The year 2014 was a very fast one in politics; many things happened so fast which spelt doom for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its embattled candidate, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The damnation of the PDP, however, was the prosperity of the new opposition party which had just formed a solid coalition in late 2013. As Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was the chief aggregator of the new party, Muhammadu Buhari became the only anointed candidate worthy enough in political standing to give Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP a run for their money.
But a political bigwig, who is not only the longest serving Nigerian Head of State ever, but is also a very important influencer in how elections swing, had reason to go against the party he helped found (PDP) and queue behind a weak Muhammadu Buhari. In fact, Obasanjo tore his PDP party membership card ceremoniously then to show Goodluck Jonathan that he will not support him or his party at the 2015 elections. Obasanjo also wrote an open letter which summarized and rated very poorly the administration of Jonathan.
At a particular point in same 2014, Muhammadu Buhari, Bola Tinubu, Bisi Akande and other leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) went visiting Obasanjo in his Abeokuta home, and the occasion was also beamed publically. So many may not have paid attention to how these tiny actions were determinant in the outcome of the election, but it surely had a great impact in how the electorate blocs swung with their votes in favour of Buhari in 2014.
Fast forward to 4 years after Obasanjo’s public endorsement of Buhari, and he has nothing good to say about the administration this time around. In a 4,018-word commentary titled POINTS FOR CONCERN AND ACTION, Obasanjo, in his usual character of not mincing words, had hard jibes only for Buhari.
Obasanjo made scathing remarks on President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). While also criticizing Buhari’s interference with the judiciary, Obasanjo alleged that the Buhari government is gradually regressing the nation back to the Abacha era– an era which Nigerians recall in negative nostalgia. Obasanjo also noted that Buhari, after all, always calls Abacha his hero; whereas the Buhari administration has received hundreds of millions of dollars of funds from Swiss banks where Abacha had stashed stolen funds.
The biggest, most controversial and more damning is the insinuation by Obasanjo that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the Chairmanship of Professor Yakubu has been under immense pressure by the Buhari government to rig the forthcoming elections in his favour. As a former president himself who was well versed in rigging antics, can we say Obasanjo does not know what he is talking about? Everybody knows how scandalous elections used to be during the days of Professor Maurice Iwu, before the review of the Electoral Act 2014 where a lot of the rigging loopholes got blocked. Even though the leadership of the electoral body has come out to debunk such rumours that they are under any pressure to influence election results, everything still does not seem right with the way Buhari himself refused to sign the reviewed Electoral Act in December 2018 – probably because the review was not going to favour him at the polls.
It is one thing for elections to be won fair and square, it is another thing to cunningly try to perpetuate a despotic hold on power. Some pundits have called for the dismissal of Obasanjo’s open letter, suggesting that he is just a pot calling kettle black, but citizens need be reminded as well that even for whatever failings the era of Obasanjo might have recorded, his patriotism and the economic legacy of his government cannot be doubted.
The open letter by former president Olusegun Obasanjo is thus not only a damning scorecard on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari; it is not only a sweeping endorsement of Atiku Abubakar of the PDP’s candidacy, it is also a patriotic duty by one of the few steadfast elder statesmen in the nation alerting Nigerians to keep their eyes wide open lest they are shortchanged politically and ultimately, economically.
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