By Ben Agande & Daud Olatunji
Two days after he spoke against President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election in London, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, now at home, attacked the President, yesterday, accusing him of a hidden agenda over the 2015 polls.
Specifically, Obasanjo alleged that Jonathan was engaged in do-or-die politics.
But in a swift reaction, the Presidency and Jonathan’s Campaign Office charged that Obasanjo’s allegations were not only baseless but also absurd, repugnant and self-serving.
On Thursday, while publicly presenting his latest book, ‘My Watch’, in London, the former President told his audience that the certificate issue against Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), APC presidential candidate in the forthcoming general elections, was a ploy by Jonathan’s men to stop Buhari in the election.
The former President, who spoke to journalists at his Hilltop Mansion residence, Abeokuta, likened the politics played by Jonathan to “the do-or-die” politics played by the former President of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo.
Obasanjo, while reacting to the postponement of the general elections, said it was a grand plan by Jonathan to perpetuate himself in office till the situation becomes clear that the presidential election would favour him.
He likened the situation to the one in Cote d’Ivoire in which Gbagbo delayed the presidential election of the country and, when he eventually conducted the election and lost, refused to leave office.
“I was away because I had a number of assignments abroad which took me to Morocco, Munich, Nairobi, London and New Delhi. Exactly a week today, we were in Munich for what they called `Munich security conference’ and all people who are in security community, normally, you found them there”, the former President said.
“For this year, the Vice President of America was there, the Secretary of State, John Kerry, was there, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany was there, President of Ukraine was there and many others.
“I was there with Koffi Annan. Our side was to talk about peace and security in Africa. I was to handle the African perspective while Koffi Annan was to look at it from the global perspective.
“And suddenly people started asking me questions about what was happening in my country:; Americans, British, Germans and every other person. Koffi Annan was particularly agitated. “While I was out, I refused to make any categorical statement on this issue because I wanted to come back home and learn, first hand, what actually transpired and what was going on. And it turned out to be a forced decision on the INEC because it was alleged that the Security Chiefs were unable to provide security and, as a result, the Chairman of INEC had to postpone, in accordance with the dictates of the so called Security Chiefs.
“I thought that was bad precedent for democracy in Nigeria, it meant it doesn’t matter what preparation or lack of preparation any electoral body could make in Nigeria, the final decision whether election will take place on the day scheduled for it lies in the domains of the security, it is a sad day for democracy in Nigeria.
“And I will say this. We must all feel concerned before democracy is killed. The observable and what would appear to be happening is that the President has a grand plan, a grand plan to ensure that, by hook or crook, he wins the election or if it all fails, they scuttles it and create chaos, confusion and unpleasantness in the whole country”.
According to him, it is the duty of the security officers to provide security. “The President is the Chief Security Officer of the country and he is the Commander-in-Chief and if security is required anywhere any time, it is his duty to provide it, failure to provide it is dereliction of duty, pure and simple”.
Obasanjo said the President, following his own grand plan or his aides and associates, was working a script.
“What again it looks to me is that the President is trying to play Gbagbo. Gbagbo was the President of Cote d’Ivoire and Gbagbo made sure he postponed the election in his country until he was sure he would win and then allowed the election to take place. He got an inconclusive election in the first ballot and I believe this is the sort of thing Nigeria may fall into if I am right in what I observed as the grand plan and then, in the run-off, Gbgbo lost with 8% behind Ouattara and then refused to hand over. All reasonable persuasion and pleading was rebuffed by him and he unleashed horror in that country until nemesis caught up with him”, he stated.
“I believe that we may be seeing the repeat of Gbagbo or what I call the Gbagbo saga here in Nigeria. I hope I am wrong.
“I believe the President’s concern of fear is not to live out of office per se, because he and I have occasions to talk about this both seriously and jovially. I believe the President would want an opportunity to disengage peacefully and have a nice, decent and a glorious exit, I believe the President’s fear is, particularly, motivated by the person he sees as his likely successor, that is General Buhari.
“I believe people would have been telling him that Buhari is a hard man, he would fight corruption and you may end up in jail if not in grave. I believe people must have told him all sorts of things and he is not the only one, there are other people who may be afraid of Buhari, but, why? I would say that Buhari has learnt lessons; if he hasn’t learnt lessons, then he would be probably be the most unlearning human being.
“If he has learnt lessons, he would know that you do not fight corruption by putting people in jail for 200 years and this has been done by my own predecessor in office, General Abdulsalam Abubakar; he recovered over $750 million from Abacha’s estate without putting anybody in jail, without hurting or harming anybody. When I took over, we recovered over $1.25 billion from the same Abacha estate without hurting anybody, without harming anybody and, in fact, what would be rather unfortunate is the fact that our lawyer, who is still alive, able, who was chasing this money all over the world, said to us that there’s still about $1 billion to be recovered from Abacha estate but the unfortunate thing is that my successor did not do anything about it even though it was in my handing over note”.
While speaking on the role of the Security Chiefs on the postponement of the elections, Obasanjo said: “That is what I said; it was strange to me; it wasn’t the duty and responsibility of Security Chiefs and Service Chiefs to tell INEC, ‘we are not in the position to provide security for you’ because it is their job. When they have failed, they can as well go home, their job is to maitain law and order and provide security at any time, at any place, they said they could not do it, they have failed”.
On the Boko Haram insurgency as excuse for the elections postponement, the former President said, “You can give any excuse or you can rationalise anything. Boko Haram has been with us since 2009 and now if we said what we have not been able to achieve since 2009 would be achieved in six weeks, all I would say is that God is a God of miracle. God can do anything”.
On the alleged plot to remove the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, Obasanjo said: “I think the President, in his media chat, has dispelled that rumour but, of course, I know the President very well, but I want to believe him and believe what I see not what I hear”.
“I believe that after Jega has been boxed to a corner, he had no choice but to accept the fait accompli and postponed the election. And I believe that like I have said before, it is unfortunate because in the past, this same Jega had changed the date of election when he found it that it was not suitable. So it is the duty, responsibility, function and jurisdiction of INEC to determine whether the situation allows or does not allow them to go on with the election. Nobody should either twist their arms, blackmail them or force them”.
Obasanjo added: “I appeal to President Jonathan again not to listen to those creating phobia, phobia of Buhari, phobia of enquiry and all that. President Jonathan has done well to the best of his ability and he has made history as the first elected Nigerian from a minority tribe and nobody can take that away from him. He can even make a second history; if it turns out that way, if he contests a fair, free and transparent election and if he loses, she should have a dignified decent and a dignified exit. He will be on the mountain top and he would be acclaimed as a true patriot and a true democrat. What stops him from doing this?”
President fires back: ‘Allegations baseless, absurd!’
Meanwhile, Jonathan, through the Presidential Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, last night, described Obasanjo’s claims as repugnant.
Jonathan’s statement read: “We find the false claims and allegations reportedly made against President Goodluck Jonathan by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday in Abeokuta very odious and repugnant.
“As we have had cause to say before, it is most regrettable indeed that a man like Chief Obasanjo, who should know better, chooses to repeatedly, wantonly, and maliciously impugn the integrity of a sitting President of his country for the primary purpose of self-promotion.
“It is obvious from Chief Obasanjo’s serial vituperations against President Jonathan who is doing his best to positively transform Nigeria for the benefit of all of its people that he has willfully chosen to close his eyes to the present administration’s good works and intentions. For reasons best known to him, Chief Obasanjo has set his mind on regime change by fair or foul means.
“Otherwise, it would be completely senseless, irrational and out of place for Chief Obasanjo, who still claims to belong to the same party as the President, to accuse President Jonathan of plotting to win the rescheduled presidential elections by “hook or crook” and planning to plunge the nation into crisis if he loses the election. For the record, President Jonathan has no such intention and will continue to give the greatest possible support to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other relevant federal agencies to ensure that the rescheduled elections are successfully conducted.
“Indeed, it is not President Jonathan who remains faithful to his oath of office who is trying to plunge Nigeria into crisis, but Chief Obasanjo who is scheming to plunge the country into chaos in pursuit of a selfish and highly egocentric agenda.
“Chief Obasanjo’s plot with others within and outside the country to thwart the general elections and foist an unconstitutional Interim National Government, which he hopes to head on the nation is well known to us, but by the Grace of God Almighty, his odious plan to return to power through the back door will fail woefully.
“We know very well that it is in pursuit of this nefarious plot that the former President continues to sow the seeds of discord and crises in the polity by purporting to remain in the ruling party while openly consorting with the opposition, endorsing its candidates and predicting victory for opposition candidates in a manner most unbecoming of a supposed elder statesman.
Thankfully, the vast majority of Nigerians who are patriotic and right-thinking cannot be fooled by Chief Obasanjo’s antics.
“We urge them to be assured that President Jonathan’s commitment to democracy in all its ramifications remains constant and that he will never be party to the use of any unlawful means to remain in office or gain political advantage over his opponents.
“The President stands by his commitment, which he reaffirmed on national television last Wednesday that on his watch, all elections in Nigeria, will be free, fair and credible, and that all certified election results will be respected.
“As President Jonathan has also assured the nation, the rescheduling of the general elections was in the best interest of the nation and was never driven by any ulterior motive on the part of government as Chief Obasanjo and others have alleged.
“President Jonathan will continue to put his best efforts into giving Nigeria quality leadership and will not be distracted from his purpose by unwarranted and needless criticism by persons who ought to know better.
“The President also continues to trust in the good judgment of Nigerians and to believe that in appreciation of his sincere efforts to move the country forward over the past four years, they will re-elect him for a second term on March 28, 2015 with a mandate to pursue his agenda for national transformation to a successful conclusion”.
The PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation (PCO), also responded, saying the decision to postpone the elections was INEC’s and not the President’s.
“It is most uncharitable and unfair for him to suggest that President Jonathan wishes to remain in power by hook or by crook because that is not the nature of”, the PCO statement by the Director of Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said. “It is even worse for him to compare him to President Laurent Gbagbo. To Jonathan, politics is not a matter of do or die and President Obasanjo knows this more than anyone else. We will respond to President Obasanjo in full at the appropriate time but the truth is that we will not allow him or anyone else to distract us from the task that lies ahead. We have an election to fight and to win and that remains our primary focus. We reject President Obasanjo’s very serious and grave allegations and we are not in the least bit disturbed by them because we know that they have no basis in truth, rationality or reason.
The days of anyone attempting to rule by proxy or through surrogates are long over because we have all come of age”.