President Muhammadu Buhari has questioned the credentials giving former President Olusegun Obasanjo the quality to sit in judgement over his administration, saying the former Nigerian leader lacks the moral right to query the credibility or otherwise of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct free and fair polls in the forthcoming general election.
For the umpteenth time, Obasanjo yesterday came hard on Buhari over his administration’s preparedness for the elections, alleging that the president was simply perfecting plans to rig the polls.
Specifically, Obasanjo expressed doubt about INEC’s integrity in respect of the next general polls, declaring emphatically that Buhari was not ready to conduct free, fair and credible elections, but had been deceiving Nigerians.
But President Buhari who fired back at the former president asked Nigerians to crosscheck properly whether Obasanjo, who had declared in 2007 that the election that brought the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua would be do-or-die, has any moral right to challenge INEC’s credibility under his administration.
Speaking through his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, the president said it was absurd for Obasanjo to sit in judgement over his administration.
Fielding questions at a live political programme in Channels Television last night, Adesina said, “INEC can always defend itself and I am sure they would. But then, imagine that kind of allegation coming from somebody who told us in 2007 that the election will be do-or-die. This is the same person who said (in 2007) that the election will be do-or-die and indeed it was do-or-die, and the beneficiary of that election came out to say ‘the election that brought me to power was marred in all respect’.
“Now for that person to allege that (2019) elections are not going to be free and fair, were elections free and fair when he conducted his own? That is a question Nigerians must ask; Nigerians have not forgotten”.
Not satisfied, the president in a statement issued last night by his senior special assistant on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the sixteen-page letter Obasanjo wrote to him and released yesterday afternoon is the last push by desperate politicians who can’t handle him politically and have resorted to subterfuge.
He noted that his first message to the former president was that he needed a good doctor for good treatment and to tell him to “get well soon.”
Shehu recalled that as repeatedly said of him, since Obasanjo left office in 1979, he has never let every succeeding leader of the country function freely, including “the one he personally handpicked against all known rules drawn up by the party that put him in the office of the President”.
“But Chief Obasanjo is jealous because President Buhari has more esteem than him and the sooner he learns to respect him the better. It is a notorious fact that in dealing with any leader that he failed to control, he resorted to these puerile attacks noting that as the grand patron, more correctly the grandfather of corruption as described by the National Assembly, Chief Obasanjo released today’s letter purely for the reason of rescuing his thriving corruption establishment”, the statement noted.
Buhari reiterated that the 2019 elections which begin next month will be free and fair as he has rightly promised the nation and the international community.
Shehu continued: “What Chief Obasanjo and his co-travelers in the PDP should expect is that from the outcome, we will teach them a political lesson that they will never forget. This margin will be much bigger than we had in 2015.
“Claims that President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have embarked on the president’s “self- succession project, by recruiting collation officers who are already awarding results based on their projects to actualise the perpetuation agenda, in which the people will not matter and the votes will not count” is not only utterly false, but a copious note from the book on the failed third term agenda of President Obasanjo.
“The man, President Buhari who has taken Nigeria’s reputation to a higher level internationally and is working hard to improve on the records of elections he found in place cannot descend to the level that Obasanjo has himself sunk.
“As for his attacks of the administration’s records in fighting corruption, what the former President said is no more than evidence that President Buhari’s war against corruption is succeeding. They thought it is all a joke. A leader who took USD 16 billion “upfront” to supply electric power yet failed to add a single megawatt to the national grid and to date, there is no trace of the money is jittery that he will be called to account. He is a coward.
“Chief Obasanjo, manifesting a confused state of mind blames President Buhari for the fall of Libya into a failed state and the unholy alliance between the Boko Haram terrorists and the ISIS, while at the same time calling it an African problem, saying “the struggle must be for all West African, Central African, North African and most East African States,” which really does not amount to saying anything new.
“Nigerians looked up to him as a role model and a ray of hope to ethical and clean leadership until President Yar’Adua called him out to explain what happened to the sixteen billion dollars of taxpayer’s money. It is clear that with him sitting on top of the heap of corruption, he is no different from the crowd he leads.
“This language of his 16-page letter, likening President Buhari to General Sani Abacha, a man he dreaded and the one who jailed him under military laws is most unfitting from a former President of Nigeria”.
The presidential spokesman further described Obasanjo’s claim that President Buhari has put in place rigging machinery as both outlandish and outrageous.
“We are unable to get the words to describe a 90-year old liar, except to say that by the publication of this tissue of lies against the President, he Obasanjo, not the President will fall from everyone’s esteem”, he added.
Addressing journalists yesterday at his residence in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital, Obasanjo had noted that the country was back to the inglorious era of the late former military head of state, General Sanni Abacha, saying Nigerians must collectively rise up to resist the trend.
In a prepared statement made in form of pamphlets, which he read before journalists yesterday, Obasanjo said, while Nigerians need to appreciate Buhari for what he has done, Nigeria deserves better at this point in time than what Buhari is capable of offering the country.
Obasanjo alleged that President Buhari is perfecting plans to rig the forthcoming February presidential elections at all cost, which explains why the APC-led administration is scheming towards ensuring that the judiciary must be primed in its favour through the case of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The former president said, “It seems a ploy to intimidate the judiciary as a whole in preparation for all election cases that will go before them. Where and how will all these stop? But if that can happen to the Chief Justice of the Federation, then it speaks for the type of government we have, which means that the president is not in charge, let alone being in control and no Nigerian must take anything for granted”.
Obasanjo further alleged that INEC as presently constituted cannot conduct free, fair and credible elections, even as he listed ways through which he alleged President Buhari intended to rig the forthcoming February and March general elections to include the TraderMoni.
He continued: “What is the connection between taking the number of Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) of the recipient of N10, 000 doled out to the traders and the forthcoming general elections? There is something sinister about it and Professor Osinbajo of all the people should know that.
“Amina Zakari has become too controversial a figure to be able to give assurance of free, fair and credible elections for INEC. Madam Amina Zakari should in honour stay out and not be seen as a source of contamination of the election.
“The track record of the present INEC is fairly sordid and all men and women of goodwill and believers of democracy must be prepared for the worst from INEC and their encouragers and how to get Nigeria out of the electoral morass that the Commission is driving us into”.
Obasanjo however called on democrats the world over to keep an eye on the unfolding, “anti-democratic agenda” of President Buhari, stressing that others in the country too are monitoring.
He added: “The current plan is to drape the pre-determined results with a toga of credibility. It is also planned that violence of unimaginable proportion will be unleashed in high voting population areas across the country to precipitate a re-run elections and where he will be returned dully elected after concentration of security officials as it happened in Osun State.
“We are monitoring them and we call on all democrats across the world to keep an eye on the unfolding anti-democratic agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is the time for preventive measures to be taken, otherwise, Nigeria may be presented with a fait accompli with the impunity and total disregard of all pleas.
Emphasising that “another Abacha era is here”, Obasanjo further said that President Buhari is only putting into practice, lessons he had learnt from the late General, Abacha.
He further stated: “Buhari has succeeded in deceiving us the first time, and we will be fools to allow ourselves to be deceived by the second time. Buhari has intimidated and harassed the private sector, attacked the National Assembly (NASS), and now unconstitutionally and recklessly attacked and intimidated the judiciary to cow them into submission.
“At the height of Abacha’s desperation for perpetual power, he did not brook any criticism: you must go along with him or be destroyed. All institutions for ensuring security, welfare and well-being of Nigerians, particularly the police, the military and Department of State Security Service (DSSS) were abused and misused to deal with critics of Abacha and non-conformists.
“The security institutions are being misused to fight all critics and opponents of Buhari and to derail our fledgling democracy. EFCC, the Police and Code of Conduct Tribunal are also being equally misused to deal with those Buhari sees as enemies for criticising him or as those who may not do his biddings in manipulating election results”.
While calling on Nigerians to appreciate Buhari and allow him to depart for home in peace, Obasanjo however declared that the Buhari administration “has reached the end of its wit, particularly at handling security issues in the country”.
We’re Studying His Statement –INEC
In its reaction, INEC yesterday said it was studying the statement issued by former President Obasanjo over alleged plans to rig the 2019 general election.
When contacted for the commission’s comment on Obasanjo’s statement, the chief press secretary to INEC chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the commission is still studying the statement and will respond appropriately.
“We have seen the statement. We are still studying it and we will respond appropriately,” said.
He Is Haunted By His Past – APC
Also, the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday countered the rigging allegation levelled against President Buhari by former President Obasanjo, saying the former president is being haunted by his past.
APC said Buhari does not have any reason to rig, even as it enjoined the former president to adjust himself and be ready for the reality that after February 16 he will realise that he is not a god.
The party’s national publicity secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said during Obasanjo’s regime, government policies were determined by whatever mood he (Obasanjo) finds himself and all decisions of government were brought under his whims and caprices.
APC stated: “Obasanjo cannot imagine that it is possible for a government to allow INEC statutory independent that it has. We have had 93 elections since APC came to power and we are sure that all those elections were conducted without any interference from from this government.
“In fact, if there is anything you want to credit this government with it is the fact that institutions are allowed to fulfill their mandate without interference. So, we can understand where the former President is coming from, his past is hunting him.
“The 2003 and 2007 elections were nothing to write home about and those elections happened under President Obasanjo. So, for us in APC votes must count. We are going to have free, fair and credible elections. We have no reason to want to rig election because our achievements speak for us. So, Obasanjo should adjust to reality of imminent defeat that is steering him in the face. He has carried himself about as the dispenser of our destinies and God is showing him clearly
Also, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption (PACA), Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), lampooned Obasanjo, saying he is deeply disappointed at the former president’s behavior that is unbecoming of his expected status in the society.
Sagay said, “Obasanjo was a military head of state and two-term president of this country. He is over 80 years old, and with this entire journey he has traveled, it is expected he ought to be a sage and responsible.
“I am really concerned by observing that the more he adds age, the more irresponsible he behaves. Tell me, what is he hiding that he thinks if Buhari comes back would be found out, which is making him to behave so desperate like an ‘area boy’?
‘’We just have to keep eyes on him, because these motor park tout utterances are pointer to bad attitude and devilish intentions. There are other elder statesmen in the country like General Gowon, General Babangida and General Abdulsalami who behave themselves without taking open or discreet steps to rock the boat or play spoiler games for their successors”.