Wednesday, May 23, 2018 5:25 pm
In speech and body language, President Muhammadu Buhari is not keeping quiet any longer. He hits back at Olusegun Obasanjo who has penchant to attack all incumbent leaders. The latest war elicits mixed reactions from Nigerians
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
President Muhammadu Buhari and his image makers were in their best diplomatic behaviour early in January when a former Nigerian leader, Olusegun Obasanjo, blew his top like a suddenly reactivated volcano. He charged like an angry buffalo, saying that since Buhari’s government had not performed creditably, he had no reason to ask Nigerians for their votes again. Obasanjo’s letter that month dripped bile, acid and vitriol! Lai Mohammed, the Information Minister who has the reputation of not allowing a scud missile against his side to hit target without intercepting it mid-hair, surprised many book makers by his well couched reply to the retired Ota General. When the reply came, not a few Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief like a train that has hit its terminus platform after a long tortuous journey. At least, the nation was saved the agony of witnessing a public fight with the attendant shrieks of a Fulani and the grunts of an Owu chief.
Lai Mohammed, uncharacteristically, said that the current government believes that Chief Obasanjo, because of his very busy schedule, might not have been fully availed of developments in the government’s efforts to revamp the economy, which was battered by the consequences of over-dependence on a commodity as well as unprecedented pillaging of the treasury. The information Minister, therefore went on to list the areas of Buhari’s superlative performance: agriculture, infrastructure, rail, anti-corruption crusade and others. Rather than calling Obasanjo an original ally of Beelzebub, the Information minister submitted that the Buhari government had no reason to believe that 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,” Mohammed concluded, thus deflating Obasanjo adrenalin. The polity shifted attention to other matters like Fulani herdsmen, Buhari’s visit to Donald Trump, Dino Melaye and the Inspector General of Police…
Then, on 10 May, Obasanjo officially announced his Coalition of Nigeria Movement (CNM), seizing the opportunity to launch another verbal howitzer against Buhari. It was mouthful! In his words: “Let me particularly thank and congratulate millions of Nigerians who harkened to my clarion call in my statement of January 23, 2018 that our anger against misgovernance, poor performance, condonation of misconduct, incompetence, destabilising nepotism, cluelessness, denial and scapegoatism, lack of understanding of dynamics of internal politics which have led to greater disunity, inequity, injustice, senseless killings and destruction, must not be like the anger of the cripple but a positive anger coordinated and directed to put an end to the era of impotence and for Nigerians to join hands to seek effective solution through coalition, cooperation and togetherness that will take Nigeria to where God has created it to be.”
Buhari who could not take it any longer threw his hat in the ring on Tuesday, 22 May 2018, when he received members of the Buhari Support Organisations (BSO), led by the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Buhari said that those who mismanaged Nigeria’s economy in the past, through fraudulent electricity projects and misuse of revenue earnings from oil, had no love for the country, adding that Nigerians should remain vigilant and ensure that only ‘‘people of conscience are in-charge of governance at all levels’’, as the nation prepares for general elections in 2019.
In his words: ‘I challenge anybody to check from Europe, America and Asia; between 1999-2014, Nigeria was producing 2.1 million barrels of crude oil per day at an average cost of 100 USD per barrel and it went up to 143 USD. When we came it collapsed to 37 – 38 USD and later was oscillating between 40 and 50 USD. I went to the CBN Governor, with my cap in my hand, and asked if we had savings. He told me we had only debts, no savings. Some of the roads were not repaired since the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) days. I don’t care the opinion you have about Abacha but I agreed to work with him and we constructed roads from Abuja to Port Harcourt, Benin to Onitsha and so on. We also touched education and health institutions. One of the former Heads of State was bragging that he spent more than 15 billion USD on power in Nigeria. Where is the power?’’ the President asked.
On the mismanagement of the economy by previous administrations, President Buhari noted that the perpetrators lacked imagination and plans for the development of the nation. ‘‘Sometimes, I wonder about those who can afford to send their children abroad for studies and yet continue to sabotage the economy, I wonder what kind of Nigeria they want their children to return to and work. There is a lot of lack of imagination. If you are working for the country, then you shouldn’t be misappropriating and misapplying public funds the way people did,’’ he said.
Buhari went further by urging Nigerians to reject those bent on dividing the country along religious and ethnic lines, warning that they do not mean well for the country. ‘‘I have said severally that we do not have any other country than Nigeria and we will remain here and salvage it together. We have nothing to regret. Absolutely nothing. God has given Nigeria everything. We are rich in human and material resources. Let us keep on praying to God to put people of conscience in-charge at all levels,’’ he said.
Also, Obasanjo replied without hesitation. His media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, said on his behalf that it had come to the attention of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that a statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari, apparently without correct information and based on ignorance, suggested that $16 billion was wasted on power projects by “a former President”. Obasanjo believed that the President was re-echoing the unsubstantiated allegation against Chief Obasanjo by his own predecessor but one.
In his word: “While it is doubtful that a President with proper understanding of the issue would utter such, it should be pointed out that records from the National Assembly had exculpated President Obasanjo of any wrong-doing concerning the power sector and has proved the allegations as false. For the records, Chief Obasanjo has addressed the issues of the power sector and the allegations against him on many occasions and platforms, including in his widely publicised book, My Watch in which he exhaustively stated the facts and reproduced various reports by both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which conducted a clinical investigation into the allegations against Chief Obasanjo, and the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the Recommendations in the Report of the Committee on Power on the Investigation into how the Huge Sums Of Money was Spent on Power Generation, Transmission And Distribution between June 1999 and May 2007 without Commensurate Result.
Obasanjo recommended that Buhari and his co-travellers should read Chapters 41, 42, 43 and 47 of My Watch for Chief Obasanjo’s insights and perspectives on the power sector and indeed what transpired when the allegation of $16 billion on power projects was previously made. “If he cannot read the three-volume book, he should detail his aides to do so and summarise the chapters in a language that he will easily understand,” Obasanjo rubbed it in with a tinge of mischief!
He added: “In the same statement credited to the President, it was alleged that there was some bragging by Chief Obasanjo over $16 billion spent on power. To inform the uninformed, the so-called $16 billion power expenditure was an allegation against Chief Obasanjo’s administration and not his claim. The President also queried where the power generated is. The answer is simple: The power is in the seven National Integrated Power Projects and eighteen gas turbines that Chief Obasanjo’s successor who originally made the allegation of $16 billion did not clear from the ports for over a year and the civil works done on the sites.”