Olusola Fabiyi, John Alechenu, John Ameh, Olalekan Adetayo, Success Nwogu, Leke Baiyewu, Tony Okafor and Gbenga Odogun
The Federal Government on Wednesday said it had taken ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s condemnation of Nigeria’s political system and his assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari administration in good faith.
It added that Obasanjo might have not been able to notice government’s efforts on economy because of his busy schedule.
It said it had no reason to believe that Obasanjo had any motive beyond the wellbeing of the nation in issuing the statement.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this while addressing State House correspondents at the end of the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Mohammed said the government appreciated what Obasanjo said concerning the present administration’s performance in two out of the three key issues that formed its campaign –fighting corruption and tackling insurgency.
He, however, regretted that the former President believed that the administration did not deserve a pass mark in the area of the economy, which is the third of the campaign promises.
The minister said in the face of massive challenges, the administration had done creditably well.
Mohammed said, “We believe that Chief Obasanjo, because of his very busy schedule, may not have been fully availed of developments in the government’s efforts to revamp the economy, which was battered by the consequences of over-dependence on a commodity as well as unprecedented pillaging of the treasury.
“Today, most of the indices by which an economy is measured are looking up. Permit me to say, however, that Nigeria would not have exited recession through a mere order or if the administration had not made use of ‘good Nigerians’ who could help.”
“It is true that many Nigerians have been calling on the President to run again, while others are opposed to his return. However, we believe this issue is a distraction for the President at this time. This is because Mr. President spends every waking hour tackling the enormous challenges facing the nation, most of which were bequeathed to his administration by successive past administrations.”
On the herders-farmers’ clashes, the minister said the administration was determined to end the crisis once and for all, not minding that fact that the clashes predated the present government.
Listing some of the achievements of the present administration, Mohammed said foreign reserves peaked at $40bn, the highest level in about four years, and up from $24bn just a year ago, even though the price of oil had crashed woefully.
He quoted the National Bureau of Statistics as reporting that inflation had fallen for 11 consecutive months, standing at 15.37 per cent as of December 2017, describing it as the lowest inflation rate since January 2017.
He added that the determined implementation of the Treasury Single Account had stopped the haemorrhaging of the treasury, disclosing that N108bn had been saved from removal of maintenance fees payable to banks, pre-TSA.
“Government agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service are reporting highest-ever revenue collection, while JAMB, under the new management appointed by President Buhari in 2016, remitted N7.8bn to the coffers of the Federal Government. The total amount remitted by JAMB between 2010 and 2016 was a paltry N51m.
“These positive indices may not have immediately impacted positively on Nigerians, but Nigerians will definitely get a new lease of life a short while from now.
“This is because the good news from the agricultural sector, which is recording a bumper harvest, will bring down the cost of foodstuffs, especially such staple as rice, and our massive Social Investment Programme will ease the pain of the most vulnerable in the society,” he said.
We remain best option, APC tells Obasanjo
The All Progressives Congress has rejected Obasanjo’s condemnation of Buhari administration.
This was part of the outcome of a meeting of the party’s National Working Committee in Abuja on Wednesday.
It was contained in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi.
The party said the APC remained the best option for Nigerians and rejected Obasanjo’s call for another political movement.
The APC said it did not agree with everything the former president said, especially on his assessment of the government and the party.
The ruling party, however, stated that it had noted the issues raised by the former President and assumed that “these were made in good faith.”
The statement partly read, “As a father of the nation, we understand that the former President would feel obliged to intervene if certain things are not being done in a particular way.
However, we believe that such interventions should be for the sole purpose of improving the system and encouraging the relevant institutions to work harder.
“It is for this reason that we disagree with the former President in what appears like a wholesale dismissal of the entire political system in the country.
“We acknowledge our challenges as a new political party, even as we believe that the APC remains the best option at this time for Nigerians who are genuinely committed to the progress of the country.”
The APC also noted that there were about 72 other registered political parties in the country and the people reserved the right to support any of these.
It pointed out that Nigeria’s democracy itself was young and “hence all the parties face sundry challenges, but we have made progress since 1999, with President Obasanjo himself being a major contributor to our progress as a multi-party democracy.”
The party said, “We believe that the respected former President should not give the impression that none of the political parties in the country is good enough for Nigerians and the only solution to the current challenges that we face is a completely new arrangement.
“The task of building a political party is not done overnight. Even the oldest of our political parties is still very young in comparison with advanced democracies.
“Our democracy, therefore, stands a better chance of becoming really strong if we allow the parties to find their identities, even if in the process they make mistakes and appear to be ‘wobbling.’ No political party arrives fully formed.
“We are the ruling party. We must take responsibility; take valuable lessons on board and continue to improve. Regardless of the current challenges, we are confident that brighter future is assured for our party and our country,” he added.
Saraki, Lawan block impeachment call
In the Senate, there was a mild drama on Wednesday when the lawmaker representing the Abia South Senatorial District, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, was prevented from making comments on the ‘special press release’ issued by Obasanjo.
Abaribe at the plenary on Wednesday called for the impeachment of any President or governor that failed in their responsibilities.
But Saraki and the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, prevented Abaribe from making further comments in relation to Obasanjo’s attack on Buhari.
The Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, at the plenary, had led the debate on his bill for ‘An Act to Prescribe Punishment for Acts and Conduct that are undemocratic by Elected Officials and/or Persons.’
Na’Allah said, “A situation where certain undemocratic elements are left to intentionally work against our laws and ethics under the guise of politics has increasingly become worrisome and, if not checked, may in future affect our democratic culture with attendant consequence of discouraging well-meaning Nigerians who desire to serve this nation.”
Speaking on the bill, Abaribe asked that the acts that would categorise as antidemocratic be clearly defined.
He said, “I think where the problem of Na’Allah, our very good friend, is, that the Executive today have refused to act when they need to act, especially on the consequences of what the people do.
“The penalty is there in the Constitution. If a President refuses to act, then impeach him. There is no other thing you need to do.”
Lawan however raised a point of order to fault Abaribe as deviating from the issue being debated.
“Senator Abaribe veered off completely from the subject matter and in a way cast aspersions on the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the President and I believe he should withdraw (his comment) and continue to remain on track,” Lawan said.
Saraki, in his remark, agreed with the Majority Leader, saying, “You have completely gone off the subject matter. I don’t even need a point of order. I will play the role of the leader and President of the Senate on this matter.”
Senate South-East caucus backs ex-President
The South-East caucus in the Senate has backed Obasanjo.
The caucus on Wednesday said the ex-President’s statement was a clear vindication of its earlier position on the lopsided nature of Buhari’s government.
Leader of the caucus, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, while speaking to journalists in Abuja, said the lawmakers had warned against the danger of “the nepotism in the administration but unfortunately many Nigerians looked the other way.”
He said, “What former President Obasanjo said is what we had said long ago. No one should be surprised over the shape of the political appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“To be fair to him, the President made himself clear during his state visit to the United States of America, with his now unfortunate theory of 95 per cent and five per cent reward for support. The whole thing has come to bear negatively on the entire country.”
In a related development, Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna-Central), urged Nigerians to bear with Obasanjo on his attack on the Presidency.
He said the people had jubilated when the ex-President attacked the National Assembly.
His Facebook post on Wednesday read, “Baba fired missiles at the National Assembly and called its members unarmed robbers; then, you laughed. Baba fired missiles at the Villa and called its members names, now you are crying.”
Also, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, who spoke through his Twitter handle on Wednesday, decried the high spate of impunity in Nigeria in the last three years.
His tweets read in part, “Where there is impunity, there cannot be unity. In the past three years, Nigeria has sunk into barbarism; not because of the thousands of death from killer herdsmen, but because of the fact that no one has been arrested, tried and sentenced or executed for these deaths.”
Reps’ chief whip, minority leader, disagree
At the House of Representatives, two principal officers disagreed over Obasanjo’s statement.
While the Chief Whip, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, said Nigerians should disregard the letter “in its entirety,” the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, told The PUNCH that whether Obasanjo was right or wrong, Nigerians would decide Buhari’s fate at the appropriate time.
Alhassan Ado-Doguwa said Obasanjo lacked the moral power to advise Buhari against seeking a second term.
He described Obasanjo as a man who desperately sought a third term, adding that he was one of those responsible for the current “economic and political quagmire” of the country.
Ado-Doguwa is also the North-West caucus leader of the House.
Ado-Doguwa, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kano State, however, clarified that he spoke in his personal capacity.
He said, “The former President lacks the moral and political credibility to speak the way he is doing on political affairs of this country. Nigerians should disregard Obasanjo’s comments and continue to support the good work Buhari is doing for Nigeria.”
But, Ogor told The PUNCH that there was no need speaking elaborately on Obasanjo’s letter.
He said, “Nigerians are watching and are in the best position to assess Buhari. Let us leave this matter for now. the Nigerian people, will decide his (Buhari’s) fate.”
Another member of the House, Mr. Igariwey Iduma-Enwo, commended Obasanjo for writing to Buhari.
He said, “Chief Obasanjo’s letter is expected of an elder statesman. He merely articulated the obvious bankruptcy and contradictions of the Buhari administration.
The Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, kept mute over the development as of Wednesday as his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, told one of our correspondents that he was busy.
The Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, also failed to reply to text messages for his comment on Obasanjo’s letter.
Our party is a true coalition of Nigerians –PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party has said it represents the true coalition of Nigerians from across the country.
He added that its experience in governance and successful rebound from challenges had provided it an edge over other political platforms in Nigeria.
This is just as the party said it did not procure judgment from the Supreme Court contrary to the claims made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his statement on Tuesday in which he advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, said Obasanjo’s claim on procurement of judgement amounted to an ill-intended attempt to impugn on the integrity of the Supreme Court.
Ologbondiyan said the ruling of the Supreme Court, which ended the protracted internal feud within its fold, rather than detract, reinforced the confidence of Nigerians in the PDP.
He said, “The conduct of our December 2017 elective National Convention in a transparent, free and fair manner and where nobody was a kingmaker denotes the democratic credentials of the repositioned PDP to deliver credible primaries that would yield a presidential candidate Nigerians desire.”
Stressing that there is an extensive dissimilarity between the PDP and the APC, Ologbondiyan noted that while PDP remained “nationally populist and development-driven, the APC by orientation and composure is arrogant, inept and anti-people, hence the nationwide detestation against it.”
IPOB hails Obasanjo, mocks Igbo leaders
The Indigenous People of Biafra on Wednesday hailed Obasanjo, for his courage in condemning the misdeeds of the Buhari government.
The group described Obasanjo’s admonition as a blow on Igbo leaders in the South-East who endorsed Buhari for a second term.
Describing the leaders as undignified individuals, IPOB said Obasanjo’s statement shared the ideals of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
In a statement made by IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, the group described Obasanjo’s letter as carefully timed.
It read in part, “The statement by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was carefully timed to deliver a devastating blow to the scavenging class of political prostitutes in Igboland that shamelessly went to hawk their wares in Abuja a few days ago.
“The shameless endorsement of Buhari for 2019 by this bunch of undignified individuals under the banner Igbo leaders has showcased to the world what a bunch of delinquent inconsequential vain glorious misery merchants they are.
“We support Obasanjo for his timely intervention because at a time of national crisis and with people losing their lives across the Middle Belt and southern Nigeria, anybody discussing partisan politics under such an atmosphere of mass misery is not fit to be regarded as a leader.
“We also commend Chief Ben Nwabueze and Chief Mbazuluike Amaechi who have been speaking in this direction without fear.”
‘Nobody can stop Buhari’
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State says those criticising Buhari do not have the power to stop his re-election.
He said no campaign of calumny would frustrate Buhari’s re-election, adding that the President had the overwhelming support of Nigerians to continue in office in view of his transparent leadership.
Bello, who spoke during the opening of the rehabilitation centre for drug abusers on Wednesday in Lokoja, wondered how people who plundered the resources of the country would be contemplating returning to power, saying such would not happen.
Bello said, “President Buhari is trying his best in the fight against corruption, insurgency and trying to improve the economy as well. Those who are against the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari cannot stop him.”
In another development, a presidential aspirant, Prof. Olufunmilayo Adesanya-Davies, on Wednesday said Obasanjo spoke the truth.
Adesanya-Davis, who is aspiring under the Peoples Democratic Party, in a statement in Ilorin, Kwara State, urged Buhari to listen to Obasanjo’s advice.
He said, “Obasanjo spoke the mind of all reasonable Nigerians. Also, the ex-President’s concept of a coalition for Nigeria may be the way forward.”