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An Open Letter to President Yar'adua

April 26, 2009

Dear President Yar’Adua: It is a responsibility I bear upon my young shoulders to write you directly, although you have read my messages, vision, and proposed solutions with regard to Nigeria’s many problems and reacted in your own measured ways to them. I do not presume that you are in a way interested in reading a letter from me. For over 5 years, I published faithfully many articles about Nigeria, Africa, and the world on and on other mass media platforms. If you or your Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Mr. Segun Adeniyi (a former unrepentant critic of the Obasanjo Administration) were familiar with my writings, you would observe that I usually have suggestions or alternatives that I share with readers and the government. I do not just criticize a government for the pleasure of it. I always lace my arguments with facts.

Not long after you were sworn in, I noticed some disturbing signs and did my first article in July 2007 that was critical of your position on importation of cement into Nigeria; it was titled “Vision 2020 and Yar’Adua’s wrong steps”. I got responses from many Nigerians. While some urged me to “give Yar’Adua a chance”, I also got some threatening blackmailing mail, which I refused to reply to. With passing months I became fully convinced that you had a soft spot for corruption and warned in an article that Nigerians were “at the door step of the worst era of corruption” in our history as a nation.

Mr. President, how I wished I was dead wrong! I saw your fabled “Rule of Law” for what it truly was and still is, and wrote an article with the caption, “Yar’Adua and the ruse of law” (Please, read the article online to see if I was not correct in my assessment). Last year February, I alerted the nation on your quiet and secret plan to reverse the bank re-capitalization of your predecessor, revive Savanna bank and Societal Generale Bank, and introduce a policy called “Regionalization” policy. The Guardian newspaper also published that article on February 13, 2008 with your big picture. You may read the article-National Alert: Yar’Adua’s dismantling of Nigeria. Your government could not contradict what I wrote, and judging from the recent events concerning those banks in your law courts, I understand why your government did not deny the issues I raised.

You went berserk with a clinical undertaking to cripple the fight against corruption, using my brother, Mr. Mike Aondoakaa (we are from the same clan). You succeeded in removing the fearless and self-sacrificing Mr. Nuhu Ribadu from the leadership of the only successful corruption-fighting Agency I grew up to know-The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); sadly, it is no more the same EFCC. Maybe I am wrong in my assessment this time, since it is busy following your ruse of law; sorry, rule of law. You replaced Mr. Ribadu with my sister, Mrs. Farida Waziri (In fact, from the house she built for her mother in my village, you can see the roof of my personal house). I should have congratulated you for this obvious love for people in my clan. Forgive me for this discourtesy. Mr. President, no doubt, you have not a few supporters for your action in removing Mr. Ribadu (Mr. Festus Keyamo is obviously one of your fans on this, given his satirical response to a genial letter from Mr. Sowere) even though you were not sincere at the beginning of it all as you deceived Nigerians that the police officer was not being removed from the chair of EFCC but was rather being sent to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies Kuru to make him a better fighter against corruption.

I wrote a series of articles under the series STRAIGHT TALK TO NIGERIA. In some of the articles, I chronicled your summersaults, policy reversals, failed campaign promises, and your insipid idleness and inaction which have all contributed in pulling us backwards as a people. Almost two years as Nigeria’s president, and even your die-hard supporters (for selfish personal reasons than any altruistic ones I find difficult to guess) will almost have to search in Mars for one accomplishment you have registered.

Mr. President, it was when it became clear to me that you would not be moved by writings by Nigerians like me that I decided to do something else-We founded a movement, the Nigeria Rally Movement (NRM). You can read about us (I know already your people have) on . Sir, we organized the first Nigeria rally in Gboko, Benue state. We placed advertisement in national newspapers, and on government radio stations, and a private one. Regrettably, you sent the SSS and the Nigeria Police to stop us, with an instruction to “escort” me to Abuja should I insist on the rally. Why did you behave like this? Why are you afraid of scholars like us who bear no arms? Well, you helped in adding to our conviction that when Nigerians know the full truth:

1.    that about two-third of the annual budget is spent on public officials like you,
2.    that simply reducing the salaries and allowances of the less than 18,000 public officials in Nigeria by only 40 percent, your government can conveniently pay a minimum salary of N32,000 a month up from the paltry N 7,500 you are paying federal employees ( and yet the average salaries and allowances of those public officials will be about N41 million a year),
3.      that the Nigerian Constitution requires you Mr. President to actively prevent the exploitation of natural resources in whatever form for any reason other than the good of the community (You have watched idly as oil companies pollute and destroy the Niger Delta region without due compensation and you forcing them to clean the environment. Rather, you have set up a Ministry of Niger Delta to accumulate overhead expenses for your friends without solving the problem) [section 16 (2) (d)],
4.    that you are required by the Constitution to pay reasonable national minimum living wage to Nigerian workers, unemployment benefits, health care for the old etc [Section 17 (2) (d)],
5.    that the power problem could be solved if you had the courage to ban the importation of generators into Nigeria,
6.    that the children of public officials like you are generally not in public schools,
7.    that your government stopped the building of rural healthcare centers while you made those famous trips abroad for medical treatment,

they might be tempted to break their television sets when they see advertisements on your “Seven-point Agenda”; that is, if they have power supply to watch them anyway. The anger in them will swell up. Know this, Mr. President, the people will know one day. When they do, you will be recognized as one of their enemies. They will read those articles we have written in the past. You may make a choice to perform for the people now if you must avoid their wrath at the time of awakening, which closes in fast on us as misgovernance continually leaves the people livid. I sincerely want you to succeed.

You stopped us because you knew we had and still have a relevant message for the Nigerian people, even as one of your officials told the hotel manager that “government is not comfortable with the rally”. The police received my proposed speeches (A nation without Shepherds; and Nigerians, it is time) for the Gboko rally, and I believe you have read them (they are also online). After you stopped us, contrary to sections 39 and 40 of the Nigerian Constitution, Dr. Paul Botwev Orhii (Your new NAFDAC boss) wrote on a forum accusing me of being “anti-Tiv”. Two days after his castigating posting on my person, I heard you had appointed him as the Director of the National Food and Drug Administration Commission (NAFDAC). Congratulations, Mr. President, this one is also from my clan in Tiv land with the same great grand father. So, you see, I do not criticize your policies because of some imagined “marginalization” of my people on my part. I want you to succeed.

Mr. President, you have frustrated our efforts at holding a rally in Abuja. Why has your government tapped my phone line? Why this cowardice? Did you think we were planning some injury on your government or person? Your government, in order to create a red herring, last year accused the “opposition” of plotting to pull down your PDP government. I honestly believe we have no “opposition” in Nigeria besides a few who write down and espouse ideas, visions, and philosophies for now and posterity. For, there is no opposition without alternative ideas born out of deep ponderings. Rather, Mr. President, we have had bleached politicians whose natural colors have since faded through unbridled pursuit of banalities. Some of those politicians have lately alienated friends and associates for some figurative amorous romance with some fantasy futuristic political offices. Such politicians cannot be accurately situated in any ideologies that define great politicians except those that are bedfellows with narcissism. The nation deserves some new kind of politics-politics of ideas, thought and vision, which you lack. Sir, we shall continue to write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run that reads it.

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Why does your government bleat against us? Why do you imagine a vain thing? Why are you incensed against us? This, you will have of His hands-you will lie down in shame if you don’t retrace your steps.

Your government arrested the publisher of last October for publishing facts you cannot handle, and seized his passport for months (As I write, I am not sure you have released it for him to travel back to his base in USA); your government’s record on human rights has been parlous. You have sacked officials who have spoken the truth; you and your friends are intimidating some newspaper publishers who dare publish our views. You have persecuted our beautiful ones who were rekindling hope for a new Nigeria. 

Having published with for over 5 years, I did not expect that suddenly they would refuse to publish my articles with any reasons, despite writing twice to find out reasons. Read here below my last mail to them on April 19, 2009:

Dear Publisher,
I have published many an article with you for over 5 years now (since February 2004, when I published the article "From My Heart: This is our Nigeria".) With this writer-publisher relationship that has lasted this long, it is therefore not strange or unusual for me to be surprised that you failed to publish my last two articles that I sent to you ("On Fuel Subsidy and Yar'Adua's Time up" and "Commentary on Nigeria: Should I give up?"), and did not deem it necessary to respond to my enquiry as to the reason.
I have decided to write again-this time in a more detailed fashion-hoping that I may get some response from you.
At this critical time in our nation's history, when more builders are needed for our national edifice; at this time when we have founded a Movement (the Nigeria Rally Movement) with clearly set objectives, the least we need is the support of courageous publishers and news media owners like you.
If I have said anything in a past article of mine that troubled you, it is only normal that you should draw my attention to it. If you have decided for some reasons you may not wish to divulge that my positions on issues recently are becoming a threat, I would not mind you letting it be known to me as plainly as you may.
There is work to do, much more now that we have a government that dreads public enlightenment and has frustrated our every move to hold a national rally. There cannot be either a revival or a necessary revolution without relevant revelation. Contributing to the unveiling of the necessary revelation (both of ourselves and the possibilities that can become the ultimate reality if we can dare) remains my passion-to do it as fearlessly as I can. I should believe it is yours too. Synergy is needed by all compatriots-each providing that vehicle they can afford, and together, more effective in our gifts, talents, and possesions, we can move this nation along that path that we must discover for ourselves and children.
If we all give up now as patriots, as we are tempted many times to when we seem to see no support in the sea of discordant remonstrations and say, "They have pulled down thy altars, killed thy prophets, and I alone am left and they seek my life", least knowing that there are "500 who have not bowed the knee", then the struggle shall become the straggling of lonely fellows without a heart.

 Mr. President, if you were a true leader of Nigeria at this hour, you would definitely not create an environment of fear in which the once courageous have withdrawn in fear. Your government, with the goading of your friends who pretend to be champions of democracy have resorted to silencing the opposition. If what my friends and I stand for is representative of the aspirations of Nigerians, you will not win against us.

I demand, Mr. President, that you direct your officials to stop tapping my phone line. I use this medium to request GLOBACOM to look into the issue where my phone line number 08055024356 has been tapped and correct this situation without delay.

As I conclude, Mr. President, permit me to report you to Nigerians and friends of Nigeria. Fellow Nigerians, the government of Yar’Adua has turned against us the people. He has resorted to seizing of traveling documents of Nigerians, and working to blacklist Nigerians with germane messages for the nation. If I have spoken a lie, let Yar’Adua point to it. If he continues in his war against my colleagues and us, using the most surreptitious ways, let Nigerians and our friends hold him responsible for any attempts against us, any inflictions against our person, and any damages visited on us. A brutal government like his knows no civility in spite of effusive professions of loyalty to the ideal.

The Nigerian media must be bold and not care if they are not patronized by money men and women. What the nation needs today are Journalists and newspaper publishers who prefer people with a timely message, which the nation requires, over those with stolen money the nation has been robbed of.  

Mr. President, I am afraid of no one; I seek and will accept no appointments or patronage from your government (see our website for this declaration); I care not for praises or frowns, and will do my job, being true to my calling. I teach at your friend’s (or brother it is?) University and I do my job beyond myself. I must warn, however, that any attempts by your government or your proxy friends against us which endangers our lives will be a serious mistake on your part. Not only will they fail, but they will provoke such a backlash that you cannot contend with.

Provide the basic infrastructure for the complete education, good living, and emotional rejuvenation of Nigerians, and you will be praised by us. But for as long as you continue wobbling at constant disadvantage of the nation, you will get our broadsides without reprieve.

Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement
  TEL: 08055024356

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