Obasanjo ‘letter bomb’: What can Buhari do?

Following former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s advice to President Muhammadu Buhari not to contest 2019 Presidential Election and his proposal for a new political movement as the way forward, Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan, reports on what Buhari should do


AHEAD of the 2019 General Election, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has once again set the Nigerian polity agog with his unexpectedly critical open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari. While pointedly telling the President to forget all thought of seeking another term in 2019, he accused the current federal government of failing to live up to the expectations of Nigerians.

The former President said Buhari has failed to deliver on his campaign promises and should therefore “dismount from the horse” to join the league of the country’s former leaders whose “experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country.” He also alleged that the current administration promotes nepotism and sectionalism with his activities in government.

Obasanjo, who served for two terms as president on the platform of opposition People Democratic Party (PDP), expressed his disappointment in Buhari, whom he supported during the 2015 presidential election against former President Goodluck Jonathan, who ran as the candidate of PDP, Obasanjo’s party at the time. He however insisted that his decision to oppose Jonathan back then was the right thing to do in the interest of the country.

“The lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed – if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality, are very much with us today,” Obasanjo wrote.

Recovering from Obasanjo’s punchy letter after almost 24 hours of silence, the federal government responded through Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, saying it appears Obasanjo had been so busy that he could not keep track of the progress recorded by the Buhari administration. Describing the former President as a patriot who has proven his love for the country many times, the government urged Obasanjo to take a second look at the score-card of the current administration.

“Chief Obasanjo is a patriot, and he has proven this time and time again. We appreciate what he said concerning the administration’s performance in two out of the three key issues that formed the plank of its campaign: fighting corruption and tackling insurgency. Specifically, the former president said President Buhari must be given credit for his achievement so far in these two areas. We thank him for this,” the statement read.

Mohammed continued that “On whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari should run for another term, it is true that many Nigerians have been calling on the President to run again, while others are opposed to his return. However, we believe this issue is a distraction for the president at this time. This is because Mr. President spends every waking hours tackling the enormous challenges facing the nation, most of which were bequeathed to his Administration by successive past administrations.”

Following the exchange between the two camps and the divided opinions trailing the development, many Nigerians recalled a similar open letter from Obasanjo to the then President Jonathan, during the run up to the 2015 presidential election. An apparently angry Obasanjo, in what many described as one of the most acerbic letters in modern history, had accused Jonathan of ineptitude and of taking actions calculated at destroying Nigeria.

Saying it would be “fatally morally flawed” for Jonathan to contest in 2015, Obasanjo added, “as a leader, two things you must cherish and hold dear among others are trust and honour, both of which are important ingredients of character. I will want to see anyone in the Office of the Presidency of Nigeria as a man or woman who can be trusted, a person of honour in his words and character.”

A couple of hours after the letter, Jonathan and his men went all out for Obasanjo, telling him he lacks the moral right to caution the then President, among other things. Not a few people blamed the handling of Obasanjo’s letter by Jonathan and his handlers form his eventual loss of the presidential election the following year. Thus, as the debate over the former President’s letter continues, one question on many lips across the country is “what should Buhari do with Obasanjo’s advices and allegations?

The way to go

And from an unusual quarter came an advice to President Buhari to look beyond merely justifying the achievements of his administration and rather address the issues raised by ex-President Obasanjo in his letter. The opposition PDP said this while reacting to the trending news. According to the party, there is need for Buhari and his handlers to consider the mood of Nigerians before deciding whether to seek re-election or not.

The opposition party said the indicator presented by the federal government in an “attempt to justify its claimed achievements” in almost three years of governance were “cooked up” and will be unhelpful to President Muhammadu Buhari at the 2019 elections. The party said rather than gloss over very serious issues of deteriorating economy, incessant killings, fuel crisis and corruption in the corridors of power as raised by Obasanjo, President Buhari should make effort to address them.

The spokesperson of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement, said the government should be sober in addressing Obasanjo’s letter, adding that the presidency should understand that the issues raised by Obasanjo, while advising Buhari not to seek re-election, are already trending in the minds of Nigerians and cannot be easily dismissed. “The federal government arrogantly issued misleading indices at a time it ought to be very sober for its failures,” PDP advised.

Chief Mrs. Remi Adiukwu, a chieftain of the opposition party in Lagos state, while speaking on the development said Nigeria belongs to everybody irrespective of religion or region and so good opinions should be welcome from all and sundry. While urging President Buhari and Nigerians generally to think less about the messenger and concentrate on the content of the message, the former governorship aspirant said there is great need for the federal government to “work with Obasanjo’s letter.”

Adiukwu said if people criticize the government, it does not mean that they want it to fail. ”They want them to succeed like telling them to look at the areas they are lagging behind and telling them what they can do to change things. It is in this light I want the government to see Obasanjo’s letter and instead of putting up any stage-managed defense, they should promptly address the issues raised.

“It is instructive to note that Obasanjo in his letter condemned the killings by Fulani herdsmen. The President should not wave that aside. It is not only Obasanjo that is worried about that. Nigerians are disappointed that as a General and a Fulani man himself, Buhari has no answer to this unnecessary killings. I would rather want him to see Obasanjo’s letter as a challenge for him to solve this problem.

“And talking about Obasanjo’s statement that Buhari has failed to deliver on his electoral promises, I think the ruling party should share in that responsibility with the President. Nigerians have severally lamented the turn of things and if Obasanjo is now writing that in his letter, he is merely trumpeting a general opinion. Any reasonable and serious government and or political party will not joke with an opportunity to address its obvious lapses.

“As far as I am concerned, those urging Buhari to confront Obasanjo over the letter neither mean well for Nigeria nor for Buhari. If they are saying Obasanjo is not the right person to say those things, are they saying none of the things he said is true? I am not a member of Buhari’s party, but I am a patriotic Nigerian. So, I will advise the government to see the letter as a wake up call and act promptly in the interest of the masses,” she said.

Reviewing the situation, former Commissioner of Police in Lagos state, Abubakar Tsav, said the current administration may not be perfect, but it is wrong to say President Buhari should perish the thought of seeking re-election because there is need to again change the leadership at the federal level. He however added that the President need to take some urgent step to boost the confidence of Nigerians in him.

“If there is any allegation against anybody working with him, he should order an immediate investigation. The question of delaying investigation is not proper. It creates a lot of doubt about his integrity. Also, I believe President Buhari should reshuffle his cabinet because we have only few ministers and they have a lot of responsibilities.He should relieve some of them from their responsibilities and give it to some people to do because one man in charge of three ministries is too much,” he said.

Speaking further, he said “I believe Buhari should run in 2019 because we need somebody who will put the country back on track. We need somebody who is not corrupt; somebody who is not ambitious, who is not greedy and not planning to build empires for himself. We have all these qualities in the person of Buhari. We don’t want somebody who will assume office and start building empires for himself and his family.

“As of now, we don’t have anybody who is better than Buhari. I am not saying that there are no better people in Nigeria who are better than him but for now, we don’t have anybody. Maybe after his second tenure, we may get somebody else who is better than him and the person may take over from him. Look at the level of corruption that we had before Buhari became president and look at the amount of money he had recovered from those who looted the treasury of the country.”

Buhari beware

In his own submission, a former aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, warned President Muhammadu to be cautious in the way he handles the outburst by ex-President Obasanjo. Perhaps recalling what happened between Obasanjo and Jonathan in 2015, Okupe said Buhari must not treat Obasanjo’s observations with levity. To do so, he said, is at the President’s risk.

Okupe, who is now leader of Accord Party in Southwest geo-political zone, acknowledged that Obasanjo spoke the bitter truth in his letter and President Buhari and the ruling party must be careful not to be too arrogance to admit it the issues raised by the former Presdient. He added that the President should have departed for Obasanjo’s Hilltop Mansion in Abeokuta immediately after receiving the letter.

“The truth must be told Baba Obasanjo is a man you can never discard his counsel. He voiced the bitter truth but the APC will never accept it. What Buhari should have done is that, the following day after receiving this letter, take a flight, go straight to Ota and ask him to tell you the way forward. I read the presidency’s reply and it is watery. I don’t think that reply was necessary,” he added.

Similarly, a pro-democracy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called on President Buhari to caution the minister of Defence, retired Major General Mansur Dan-Ali against further subtle justification of the dastardly criminal attacks by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen. The call came in a statement through its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf.

The group also called on President Buhari to respect the constitutional provision of federal character principle and commence the immediate and comprehensive reconstitution of the national security team to reflect the Federal character of Nigeria and end the ugly era of the’ Fulanisation’ of national security team. The group insisted that the lopsided domination of the security forces by Hausa/Fulani ethnicity was a grave breach of the extant provision.

“The current administration must respect the constitution and provide security to lives and property of the citizens and should desist from making irresponsible and insensitive statements which may be construed as seeking justification for the numerous bloody attacks waged by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen by an administration that is not determined to arrest, prosecute and punish all perpetrators of the bloody killings in Benue, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa and Enugu states.”

Also urging President Buhari to treat the letter from Obasanjo as very important is Senator Shehu Sani, who represents Kaduna Central at the Senate. Describing Obasanjo’s correspondence to the President as truth wrapped in dynamite, he warned Buhari not to ignore or discard it nonchalantly. According to the APC Senator, Obasanjo’s letter “will heal the President better than the corrosive deception of the political pilgrims to the villa.”

“Obasanjo’s views reflect and represent the views of many members of the political ruling establishment but who simply lacks the courage to speak the truth to power, out of fear of political consequences. There exist a regime and climate of fear among the ruling political establishment; the views expressed before the president is a polar difference and distant from the views they express behind the president.

The bitterness of Obasanjo’s truth will heal the president better than the corrosive deception of the political Pilgrims to the villa. Those who celebrated Obasanjo when he called National Assembly members unarmed robbers should not demonize him when he calls the knights and Courtiers of the President names. President Buhari cannot get the truth from sycophants, favour seekers, patented friends of power and people whose political survival and future is dependent on his continued stay in office even is to the detriment of his integrity or moral seat in history.”

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