The Presidency on Monday slammed former President Olusegun Obasanjo for describing the seven years of the President, Muhammadu Buhari in office as horrible and hell on earth for Nigerians.
It described Obasanjo’s government as corrupt, adding that the former leader was morally bankrupt.
The Presidency, which listed Obasanjo’s sins in office, also accused him of lying to the South-East to garner votes during his tenure between 1999 and 2007.
The elder statesman stirred the hornet’s nest on Sunday with his criticism of the Buhari regime, noting that the nation was currently faced with pervasive and mind-numbing insecurity, rudderless leadership, mismanagement of diversity and pervasive corruption and bad economic policies, which he said had resulted in extremes of poverty and massive unemployment and galloping inflation.
Obasanjo’s endorsement of the Labour Party standard bearer, Peter Obi, in a lengthy New Year message also provoked the All Progressives Congress, Peoples Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance and African Action Alliance, which dismissed his support for Obi as of little political value.
But responding to the blistering attacks on Buhari in a statement on Monday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu said the Owu chief “won’t stop being jealous of anyone who beats him to a new record in the nation’s development process,’’ noting that Buhari is ahead of Obasanjo in all fields of national development.
This, he said, is a cardinal sin to the ex-president.
In the statement titled, ‘Morally squalid Obasanjo attacks leaders out of frustration,’ Shehu said, “Former President Obasanjo is so well known to all that no one needs to describe who he is. But four things we will like to say: One is that he will not stop attacking President Muhammadu Buhari because the former President won’t stop being jealous of anyone who beats him to a new record in the nation’s development process.
“President Buhari is ahead of Chief Obasanjo in all fields of national development and to do that is a cardinal sin to Obasanjo, whose hallucinations tell him that he is the best ever to lead Nigeria and there will never be another one better than him.
“President Buhari just completed the world-class edifice that is the Second Niger Bridge after three decades of failed promises. It is now awaiting commissioning. Obasanjo laid the sod for the bridge in his first term as elected President and work never started.
“When he sought re-election for his second term in office, he returned to the site to turn the sod for the bridge the second time. When the Obi of Onitsha, forthright and scholarly, reminded him that he had done this in the past, Obasanjo told the foremost South-East traditional ruler that he was a liar, in the full presence of the chiefs and oracles in his palace.’’
The presidential aide said the former President failed to build the Second Niger Bridge despite turning the sod twice.
“Obasanjo lied to the South-East to get their votes. President Buhari didn’t get their votes but built the bridge because he believed it is the right thing to do,’’ Garba declared.
The SSA further bragged that his principal had bagged several awards and encomiums for not attempting to go beyond the maximum two terms in office as stipulated by the Constitution.
He said, “President Buhari has been stating and restating that he will supervise a better election than the one that brought him to office and to leave as and when due. Having tried tenure elongation and failed, Obasanjo’s fictitious mind must be telling him that he is the one under attack.
“But he is not on President Buhari’s radar because experience has shown, especially lately in West Africa where there have been at least three successful coups and many other failed attempts, that third term or tenure elongation is a recipe for political instability.
“Furthermore, the totality of African leaders appointed President Buhari the Anti-Corruption Champion of the continent. You can’t be an anti-corruption champion if ‘you meddled and bent the rules,’ carrying the putrid responsibility of what happened to national assets in the name of privatisation as documented by the Nigerian Senate in 2011.’’
Under the Obasanjo administration, the Presidency alleged that the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria and Delta Steel were undervalued and sold well below their market prices.
“As an insight, the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, which was set up with $3.2bn, was sold to a Russian firm, Russal, for a paltry $130m. Delta Steel, which was set up in 2005, at a cost of $1.5bn, was sold to Global Infrastructure for just $30m. ALSCON got back $120m for the dredging of the Imo River, which was never carried out,’’ the statement added.
Touting Buhari’s profile as ‘the Champion of Democracy’ not only in Nigeria but across the African continent, the Presidency castigated Obasanjo for allegedly destabilising internal democracy “by orchestrating impeachment after impeachment of governors who were not compliant with his highly imperial administration.’’
It stated, “As we said sometime back, Mr Obasanjo’s tenure, 1999-2007, represented the dark days of Nigeria’s democracy due to a slew of assaults on the constitution.
“The former president deployed federal machinery to remove governors Joshua Dariye, Rashidi Ladoja, Peter Obi, Chris Ngige and Ayo Fayose from office. They were the then governors of Plateau, Oyo, Anambra, Anambra and Ekiti states, respectively, unjustly removed using the police and secret service under his control.
“Under him, a five-man legislature met at 6 am and ‘impeached’ Governor Dariye in Plateau; 18 members out of 32 removed Governor Ladoja of Oyo from office; in Anambra, APGA’s Governor Obi was equally impeached at 5:00 a.m. by members who did not meet the two-thirds required by the constitution.
“Lawmaking powers of the Rivers State legislature were transferred to the federal parliament to punish Governor Amaechi for shifting his political alliance.
“Moreover, he damned the Supreme Court and unlawfully held back Lagos State revenues due from federal sources on account of his pettiness against Governor Bola Tinubu.
“On the other hand, in Washington a few weeks ago, the US President Joe Biden at a meeting with African Heads of States and Government, described President Buhari as a champion of democracy and role model for the leaders of African states. Clearly, Obasanjo has become even more jealous by adopting a vengeful attitude.’’
Also unsparing in his attacks on the ex-president for endorsing the LP presidential candidate, the Spokesman of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Daniel Bwala accused him of seeking ‘a third term’ by proxy.
In a statement on Monday, Bwala said, “Nigerians would decide, and this they would do, not on the basis of a letter by a man seeking a third term by proxy, but by their own assessment of who amongst the candidates presents the case they believe warrant their votes.’’
According to him, other former presidents were minding their businesses whilst playing the role of fathers of the nation, peace-builders, adding that “none is so domineering, controlling and meddling with the affairs of the nation like Obasanjo.’’
He berated the ex-military head of state for writing scathing letters to all his predecessors, from ex-president Goodluck Jonathan to Buhari.
“When was the last time we saw him visiting victims of a natural disaster? Or playing the role needed of a father of the nation that he so passionately claims,’’ Bwala queried.
Joining the attacks on the Octogenarian, the Adviser, Media, Communications and Public Affairs of the Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Dele Alake, claimed the ex-president has no moral compass to lecture any citizen on leadership “with his notorious antecedents in Nigeria’s political history.’’
He said Obasanjo might be plotting for an interim government, adding that the ex-president was a hypocrite.
While describing the former head of state’s open endorsement as preposterous, Alake also blamed him for the abolition of history from the school curriculum.
He said, “It is laughable that Obasanjo has the temerity to deem himself qualified to lecture Nigerians on who to elect as a leader. Throughout his political trajectory in public life, he has unfailingly demonstrated gross incompetence in this regard.
“In 1979, his military regime was designed to produce the weakest leadership in a political terrain that had such proven leadership talents as Adamu Ciroma, Aminu Kano, Maitama Sule, Waziri Ibrahim, Nnamdi Azikiwe or Obafemi Awolowo, among others.
“In 2007, after his two-term tenure and the failure of his third term agenda, he influenced the emergence of two PDP successors who failed partly because of the weak institutional foundation he had laid and partly because of their own limitations.
“In endorsing Obi, Obasanjo resorted to verbose and nebulous generalities without telling Nigerians in concrete terms what were his preferred candidate’s track record of performance as governor in Anambra state.”
In the statement entitled, ‘My Appeal To All Nigerians, Particularly Young Nigerians,’ the former Lagos State commissioner for information and strategy berated Obasanjo for plumbing what he called ‘new depth in hubris and hypocrisy never seen in all his career as ‘political busybody.’
The APC PCC media adviser said the former president sees Nigeria as a movie where only he is the all-conquering hero while others are doomed villains.
Efforts to get the response of Obasanjo’s media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, did not succeed as he neither picked calls to his phone nor responded to an SM S sent to him.
However, rising to the defence of the ex-General, the Spokesman for the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, said he found the barrage of attacks from the APC and PDP ridiculous because the two parties had been chasing Obasanjo for endorsement in the last three months.
He said, “If Obasanjo has no electoral value, why are they all running after him? Why did ‘Emi lo kan’ and Atiku, who he has always been accused of corruption, visit him?
“The truth is that Obasanjo appeals a lot to the largest demography in our electoral system, which is the Nigerian youth. The former president also said it clearly that the letter he wrote to the Nigerian people was specifically directed to the youth, saying it is their time now to decide. He wanted them to take the bull by the horn and fight for their survival as a people.
“That’s why they are all jittery. For the first time, that particular demography is now coming into recognition and as a determinant factor in who becomes the president of Nigeria.
“Obasanjo also used the opportunity to give a pass mark to Obi using the narrative of track record, vision, character and physical attributes that none of them, except Obi, has. One is a tax collector; the other has stolen Nigeria’s properties for himself and his family.”
Tanko’s view was also shared by the National Secretary of the Labour Party, Umar Farouk, who described the ex-president as an international figure who is respected globally.
According to him, Obasanjo has never hidden his disgust for the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, and his counterpart in the PDP, Atiku Abubakar.
He added, “Expectedly, President Obasanjo is someone who is known to be an advocate of peace and a nation-builder. He has indeed proven to the world and the international community that our presidential candidate is one of the best.
“Therefore, I think Obasanjo’s endorsement is a step in the right direction. Beyond that, the castigation of his former vice president, that he is not trustworthy, indicated that Nigerians should follow Obasanjo’s recommendation by supporting our candidate.
“It has been proven that none of these people contesting against Obi can really deliver Nigeria. Is it Tinubu or Atiku? We have seen what they can do.’’
“Tinubu is a leader of APC and we know 70 per cent of Buhari’s cabinet is from Tinubu. What has he done for the betterment of Nigerians? Atiku as VP has been virtually in charge of Obasanjo’s administration and sales of Nigerian assets for eight years. That’s the only thing he can talk about after all these fraudulent sales of the country’s assets. But Nigerians know better.’’
Commending the ex-president, the Movement for Election of Nigeria President of Igbo Extraction, argued that his position showed that he stood on the path of justice, fairness and equity as far as the 2023 presidential election is concerned, noting that Obi remains the best candidate for the presidency.
The group in a statement signed by its Chairman and National Convener, Mr Vincent Ezekwueme and Prof. Justice Chidi, respectively, called on the youths to vote massively for Obi.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Writers Association has described those against Obasanjo’s endorsement of the LP standard bearer as anarchists.
The group’s chairman, Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement contended that any politician or presidential candidate against Obi’s endorsement was not a genuine democrat, adding that democrats were guided by tenets of fundamental freedoms, enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Weighing in on the controversy generated by Obasanjo’s statement, a spokesman for the PDP PCC, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said the party was not bothered by his support for Obi.
He said that while the party would have loved to have the endorsement of the elder statesman like he did in 2019, the PDP was comfortable with the numerous endorsements from Nigerians across the country.
Aniagwu, who is also the Delta State Commissioner for Information, stated this in Asaba on Monday.
He said the party would not begrudge Obasanjo over his choice of Obi, but would rather intensify engagements with relevant stakeholders across the country.
He stated, “Obasanjo is one leader that enjoys respect across the country but the party is quite happy with the endorsements it has received from Nigerians which could be seen from the different rallies held thus far.”