President Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015 on the back of a broad-based coalition that transcended his All Progressives Congress (APC). Originally of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and later to Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari had to rely on the merger of the CPC, ANPP with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to win the presidential election in 2015.
In defeating President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Buhari ended the PDP’s 16-year stranglehold on Nigeria. But, by far, the biggest coalition Buhari had to contend with to rout out PDP and Jonathan, no doubt, was the support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo has been a deciding factor in Nigerian politics since his reign as president between 1999 and 2007.
Obasanjo does not only get involved in the choice of presidents, he also sees them off when he is not satisfied with their conduct and performance. Thus, in the days of Umaru Yar’Adua, when it was obvious that the president was seriously sick and his duties were suffering, while many prominent and ordinary Nigerians grumbled loudly in their closets about the hijacking of the Yar’Adua government by a cabal who kept Jonathan away from acting as president, Obasanjo weighed in in what could be described as the most devastating manner. On January 21, 2010, Obasanjo, confronted with the Yar’Adua question at a public lecture in Kaduna, denied foisting a sick man on Nigeria.
“To say that I, Olusegun Obasanjo, deliberately picked somebody who is an invalid, is the height of insult.” He further went on to say that there was a path of honour and morality for a public officer, who is incapable of executing his functions to take. Although, there were several court cases in the works at that time, Obasanjo’s open stance on the hidden state of Yar’Adua health was to set off a chain of events that ended with the application of the Doctrine of Necessity by the Senate to usher in Jonathan as the acting president.
The rest became history. Jonathan finished Yar’Adua’s tenure in 2011, contested and won on the back of Obasanjo. He was there between 2011 and 2015. We recall that Jonathan ran into trouble in December 2013 when Obasanjo wrote him, accusing him of ineptitude, lying and destroying Nigeria.
In what was considered a bold and brave letter, Obasanjo took Jonathan to the cleaners, insisting that the then president did not deserve another term in office. “Knowing what happens around you, most of which you know of and condone or deny, this letter will provoke cacophony from hired and unhired attackers, but I will maintain my serenity because, by this letter, I have done my duty to you as I have always done, to your government, to the party, PDP, and to our country, Nigeria….”
The 18-page missive eventually began the end of the Jonathan era. We recall that Obasanjo had also publicly drawn the ire of former Heads of State, Gens. Ibrahim Babangida and the late Sani Abacha, during their reigns. None of those stayed long on the throne after, even though Abacha was audacious enough to put Obasanjo behind the bars. That is why his latest letter to Buhari on his performance in office should not be glossed over for the sake of politics.
While the president’s men have been quick to react to the letter through the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, albeit in a cheeky way, that Obasanjo has been too busy to see the achievements of Buhari, the signs are ominous. Buhari is working on dangerous grounds. As Jonathan realised recently, Buhari would ignore Obasanjo at his peril. For one, Obasanjo raised very germane and serious issues. Take for instance the mass killings of Nigerians by herdsmen across the country; the parlous state of the economy and even the condoning of corruption by people surrounding the president. We ask: What happened to the Maina case? A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, was quickly arrested a day or two after Obasanjo’s letter by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for a crime he allegedly committed almost two years ago.
He was quickly released on administrative bail. There have been several cases of people close to the president being linked with corruption. But nothing much has happened, thus, putting the anti-corruption mantra of the president in danger.
But more than corruption, the inability of Buhari and his crew to arrest the orgy of violence unleashed on Nigerians by herdsmen appears the biggest failing of the administration. We believe and, very strongly too, that there are lessons to learn from Obasanjo’s letter. His outbursts have claimed casualties before.
Unless Buhari heeds Obasanjo’s advice and make amends, without being deceived by sycophants around him, he may be the next name on the list of Obasanjo’s casualties. Make no mistake about it. We therefore call on the president and his men to go beyond platitudes and treat Obasanjo’s complaints with the seriousness it deserves.
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