By Emmanuel Aziken, Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Emman Ovuakporie, Gbenga Oke, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Omeiza Ajayi, Rotimi Ojomoyela and Ike Uchechukwu
LAGOS—Mixed reactions, yesterday, trailed the call by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on President Muhammadu Buhari to sidestep a second term bid just as campaign materials supportive of a second term for the President flooded yesterday’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council, FEC.
The campaign materials, including fez caps, were distributed to ministers by the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, to his colleagues.
Controversy, however, shadowed the move as Vanguard learned that a senior Presidency official, who is also a senior lawyer, ordered the withdrawal of the campaign materials on the claim that their use violated the electoral laws on campaigning.
Meanwhile, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in its first formal reaction to Obasanjo’s calls, admitted that both the party and its government had faced challenges but affirmed that its challenges did not necessitate the call for a third force as advocated by Obasanjo.
Dr. Obasanjo’s injunction for the formulation of a third force to wrest political power from the ruling APC and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was yesterday being promoted with covert meetings by some new political groups and parties.
The Alliance for a New Nigeria, ANN, one of the newly registered political parties promoted by some young Nigerian professionals, while welcoming the call, said it was reflective of its earlier call that both the APC and the PDP were inherently deficient to take Nigeria to the Promised Land.
Obasanjo had in a special press statement on Tuesday, called on President Buhari to sidestep calls to seek a second term on the claim that his first term had been beset with incompetence, failed expectations, corruption, and clannish tendencies.
In a seeming rejection of the counsel, Shittu, one of Buhari’s long standing political associates from the South West and who last week opened a second term campaign office for the President in Ibadan, flooded the council with campaign materials.
The fez caps had the inscription “Continuity ’19: Muhammadu Buhari/Osinbajo.”
Shittu, who reportedly was behind the production of the caps handed them over in a ‘Ghana-must-go” bag to the officers of the Cabinet Office at the Council Chamber to distribute to the ministers in attendance.
Vanguard, however, learned that the materials were subsequently ordered to be withdrawn upon the intervention of a senior lawyer in the Presidency on the fact that distributing campaign materials outside the time scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, could be seen as a contravention of the law.
However, some of the ministers may have left with the campaign souvenirs as one of the ministers confirmed going home with his.
More reactions trail Obasanjo’s advice
Dr. Obasanjo’s injunctions have continued to elicit mixed reactions from across the polity.
Among those who spoke yesterday were former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope; Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State; the Senate South East Caucus, members of the House of Representatives, Deputy Chairman, National Intervention Movement, NIM, Mr Akin Osuntokun; Dr. Jay Samuels, interim chairman of the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, Mr. Mba Ekpezu Ukweni, SAN; Action Democratic Party, ADP; All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; and the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
The APC in its response articulated by its national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said: “While we do not agree with everything the former president said, especially on his assessment of the government and our party, we note the sundry issues raised by the former president, and we assume these were made in good faith.
“As a father of the nation, we understand that the former president would feel obliged to intervene if certain things are not being done or are not being done in a particular way. However, we believe that such interventions should be for the sole purpose of improving the system and encouraging the relevant institutions to work harder in improving certain situations.
“It is for this reason that we disagree with the former president in what appears like a wholesale dismissal of the entire political system in the country. We acknowledge our challenges as a new political party, even as we believe that APC remains the best option at this time for all Nigerians who are genuinely committed to the progress and development of the country.
“We also note that there are about 72 other registered political parties in the country and the people reserve the right to support any of these. Our democracy itself is young, and hence all the parties face sundry challenges, but we have made progress since 1999, with President Obasanjo himself being a major contributor to our progress as a multi-party democracy. It is for this reason that we believe the respected former president should not give the impression that none of the political parties in the country is good enough for Nigerians and the only solution to the current challenges that we face is a completely new arrangement.
“The task of building a political party is not done overnight. Even the oldest of our political parties is still very young in comparison with advanced democracies. Our democracy, therefore, stands a better chance of becoming really strong if we allow the parties to find their identities, even if in the process they make mistakes and appear to be “wobbling.” No political party arrives fully formed.”
South East Senate Caucus
Obasanjo’s letter was wholly endorsed by the South East Senate caucus which speaking through its leader said alleged acts of nepotism on the part of the president had been serially alleged against the administration.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja, Leader of the Caucus, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South, said the caucus had warned against the danger of “the nepotic nature of the administration, but unfortunately many Nigerians looked the other way.
“No one should be surprised over what is happening or the shape of the political appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari. To be fair to him, the President made himself clear during his state visit to the United States of America, with his now unfortunate theory of 95 per cent and 5 per cent reward for support.
“The whole thing has come to bear negatively on the entire country, and everybody is now shouting, but we predicted what is going on. It could be the style of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). That is to say, that the party may have chosen as a style, to run a government that encourages alienation of a sizeable portion of its people, as well as one that promotes exclusivity.
The Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, APC, Kano strongly condemned Obasanjo’s intervention, saying he lacked the moral fibre to make such a suggestion.
He said: “It’s also pertinent to note that the former president lacks the moral and political credibility to even speak in the way he is doing on the political affairs of our country.
Rep Kingsley Chinda, PDP, Rivers on his part urged President Buhari to rethink his 2019 aspiration even as he asserted that Obasanjo was not the best person to convey the message.
“The president should have a rethink towards those who are calling that he should run for 2019. I don’t think they are his friends; life should take precedence over public office or another activity because if you are not alive, you cannot serve the people.
“It is clear that the president has some health issues but by the grace of God he is getting better but I think that he deserves some rest. Even at his age one should think of retirement. I believe he has played his part and at this juncture, it is better to exit when the ovation is highest.
“I don’t think this position should come from Obasanjo, he has also had his own fair opportunity as a military leader and a civilian president for eight years. What impact did he leave?
“And what changes did he make as he had the opportunity to turn this country around? But he did nothing.
Rep. Sergius Oseasochie Ogun (Edo-PDP) on his part, called on retired generals to leave the political space even as he said the call for a third force was against the move to deepen democracy in the country.
“All the retired Generals should remain retired and remain in their villages for good because they are turning back the hand of the clock.
“If not, from where are you going to bring people into the platform?
“We Nigerians are not imbeciles; the generals should remain at the hilltops and allow the younger generation do their thing.
Also speaking, Rep. Mohammed Onawo (Nasarawa-PDP) said the onus on a second term lies with Buhari.
“The onus is on Buhari to make his decision. There is an adage that says he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. It is his health, he knows how he is faring and not what people say. He should go back to his room and think about what people are saying because the buck stops at his table.”
Alliance for New Nigeria
Meanwhile, the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, one of the newly registered political parties, has said the letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Buhari is a vindication of the state of the polity.
The interim national chairman of the party, Dr. Jay Samuels in a statement said the alliance of professionals and non-professional politicians being put by the new party was the antidote as spoken by Obasanjo.
“In our analysis of the political space, it became obvious that if things had continued without the emergence of a party like ANN and now the ex-president’s letter, Nigeria would have been in dire straits in 2019 as the two currently dominant parties, APC and PDP have all but lost direction. This is an opportunity for all Nigerians irrespective of religion or tribe to be politically involved and play their role in the enthronement of good governance that is responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of the average Nigerian.”
We’ll soon meet with Obasanjo – Osuntokun
Saluting Obasanjo for the letter, one of the leaders of the National Intervention Movement, NIM, a group that is spearheading the push for a third force in the country, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, said the movement would be having a strategic meeting with the former President soon.
Agreeing that a third force is absolutely indispensable, he said: “He (Obasanjo) has responded in the manner that only those who have a strategic understanding of Nigerian politics can do. One of the chords in the letter that struck me most was the surprise that he would never have associated President Buhari with some of the conspicuous lapses he has exhibited-what he calls Buhari’s ‘condonation if not outright complicity in corruption.’ But to be fair to Buhari, the dysfunction of Nigeria’s constitutional status quo has the capacity to overwhelm any occupant of that office. And Buhari’s failure is a powerful testimony to the indispensability of restructuring that we continue to advocate.”
Obasanjo is justified… — Babatope
Former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said Obasanjo was justified over all he said but he should leave the PDP out of Buhari’s failure.
“Obasanjo has every right to say whatever he wants concerning the administration of President Buhari, the only aspect I find offensive is when he starts castigating my party, the PDP. He can continue to attack this administration as long as he wants, but he should stop commenting continually on our party. It will no longer be tolerated.”
Your letter is belated, self-serving, Fayose blasts Obasanjo
Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, described Obasanjo’s letter as belated and self-serving.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Idowu Adelusi, yesterday, Fayose said: “It is a face-saving letter after Obasanjo, who led the cabals that imposed Buhari, had seen that Nigerians have turned back from following the president. Damning as the Obasanjo letter was and although it makes some sense, the writer is not deserving of the letter.
‘’Obasanjo is not the right person to write that letter. He was the leader of those who deceived Nigerians and lied to the international community to support Buhari. Nigerians have already made up their minds to show Buhari the exit next year with or without Obasanjo’s self-serving letter. So, Obasanjo should not take the credit. He should not reap where he has not sown.
“Nevertheless, President Buhari should heed ex-President Obasanjo’s advice and go home and rest. President Buhari has overstayed his welcome. Obasanjo, himself, should heed his own advice to Buhari by also going home to rest.”
Obasanjo’s views have vindicated us – IPOB
The Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, on its part, said Obasanjo’s statement has vindicated its stance against President Buhari and ‘’carefully timed to deliver a devastating blow to some Igbo leaders who have endorsed the president for second term.
In a statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful, IPOB said: ‘’We support Obasanjo for his timely intervention because at a time of national crisis and with people losing their lives all across the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria, anybody discussing partisan politics under such an atmosphere of mass misery is not fit to be regarded as a human being talk less a leader.
‘’What Obasanjo said is the clearest endorsement of the philosophy of our leader and prophet of our time Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, that the only way to rein in a dictatorship is by confronting it head-on with the truth. Obasanjo has spoken the truth and should be applauded for it.”
Those hungry and insatiable APC yes men that visited Aso Rock to endorse Buhari for 2019 under the banner of Igbo leaders should all cover their collective faces in shame. Buhari has nothing to offer apart from misery and premature death.”