By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Hon. Daniel Ofongo represents Southern Ijaw federal constituency of Bayelsa State in the House of Representatives. In this interview, he posits that the recent Letter from Former President Olusegun Obasanjo to incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was borne out of mischief to stop the president in 2015. Excerpts:
An Avalanche of reactions has continued to trail former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. What’s your take on that?
For me, Obasanjo’s letter to Mr. President, if it is not borne out of mischief or if there is no hidden agenda in it, there is nothing wrong in a former President writing a letter to the present President. What I want to say looking at the heading of the letter “Before it is too late”, that statement itself is pregnant. “Before it is too late”, on what?
Or about what? Then if you look at the content of the letter, like I said, if it is with good intentions, there is no
problem. But he wrote the letter as if he was advising him but later on went ahead to make statements that are very, very inciting. For instance, the issue of training snipers and putting 1000 political opponents on political check list to be killed or whatever he means.
That alone is very, very incisive because for somebody who does not know; they said, political opponents. So, does it mean that as a sitting President, you will not have opposition? No. There is no politician who does not have opposition. But every one believes that the only way an opposition can come over or the only way you as a sitting president or whatever office you are holding as a sitting public officer is through the ballots. It is either you win the person through elections or the person wins you during election.
But coming out to say that people are being penciled-1000 political opponents, I think that statement in itself is not correct. I want to quote what he said. He said “allegation of keeping over 1000 people in political watch list rather than criminal or security watch list and training snipers and other armed personnel secretly and clandestinely acquiring weapons to match the political process like Abacha and training them where Abacha trained his own killers, if it is true cannot augur well for the initiators, government and the people of Nigeria.”
He said it is an allegation then, if you go on, he says “if it is true”. So, Obasanjo knows it is an allegation. Ok, who are the people that made the allegation? He’s unable to explain it. Yet he’s still asking if it is true. What does he mean by “if it is true?” So, he knows that it is not true before he made this kind of spurious statement in a letter. That’s to tell you that his intentions are not genuine at all.
He pretends to be advising Mr. President yet he knows what he is doing. That’s why he started it with the heading “Before it’s too late”. No body knows what Obasanjo means.
Let’s say that as a former Head of State, former President for 8 years who also helped the incumbent to realize his presidential ambition in 2011, Obasanjo knows Nigeria very well. He raised grave concerns in his letter. But there seems to be a play down on the message and the messenger. Shouldn’t Nigerians take the issues seriously?
Well, I wouldn’t say it should be wished away. Of course, he has made a statement. Me, I am not even looking at Obasanjo but his intention. That’s the most important thing. He has been in the leadership of this country for 8 years. Let’s keep his years as a military ruler after the demise of Gen. Murtala Mohammed aside. Now, those years he stayed in office, those of the concerns he raised, what did he do about them? I want to ask a very important question.
If Obasanjo had laid good foundations before Yar’Adua came in and then Jonathan, let him mention those areas where he laid good foundations, things were working and then Jonathan came and things started going bad, things started retrogressing. Let him say it.
Because we all know that before Goodluck Jonathan came to assume office as President of this country, Nigeria we know had even gone so bad. There was military rule in this country for over 20/30 years and we are all here. We know that there are people who had been Heads of State in this country who introduced and institutionalized and encouraged corruption. Our refineries were working but they were no longer working.
The roads, at least were working, but they all went bad. Our railways were working and they all went bad. Our airports, things started going bad. Are they trying to tell us that it was when Jonathan assumed office that things became so bad? No.
Obasanjo also alleged that there are hawks around the president who are ill-advising him and that it doesn’t augur well for the administration and Nigerians
My reactions to it is that he knows those hawks. According to him, he said that some of them were with him. So, assuming the President doesn’t know about it, why can’t he call the President about his good intention to advise him?
You see, you cannot say you are advising somebody and then you make an open letter. If it is an open letter, come out with you real intentions. Those hawks he said were with him that are around Jonathan, let him mention them to him just as he can mention about the snipers. Why can’t he mention them? He should if he has good intentions.
Some people say it is a gang up against Mr. President’s second term ambition while some dismiss that
It is obvious that it is a gang up against the second term ambition. Well, constitutionally, the President has right to contest for second term. If Obasanjo said that Mr. President had agreement to run for only one term, well, that we don’t know.
The President has come to say he had not that kind of agreement with anybody. Even the aggrieved PDP Governors made those statements and he still challenged them and said where is the agreement I had with you people? If there is any document I signed to that effect, bring it and let us see.
Mind you, this same Obasanjo ruled this country for 8 years even wanted a third term by trying to influence the National Assembly to amend the constitution to enable him contest for third term. And he failed. Now, this is a genuine case where a sitting President has the right based on the existing constitution to contest a second term. And he is going against it. Well, for me, I know that whatever thing he is doing is a gang up.
How may you react to the call for impeachment of the President by the Opposition Party (APC)?
That call is unnecessary because APC can not just get up and say that the National Assembly should commence impeachment process on the president based on a letter written by obasanjo. Like I earlier said on the issue of snipers. In the letter, he said it’s an allegation and he is going ahead to say if it’s true. So, something that is unfounded and APC is now hanging on it.
Now, let me remind that APC came up with a statement saying there is massive unemployment, insecurity everywhere, so many issues and said that it seems the government of the day has lost direction to which the Presidency replied and said it amounts to treasonable felony.
Well, APC’s statement, whether you call it unemployment, corruption or whatever; is it Goodluck Jonathan that brought in corruption in this country?
Or is it he that introduced corruption in this country? Like I earlier said, the dilapidated state of infrastructure in this country; was it Jonathan that made it? Let’s face it. If all the successive administrations had been employing youth, employable youth, Graduate and non Graduate, if they had been employing them, would this number have risen up to this level?
So, that is to tell you it’s a systemic failure, right from the beginning ever before Goodluck Jonathan assumed office. If for a given year, they say, for instance, 1000 Graduates are supposed to be employed and over the years, they were being employed by other administrations before Jonathan, then you would have blamed Jonathan for not employing.
But Obasanjo himself or APC who equally have members who have been leaders in the country, either they have been state Governors or they have occupied one prominent position or the other, if they themselves have not been able to do these things before this time, why would they pack the whole thing and put on the President’s head? He is a sitting President. He is fighting to see the best for Nigerians. I think they should allow him to see the best he can do so long as he remains the President of this country.
In your estimation, do you think that those issues were actually treasonable?
For me, when you say treason, it is when you unlawfully incite people to overthrow a sitting government. Now, issues raised that the President has done things that amount to gross misconduct.
What are those things? Have they found out if those things are true? So, what they are trying to do is calling on the public to overthrow a government. Of course, it is treasonable. Let them first and foremost find out if these allegations are true. They can’t come up before the public and make unfounded and spurious allegations and incite the public to go against a sitting government. Of course, that in itself is treason.
So, they cannot say when they know that certain things are not right, they know those things are unfounded yet they use them to incite the public to go against the government. They want to overthrow the government by force. Why can’t APC wait? They said they are very formidable, they are strong.
The only way political parties take over power from an existing government is through the ballot. It is not by inciting public through spurious allegations. So, APC should wait and contest elections.
There is also this feeling that President Jonathan’s government is ethnic based instead of having a national spread. How may you react?
The statement is wrong because one: President Jonathan even though he comes from the minority being an Ijaw man was not voted into office by only Ijaw people.
He was voted into office by every Nigerian and up till today, it is people who do not mean well for the Ijaw nation like Former President Obasanjo did by picking out Ijaw ethnic nationality to say that President Jonathan will be the last Ijaw President.
So long as I am concerned, every Nigerian irrespective of your tribe or religion has the right to contest for any elective position. Everybody has the right to vote and be voted for.
If today God has made it that Jonathan is in the office today, we are involved including former Presidnet Obasanjo who played a key role. But mind you, Obasanjo has one vote so does every other Nigerian. And it is those votes that brought Jonathan into office. So, to say that Jonathan’s presidency has been reduced to an Ijaw thing is not true. As we speak, Jonathan has supporters across every ethnic nationality, every religious group from the North to the South, from the East to the West.
Up till date, he has his support base. So, for somebody to feel that you are having issues with somebody whom they feel is you benefactor, I don’t think the best is not to come to the public and start making this kind of statement.
The people making the statement are the people who are trying to bring ethnic or tribal sentiment into it. President Jonathan has never for one day acted as a President that is for the Ijaws only. He has never and I know he will never do that.