Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has questioned President Muhammadu Buhari’s competence to rule Nigeria further, advising him to forget his second term bid.
He spoke on Tuesday in a special press statement titled, ‘The Way Out: A clarion call for coalition for Nigeria Movement.’
He said, “I continue to wish him robust health to enjoy his retirement from active public service. President Buhari does not necessarily need to heed my advice. But whether or not he heeds it, Nigeria needs to move on and move forward.”
Obasanjo said he supported Buhari in 2015 over the then incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, adding that his decision to go against Jonathan, who was in the same party with him, was the right decision then.
He said, “Even the horse rider then, with whom I maintain very cordial, happy and social relationship today has come to realise his mistakes and regretted it publicly and I admire his courage and forthrightness in this regard.”
Likening the present state of the nation to lice-invested clothes, Obasanjo noted that the country’s fingernails were stained with blood as it tried to kill the lice by pressing them in-between two fingernails.
He said, “The lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed – if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today.
“With such lice of general and specific poor performance and crying poverty with us, our fingers will not be dry of blood.”
Obasanjo noted that he knew Buhari was weak in handling the economy, but he voted for him because at the time “it was a matter of any option but Jonathan.”
He said he had thought Buhari would appoint competent hands to handle the economy.
‘‘There were serious allegations of round-tripping against some inner caucus of the Presidency which would seem to have been condoned. I wonder if such actions do not amount to corruption and financial crime, then what are they? Culture of condonation and turning a blind eye will cover up rather than clean up. And going to justice must be with clean hands,’’ he said.
On the upsurge in herdsmen/farmers clashes, Obasanjo berated Buhari for allowing the clashes to continue unchecked and lashed out at some state governors who asked him to seek re-election barely 24 hours after 73 people killed by herdsmen in Benue State were given mass burial.
He described the governors’ action as “a sad symptom of insensitivity and callousness.”
He said, “But there are three other areas where President Buhari has come out more glaringly than most of us thought we knew about him.
“One is nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court.
“This has grave consequences on performance of his government to the detriment of the nation. It would appear that national interest was being sacrificed on the altar of nepotic interest.
“What does one make of a case like that of Maina: collusion, ineptitude, incompetence, dereliction of responsibility or kinship and friendship on the part of those who should have taken visible and deterrent disciplinary action?
“How many similar cases are buried, ignored or covered up and not yet in the glare of the media and the public?
“The second is his poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics. This has led to wittingly or unwittingly making the nation more divided and inequality has widened and become more pronounced. It also has effect on general national security.
“The third is passing the buck. For instance, blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for devaluation of the naira by 70 per cent or so and blaming past governments for it is to say the least, not accepting one’s own responsibility.
“Let nobody deceive us, economy feeds on politics and because our politics is depressing, our economy is even more depressing today. If things were good, President Buhari would not need to come in.
“He was voted to fix things that were bad and not engage in the blame game.”
The former president also submitted that neither Buhari nor the All Progressives Congress had the answer to the nation’s challenges.
He advised Buhari to step down at the end of his first term to attend to his health.
He said, “President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse… His place in history is already assured. Without impaired health and strain of age, running the affairs of Nigeria is a 25/7 affair, not 24/7.”
Obasanjo further said that both the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party were still wobbling political parties.
He said, “If neither APC nor PDP is a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria at this crucial and critical time, what then do we do? Remember Farooq Kperogi, an Associate Professor at the Kennesaw State University, Georgia, United States, calls it “a cruel Hobson’s choice.”
Obasanjo called for a movement he termed Coalition of Nigeria (CN), which he offered to be a part of, to wrest power from the present ruling class and lead the country into the path of rebirth.
He added, “We can collectively save ourselves from the position we find ourselves. It will not come through self-pity, fruitless complaint or protest, but through constructive and positive engagement and collective action for the good of our nation and us and our children and their children.
“Let us accept that the present administration has done what it can do to the limit of its ability, aptitude and understanding.
“To ask them to give more will be unrealistic and will only sentence Nigeria to a prison term of four years if not destroy it beyond the possibility of an early recovery and substantial growth.
“We need a Coalition for Nigeria. Such a movement at this juncture needs not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong.
“That movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress.
“A coalition to salvage and redeem our country; you can count me with such a movement.
“This Coalition for Nigeria will be a movement that will drive Nigeria up and forward… It is a coalition to banish poverty, insecurity and despair.”
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday met behind closed doors with a national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu; and the former Interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande.
Both Tinubu and Akande arrived at the Presidential Villa, Abuja for the meeting at about 3.50pm.
They left the premises through the President’s official residence about an hour after.
They did not talk to State House correspondents as reporters were not allowed on the premises except when they are invited for special assignments.
Their meeting with Buhari was held a few hours after Obasanjo issued a statement urging Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019.
The Presidency said it would not react to Obasanjo’s statement.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this when our correspondent contacted him on the telephone.
“If your question is on former President Obasanjo, we will not react,” Shehu said.
Tinubu media office later issued a statement to say that his visit to Buhari had nothing to do with Obasanjo’s statement.
The Peoples Democratic Party has described Obasanjo advice that Buhari should not run for second term in 2019 as courageous and patriotic.
It added that the advice had vindicated its position on Buhari and the APC.
The party, however, rejected the call by Obasanjo for the emergence of a third force (CN), saying that such would amount to repeating the same alleged blunder that brought in the APC and the Buhari presidency.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday, said the fact that Buhari and the APC had failed the nation was obvious to all, adding that Nigerians had taken a position on them ahead of the 2019 elections.
According to Ologbondiyan, Obasanjo’s counsel had rekindled the fate of the people in the democratic process, stressing however that the solution “does not lie in creating another political quicksand in a third force but consolidating on a rescue mission with the repositioned PDP.”
He said, “PDP maintained that repeating the old mistake of congregating political strangers cannot help our nation at this time, more so, when the few concerns raised by the former President about the PDP no longer obtain under the refocused and rebranded PDP.
“The fact is that Nigerians overrated President Buhari in 2015 but they have now seen that he never possessed the capacity and the required aptitude to effectively govern our great nation and pilot a healthy economy.”
The National President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said what Obasanjo said was not new to them since they had warned Buhari earlier.
He commended the former president for saying the truth even as he said there was no difference between Obasanjo and Buhari, “but the message he sent is very germane and must be heeded.”
Shettima added, “It is not because Obasanjo is better than Buhari but the message is important. Obasanjo is the architect of what we have today. His words are important than him. I commend him for his courage. The time Buhari should have performed; he was complaining. So many people have spoken, Ghali Na’Abba has spoken; they cannot all be Buhari’s enemies.
“Obasanjo is saying what people like us saw from inception. I strongly believe that the only way you can show you love Buhari is to tell him the simple truth which we did long before now, but when we advised him how to do better than the previous governments, we were tagged Buhari’s enemies by his blind followers.
The Arewa Youth Forum also lauded the former president for his honest assessment and appeal to Buhari.
AYF’s National President, Alhaji Gambo Ibarhim-Gujungu, on Tuesday in Kaduna said the forum had earlier urged Buhari not to contest in 2019 owing to the fact that he had yet to fulfil his 2015 campaign promises.
He said, “We are not in support of how he is fighting corruption. Imagine what is going on even within the so-called cabals where issues bodering on corruption are dangling over their heads.
“We are with what former President Obasanjo said. He (Buhari) should go since he cannot fix the country, and allow others with the capacity to do so come on board. Let him go home and rest in 2019.”
Also, backing Obasanjo, the National Leader of the League of National Patriots, Abdulkarim Abdullahi Ikharo, said Obasanjo spoke the minds of many Nigerians.
“It is clear that a majority of Nigerians are disillusioned since this administration has failed to meet up with their expectations. Obasanjo has spoken the minds of over 150 million citizens,” he added.
The Arewa Consultative Forum said on Tuesday that Obasanjo’s statement on Buhari was his democratic right.
ACF, which spoke through the National Publicity Secretary, Muhammadu Biu, however, said Buhari and the APC also have the rights to accept or ignore it.
The forum said, “The statement credited to former President Obasanjo that President Buhari should not re-contest in the 2019 election is his democratic right to express his view like any other Nigerian.
“However, it is President Buhari’s prerogative and that of his party to decide on whether to re-contest or not.”
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, however commended Obasanjo on the call to Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019.
Afenifere declared that the APC had failed the country and it should be changed.
Speaking with our correspondent on the telephone, the Publicity Secretary of the organisation, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said there was a need for fresh hands to run the country.
He said, “Obasanjo has made the right call. The country has plundered in the last three years .The economy has been in a bad shape and the whole country is in disarray. You can see what the Fulani herdsmen are doing all over the country with nobody to caution them.”
Odumakin stated that the country needed a party with a good ideology that would take it out of the present socio-economic challenges.
“APC has nothing to offer Nigerians. We need a party that is built on true ideology; a party that will be built on stern principle, on commitment to put Nigeria aright and to take us out of the woods. It is not just the change of driver that will need, we also need the change of vehicle,” the Afenifere chieftain said.