Musikilu Mojeed, the author of “The Letterman,” a book detailing the letters which the former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wrote at different times in his life, has said that the idea of writing the book came to him ‘out-of-blue.’
Speaking in a short conversation with a television host, Kadaria Ahmed, shortly after the book was publicly presented in Abuja yesterday, December 1, Mojeed admitted that he didn’t have the permission of the former president to write the book.
Rather, he said, what initially occurred to him during his visit to the Obasanjo Library in Abeokuta, capital of Ogun state, was to get Obasanjo’s letters for exclusive stories, but later changed his mind to compile them into a book.
This was even as Obasanjo said also that he was not consulted by the author before putting his letters together as a book.
Obasanjo said: “I did not intend to come. He (Mojeed) did not take my permission. Until last week when he brought me two copies, I did not know that he was writing the book. When I read the book, I was flabbergasted. I was torn between him not telling me and the amount of work he put in.
“I read a part and rang him. I told him, you have unearthed this part? This is good. I did not reply to his letter because I did not want him to quote me.”
Obasanjo however said at a book presentation in Abuja that he would not stop writing letters to powers that be and authorities, describing Mojeed’s work as amazingly good, adding: “you have done an excellent job.”
He commended the author, saying: “I believe in letter writing because you have to communicate. I don’t see any substitute for it. I believe very much in letter writing and I don’t think it is outdated. It is an art and has done great things in the history of great countries.
“I read it and was completely flabbergasted by the amount of work that he has done in writing the book.
“I started reading the book and I was liking what I was reading until I finished reading it. Although, there are many things that I had forgotten that he dug up and I was marveled at it.
“There are many things that I have forgotten, and he (Mojeed) presented them well. The reason why I don’t grant interviews is because journalists are like a nagging wife that has children for you. You just have to tolerate them. They will annoy you. Musikiliu has one unique advantage, he tolerates me and I tolerate him.
He further stunned the audience when he said that he won’t stop writing letters.
The former president also said the appropriate title of the book would have been the ‘Audacity of an Optimist.’
Speaking further on the country and interaction with other world leaders, Obasanjo said Nigeria got away with a lot of “stupid things” because ‘God is a Nigerian.’
“I believe that God is a Nigerian. Bishop Kukah may not agree with me. Because God loves us so much that we have done so many stupid things and He allowed us to get away with these stupid things.
“I sincerely hope that God’s patience has no limit of elasticity because if He does, there will soon be a day that God will say: ‘No, I have had enough.’ And if God says He has had enough it doesn’t matter, Musikilu can write 20 books on Lettermen and Letterwomen, it won’t help us.
“I believe the right lessons must be learnt. We have all that we need to have. God has given us all that we need to have; that we are not doing what we should do. It is not God, we should blame ourselves,” said the former president.
Obasanjo, who recalled some instances where global leaders were always consulting with Nigerians before taking some critical decisions, lamented that the country appeared to be losing it.
He said the country was not appreciating what it had in terms of resources.
Obasanjo said: “We probably don’t appreciate what we have as a country and I believe if we do appreciate it, make good use of it, we will do better than we are now.
“I have sent for an interview with the only remaining member of what they call the 12 disciples in the foreign service; that’s the 12 Nigerians who first joined the Foreign Service before our independence, Amb Adefuye is the only remaining one.
“In that interview, he said that when Nigeria became independent it was a giant in the sun. That was the expectation; not a giant even in Africa. A giant in the sun. That was the expectation of the world about Nigeria.
“Have we lived up to it? No. If we have not, why haven’t we? And it is not so far to seek.
“Somebody talked about Jimmy Carter visiting Nigeria. Of course, he did visit Nigeria but before he visited Nigeria we were struggling with America, something they call constructive engagement with South Africa. What can be constructive with apartheid?
‘’We said no, we don’t accept that Kessinger said he was coming to Nigeria three times and three times I said I would not receive him. You may say that’s madness. Yes, there is a touch of madness but you have to do what is right.
“There was this election coming. It was Ford and Jimmy Carter. If Ford won the election, I would have to do acrobatics. I would not be able to say America cannot come to Nigeria for four years. Before the election, we started looking for who was in the camp of Jimmy Carter and we found Andy Young before the election and when the election took place, Cater won.
“Within two weeks of him being sworn in, Andy Young came to us. We became very close with Andy Young to the extent that the Carter administration will not do anything in Africa without informing us. People ask me, how did we lose that? How did we lose it?”
The book from the stable of PREMIUM TIMES Books stable, had its foreword written by former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Chief Emeka Anyaoku.
The historical letters chronicled in the book dwells on the former president’s exploit and courage to speak fearlessly, superiors, associates and foreign personalities via letters without minding whose ox is gored.
In the course of exemplifying patriotism, Obasanjo had written letters to Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Margaret Thatcher of the Great Britain,, Jimmy Carter of the United States of America, his then Commander-in-Chief and Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, his superior officers in the army, Presidents Umaru Musa Yar ‘Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, Ibrahim Babangida and Muhammadu Buhari among others.
The highpoints of the occasion was when the 85-year-old ‘Ebora Owu’ as Obasanjo is fondly called, breezed into the hall unannounced and the unveiling of the book by some invited dignitaries.
Jonathan lauds ex-leader
In a message to the gathering, former President Goodluck Jonathan said more than anything, Obasanjo would be remembered for debt forgiveness he championed for the country, the creation of anti-corruption agencies and his several international interventions across Africa.
Represented by a former minister of aviation, Osita Chidoka, the former president said “history will remember the former president for the great things he did, not the quarrels and the fights.”
Reviewing the book, Bishop Matthew ssan Kukah said: “In trying to review this enigma, where, when and how does one start? Is it his life as a soldier, a farmer, a former military head of state and then a president, an internationally much-sought after negotiator, a squash player of repute or where does one really start?”
He thereafter dwelled comprehensively on the book, describing it as nothing short of an inspiration and a masterful piece of ingenuity.
Obasanjo in the book, according to him, “is portrayed as the most controversial, provocative, argumentative, insightful, enigmatic and inspiring individuals beyond the shores of Nigeria and Africa.
“It is rather curious that no one has yet written a biography of General Obasanjo. The man has made such a project redundant because, not trusting anyone to tell his story. He developed almost an obsession with getting his word on his own terms.”
“His state of mental discipline and alertness is incredible and almost impossible to decipher. His mind is incisive, distrusting, suspecting, sharp, rapier like as he writes and ensures that he is the main deal in his own scripted drama,” Kukah added.
In a welcome address, Publisher/CEO Premium Times Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi said the launching of The Letterman was weaving the past with the present via a decent execution of history and journalism.
In his own remarks, chairman of the occasion, Yusuf Ola-Olu Ali, SAN expressed optimism that the book would help revive the dying culture of reading in the country, saying successive leaders in the country should be properly lettered.