*My life under threat, OBJ cries out,
..Says ‘Buhari wants to detain me indefinitely’
*Don’t try it – Atiku Abubakar warns
*It will be final bus-stop for Buhari – Ezeife
*It confirms our allegations – PDP
*We’ll not be distracted — FG
By Emmanuel Aziken, Dapo Akinrefon, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Dennis Agbo, Marie-Therese Nanlong, Dirisu Yakubu
Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has cried out that his life was under threat as there was a plot by Buhari-led government to implicate and eventually prosecute him in order to silence him over his opposition against the government. Obasanjo, in a statement issued by his media aide Kehinde Akinyemi in Abeokuta on Friday said he got the hint through impeccable security sources and that the security of his life cannot be guaranted.
President Olusegun Obasanjo’s allegations resonated loudly across the polity yesterday with strong reactions from across the country.
While the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP affirmed that the reported plot confirmed its stance of the machinations of the Buhari administration, the civil society umbrella group, Transition Monitoring Group said Obasanjo, like every other Nigerian, was not above the law and should be tried whenever he is indicted over a crime.
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar in a strongly worded statement warned against aggravating the situation in the country with the arrest of Obasanjo who he described as a historical figure in the emergence of the country’s democracy. A strong loyalist of Buhari’s Mr. Osita Okechukwu, the director-general of the Voice of Nigeria, VON in a subtle dig at Obasanjo dismissed the threat saying that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
Obasanjo had in the press statement alleged a plot garnered from high level security officials to frame him over yet unknown financial scam and use that as justification to put him out of circulation in the light of his opposition to what he described as Buhari’s incompetent rule.
Affirming that he had in the past been subjected to rigorous investigations without blemish by the country’s anti-crime agencies, Obasanjo said he was again ready to subject himself to an independent investigation even as he alleged that those after him did not mind harming his life.
Affirming he was ready to pay the supreme price in principled objection to the antics of the Buhari administration, the Obasanjo statement read:
“Since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo declared in his State-of-the-Nation Special Statement on January 23, 2018, the desperation to frustrate, intimidate and blackmail him into abandoning his divine mandate to protect the rights of the people to better life and living continued unabated and has even taken a bizarre dimension. “Impeccable security sources have alleged Chief Obasanjo’s name is on their Watch List and that the security of his life cannot be guaranteed.
“According to these informants, many of who are in the top echelon of the Nation’s security management and close to the corridors of power, the operatives are daily perfecting how to curtail the personal liberties of the former President and hang a crime on him.
“Ordinarily, we would not have dignified these reports with a response but for the fact that many of these informants are not known for flippant and frivolous talks. Secondly, this Government has demonstrably exhibited apathy, and in some cases, encouraged by its conduct, daily loss of lives and property in many States of the country, the office cannot be indifferent.
“We are currently in a nation where the Number Three citizen is currently being harangued and the Number Four citizen is facing similar threat within the same Government they serve. There is a groundswell of our nationals that live in fear that they could be hounded, harassed, maimed or even killed as the battle for 2019 takes this worrisome dimension.
“For Chief Obasanjo, this is a joke carried too far and being someone who do not act on unofficial information, he had cautioned all informants and adopted a wait-and-see attitude to the bestial propositions allegedly being contemplated to cow, cage and embarrass him.
“The content of the alleged beastly designs, it was learnt are two-fold for now. One, to seize his International Passport and clamp him into detention indefinitely, in order to prevent him from further expressing angst on the pervasive mediocrity in the quality of governance, economic management and in the protection of lives and property by the Government. But, since that could expose the Government to a swath of international condemnation, embarrassment and outrage, it is said that another plot being hatched is to cause the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to re-open investigation into the activities of Chief Obasanjo’s administration using false witnesses and documents. This will be a re-enactment of the Abacha era in which Chief Obasanjo was one of the principal victims.
“The same EFCC that had conducted a clinical investigation on the activities of Obasanjo in and out of Government, it was said, would now be made to stand down the existing report that gave Chief Obasanjo a clean bill of health on the probes are now to get him indicted, fair or foul for possible prosecution and persecution like it is being done to real and perceived opponents, enemies and critics of this Government. Dissent is a fundamental principle on which liberal democracy is predicated. A true democrat must be ready to live with and accommodate dissent and opposition.
“While it is regrettable how the Government has sunk in its shameless desperation to cow opposition, a resort to blackmail, despotism and Gestapo-tactics being employed by the goons of this Government would not hold water. And no government ever remains in power forever.
“For the record, Chief Obasanjo reiterates his readiness to face probe again after that of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the ICPC, and the EFCC, but before an independent, objective and credible panel of enquiry to account for his stewardship in Government and beyond. Chief Obasanjo reiterates that he has taken a principled position to ensure that the ship of the Nigerian State does not capsize and he remains steadfast in his resolve to turn the tide of maladministration, poor economic management and rudderless governance model that has tore Nigerians apart on account of religion and ethnicity which is a great threat to our democracy.
“We would like the Government and its supporters to understand that no amount of campaign of calumny, no matter how well contrived, orchestrated or marketed would deter Chief Obasanjo from calling a spade by its name. Chief Obasanjo is a patriot whose sole agenda is to ensure that the country’s unity, progress and democracy are not negotiated on the altar of incompetence and provincialism and mediocrity.
“It is important to point out that Chief Obasanjo is one former President and Head of State who has engaged the current administration privately and in a bilateral manner on several issues of direct interest to the government and other matters of national concern. That channel of private engagement remains open and continues. However, should there be the need for public engagement, the right to free speech will always be exercised and jealously guarded, again in the best interest of Nigeria and the government.”
Responding yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP said the claim by President Obasanjo was reflective of past allegations by the party that the Buhari government was leading a witch-hunt of its perceived enemies.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said: “The alarm by Chief Obasanjo has further shown that the PDP has not been crying wolf regarding the plots by the APC-led federal government to frame, arrest, detain and arraign political opponents of the APC, including regular Nigerians, for holding or canvassing opinions that are divergent to the interest of those in power.
“We invite Nigerians to note the travails faced by perceived opponents of Buhari Presidency including Senate President Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Senators Shehu Sani and Dino Melaye, who had raised similar alarms in the past.
“The PDP urges Nigerians to note how the APC-controlled security forces, on Wednesday, arrested and detained opposition members in Ogun state, including a member of the House of Assembly, Hon. Adebiyi Adeleye, who were going about their legitimate activities, only to tag them as cultists,” the statement read, adding that “no amount of coercion, intimidation and illegal arrests will alter the determination of Nigerians to vote out the APC in the 2019 general elections.”
Atiku Abubakar in a strong reaction warned President Buhari to rein the security agencies back. He said:
“I am disturbed by this turn of events in our dear country considering the huge price that was paid for us to have democracy.
“I wish to advice that government and its agents should retrace their steps to avoid aggravating the already over heated polity. The alert by President Obasanjo is coming against the backdrop of earlier alerts by some leaders, especially those of the opposition of deliberate and orchestrated attempt to intimidate and frame them up.
“I wish to state without equivocation that President Obasanjo is a historical figure in Nigeria’s democracy and that the primary purpose of government is to provide security of lives and property of all citizens and residents irrespective of their status, political affiliation, religious inclination and ethnic leanings.
“Our nation has lost so much precious lives and property that we can no longer afford to travel that road again. I wish to appeal to President Buhari to call the security agencies to order in order to douse the tension in the land.”
Third Republic governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife warned last night that framing Obasanjo would turn out to be a final bus stop for the President Buhari-led All Progressives Congress, APC, government.
Affirming that the administration had succeeded in pulling the Igbo down and that the same attempt would fail against Obasanjo, Ezeife warned: “Buhari will not, should not and cannot harass former President Obasanjo for his political position. There are boundaries to everything we do in life, there are boundaries.”
On what could happen if Obasanjo is arrested, he said, “It means that the system has completely broken down. They were doing it to Igbo people. Pull Igbo down. They started with Ibeto, they went to Capital Oil, they went to Innoson, then they went to all those who were importing container, their containers were being seized. “So when there were doing pull Igbo down, we only lamented but if he wants to pull Obasanjo down, he will pull himself down.”The Transition Monitoring Group, the umbrella organization for more than 400 Non Governmental Organisations, NGOs in the country speaking through its chairperson, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi said:
“This does not sound like a real threat though. However the former President has raised an issue that deserves attention, he needs to prove since he has alleged the existence of threats.
“However nobody is above the law, if he has questions to answer, the government should be free to take him up on it after all former President of South Africa was tried for corruption, so what’s is wrong in trying him? The war against corruption should have no bounds,” the TMG chairperson said. Responding, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, who served in the Obasanjo government as political adviser to the president said:
“If it is true then it means that Nigeria is once again on an imminent course towards perdition. It serves as indication of the dark political calculations and motive behind the desperate political Greek gift of retrieving the noble memory of Chief Moshood Abiola as precursor.
“It will amount to a cheap and primitive playbook of Abacha in full replay and display. For the Buhari government, the contemplation of this recourse will be seen as a logical reclaim of a direct ancestry from the Abacha dictatorship.
“But then the conspirators should realise that the Nigeria of 2018 is different from the Nigeria of 1995 and the world of 1995 is different from the contemporary millennium. I can assure you that regardless of any such intentions, it will never come to pass. It is an ill wind that would not blow anyone especially the alleged conspirators any good
Reacting to Obasanjo’s allegation, the Director General, Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu a confidant of President Buhari accused the former president of being afraid of his own shadow. Okechukwu also queried the source of what he described as the stupendous wealth allegedly gathered by Obasanjo between 1999 and now, adding that one who lives in a glass house should avoid throwing of stones.
Okechukwu said “I don’t want to work on speculation but he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones. Obasanjo is afraid of his own shadow, I don’t believe what he is saying. “There is need for Obasanjo to tell us how his wealth came about between 1999 and now. Even if monies were donated to him, he should tell us who and who did that for him.”
In his own reaction, former Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nduka Eya noted that so many high profile politicians in the country had raised such alarms including Senate President Bukola Saraki and expressed sadness that the government has been aloof on the killings across Nigeria. Eya said “They all have agenda not in the interest of Nigeria. How many Democracy Days do we now have in Nigeria. This is not governance, all that the President promised during his election, none of them have been taken care of.
“Why does the government look the other way when killings are going on? They have manipulated Benue, next will be South East and just in a matter of time, it will be Southwest. The Southwest should beware of Greek gifts, the middle belt is undergoing trauma now simply because they said they don’t want manipulation. “What Obasanjo said that Buhari is not doing well is what everyone had said,” he concluded.
The chairman of the Action Democratic Party, ADP, in Plateau State, Andrew Daman said: “Indices have indicated that that is the hallmark of Buhari’s administration that anybody that is not in his good books, he tries to frame and send to jail but those close to him and singing his praises to high heavens are protected.”
To Ishak Lawal, a Public Affairs Commentator, he said that both men given their high roles in society were “supposed to sit down and iron out whatever differences they have so that they would understand themselves without any person saying he wants to jail the other because you say something bad against me.”