By Emmanuel Aziken, Dapo Akinrefon, Simon Ebegbulem, Festus Ahon, Gbenga Oke, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Omeiza Ajayi
High profile Nigerians were, yesterday, dodging from publicly exposing themselves to the latest war of words between the Muhammadu Buhari administration and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
While several contacted on the issue begged to be excused from publicly commenting, there were, however, a few who took strong positions with either of the two former generals. Yet a few others like Chief Olabode George, who claimed to have served under the two men in the military, said that Obasanjo and Buhari were patriots who should not allow political differences to cloud their services to the country.
Obasanjo had, on Friday, alleged a plot by the Buhari administration to frame him, saying top security officials had confided in him of the plot to implicate him by hook or crook in the same way he said top operatives of the Federal Government, like Senate President Bukola Saraki and others not politically favoured by Buhari, were being hounded.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a riposte, dismissed Obasanjo’s claim as he accused the former president of seeking attention.
Several prominent Nigerians contacted, yesterday, begged to be excused with several saying that they had mutual relationships with the two generals.
Don’t take OBJ serious —Ahamba
Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN, a former counsel to Buhari, who was one of those who responded, advised Nigerians not to take Obasanjo serious as he accused him of playing gimmick to redeem what he described as his battered image.
Charging the former President to go and enjoy his retirement, Ahamba said: “Nigerians should be wise enough to stop listening to Obasanjo. I don’t believe him.
“People don’t know that Obasanjo has been trying to clean up his image since his third term bid failed. It is Obasanjo who caused the failure of Jonathan by tearing the PDP card, the PDP that gave him ticket. Even if there is a quarrel, for him to come on air and tear the PDP card shows you the type of human being that he is”.
It is frivolous – Itse Sagay
Speaking in the same vein, Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Anti-Corruption, said: “I think it is frivolous, there is no basis for it whatsoever. I just think it is irrelevant, nobody seems to be giving him attention and the only way is for him to make noise to draw attention to himself, otherwise it is frivolous. What is the interest of this government incarcerating him or silencing him?”
It’s a face-off to stay away from — Makarfi
Reacting, a former governor of Kaduna State and a PDP presidential contender, Senator Makarfi, simply said, “It’s a face-off I will rather keep away from.”
Obasanjo lacks moral right to criticize |Buhari —General Idada Ikponmwen
A former Provost Marshal of the Nigeria Army, Brig. Gen. Idada Ikponmwen, on his part, said Obasanjo lacked the moral right to criticize Buhari, challenging him to provide evidence on the alleged threat to his life.
“My worry is that you need to stand on a high moral ground to be able to say some of the things that Obasanjo is saying”, Ikponmwen said.
“He will continue to think that he is the one that will continue to give us President from term to term, unless he says this man is good, Nigerians should accept him or not; that is absolutely wrong.
“He does not have that moral ground to canvass what he is canvassing. Buhari has a right to contest election, it is his constitutional right, the next thing is what do Nigerians feel about it”.
We are back to military regime — Adebanjo
Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo ,said: “That will be unfortunate because that was what we experienced during the Abacha regime. Those of us who have been talking about Buhari not being a civilian have been vindicated. This is unfortunate.
“People are being killed and you have nothing to say to that and those condemning your administration, you want to silence them, then we are back to military regime. It is unfortunate. Just as Abacha did it to Obasanjo, he wants to do it to Obasanjo. God save Nigeria.”
Sheathe swords — Bode George
Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chieftain, Chief Olabode George, in his comment, asked the former President and the incumbent to sheath their swords.
“I have read Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s statement about the threat to his life with natural concern. I have also read the Presidency’s rejoinder which implied that there is nothing sinister in their motives”, George said.
“Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is a man of towering distinction and excellence who ruled this country both as a military Head of State and as a civilian President. He is an international figure who is motivated by patriotic fixity.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is equally a patriot, a gentleman and officer whose totality of vision is about the growth and welfare of our commonwealth.
“As a military man, I know these senior officers very well. I have worked at close quarters with the two of them. I have no doubt about their selfless commitments to our nation.
“I am appealing to the two personages as a junior officer to sheath their swords and resolve their differences behind the curtain. That is the military style. We don’t wash our dirty linens in the open”.
It could be scare mongering—Olawale Oshun, ARG leader
Chairman of the Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, Mr Wale Oshun, said: “I am not in a position to comment on the veracity of the claim. He is the one who made the claim. It could be scare mongering . It will be difficult for an ordinary person to pass any comment on it. The people in government have denied based on what they know as truth and it is only Obasanjo that made such claim based on what he knows as the truth.”
It can create political tension ahead of 2019 – Opara
Reacting to the face-off, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Austin Opara, said the fight between both men was unhealthy for the country.
His words, “What is happening between President Buhari and Ex President Obasanjo is very unhealthy and will heighten the political tension as we approach 2019 elections. The President must do everything possible to douse the tension in the land.”
Both men should show maturity —Babatope
Former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said, “I wish both of them well but where two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers. Both men should show maturity. Obasanjo should show credibility while Buhari should not play dirty politics because of what is going on. Buhari should also show respect to Obasanjo, being a former President”.
Legal system will not allow persecution —Rafsanjani
Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, Executive Director of the Civil Society Advocacy and Legislative Centre, CISLAC, in his response, said:
“If he (Obasanjo) has not done anything against the law, the government cannot afford to mess him up. The legal system will not allow any unfair charges against him unless he knows that he has some corruption or criminal issues against the people of Nigeria.”
Claims not new – Ex-ACF spokesman
On his part, a former spokesman for the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Elder Anthony Sani, said Obasanjo’s claims were not new.
While he conceded that Buhari does not appear as someone who would frame an opponent, Sani was of the opinion that Obasanjo should not be worried about the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, re-investigating him, if he feels he is clean.
“As regards the allegations by former President Obasanjo against the regime of President Buhari being accused of framing him up and targeting him, I believe if he has such evidence, he should make it known. But I have my own doubts in the sense that President Buhari does not appear to me as someone who can do that to a political opponent.
“I also believe if the former President is clean, he has nothing to fear about any probe by the EFCC or any anti-graft agency a thousand times”.
The Nigeria National Interest, a political advocacy group, believed to have strong links to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, in a strongly worded statement flayed the Buhari administration for allegedly seeking to hound the opposition out of the country.
The group, in a statement issued by its Drector-General, Osas Alile, and made available to Sunday Vanguard, said: “Watchers of the Buhari administration have reason to believe that indeed such a devilish and sinister agenda may just be in the plan of the government for the list of all their Gestapo and desperate actions abound.
“Is this not a government that just a few days ago attempted to rope the Senate President Bukola Saraki with murder, going to the absurd level of accusing him via a press conference all in a bid to continue the insensitive agenda of shaming all Nigerians with opposing views to the government?
“Is it not this same Buhari government that has focused its anti-corruption fight against opposition members and those who hold opposing views?
“Is it not this Buhari led administration that has practically divided the country into ethnic cleavages with its clannish and parochial tendencies that have seen family members and cronies take over the running of the seat of government?
“Nothing can be put past this government and therefore if President Obasanjo raises an alarm, the nation will do well to be extremely vigilant and keep a close watch on the Buhari government and its operators”.