By Babajide Okeowo
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has continued to come under scathing attack over his recent lengthy Near Year letter in which he endorsed Peter Obi the presidential candidate of the Labour Party for the number one job in Nigeria.
The former president has come under vitriolic attack from the major political parties in the country, the All-Progressives Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and notable Nigerians including the likes of former Minister of External Affairs, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi and the Presidency to mention a few.
According to a member of the Strategic Communications Directorate of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Anthony Ehilebo; and a spokesman for the Tinubu/Shettima PCC, Kehinde Bamgbetan, they both criticized the endorsement of Obi by Obasanjo when they appeared on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme.
“I have a very strong opposition to anybody who would seem to want to control the president of Nigeria either by a thread or a needle or by pulling his ears,” Ehilebo said. “We want an independent president. We want a president that can take decisions and own his time in government.
“It reminds us of what happened prior to 2015 when he also wrote a letter to instigate Nigerians to change Jonathan because he felt he was no longer in control of Jonathan.”
The PDP chieftain likened Obasanjo’s message to the 18-page letter he wrote in 2013 and addressed to then-President Goodluck Jonathan, in which he told his successor to “forget about 2015.”
“We remember that he wrote these letters against then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and he’s now complaining seven and a half years later that we are going from frying pan to fire.
“I would suggest that somebody that put us in a frying pan will sit this one out and allow Nigerians to make a choice, instead of foisting a subjective opinion on Nigerians,” he said.
In a similar vein, Bamgbetan argued that any “self-respecting” presidential candidate in Obi’s shoes would not be proud to continue campaigning after Obasanjo’s comments.
“For somebody to tell you that you are a needle who must have a thread, you are somebody who he will be pulling your ears, those are very deprecating (words) for somebody to put a president in place.
“Much of what he said on that occasion, if you look at it very well, they don’t even give Mr Peter Obi any modicum of respect. The manner in which he described Mr Peter Obi, if we were in his shoes, would not be something we would take to the bank. We don’t even think that was fair to the man,” he said.
Similarly, Akinyemi, a professor of political science, said the former president is “part of the foundation of the problems” bedevilling the country, adding that Obasanjo should have stayed away from politics at end of his term as president.
The professor dismissed the comment that the focus should be on Obasanjo’s message rather than his personality or records while in office.
“Some of us believe he (referring to Obasanjo) is also part of the foundation of the problems that we have in this country,” he said.
“One of the things I had said is once you have occupied the post of president and served your term, go home, be like General Gowon, General Abdulsalami. Just be quiet, you have had your term, you have had your innings, to use a cricket language. Let others get on.
“But for you to create problems for us and then you come back and present yourself as a problem solver, I find it difficult to swallow.
“I know there are people who say, ignore the messenger, focus on the message. I’m sorry, I’m a political scientist That doesn’t rub with me as a political scientist. I’m sure whoever came up with that must be a politician, who does not want people to look back into his own record.”
It would be recalled that Obasanjo, in his New Year message, declared his support for Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), ahead of the 2023 general election.
The former president urged youths to be more deliberate about the choices they make, adding that the 2023 elections should not be taken for granted.
Meanwhile, the presidency has taken a swipe at the former president for criticising President Buhari in his now-infamous letter on New Year’s Day.
In his new year message on Sunday, Obasanjo criticised the present administration under Buhari, adding that “the last seven and half years have turned out not to be the best” for Nigeria.
Responding in a statement on Monday, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesperson, said Obasanjo is jealous because Buhari is ahead of him in terms of national development.
Shehu also said Obasanjo does not possess the moral credibility to criticise the Buhari administration, adding that the former president “destabilised internal democracy” and “misused political power” when he was in office.
“One is that he will not stop attacking President Muhammadu Buhari because the former president won’t stop being jealous of anyone who beats him to a new record in the nation’s development process,” the statement reads.
“President Buhari is ahead of chief Obasanjo in all fields of national development and to do that is a cardinal sin to Obasanjo whose hallucinations tell him that he is the best ever to lead Nigeria and there will never be another one better than him.
“Having tried tenure elongation and failed, Obasanjo’s fictitious mind must be telling him that he is the one under attack. But he is not on President Buhari’s radar because experience has shown, especially lately in West Africa where there have been at least three successful coups and many other failed attempts, that third term or tenure elongation is a recipe for political instability.
“As President, Obasanjo destabilised internal democracy by orchestrating impeachment after impeachment of governors who were not compliant with his highly imperial administration.
“As we said sometime back, Mr Obasanjo’s tenure, 1999-2007, represented the dark days of Nigeria’s democracy due to a slew of assaults on the constitution.”
Shehu also said unlike Obasanjo, Buhari has received praise from the international community for his achievements.
The presidential spokesperson also said Obasanjo’s criticism of the present administration is an exhibition of “selfishness”.
“On the other hand, in Washington a few weeks ago, the US President Joe Biden at a meeting with African Heads of States and Government described President Buhari as a champion of democracy and role model for the leaders of African states,” the statement reads.
“Clearly, Obasanjo has become even more jealous by adopting a vengeful attitude.
“Four, to say that “frying pan to fire” is the situation in Nigeria at this time should be read to mean a personal experience to him and we know what that means.
“‘Hell’ for Obasanjo is when a President, any President that comes after him refuses to be his own puppet, to do as he wishes on all matters and at all times. He then keeps attacking out of frustration.
‘Obasanjo’s vengeful attitude towards President Buhari is the height of selfishness and little short of moral squalor.”
Meanwhile, ahead of the 2019 presidential election, Obasanjo endorsed Abubakar who was also the standard bearer of the PDP at the time.
At the time, the former president said Abubakar was better than incumbent President Buhari.
“You surely understand the economy better; you have business experience, which can make your administration business-friendly and boost the economy and provide jobs,” he had said.
“You have better outreach nationally and internationally and that can translate to better management of foreign affairs. You are more accessible, less inflexible, and more open to all parts of the country in many ways.”
Despite his endorsement of Abubakar, Obasanjo lost his polling unit to Buhari of the APC during the 2019 polls.
Election results from his polling unit in ward 22 in Abeokuta north LGA showed that the current president polled 87 votes to defeat Abubakar who secured 18 votes.
In a related development, the letter from Obasanjo has thrown the PDP into fresh internal crisis.
The spokesperson of the party’s Presidential Campaign Council, Senator Dino Melaye, has blasted Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State over his comments on the letter.
Reacting to the letter on Monday, the Rivers State Governor said Obasanjo’s choice of Obi over Atiku means “there is something fundamentally wrong”.
“I was praying that Obasanjo should not say anything. When I saw the letter last night, I was touched. If your principal cannot recommend you, then there is something fundamentally wrong,” Wike said.
However, in a swift response, Melaye knocked the Rivers State Governor, accusing him of disrespect and unwarranted insult on the former vice president whom he said his only crime was beating Wike to the PDP presidential ticket in May 2022.
“Wike should be ashamed that he has constantly solicited the attention of Atiku by his continuous disrespect and unwarranted insult of a man who did nothing to you. Atiku’s only crime is that he won a transparent presidential primary,” Melaye said in a statement.
He added, “Wike was chief of staff to Amaechi but Amaechi did not trust him enough to hand over to him. I advise him to support whomever he wishes to support as we will no longer tolerate his insolent tendencies.
“The question is; is there something wrong with Wike that Amaechi did not hand over to him? Why will Prince Uche Secondus, Rt Hon. Austin Okpara, Sen. Lee Meaba, H:E Celestine Omehia, Chief Abiye Sekibo, Sen George Sekibo, Hon. Chinyere Igwe, etc, leave him unceremoniously for Atiku. Something is definitely wrong somewhere.”