The presidency yesterday fired back at former President Olusegun Obasanjo over what it described as his scathing comments on the state of affairs in Nigeria, saying the former Nigerian leader is the country’s divider-in-chief.
It said while President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to promote nation building and the unity of Nigeria, Obasanjo has descended from the lofty heights of commander-in-chief to the lowly level of divider-in-chief.
Obasanjo had at the weekend claimed that Nigeria was fast drifting into a ‘failed and badly divided state’ under President Buhari.
Obasanjo spoke while delivering a paper titled “Moving Nigeria Away From Tipping Over’ at a consultative dialogue in Abuja.
But hitting back at him, the presidency admonished Obasanjo to live up to his mantra as a statesman by getting involved with problem solving rather than helping the mushrooming of a poisonous atmosphere of ethnic and religious nationalism.
A statement signed by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, added that the former president should rest his messianic pretentiousness with regards to affairs in Nigeria.
Before responding further to the unfair attacks on President Buhari and his administration by the former president, Shehu said it was important that the presidency should categorically state that “contrary to the assertions by a few analysts, the recent speech in which President Buhari advised West African Presidents against tenure elongation beyond constitutional limits has been consistent with his long held views on the need to adhere to the rule of law.”
He noted: “Even though he tried it and failed, the recent uptick in the number of such leaders proposing to do, or actually carrying on in office beyond term limits is sufficient to cause concern among democrats in the sub-region given its prospects of destabilising the states and the region.
“President Buhari’s advocacy is consistent with his principles and in line with the current policies of his administration and indeed that of the ECOWAS Charter which is that term limits must be respected and that the change of government is only permissible through the ballot box.
“Having cleared this misperception, we hope that Chief Obasanjo would once again sheath the sword and rest the pretentiousness about the Messiah that has (mis)led him to pronounce often wrongly, as he disastrously did in the 2019 elections, about the life and death of Nigerian governments.
“As some commentators are already suggesting, Chief Obasanjo should, in accordance with his mantra as a statesman, get involved with problems solving, when and where they exist instead of helping the mushrooming of a poisonous atmosphere of ethnic and religious nationalism,” he said.
Shehu said the former president must have disappointed many of his local and foreign admirers by showering commendations on a few extremist groups who have vowed to shun the invitation to the National Assembly to participate in the process of constitutional amendment.
The presidential spokesman further noted that Obasanjo must have left those admirers confused by announcing his support for the boycott of a democratic process of changing the constitution while at the same time calling for dialogue and engagement.
The presidency stated: “The fact that the process he ushered in under his administration with the dubious intention of amendments that sought tenure elongation failed-as did two other attempts by the successor administrations of the same political party- does not in any way justify his dismissal of the exercise by the 9th Assembly as a another waste of time and resources.
“To the credit of the All Progressives Congress-led 8th Assembly, the process of constitutional amendment was kick started and carried through, paving the way for, among other benefits, the financial independence of local government councils, States Houses of Assembly and the country’s Judiciary. These changes have already been signed into laws by the President as mandated by the constitution.
“The recent decisions by the administration as they relate to subsidy withdrawal, helping to plug some of the most horrendous notorious holes and release of scarce resources for the more pressing needs of the people has also not escaped the ire of the former president”.
Shehu further said it was a known fact that the withdrawal of subsidies had been on the wish list of the Obasanjo-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He added that they failed to achieve those measures because “there was a shared greed”, even as he said they plundered the treasury as much as anyone could in the name of either subsidy or waiver with reckless impunity.
Shehu continued: “Two, is to say it takes courage and rare statesmanship on the part of a leader to do as President Buhari to shun populism and seek the best interest of the people and the state, providing the kind of reform and development that Nigeria urgently needs.
“This President has run an administration focused on infrastructure and development. He has repaired our damaged relations with neighbours and our traditional allies such as the UK, US, China, Russia, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the others with lots of benefits to the country.
“It is a pro-business administration that has used diplomacy to unlock bilateral trade and investment”.
Shehu said President Buhari is leading a government that has liberalised the investment climate and market access by achieving reforms that have placed the country in the list of the world’s top reforming economies.
He added that Nigeria, which other nations had mocked and ridiculed for so many things that were wrong, is today progressing at a pace reflecting its size and potential.
“With so much to show and many more coming, it is little surprise that President Buhari would be the object of envy and harsh unfair challenges by politicians who failed to deliver, but continue to nurse ambitions of delighting the audience long after their curtain has been drawn”.
He Superintended Over National Rot –APC
Corroborating the position of the presidency, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) told former President Obasanjo and his erstwhile vice president, Atiku Abubakar, to keep quiet on affairs about Nigeria, having institutionalised and midwifed corruption and national rot.
The APC specifically asked Obasanjo to account for $16billion spent on the power sector during his time in office, while it asked Atiku to account for the privatisation of national assets which it alleged were sold off to cronies.
The party in a statement by its deputy national publicity secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena, said, “It is baffling that the same political actors that midwife and institutionalised the national rot, corruption, impunity and eroding of our value systems are the same characters posing as voices on the way forward in our national life. How ironic
“Former President Olusegun Obasanjo could start with telling us where the electricity is despite $16 billion he spent on the power sector. Obasanjo’s deputy, Alh. Atiku Abubakar should account for the privatisation exercise under his watch which saw national assets sold off to friends and cronies with no benefit to the country. Successive Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administrations can also start by accounting for the trillions stolen from our national coffers in the guise of a fraudulent fuel subsidy regime”.
The APC noted that while it is well within the rights of Obasanjo and others to “write skewed letters, spew empty, hypocritical, tongue-in-cheek and two-faced economic magic models in line with their Dubai meeting strategies”, the Buhari administration is walking the talk with verifiable projects and people-centred interventions that are uplifting Nigerians”.
It continued: “These political actors probably only listen to their own voices because Nigerians have long stopped taking them seriously as they simply lack the antecedents and moral credentials to guide Nigeria and Nigerians to the path of prosperity and progress.
“Instead of the ‘do or die’ lingo Obasanjo and the PDP introduced to our electioneering, votes are beginning to count as our elections improves steadily. Their abandoned projects which constituted drainpipes on national resources are being completed by this administration. The brazen culture of impunity and corruption which they institutionalised is being replaced by strong and accountable systems.
“The culture of round tripping and the rested subsidy regime in the petroleum sector has been replaced by a deregulated and accountable petroleum pricing template. Instead of plotting how to sell of national assets, particularly the NNPC to friends, this administration is reforming public sector operations to ensure optimised service delivery.
“We are gradually eating what we grow. Our national emergency health response has earned global accolades and recognition as displayed by our COVID-19 response. Our defence capacity to respond and contain emerging security challenges is now tested and proven. How did Nigeria achieve this? A strong people-centred and focussed leadership which the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration provides.
“Genuine patriots, reputable groups and organisations who are making honest contributions on the deregulation of electricity and petrol prices already see the decision as inevitable and the way to go.
“As it stands, Nigeria will save as much as one trillion naira ($2.6billion) following the deregulation of the petroleum sector, the Petroleum Minister of State Timipre Sylva has stated. Nigerians trust that the freed-up cash will be accounted for and be judiciously invested to develop other critical areas such as infrastructure, health care, education among others”.
PMB Prevented Nigeria From Becoming Sailed State – Lai Moh’d
Similarly, the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said President Buhari’s assumption of office in 2015 prevented Nigeria from becoming a failed state after a long stretch of rapacious and rudderless leadership.
The minister, in a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, said President Buhari came into office when a swathe of the country’s territory was under occupation; a period when many Nigerian towns and cities, including the capital city of Abuja, were a playground for insurgents.
He recalled that it was a moment that the nation’s wealth had been looted dry, with little or nothing to show for the nation’s huge earnings, especially in the area of infrastructure.
Mohammed said it was a cruel irony that those who frittered away a great opportunity to put Nigeria on a sound socio-economic footing, at a time of financial buoyancy, and those who planted the seed of the insecurity in some parts of the country today, are the same ones pointing an accusing finger at a reformist government.
”Nigeria today faces a lot of challenges. But whatever situation the country has found itself in, things would have been much worse but for the deft management of resources, unprecedented fight against corruption, determined battle against insurgency and banditry as well as the abiding courage of Mr. President in piloting the ship of state.
”Nigeria today is not a failed state, but a nation that is courageously tackling its challenges and building a solid infrastructure that will serve as the basis for socio-economic development, a nation that is unrelenting in battling insecurity and working hard to ensure the greatest prosperity for the greatest number of people”.
The minister pointed out that no government in the history of the country has done so much with so little, as the Buhari administration is doing presently, adding that with 60 per cent less national income, the administration is making progress on all fronts and setting the country on the path of sustainable growth and development.
He said while naysayers are hyping the instances of insecurity in the country, they have conveniently forgotten that the country could have been overrun by insurgents and bandits if President
Buhari had not rallied regional and international allies to tackle, headlong, the Boko Haram insurgency that saw bombs going off like firecrackers before his assumption of office, and an estimated 20,000 square miles of the nation’s territory occupied by insurgents.
Mohammed stated: ”They tout the downturn in economic fortunes without putting things into context. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a global shutdown and a drastic fall in global oil demand, Nigeria lost 60 per cent of its earnings, yet the Administration has ensured that not a single worker has been retrenched, has paid salaries as and when due and has continued to build infrastructures like roads, rails, bridges and power, among others, that will serve many generations.
”They aggravate the national fault lines with their angry and unguarded actions and rhetoric, forgetting that while national fissures are amplified at a time of dwindling economic fortunes, what is needed to foster peace and unity is not reckless elocution but responsible and responsive leadership, the kind being offered by President Buhari”.
He further said Nigeria was on the road to greatness, despite the challenges confronting the nation.
He cited the hard push towards food sufficiency, the modernisation of the rail system, the nationwide construction of roads and bridges, the reform in the oil and gas sector; the unprecedented anti-corruption battle, the diversification of the economy and the renewed effort to ensure steady power supply, anchored on a three-phase project that is expected to deliver 25,000MW of electricity in the next few years.
The minister thanked Nigerians for their perseverance and understanding, especially against the backdrop of the stifling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, and appealed to them to continue to support the administration as it seeks to lift 100million people out of poverty in the next 10 years.
”In one of the most difficult moments in the nation’s history, Nigeria is fortunate to have at the helm a leader who is not only dedicated, selfless and patriotic, but one who is globally acknowledged for his discipline, integrity and vision. Those who genuinely love Nigeria will support, rather than subvert, this committed leadership,” he added.
Secondus Backs Obasanjo
However, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, commended Obasanjo and some Nigerian elders for standing up in a bid to save the country at its worst time in history.
Secondus said that the situation in the country called for patriotic men and women to stand up to be counted.
The party chairman berated the presidency, saying it was playing to the gallery over the state of the country instead of embracing words of wisdom from patriotic elders.
He commended Obasanjo for always exhibiting exceptional patriotism in dealing with the challenges in the country.
Secondus further charged President Buhari and the ruling APC to stop grandstanding just as he cautioned against abusing and disrespecting nationalists who fought for the unity of this country.
The PDP national chairman admonished the President to save the country from getting progressively worse by conducting free, fair and credible election in Edo State on September 19, 2020.
Secondus who also decried the multiplicity of taxation, tariffs, the security challenges amid biting economic hardship, added that it would amount to pouring salt into an open wound if citizens are denied the right to choose who should govern them.
He said, “Democracy thrives well under rule of law and this is all the people of Edo State are asking for; to let their will prevail on September 19, 2020
“To deploy military and other security agencies to do election duties outside the one statutorily assigned to them as was witnessed in the 2019 general election and the gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States clearly undermines democracy”.
The national chairman alleged that the needless tension in Edo was being orchestrated by the APC to establish a basis to invite the security agencies to intervene unduly in the electoral process.
“We saw and witnessed that gimmick in Osun, Bayelsa, Kano States where security operatives were used to disrupt polls at PDP strong areas leading to cancellation and the so called inconclusive elections,” Secondus said.