The Presidency on Sunday came down hard on former President Olusegun Obasanjo over his Thursday’s comment on the state of the nation, describing him as the country’s ‘Divider-in-Chief.’
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in a statement titled “Obasanjo is Nigeria’s Divider-in-Chief.”
Obasanjo had on Thursday said Nigeria was slowly becoming a failed state and a basket case that urgently needs to be pulled from the brink of collapse.
Speaking while delivering a speech titled “Moving Nigeria away from tipping over” at a consultative dialogue in Abuja, the former President said he had never seen Nigeria so divided, adding that many of the problems plaguing the country today were due to the recent mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity.
But Shehu said with his comment which he described as unfair attacks on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and his regime, Obasanjo had descended from the lofty heights of a Commander-Chief.
“In his most recent statement, former President Olusegun Obasanjo attempts to divide the nation while President Muhammadu Buhari continues to promote nation building and the unity of Nigeria.
“The difference is clear. From the lofty heights of Commander-in-Chief, General Obasanjo has descended to the lowly level of Divider-in-Chief (to adapt the coinage of Time).”
The presidential aide said as some commentators were already suggesting, 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 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.
Shehu added that Obasanjo must have left his admirers confused in announcing the support for the boycott of a democratic process of changing the constitution, at the same time calling for dialogue and engagement.
The statement added, “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 another waste of time and resources.
“To the credit of the All Progressives Congress-led 8th Assembly, the process of constitutional amendment was kickstarted 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.
“It’s a known fact that the withdrawal of subsidies had been on the wish list of the Obasanjo-led Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. They failed in achieving these measures because, one there was a shared greed. They plundered the treasury as much as anyone could in the name of either subsidy or waiver with reckless impunity.
“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.”
The President, he said, has repaired the nation’s damaged relations with neighbours and traditional allies such as the United Kingdom, United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the others with lots of benefits to the country.
He said with his achievements and the more to come, it was not surprising that Buhari will be object of envy from politicians who he said failed to deliver.
He added, “It (Buhari’s) is a pro-business administration that has used diplomacy to unlock bilateral trade and investment.
“He leads 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.
“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.”
Shehu also faulted the views of some analysts on Buhari’s recent advice to West African leaders to avoid tenure elongation.
He said contrary to the assertions by the few analysts, Buhari’s recent speech in which he 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 added, “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 destabilizing 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.”
The presidential aide said he hoped 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.”