Reactions continued, yesterday, to former President Obasanjo’s letter advising President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019.
Obasanjo had faulted Buhari’s steering of the country and urged the incumbent, especially on health grounds, to stand down honourably, even as he advocated a coalition for national redemption.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said: “We have no reason to believe that former President Obasanjo has any motive beyond the well-being of the nation in issuing his special press statement. We have also taken his admonition in good faith, and we thank him most sincerely for taking time off his busy schedule to pen such a long statement.”
He said: “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 working hour tackling the enormous challenges facing the nation, most of which were bequeathed to his administration by successive past administrations. He is committed to fulfilling the mandate given to him by Nigerians in 2015. And that’s where we are right now.”
In the statement, the minister extolled the achievements of the government, concluding: “This administration is not unaware of the enormity of the challenges facing the nation, but we are up to the task. We have taken the bull by the horns, and long-suffering Nigerians will begin to experience a new lease of life as our efforts yield fruits.”
Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, described the letter as belated and self-serving, saying: “Obasanjo himself should heed his own advice to Buhari by also going home to rest. Both Obasanjo and Buhari are analogue in this digital age and have expired. We have been hearing of Obasanjo since we were in the primary school. It is time for him to vacate the public political space. When Nigerians hear him speak nowadays, they hiss.”
Notwithstanding, Fayose urged Buhari to “heed Obasanjo’s advice and go home and rest,” having “overstayed his welcome.”
According to the governor, the letter is a “face-saving” discourse coming “after Obasanjo, who led the cabal that imposed Buhari, had seen that Nigerians had turned back from following the president.”
He stressed that although the “damning” letter makes “some sense,” Obasanjo was not the right person to have written it.
The former president “was the leader of those who deceived Nigerians and lied to the international community to support Buhari,” said Fayose, insisting people “have already made up their minds to show Buhari the exit next year with or without Obasanjo’s self-serving letter. So, he should not take the credit. He should not reap where he has not sown.”
Reuben Abati, former spokesman to Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, said the letter reeks of “frustration, disappointment and regret.” According to him, “The only thing Obasanjo didn’t do is tender an apology to the people. However, he admitted he was part of the efforts to bring ‘change’ in 2015. He did not only support the incumbent president but also voted for him.”
Speaking on Channels Television’s Politics Today, Abati, nevertheless, conceded: “The letter reflects certain levels of consensus within the society, given that people had been saying some of the things that were stated. But coming from the author, those statements acquire a special significance and resonance both locally and internationally.”
For Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, there is no stopping Buhari’s re-election. At an event marking the second anniversary of his administration, he said when the time arrived, the opposition would realise that the “majority of the people of this country are solidly behind him (Buhari).”
The leader of the South East Caucus of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said Obasanjo’s take on the Buhari administration merely confirmed the group’s predictions.
He decried the “alienation of a sizeable portion” of the polity and condemned the administration’s failure to adhere to the principle of federal character, adding: “That a president of elder statesman status would willfully breach this fibre that holds this country together is highly regrettable. It could have been good and politically expedient if President Buhari sees himself as president of Nigeria and not of a section of the country.”
The Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), one of the newly registered political parties, said, while it was not absolving Obasanjo for “being part of those who contributed to the malaise that is plaguing the country,” it was more interested in the message than in the messenger.
The Alliance said the letter vindicated its position on the need for a new coalition to rescue the country from misrule and nepotism. “The nation needs a coalition of professionals and technocrats who are burning with patriotism and who see politics, not as a means of amassing wealth, but of contributing to development,” said coordinator, Onome Ojigbo, in a statement.
The Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, said: “It is pertinent to note that the former president lacks the moral and political credibility to speak on the political affairs of our country. A man who was involved in all sorts of corruption issues in his administration and indeed his unpopular bid to violate the constitution by wanting to take a third term is not in any way a credible democratic voice to count on.”
Also, a former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, accused Obasanjo of propping up Buhari as president and warned that any attempt by the incumbent to seek re-election could inflame suffering Nigerians, sparking a revolutionary change of government.
Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd), a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) for the 2014 National Conference, said Obasanjo had only spoken the minds of many and warned the administration against its “rigid and persistent ignorance of the inevitability of restructuring.”
The Chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr. Tanko Yinusa, backed Obasanjo’s call for a third force that would seize power from the All Progressives Congress.
“While we are not saying he (Obasanjo) is better, the content of the letter is what one needs to look at. The truth it is that President Buhari is incapacitated by the serious challenges. He has also not been able to think deeply in trying to move Nigeria out of the present economic challenges. He has not also been able to address the problems in his own party,” said Yinusa.
In a related development, former vice president turned presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar, visited Fayose, yesterday.
While fielding questions from reporters, Atiku said he was in the state to parley with members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the governor on his 2019 ambition.
Atiku said Fayose was “blunt and straightforward, a sharpshooter in politics,” noting: “I respect him for that.” He added: “Above all, he is also the chairman of our governors’ forum. He calls the shots and when he does, we all take the queue.”
Fayose answered: “He (Atiku) has not spoken to me privately about it (ambition). May be he would do that in our private meeting. But his body language obviously shows he has an ambition, which is legitimate. We will all examine everybody and we will set a level-playing ground. As he has come, others will still come.” He added: “I have all it takes to lead this country. But whichever way it goes, the interest of our party comes first.”