By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
Tuesday, August 9, 2022:
This morning, after my praise and worship and morning prayers, I scanned through online newspapers. As usual, I read both the local and the international news headlines. Apart from the election in Kenya, the other headline that caught my attention was the New York Times‘ story about how General Mark Milley, President Trump’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, almost resigned. According to the newspaper, he wrote a resignation letter that was biting. It made me have a flashback. I remembered my resignation letter, which, just like General Milley, I did not submit.
General Milley wrote his resignation letter days following the killing of George Floyd and the protest that followed. What triggered him was the event of June 1, 2020, when Trump took him and other top government officials, like the Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr and others, on a walk from the White House to St. John’s Church in Washington DC. As part of the walk, SSS deployed security personnel to clear people protesting the death of George Floyd along the path. In his letter, General Milley told Trump that he ruined the international order and caused damage to America abroad. He reminded Trump that the Greatest Generation fought a war against tyrannies, dictatorships, fascism, and Nazism, that killed over 150 million people to put in place that order.
From the extract the paper published, it was a fascinating letter of resignation. CNN said that General Milley was set to excoriate Trump. My resignation letter had gone a step more than denouncing Buhari and blaming him for destroying what remained of Nigeria’s unity, for which millions died in the war to keep Nigeria one. I laid bare how Buhari weaponized religion, ethnicity and nepotism to blow up the remaining guardrails that separated the veins of the nation from hordes of people drunk in ignorance and wallowing in poverty of the minds. I made predictions, or if you like, prophecies, too. And so far, some of my prophesies in that letter have already started to manifest. Only now, when I release the letter with my memoir, some of you would think I wrote it in hindsight. Thank God I mailed two copies of the letter to two of my most trusted confidants. I may even show the different drafts and editing my letter went through in the memoir.
Here is General Milley in his own words in that resignation letter. “It’s now obvious to me that you don’t understand that world. You don’t understand what the war was all about. In fact, you subscribe to many of the principles that we fought against. And I cannot be a party to that. It is with deep regret that I hereby submit my letter of resignation.”
I had to pause reading General Milley’s letter to attend to the love of my life. She came into my study to show me the viral clip of Peter Obi’s visit to Dunamis Church.
“This could have been you,” she said.
I wanted to say, “Even you.” But I swallowed the words. She apparently did not know how many people had sent that same clip to me in the last few days. I asked Laolu if he thought this could have been me. He was coy, as usual. He shrugged and said, “God knows best.” I looked at him suspiciously. He recovered and rephrased his sentence, saying, “God’s time is always the best.”
I will get to all that in this first entry into my Secret Diary. But first, let me finish the story of Milley’s resignation letter because it is connected to my letter and why I have decided to keep this secret diary.
I am writing this on a password-protected diary website. Even the love of my life does not know the password. Suppose the next president of Nigeria sends the EFCC to search my home and break into my safe in search of documents connecting me to Tunde Fowler, the Executive Chairman of the Federal Internal Revenue Service that Buhari fired in 2019, they won’t see this secret diary. And I know one of the current presidential candidates that won’t wait to do to me what the FBI did to former U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday.
So, General Milley did not submit his resignation letter after consulting prominent military leaders like Gen. James Dubik and former secretary of defence and CIA chief Robert Gates.
I was shocked at the similarities of Milley’s predicament to mine. I wrote my resignation letter after the uproar that followed my firing of the Department of State Services director-general in August of 2018. Nigerians have forgotten the DSS siege of the National Assembly that prompted me to fire the man. As acting president, I ensured that we maintained law and order in Nigeria under my watch. I was not going to compromise such an essential part of my job. Also, it was one thing to sideline and even insult me when I was only the Vice President, but such behavior was unacceptable to me as acting president. I had to make that very clear.
To have that decision to fire Mr. Lawal Daura questioned, to have it considered for possible reversal, to have some people who think they own the country use it as a basis to question my loyalty to the president, to have them instigate my isolation and emasculation, was all that I needed to pen my resignation. In my letter, which you will read in my memoir, I pointed out incredible ways I had been loyal to the president. For example, when he was sick in London, again and again, against every fabric of my being, I lied to the Nigerian people that the president was “hale and hearty.” It was loyalty. But the reward I got was to be disrespected and ostracized more than ever.
After broad consultation, I did not submit the resignation letter that I wrote. Though now, I wonder if those people who advised me were honest. I wonder if they were not moles of the people who did not want me to be president. I was leaning on leaving. If I had done that, I believe I would have been in Peter Obi’s position today.
Unlike Milley, I had another incident down the road that compelled me to update the letter. And I did. But once again, I failed to submit it. You will read all about that and the updated letter in my memoir. A part of me now wished that I did tender the letter. It would have made all the difference if I had done so, either the first or second time. It was not that some people did not advise me to do so. Many prominent people did. Even knuckleheads like Dr. Damages, I saw him running his mouth everywhere. They were talking about how I needed to separate myself from Buhari’s government if I wanted to show that I disapproved of what was happening within the administration.
But I firmly believed that the dividend of loyalty superseded all other contingencies. I underestimated the power of vengeful older men who strode Nigeria’s corridors of power. I trusted God, who took me this far to finish the job that I believed he had handpicked me to accomplish for the country. Unfortunately, God had a different idea in the end. I say so because I have prayed hard and fasted to reach this mild conclusion. I had resisted the temptation to say that God failed me. I was sure that God would turn the mocked mere commissioner into the president of Nigeria. Maybe, what I missed was God’s signal to resign. Maybe.
I remember all this because I had received over a dozen times the clip of what transpired when Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labor Party, visited Dunamis church in Abuja. When I saw him with Pastor Paul Enenche, I felt it could have been me if only I had resigned. It could have been me if I had read the handwriting on the wall. It could have been me if only I had been bold. It could have been me if only I had not confused loyalty to a man with loyalty to my country and God. It could have been me if only I had understood all these years of being a pastor and following in the footsteps of my Daddy GO that God had not stopped treating us like his sheep. He would take us to the pond but would not force us to drink.
These are the two things that have prompted me to start this diary. In the days to come, as I recuperate from leg surgery done in Nigeria by excellent Nigerian doctors, I will have enough time to reflect on the events of the last few months. In my remaining months as the Vice President, I will be putting my thoughts on paper. I will use some of these reflections in my memoir when this is over. I already have a title for it: “God is not mocked” with the sub-title, “Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s years as Buhari’s Vice.” While going through my squashed presidential dream grieving process, I considered some controversial titles. At one point, I blasphemously thought of calling it “Why I am disappointed in God.” Because I prayed hard… and my people also prayed. There was a time when I wanted to incinerate everything. Then, the title running around in my head was “No brotherhood in a zoo.” But thank God, cool heads have prevailed. But I can assure you that I will not bite my tongue when I finally put pen to paper. I have had enough of sitting in this office and crushing my testicles.
Watching Kenyans vote and the president’s candidate Raila Odinga on the road to victory even though he is from the opposition party, I got angry again. Undoubtedly, if Buhari had supported me, I would have been the presidential candidate of the APC. But he didn’t. And because of that, a grossly infirmed man is leading our party. Lurking behind him is a hyena, waiting to take over. When he does take over from our man with a fake name, fake age, fake state of origin, or fake school, he would be lenient to our Igbo brothers and sisters but not to my Christian family.
For those who accused me of betrayal, I will address you all, too. Real betrayal would have if I had revealed what I knew about Alpha Beta and some under-the-radar, never disclosed deals that happened while I was in Lagos. There is a reason why people like Babatunde Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode, Rauf Aregbeshola, and I purse our lips, skin our smiles, and wrap our winks when you see us around the man.
Even though I still feel disappointed in myself, my advisers, and others that I will name in my memoir, I sincerely believe my Father in the Lord when he said to me days after the APC’s primary, “God is not done with you.”
Looking at this election season, I can see a possible outcome and permutation that will have the whole country begging me to come and take over in 2027. Forget Peter Obi and his dance in the market square. The big moment has not eluded me. It has only been postponed.
Alright now, I have to stop here. The love of my life is coming over for us to take our evening walk. I can hear her ever-soft footsteps that serenade my soul.
To be continued…
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo teaches Post-Colonial African History at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is also the host of Dr. Damages Show. His books include “This American Life Sef”, “Children of a Retired God,” among others.