in the extravagance of hosting worthless jamborees. Your deregulation and monetisation policies are premised on wrong assumptions and what I will term as management escapism.
Mr. President, I must be bold to tell you that nobody believes in your anti-corruption war any more. In fact many now find your exhortations as a plain insult to their intelligence. Although you claim to have deployed weapons of mass destruction against corruption, Nigeria has sunk to the position of second most corrupt nation in the world for two years running. It was 27th under Abacha and this is for those who are interested in comparisons. Although corruption is fast trickling to the lowest levels of government, over 50% of it occurs in the presidency as the Western press, which is so mindful of its professional image in spite of your toadying to their home governments, so readily testify. Your family may frequent the courts in trying to absolve itself of wrong-doing but it has to deal with peoples’ impressions.

The shabby treatment which you meted out to the former acting Auditor General of the Federation, for having the audacity to do his job with professional integrity and the opacity of your privatisation exercise, all testify to the cynicism with which you regard the anti-corruption war. In the few instances where your government has prosecuted people for corruption, they invariably turned out to have political disagreements with you. The fact that the church has recently officially taken over the anti-corruption crusade is enough evidence of the abysmal failure of your government in this regard.
2003 presidential election

Now, to your reemergence in the 2003 elections. It is well known that the PDP presidential primaries were characterised by manipulation, settlement and intimidation. Who does not know that the numbering of ballot papers was done in such a way that it was possible to identify states’ and even individual’s preferences? Who has not heard of the president’s nocturnal visits to PDP state governors, of course escorted by cash carriers or bullion vans? Contracts for long neglected roads and construction of dams were haphazardly signed in the corridors of Aso Rock. I will not comment on the presidential election results since the case is sub judice. Suffice it to say that both domestic and international observers have declared the elections as flawed and the mandate that brought this government to power is not the mandate of the people given in accordance with the Constitution and the electoral law. This conclusion is plausible in view of your dismal performance in the first term. The danger which this precedent has set in the political history of the Fourth Republic, will be made manifest in future. If we accept in our political philosophy the view of Mr. Fasehun, one of your most prominent apologists, that rigging is no longer reprehensible per se so long as the rigger is “one of our sons,” I wonder the kind of democracy we are heading for in this country. I hope that the others who fought for democracy as I did, and who were given the increasingly meaningless title “heroes of democracy,” are equally reflecting on this point.
A person who commits errors and realises his folly is easier to correct. But he who does not understand or refuses to accept when he is wrong becomes incorrigible. This is dangerous where such a person is the leader of a nation. It is worse when the person believes that he is divinely guided. Unlike what many critics believe, Nigeria is not degenerating into a one-party state, but rather into a one-person malevolent dictatorship.


It is now evident that you must be in the president’s good books to survive economically and politically. No one, no matter how talented or hard-working, can be successful in business unless he toes government’s or the president’s line. While dubious cronies and sycophants are making a killing, honest, hard-working Nigerians are being frustrated out of business. God helps any person who dares cross your cronies either in business or in politics. We are painfully and helplessly watching how one of your godsons is gleefully demonstrating his political clout in Anambra State. It is only a matter of time before Governor Ngige is chased out of power if he is lucky to escape with his life. This, of course, is with your tacit support. Were it not for public pressure, Iyiola Omisore would be sitting at the Senate, if not in your cabinet. While some of us will certainly end up in jail between now and 2007, the Bode George, who has learnt well how to massage your ego, will collect more national honours, the Nigerian Ports Authority probe notwithstanding.
I must, however, warn you Mr. President that when a person continues to show signs of prosperity in spite of his many transgressions, he gets tempted to become reckless and heedless as he attributes his seeming success to God’s support and approval. Such a person is condemned to indulgence. But for those that fully understand the Lord’s ways, they know that it is simply a long rope given by the Lord. The Muslims identify this as ISTIDIRAJI. For as long as what you sow is what you reap, there is a just reward for all actions no matter how long it takes. The wise one will always reflect and atone while the hypocrite will use it to demonstrate his closeness to God and imagine that his exterior is a reflection of his interior virtues when it is not so. All this is also reflected in the Holy Bible, which you are so fond of quoting. I believe you need the service of your good friend Archbishop Mbang. He needs to constantly remind you of the import of Mathew 6:4, which says, “Your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” I am also sure that you have come across Mathew 15: 7-9, which says, “You hypocrites!” Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you; “these people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by man.”
Mr. President, I beseech you to return to the Lord God. It seems you have parted ways since your merciful release from prison. Today, while your flock is suffering on account of your bad leadership, you are busy attributing your misdeeds to the good Lord. Those of us who are able to discern, know that you are mistaking the devil for the Lord. Sooner than later, He will fight back by disowning you. But before that happens, it is incumbent upon us as your loyal citizens to warn you to seek peace with God. May the good Lord deliver us.

Once again, happy New Year Mr. President.

Ever loyally yours,

Col. D.A. Umar (RTD).

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