Obasanjo and the life of a Letterman!

The Letterman

By Temitope Ajayi,

I attended public presentation of Letterman, a book written by Mr. Musikilu Mojeed, Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times in Abuja today. I have started reading the book and it is already looking unputdownable.

The advance praise of the book by Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth Secretary-General; Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Mr. Dan Agbese, Professor Toyin Falola, Kadaria Ahmed and others serve as good appetisers.

What is not in doubt is the extraordinary life of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Long before now, I have read some of OBJ’s letters in his own books, but Letterman contains many of the never-before-seen letters of this outstanding yet complex African statesman.

OBJ’s letters, whether to his family members, friends, associates, superiors in the military, fellow Heads of State and former leaders within and outside Nigeria reflect his personality, his beliefs, faith, brashness, candour and abiding love for country and continent for which he is not prepared to compromise.

The book, from what I have read so far, again shows OBJ as a very organised and methodical record keeper. In this book are correspondences he exchanged with leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, General Gowon, Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Ian Smith, Jimmy Carter, Fredrick D’Clerk, Chief Awolowo, General Babangida and many too numerous to list. Even a letter written to him in 1977 by his daughter, Iyabo, when she was aged 10, and others all tell a story of a very detailed man. It is no wonder he is the first Nigerian leader to set up a presidential library where his treasure throve of documents, books and other memorabilia can be properly kept and preserved for future generations.

I think only few people in the world can be as organised and fastidious in record keeping like President Obasanjo. There is a vital lesson to learn from this aspect of his illustrious life. I try to keep records but I have done a very lousy job of it. I will start organising myself better in this respect. I recently stumbled on letters and tonnes of greeting cards from Aanu Awomoyi Ajayi to me covering a wide range of issues from our undergraduate days at OAU Ile-Ife to the time we got married. Like Obasanjo, Aanu wrote her letters in long hand. Each time I picked some of Aanu’s letters to read again I had great laughter.

At the book presentation today, OBJ invited us to embrace the fine tradition of letter writing as the best way to convey genuine heart feelings, pass honest views across to concerned persons and best way to keep record. I do not like President Obasanjo’s messianic complex but I covet his work ethics.

I will say whatever anyone says about OBJ, he has led a remarkable life and Musikilu, author of Letterman, gave us a remarkable book. I dare say this book is a refreshing dimension in documenting presidential history.