All may truly not be well between former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan. No one says the things he said about GEJ at a recent public forum in Warri unless there is a war (cold or hot) between them.
He basically called Jonathan a "weak" leader. More than that, he called himself a "strong" president while he was in power. He justified it by recalling how he sent soldiers to level Odi in Bayelsa State when nineteen security troops were murdered by armed militants.
He also blamed Nigerians for electing GEJ, saying that without their votes Jonathan would not be in power. I want to look into these two issues because as a chronicler of Nigeria's current affairs (which become history as time goes on) I am familiar with them.
I am also very familiar with Obasanjo's place in Nigeria's history and his never-ending efforts to whitewash his records as a two-time leader of this country while putting others who have occupied that position in bad light.
The only leader of Nigeria (both serving and erstwhile) that Obasanjo speaks of in glowing terms is the late General Murtala Mohammed.
Mohammed probably earned that special place in Obasanjo's heart because his death made Obasanjo a head of state. Add Abdulsalami Abubakar. He released OBJ from prison, pardoned him, and made him an elected president.
GEJ is not the first leader Obasanjo is bad-mouthing while in office. In fact, Gen. Sani Abacha nearly sent him to a firing squad for his busy-body activities interpreted as "concealment" of coup plot in 1995.
We must not allow Obasanjo to twist our history. We know how GEJ emerged as president of Nigeria. He was imposed on the nation by Obasanjo. There was no way GEJ would have been president if Obasanjo had allowed Nigerians to choose. Jonathan would probably be serving out his second term in office as Governor of Bayelsa State.
Even that would have been a gift by Obasanjo who got Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha impeached "for corruption", though political pundits said the real reason was Alams' support for Obasanjo's Vice President, Atiku Abubakar with whom OBJ was locked in mortal political combat.
If Obasanjo had allowed Nigerians to pick, they would have had to choose between Dr. Peter Odili (who had emerged as the front contender for the People's Democratic Party (PDP) flag and All Nigerian People's Party's (ANPP) candidate, Gen. Buhari.
Obasanjo personally hand-picked terminally ailing Katsina Governor, Yar' Adua, and dovish Bayelsa Governor, GEJ. He brought them to Aso Villa and paraded them before television cameras as the presidential candidate and running mate of the PDP.
The do-or-die 'candidates'
Not only that, he announced to his party and the nation that the election of his successor was for him a do-or-die affair. He campaigned fanatically for Yar'Adua/Jonathan and got them elected.
A few months down the line he was on the streets denigrating Yar'Adua but he was not brazen about it as he is with GEJ. Yar' Adua had reversed some of the give-away privatisation exercises from which OBJ and his acolytes had sumptuously benefited.
When Yar'Adua's recovery became hopeless, OBJ started the whispering that GEJ should be empowered as full President. OBJ was one of the first to urge Jonathan to run for president as from June 2010. He was part of GEJ's campaigns until he was elected in April 2011.
Nigeria's presidency is one of the most powerful offices in the world in that it (rather than the people) decides who occupies the highest office in the land (and other high offices). It was that power that made the emergence of Obasanjo, Yar'Adua and GEJ possible.
It is that power that will make Jonathan president for a second term in 2015, unless a major shift of paradigm in the political behaviour of Nigerians takes place. For now, the Nigerian people only queue up to confirm what the presidency has already worked out.
OBJ's tongue in cheek
It is one of Obasanjo's classical hypocrisies to put the blame of GEJ's election on the Nigerian electorate. He knows he is not speaking the whole truth. That is Obasanjo the only saint in action.
But on the issue of President Jonathan mismanaging the Boko Haram uprising, I agree. Lack of decisive action allowed a rag-tag band of gunmen to balloon to a full-fledged terrorist organisation able to assemble explosives and carry out suicide bombings. Obasanjo and Yar' Adua as presidents gave people reasons to fear them. Even on his sick bed, Yar' Adua's aura hung over Abuja and the nation, same as the dead body of Josef Stalin hung over the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) for months before it was officially announced. Obasanjo and Yar'Adua made power look truly powerful. Yar'Adua made northern hotheads, such as Nasir el Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu to stay away from Nigeria out of fear.
But as soon as he died they came back. El Rufai took up a newspaper column and every week calls GEJ a weak and incompetent leader. Ribadu drifted to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and ran for president against GEJ. He was brought in to audit the oil industry and somehow he ended up messing up the president with a leakage of his committee's report. It is not just Jonathan's foes that have portrayed him as "weak". He himself has made it clear that he was no "Pharaoh" or "general".
This perception of him as leader who cannot hurt a fly emboldened disgruntled power brokers from the north to offer support to terrorists and enabled them to grow.
Today, we hear of "dialogue" between the Federal government and terrorists. We also hear some of them "unjustly" handled will be financially compensated!
We hear so many things that under Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, OBJ and Yar'Adua were simply unthinkable. I wonder how GEJ feels when people say these things about him.
In an interview he granted Channels Television, Obasanjo had placed the blame on the National Assembly. He said it was an idea initiated and pursued by the National Assembly and not himself.
He argued that a presidential initiative would normally have come to the legislature in the form of an executive bill, which was not the case with the third term project.
The former president claimed that the legislators on their own included the agenda in the 100 amendments they proposed to the 1999 Constitution.
However, some of the ex-lawmakers who spoke to our correspondents on Saturday insisted that the former President was the brain behind the third term agenda.
Former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani, who could barely hide his anger while reacting to Obasanjo’s assertion, claimed that Obasanjo informed him about the agenda shortly after he became Senate President.
“Immediately, I became Senate President, he told me of his intentions and told me how he wanted to achieve it. I initially did not take him seriously until the events began to unfold,” he said.
Nnamani, who spoke to our correspondent over the phone from the United States of America, said, “There was a time that there was a rumour that heavy sums of money were doled out to National Assembly members (Senate), that each of us received N50m – that translates into more than N8bn, including other sums that were shared.
“If he is claiming that third term was not his agenda, where could such money have come from and for what purpose? Didn’t he give instructions to the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor then to dole out the money?
“If he is claiming that he never initiated the idea, who then initiated the release of more than N8bn from the CBN coffers? Is it not only the president that has access to CBN vaults? Or does any lawmaker or senator have access to it?
“How can someone talk like this that he didn’t know about it, yet money, both in local and foreign currencies, exchanged hands,” he asked.
The former Senate President, however, was not forthcoming on how the money was shared and whether he got a share. He only said that as the President of the National Assembly at the time he took “full responsibility” for all that might have happened during his tenure.
He insisted that the third term bill was an executive bill and that he was prepared to defend his statement “anywhere and anytime.”
He said, “I am telling you that as the man who presided over it (third term bill), that it was an executive bill. I can defend this anywhere and anytime, with more than enough facts that I have given to you. No one should claim ignorance. If anyone is saying that the bill was not an executive bill, then such a person is only being a liar. At certain age in life, there are certain things one shouldn’t expect from an old man.
“The bill containing the tenure elongation was an executive bill and could not have been sponsored by any National Assembly member. Moreover, I don’t know what magic the executive would have done to get such bill through when all Nigerians were against it.
“If you remember, during the saga, I requested that all members return to their various constituencies to seek the views of their people. It was when they returned that we sat on it and ended on the 15th of May, 2006.
“In your paper today (SATURDAY PUNCH), Obasanjo referred to Ibrahim Mantu as Senate Leader. Mantu was not the Senate Leader, he was the Deputy Senate President then.
“I also read in your paper where he said that if he wanted third term he would have had his way. Well, that man is just a big joker. I don’t want to tell you other dubious and unpatriotic things he discussed with me. If I do, you would really know the kind of person he is.”
The former senate president also stated that Obasanjo solicited the support of the United States of America but failed.
“If you want to be convinced that the man is only telling a lie, pick up a copy of the book written by Condoleza Rice, the former Secretary to the Government of the United States of America. It is actually an autobiography by Rice.
“On page 628 or page 638, she discussed about Obasanjo’s meeting with Bush, how he told the former American President that he wanted to see how he could amend the Constitution so that he could go for a third term.
“To his surprise, Bush told him not to try it. Bush told him to be patriotic and leave by May 29, 2007.”
The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, told our correspondent that Obasanjo’s denial of his role in the third term agenda still sounded like a dream to him.
He remarked, “What is he (Obasanjo) talking about? Is such a statement coming from a military man and a former President? He has insulted the collective intelligence of Nigerians and members of the National Assembly.
“His aides came to me to solicit support for third term because I led the fight against third term in the House.
“All those names he is claiming not to have sent (Florence Ita-Giwa, Senator Ibrahim Mantu); they all came seeking support.
“I recall vividly that people were being given N50m, some N100m to support third term.
“The money totalled over N10bn. How could N10bn be taken out of the national treasury for a project when you were the sitting President, yet that project was not your idea? Where did the money come from?”
The Action Congress of Nigeria lawmaker from Lagos State added, “Assuming it was not his idea as he now claims, did he speak publicly against it? What did he do or say publicly to condemn or stop the project.”
Gbajabiamila also added that Obasanjo attempted to enlist the support of a former US President, Mr. George Bush, for the project, but failed.
In the same vein, a former influential member of the House, Mr. Halims Agoda, laughed for about two minutes when his reaction was sought.
Agoda, who was at the House, from 1999 to 2007, recalled that he participated actively in the third term debate.
“One of the things that make a statesman to stand out is the ability to stand by whatever decision he took, whether good or bad.
“That a project failed should not amount to a complete denial. The third term was Obasanjo’s personal agenda, which he took a long time to nurture.
“He sought the support of the National Assembly, but it was thrown out”, Agoda said.
Agoda held the view that until now, Nigerians were hoping that Obasanjo would throw more light on the project so that they could learn some political lessons from it.
“The third term has been practised elsewhere in the world; it is not entirely new.
But, since it came to Nigeria in the days of Obasanjo, Nigerians expected that he would speak more on the project, not to disown it,” he said.
Senator Ahmed Lawan, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, also said Obasanjo was interested in the third term agenda, adding, however, that there was no bill from the executive to that effect.
“There was no way the ex-president then could have done it himself because it was a legislative affair. But Obasanjo was clearly in support of it. There were lobbyists from the Presidency,” he said.
Lawan, who was a member of the House of Representatives at that time, said although he was not a member of the review committee, he would not be able to tell at what stage the third term came into the bill.
Effort’s to get the ex-president to respond to the claims of the lawmakers were not successful on Saturday night. When our correspondent called his Chief Security Officer, Mr. Ayo Akande, he said he was not competent to comment on the matter.
“I can’t make comments on the matter. I am not his spokesperson. You can contact the spokesperson to react,” he said.
When our correspondent called Obasanjo’s media assistant, Mr. Adeoba Ojekunle, the network operator said the number was wrong. A text message sent to his mobile phone was not replied as at press time.
The third term bid failed after the National Assembly annulled the entire process of amending the Constitution following sustained public outrage.
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has denied the allegation that he ever solicited for a third term as the president of Nigeria, saying it was the national assembly that included it amongst the other clauses of the constitution, that was to be amended.
While commenting on the challenges of deepening democratic institutions in Africa; the former president for the first time, in an exclusive interview with Channels Television stated firmly that “I never toyed with the idea of a third term.”
The former president insisted that he has always denied the allegations and talks around the third term issue which he allegedly sought at the end of his two-term tenure of eight years in 2007.
He claimed the bill for the third term was initiated by members of the national assembly along with the constitution amendment.
“Third term was one out of over a hundred clauses that they (the National Assembly) included in that amendment and they initiated it.”
“It was not an executive bill, so you are absolutely wrong” he affirmed to Channels reporter, adding that “if I want a third term that bill would have come from me.”
“My liaison officer to the national assembly, Florence Ita-Giwa told the whole world that there was no day I ever called her and say go and work for third term” he added.
He also took a swipe at his Vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, saying “even Atiku who said some people told him there was a third term agenda, hasn’t mentioned the names of the people that told him such.”
“Even Ibrahim Mantu, who was the chairman of the constitution amendment committee, will never tell you I told him I want a third term.”
The former president who now owns a church in Abeokuta further explained that he knew what he would have done to achieve the third term, if he wanted it.
“I am not a fool, if I want a third term, I know how to go about it and there is nothing I want that God hasn’t given me. If I had wanted a third term, I would have gone about it, the way I should have gone about it and I would have gotten it.”
The retired general spoke with our correspondent Olugbenga Ashiru in an interview session in his hilltop home in Abeokuta South-west Nigeria.
Source: Channel Television
Nigerian former President Olusegun Obasanjo said that Nigeria at fifty years is still vulnerable and weaken by forces of division and disunity. His observation and conclusion is that the “unity of Nigeria is fragile.” He was asking Nigerians to rise and make their country better and great.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo critical analysis was based on the state of Nigeria – the killings, disruptions and divisions motivated by tribalism, regionalism and corruption. The former president was offering an insight as the election of April is gearing up and politicians joggling for ways to win elections, sometimes at all cost.
Obasanjo Speaking at beginning and launching of the political campaign for Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State in Minna, was quoted and said “the very fabric that holds us together is fragile; the issue of unity is still very important; we must not toy with it.” The governor is a member of PDP, a political party Obsanjo is the chairman of the board trustee.
Chief Obasanjo stressing on the progress of individual states, further commented that, “It is not enough that our individual states are forging ahead; we all must be together. If we do not make it great it (Nigeria), it will not be the fault of God.” And added that leadership must rise to make things right, “Nothing is wrong with Nigeria; what is wrong is with us, the leaders and followers. We must correct it ourselves.”
Chief offered the way out and said that, “thieves and barons of divisions on ethnic, religious, linguistic bases have taken over the country; what a shame, what a great shame. I believe that all of us who God has put in position must rise to correct the situation.”