Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday alleged that President Goodluck Jonathan had a grand plan to scuttle the coming elections for fear that if General Muhammadu Buhari(retd) of All Progressives Congress succeeds him, Buhari would send him to jail.
He said this at his Hilltop presidential residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State while talking with journalists. He said he broke his promise not to talk till after the elections because the elections were postponed.
Obasanjo spoke just as Nobel laureate and playwright, Prof. Wole Soyinka, warned President Goodluck Jonathan not to use security agencies to scuttle the current democratic dispensation.
Soyinka’s warning to Jonathan was contained in a letter he sent to one of our correspondents on Saturday.
In another letter that was made public on Saturday, former chairman of the National Population Commission, Chief Festus Odimegwu, called on Jonathan to ensure that the polls were free and fair.
Obasanjo, who just returned from foreign trips, said, “I believe the President’s fear is particularly motivated by whom he sees as his likely successor, that is, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. I believe people would have been telling him that Buhari is a hard man; he will fight corruption and he (Jonathan) may end up in jail if not in the grave. I think people would have told him that sort of thing and he is not the only one afraid of Buhari.”
But Obasanjo said Buhari should have learnt his lessons and might not be contemplating sending people to jail to fight corruption.
“If he has not learnt his lessons, he would be probably the most unlearning human being. Now if he has learnt his lessons, he will know that you do not fight corruption by putting people in jail for 200 years. This was done by my predecessor in office, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. He recovered over $750m from Abacha’s estate without putting anybody in jail and without harming or hurting anybody.
“When I took over, we recovered over $1.25bn from the same Abacha without hurting anybody and without harming anybody. What is rather unfortunate is the fact that our lawyer who is still alive, who was chasing this money all over the world, said to us that there was still well over $1bn to be recovered from the Abacha estate.”
On the allegation that Jonathan had a grand plan to scuttle the coming polls, Obasanjo likened Jonathan to the former president of Cote d’lvoire, Laurent Gbagbo, who shifted election dates until he believed the odds were in his favour.
Obasanjo said, “President Jonathan has a grand plan to ensure that he wins the election by hook or crook and if he loses, he scuttles it and brings chaos and confusion in the whole country.
“It looks to me that the President is trying to play (Laurent) Gbagbo. Gbagbo was the former President of Cote d’Ivoire and Gbagbo made sure he postponed the election in his country until he was sure he would win and then allowed the election to take place. He got an inconclusive election in the first ballot and I believe this is the sort of thing Nigeria may fall into if I am right in what I observed as the grand plan.
“Then in the run-off, Gbagbo lost with 8 per cent behind (Alassane) Quattara and then refused to hand over. All reasonable persuasion and pleading was rebuffed by him and he unleashed horror in that country until nemesis caught up with him. I believe that we may be seeing the repeat of Gbabgo or what I called Gbagbo saga here in Nigeria, I hope not.”
Obasanjo noted that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, must have been boxed to a corner by the powers that be, before announcing the postponement of the elections.
He recounted how world leaders confronted him over political developments in the country, saying, “I was away because I had a number of assignments abroad which took me to Morocco, Munich, Nairobi, London and New Delhi. Exactly a week today, when we were in Munich for what they called the Munich security conferences annual event, everyone in the security community was there.
“I refused to make any categorical statement on this issue because I wanted to come back home and learn what actually transpired and what was going on, and it turned out to be a forced decision on the INEC, because it was alleged that the security chiefs were unable to provide security and as a result, the Chairman of INEC had to postpone the elections, in accordance with the dictates of the so-called security chiefs.
“For me, that was a bad precedent for democracy in Nigeria. It meant it doesn’t matter what preparation or lack of preparation any electoral body could make in Nigeria, the final decision on whether election will take place on the day scheduled for it lies in the domains of the security, it is a sad day for democracy in Nigeria.”
He said he was worried that President Jonathan had said in his recent media chat that he knew nothing about the postponement of the elections.
“I want to believe that this was forced on them (security chiefs). I want to believe that whether it was forced on them or it was their initiative, it was bad, very bad. I hope we will never have a repeat performance of this in this country again.
“It was even made worse when the President in the media chat on the 11th of this month claimed not to have knowledge or not to have authorised it. I get worried, very worried that if the President of Nigeria is not in charge of security, maintenance of law and order and such a decision can be taken behind him, assuming that it is true, then the President must be reigning and not ruling.”
While puncturing a hole in the excuse of the Boko Haram insurgency as a reason for the postponement, Obasanjo said it remained to be seen how the war against Boko Haram which could not be won since 2009, could be won in six weeks.
Obasanjo also appealed to the two leading political parties, Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress not to heat up the polity.
He said, “I have offered some warnings but let me also offer some appeals and the appeals for me will be for President Goodluck Jonathan. I appeal to him not to do anything to destroy the fledgling democracy that we are enjoying, democracy is not a destination. It is a process and the more we strengthened the process of democracy, the institutions and the factors, the better it is for us.”
In its reaction, the Presidency on Saturday said it was aware of a plot by Obasanjo and some unnamed persons within and outside the country to thwart the forthcoming general elections and foist an unconstitutional Interim National Government, which Obasanjo hopes to head, on the nation.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said this in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja.
Abati said, “We find the false claims and allegations reportedly made against President Goodluck Jonathan by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday in Abeokuta very odious and repugnant.
“As we have had cause to say before, it is most regrettable indeed that a man like Chief Obasanjo, who should know better, chooses to repeatedly, wantonly, and maliciously impugn the integrity of a sitting President of his country for the primary purpose of self-promotion.
“It is obvious from Chief Obasanjo’s serial vituperations against President Jonathan who is doing his best to positively transform Nigeria for the benefit of all of its people that he has willfully chosen to close his eyes to the present administration’s good works and intentions. For reasons best known to him, Chief Obasanjo has set his mind on regime change by fair or foul means.
“Otherwise, it would be completely senseless, irrational and out of place for Chief Obasanjo, who still claims to belong to the same party as the President, to accuse President Jonathan of plotting to win the rescheduled presidential elections by ‘hook or crook’ and planning to plunge the nation into crisis if he loses the election.
“For the record, President Jonathan has no such intention and will continue to give the greatest possible support to INEC and other relevant federal agencies to ensure that the rescheduled elections are successfully conducted.
“Chief Obasanjo’s plot with others within and outside the country to thwart the general elections and foist an unconstitutional Interim National Government, which he hopes to head, on the nation is well known to us, but by the Grace of God Almighty, his odious plan to return to power through the backdoor will fail woefully.”
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation said it was not true that Jonathan was planning to retain power at all cost.
Its Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, said this in a statement.
He said, “It is sad and unfortunate that President Olusegun Obasanjo, a father of the nation and a man that we all revere and have immense respect for, could have misread the situation so badly.
“It is simply not true that President Goodluck Jonathan wishes to remain in power at all costs and the suggestion that he has a hidden agenda or that he somehow imposed his will on INEC by getting them to postpone the elections is baseless and absurd.”
In a related development, Soyinka, in his letter titled, ‘Under-reading violence’, noted that the use of security operatives to intimidate the populace other than to protect them, is a “new low in the life of this nation,” adding that it is a serious threat to the future of democracy in Nigeria.
“It bodes ill even for the postponed elections. Is the postponement truly to ensure enfranchisement for the entire electorate or to fine-tune a new strategy for the absolute and total cooption of the uniformed services?” Soyinka asked.
The Nobel laureate also flayed the deployment of soldiers to the Lagos house of a chieftain of the major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
The human rights activist reminded Jonathan of how security operatives allegedly prevented the then governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, “from exercising his civil rights.”
Concluding his letter, Soyinka called on the President to lift the military siege on his political opponents before it is “too late.”
In the same vein, Odimegwu who ran into trouble with Jonathan’s government when he faulted the 2006 census, raised the alarm over the safety of Buhari, saying Jonathan, Nigerians should secure his safety to avoid a replication of what happened to the late business mogul, Chief MKO Abiola, following the controversies which trailed the June 12, 1993 Presidential election.
Odimegwu, a former chairman of Nigerian Breweries Plc, in a blunt article entitled, ‘The challenges before President Buhari’ which he e-mailed to SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja, advanced seven reasons why Buhari would be a better choice for Nigeria.
According to him, Buhari is dreaded by many that have looted Nigeria dry, adding,”I am happy in this worthy company of free citizens of the world and institutions that endorses General Buhari and recommends him to all Nigerians.”
He said, “It is imaginable, given the annulment of June 12 under unclear circumstances, that this six weeks delay can have more supporters than are known. President Jonathan himself can lose control as during the trying time of the 1993 election crisis. It is imaginable that some vested interests may not want both President Jonathan and General Buhari and may work alone or in cooperation with others to impose a contrived and orchestrated interim government that is now gaining traction.
“On coups or coup baits that are being mentioned, worsened also by giving security agencies more roles over election matters than necessary. The forces that aborted June 12 could still be alive. General Buhari in many ways reminds one of MKO. Nigerians must shine their eyes beyond the ordinary and the conventional. Things seem to me now like the more one looks, the less one sees.”
He also warned that the Federal Government, as distinct from the ruling party, must take steps to secure the life of General Buhari “as these intrigues thicken.
“Nothing should happen to him. He may not be a saint. Even Mandela rightly said he was not. No one is. But he now personifies the new hope for Nigeria. Nigerians need him. Nigerians need change. What happened to Yar’Adua Senior, MKO and even Abacha must not happen to him.”