Chief Audu Ogbeh’s Letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo
December 6, 2004
The President, Commander-In-Chief,
Federal Republic of Nigeria, Abuja
RE: ANAMBRA AND RELATED MATTERS
About a month ago, the nation woke up to the shocking news of a devastating attack on Anambra State resulting in the burning down of radio and television stations, hotels, vehicles, assembly quarters, the residence of the state Chief Judge and finally, Government House, Awka. Dynamite was even applied in the exercise and all or nearly most of these in the full glare of our own police force as shown on NTA for the world to see. The operation lasted three days.
That week, in all churches and mosques, we, our party, and you as Head of Government and Leader of this Nation came under the most scathing and blithering attacks. We were singly and severally accused of connivance in action and so forth. Public anger reached its peak.
You set up a reconciliation committee headed by Ebonyi State Governor Dr. Sam Egwu, and we all thought this would help calm nerves and perhaps bring about some respite. But quite clearly things are nowhere near getting better. While the reconciliation team attempted to inspect damaged sites in Anambra, they were scared away by gunfire, further heightening public anger and disdain for us.
Bomb explosion in government house, Awka
On Tuesday, the 30th day of November 2004, another shocking development; a reported bomb explosion in Government House Awka. Since then, the media, public discourse within and even outside of our borders, have been dominated by the most heinous and hateful of expletives against our party and your person and government. It would appear that the perpetrators of these acts are determined to stop at nothing since there has not been any visible sign of reproach from law enforcement agencies. I am now convinced that the rumours and speculations making the rounds that they are determined to kill Dr. Chris Ngige may not be unfounded.
The question now is, what would be the consequences of such a development? How do we exonerate ourselves from culpability, and worse still, how do we even hope to survive it? Mr. President, I was part of the second republic and we fell. Memories of that fall are a miserable litany of woes we suffered, escaping death only by God’s supreme mercy. Then we were suspected to have stolen all of Nigeria’s wealth.
After several months in prison, some of us were freed to comeback to life penniless and wretched. Many have gone to their early graves un-mourned because the public saw us all as renegades.
I am afraid we are drifting in the same direction again. In life, perception is reality and today, we are perceived in the worst light by an angry, scornful Nigerian Public for reasons, which are absolutely unnecessary.
Mr. President, if I write in this vein, it is because I am deeply troubled and I can tell you that an overwhelming percentage of our party members feel the same way though many may never be able to say this to you for a variety of reasons. But the back stops at your table and in my position, not only as Chairman but also as an old friend and loyal defender of your development programmes which I have never stopped defending, I dare to think that we can, either by omission or commission allow ourselves to crash and bring to early grief, this beautiful edifice called democracy.
On behalf of the peoples Democratic Party, I call on you to act now and bring any, and all criminal, even treasonable, activity to a halt. You and you alone, have the means. Do not hesitate. We do not have too much time to waste.
A.I. Ogbeh, OFR National Chairman
cc: Vice President
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Speaker, House of Representatives
President Obasanjo’s Reply To Chief Ogbeh’s Letter
December 12, 2004
I am amused and not surprised by your letter of December 6, 2004 because after playing hide and seek games over a period of time, you have finally, at least in writing, decided to unmask and show your true colour.
Having made this introductory point, let us go over systematically and, in some detail, through the whole episode of the Anambra saga. I must add that I have expressed sadness and condemned the wanton destruction of properties that took place in Anambra recently.
When it turned out that, Governor Mbadinuju was an unmitigated failure in Anambra, as PDP governor in our first term, I made it clear to you that I would not go to Anambra to campaign if Governor Mbadinuju was being sponsored as PDP gubernatorial candidate in spite of his calamitous failure.
You did not tell me that you were sending a discrete investigation team to Anambra to find out the situation on the ground. You never said yes or no but I determined that, in good conscience, I could not go to Anambra to campaign for support and seek endorsement for Governor Mbadinuju.
About six weeks later, you came to report to me that you have sent two people discretely to ascertain on the ground whether people wanted Mbadinuju or not and you had received report that 66 2/3 of the people of Anambra did not want Mbadinuju. For me, what we knew about Mbadinuju in terms of failure to pay salaries in some cases for over 7 months which led to school children not being able to take the WASCE did not need any discrete investigation.
However, your discrete investigation convinced you that I was right and you brought Mbadinuju to me, for you and I to tell him that he could not be a gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Anambra.
You rightly, I believe, requested that I should work with you to give him a soft landing and we agreed to make him an ambassador after the election and we even agreed on which mission abroad, subject to our success in the elections.
Mbadinuju asked for a letter from me and I refused because I said that my word was my bond but that you were free to write him one. A few weeks after that meeting, Mbadinuju decamped from our party to the AD and sought election as governor of Anambra on the platform of the AD. When the members of our party started jostling for nomination, as normal with me, I refused to endorse a candidate; it is only after the primaries that the party’s candidate becomes my own candidate.
And in the case of Anambra, if I had wanted to support anybody at all, it would have been Jerry Ugokwe because he was one man I knew but, of course, I was consistent on my policy. And when Ngige emerged as the candidate of the PDP from the primaries, he was brought to be introduced to me and, of course, he became not only the party’s candidate but also mine. After enquiries about the situation in Anambra and about Ngige himself, I made a point to him that he should go and reconcile himself with his father with whom he was not on talking terms as I believed it was an abomination for an African son to be in a state of enmity with his father to the point of absolute non-communication.
I advised Ngige to reconcile with his father and the rest of his family and he reported to me that he did. The election took place and Ngige was declared the winner. I congratulated him along with other victorious candidates. Realizing that Ngige would need some assistance to help him through the teething problem of his administration, I invited him to consider having a non-partisan honorary committee of elders of the state and he agreed.
I talked to Igwe Nwokedi, Chief Mbasulike Amechi and the Anglican Bishop of Awka to get two more people with them to act as such honourary non-partisan advisory committee of elders for the governor.
For them to maintain their independence, I said that any transportation or administrative funds that they might require would be provided from the presidency rather than the state. After two months, Igwe Nwokedi, who was supposed to be the chairman, reported that the governor was impossible to advise or to work with and that was the end of that effort. Mr. Chairman, I reported that effort to you.
When on one occasion, Chris Uba came to report that things appeared to be going wrong between him and the governor in the presence of Chief Amechi, I asked the latter to go and sort it out for them in his capacity as an elder of the state and veteran politician. I requested Chief Amechi to report back to me. The truth is that as far as
Anambra was concerned, I considered it my duty to work with all stakeholders in the area of avoiding conflict and on that ground I promised to act on any report or advice from Chief Mbasulike Amechi. I never had warning that things were going sour in the state any more until I was in Maputo, Mozambique on July 9, 2003 when I received report that the governor had resigned. I did what normally I do not do except in an emergency by using government facility for strictly non-governmental purpose. I instructed that an airplane from the presidential fleet be made available to a team to rush to Anambra to investigate what was happening.
That team went on Friday morning while I was still in Mozambique and returned on Friday evening. You will recall that the team reported to you and I that what was happening in Ananm-bra required urgent party action to resolve it as a family affair. A Senate Panel that followed in the same vein re-opened something similar. Mr. Chairman, the following Sunday, you received and opened a brown envelope in my residence in Abuja that contained three different letters of resignation and a video of announcement of resignation of Governor Ngige.
You were as shocked as I was and you promised to do something about it that night. You left with copies of the documents and the next thing you did after that was to insinuate that Ngige’s problems were caused by me.
Unfortunately, as in many other instances, you failed to do what you should have done as the chief executive of the party and rather prefer to insult me not only as the President of the nation but also as the leader of the party which you seem never to recognize or acknowledge. From that point on, I only did my job as a President by investigating. What the police did or did not do and dishing out punishment to be confirmed by the Police Service Commission, which in its own report asked for a complete investigation of the matter.
That investigation was carried out by the Attorney General and his report was acted upon. After that, I deliberately remained aloof about political events in Anambra except whatever may affect security and loss of life and property. I, in fact, asked both Ngige and Chris Uba never to come to my office or to my residence and you know this.
As far as I could remember, a childhood friend of yours came with you to discuss the issue of Anambra between you and I on one occasion. Soon after, I briefed the party caucus in detail on my role, on what I saw and did and the party caucus endorsed
every action that had been taken by the executive arm of government in respect with Anambra.
A few months later, two members of your Working Committee -Olisa Metu (an Ex-Officio member) and Farouk (the youth leader) -came to appeal to me to specially intervene in reconciling Ngige and Chris Uba, I refused initially because I believed it was really the responsibility of the party. But since you had shirked your responsibility as party chairman, I conceded and asked the two members of the NWC to bring Ngige and Chris Uba to me.
That was the only time, after several months, that I allowed them to enter my residence. I was shocked that a man in the position of aspirant or one elected as governor could actually resign on three different occasions in writing and on one occasion, the resignation was on videotape. I, also, was of the opinion that for Ngige to have allowed that to happen, there must have been some extra-legal motivation. There has been accusation and counter-accusation as reasons for such ungainly behaviour. When the two of them came to see me, the two young men who had brokered the opportunity for Ngige and Chris Uba to see me wanted to leave. I refused and insisted that they had to be at the meeting because I wanted them as witnesses.
After almost two hours of talk, we dismissed hoping that fences would be mended and reconciliation would be fully established. They left and waited on the corridors for a while.
Olisa Metu came back and requested that I should meet with Ngige and Chris Uba alone without witnesses for them to feel free to unwind.
Again, I did and that was when I got the real shock of my life when Chris Uba looked Ngige straight in the face and said, “You know you did not win the election” and Ngige answered “Yes, I know I did not win.”Chris Uba went further to say to Ngige, “You don’t know in detail how it was done.” I was horrified and told both of them to leave my residence.
This incident was reported to you because although constitutionally, Ngige had been declared winner, for me and, I believe, for you there remains a moral burden and dilemma both as leaders in Nigeria and leaders of our party.
You did not consider it important enough to do anything or talk about it. I told Ngige that the only way I could live with this moral dilemma since he had been constitutionally declared as governor is that I will continue to deal with him in his capacity as the governor of a State in Nigeria purely and strictly on formal basis either until he runs out his term, he decides to follow the path of honour or until any competent authority declares otherwise. That remains my position to date.
That notwithstanding, immediately after the Court of Appeal overturned Justice Nnaji’s order, the Police promptly obeyed. That is what rule of law is all about. Furthermore, based on all that I had heard, I told Chris Uba and Ngige that their case was like the case of two armed robbers that conspired to loot a house and after bringing out the loot, one decided to do the other in and the issue of fair play even among robbers became a factor. The two robbers must be condemned for robbery in the first instance and the greedy one must be specially pointed out for condemnation to do justice among the robbers.
To me, the determination of the greedy one is also a problem; maybe they are both equally greedy. Justice, fairness and equity are always the basis of peace and harmony in any human organisation or relationship. Anambra issue is essentially a human organizational and human relationship issue.
I was on a tour of five countries in five days going from the UK through Finland and Sweden with a stop-over in Libya to Tanzania last November when the recent issue of violence broke out. The Inspector General of Police who claimed that the crowd was overwhelming for the police strength was instructed to double the number of mobile
police unit by bringing additional men and women from the adjoining states. He did so and he reported that 19 looters and destroyers were arrested and charged to court with some vehicles seized.
NTA coverage of that unfortunate incidents is not the issue, wars are watched like theatrical plays in the contemporary world. The issue is whether or not the police performed or did not perform their duties.
Mr. Chairman, obviously you do not expect me to do less than I have done. I even went out to do more because since you failed to either resolve the political issues that are intra-party matters and they have been spread to engulf the entire state or decisively punish any offender, I decided in consultation with Governor Ngige, to set up a fact-finding and reconciliation committee under the Governor of Ebonyi State to put an end to the violence, create a conducive atmosphere for the Governor to return to his station and to ensure permanent peace, security through reconciliation of the known warring party members – Chris Ngige and Chris Uba – and their supporters.
And this was after I had a meeting with both the PDP state chairman and the governor. Since the Governor of Ebonyi, whom I have asked to keep you fully posted on his findings and progress of his committee has not yet reported to me, and since I have taken every necessary step to ensure a resolution of the political problem in Anambra which you have failed to confront, I consider your letter opportunistic, and only a smokescreen and I believe I should answer it in some reasonable detail as I have done. I also took every reasonable step to beef up security to deal with the situation. On Tuesday, December 7, 2004, after the party meeting on the crisis in Kogi State, you told me that you had written me a letter on threat to Ngige’s life and you indicated to me, which you did not do in the letter, that one Honourable Chuma Nzeribe was the culprit.
As I will not dilly-dally on an issue of security, even before I received your letter, I directed the Director-General of the State Security Service to look into the matter. It
may interest you that almost on daily basis letters are received in my office of people alleging that other people want to assassinate them. All such allegations are forwarded to security people for investigation. None has been substantiated yet. But we will not take any issue of security lightly no matter who claims to be in danger. And contrary to your belief and insinuation, just today, December 9, the governor of Anambra came to me to seek my opinion and advice on whether or not to constitute a commission of enquiry into what happened in the state. I did not hesitate to advise and encourage him to do so in order that all the facts would be exposed and verifiable truth established rather than trading in rumours.
Let me end on this note: whatever may be your reason for the ambivalent disposition and handling of the party problem in Anambra like you have done in other places and the ulterior motive for your letter, if and when in my capacity as President of Nigeria duty calls on me to act, I will not shirk my responsibility and we will at the end of the day be at the bar of the public both at the party level and national level. Let me also say that it is,
indeed, unfortunate that you make so many unnecessary and unwarranted insinuations in your letter about our great country.
I have taken judicial note of the ominous comparisons you made between a government in which you participated that was overthrown in a coup d’etat and this present administration.
I wonder if that is your wish since you may not now go out penniless. But whatever agenda you may be working at God is always in charge and in control. Warped perception must be differentiated from reality. Perception created and manipulated for a sinister purpose cannot be reality. The greatest danger to any country
is putting truth out of favour; extolling evils of lies, deceit, treachery, disloyalty, unpatriotism, corruption and unconstitutionally. That is my greatest fear for Nigeria and it should be yours and that of any right-thinking Nigerian.
Not too long ago, I challenged you to think beyond the ordinary, the expected and the self, I still put that challenge on the table.
Let it be on record that I do believe that I have invested the totality of my life in what I may call “Enterprise Nigeria” and if it means that in the process of repositioning our dear country for sustainable greatness, what is dearest to me would have to be sacrificed, I will in good conscience, not hesitate to do so.
And if that will enhance Nigeria’s development, it is a sacrifice that I will be glad to make. I have reached a stage in life that I have passed the state of being intimidated or being flattered. I can stand before God and man and in clear conscience to defend every measure that I have taken everywhere in Nigeria since I became the President and will continue to act without fear or favour or inducement.
And it does not matter to me what is sponsored in the Nigerian media, in particular, the print media. I believe that our vindication will come through the truth, which is the only thing that can uplift a nation and make an honest man and a sincere believer in God free.
May I crave your indulgence to copy this letter to all those to whom your letter to me was copied. In addition, I am copying the President of the Senate, the number three man in the present hierarchy of this government and a party leader in his own right, whom you deliberately left out of the distribution list of your letter for reason best known to you. One thing I will never stop doing is praying for Nigeria in general and Anambra in particular.
May God continue to bless and prosper Nigeria. In spite of the malevolence of some Nigerians, Nigeria is moving to the cruising level and cruising speed. That is the work of God and what all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria should do is to join hands in hastening the work of God in Nigeria at this juncture. May God help us to help ourselves. I wish you well.
Signed President Olusegun Obasanjo”
cc: Vice-President Atiku Abubakar;
President of the Senate, Chief Adolphus Wabara;
the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari;
and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of PDP, Chief Anthony Anenih.