Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd)
Olawale Olaleye, Chuks Okocha, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Damilola Oyedele
The launching of a book, “The Accidental Public Servant,” written by a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Thursday in Abuja provided a platform for politicians across party divide to dissect the state of the nation.
The forum also provided them an avenue to give insight into how the battle for votes during the 2015 elections would be fought.
Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) National Leader, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), in his speech at the book launch, said opposition parties had begun mobilising for the 2015 general election to show their seriousness in wanting to wrest power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He cited the formation of a new party, All Progressive Congress (APC), by four opposition parties — CPC, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) — as an indication of their determination to unseat the PDP in the next general election.
It was also at the occasion that the Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, dropped a hint on his interest to run for the presidential election in 2015.
In addition, the author of the book came under criticism from former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who faulted some of his narration of events while in government.
On his part, ACN National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, in his remarks, pointedly told el-Rufai that he could not exonerate himself from the rot of the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose tenure the book covers.
According to Buhari who lamented the state of the nation, what Nigeria needs now is a strong and determined leader to deliver it from a looming trouble.
Referring to what the United States President Barack Obama said on the need for strong institutions in developing nations, he said the opposite was the case in Nigeria because the country required a strong leader with discipline and determination to restore the institutions to their proper glory.
Buhari also advised those fanning the embers of disunity to desist from doing so as "the country is too intertwined to divide".
On the formation of APC, Buhari said the party has begun mobilising for the 2015 elections and would make public its manifesto after its committees have finished articulating it.
In his address, Aliyu said he welcomed the formation of APC and expressed his preparedness to contest for the presidency in 2015.
According to him, forming a stronger opposition party will help the development of democracy in the country and help ensure that only competent persons aspire to occupy public offices.
“Today, I am one of those in the PDP who is happy with the merger of opposition parties because this will make sure that no riff-raff will ever come to vie for political office in the name of democracy. For me, I am not an accidental public servant; I am prepared for it and when someone asked, ‘I heard you want to run for president’, I said am prepared," he said.
In his contribution, Tinubu, represented by ACN spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said no amount of explanation by el-Rufai could exonerate him from the foibles of the Obasanjo administration, in which he actively participated.
He, however said though nothing has since changed in the leadership of the country from that era, help was on the way as the proposed merger of the opposition parties would take care of the fears of Nigerians.
He added that the revelations in the book were too instructive to be ignored because they come directly from an active player in the system at the time.
“Nasir was not just an eyewitness to power, he had his whole body in the power arena and that is why we must not be in a hurry to dismiss some of the most troubling revelations in his book. Inasmuch as Nasir may not and cannot exonerate himself from all that happened, he has chosen a road less travelled by telling it all,” he said.
A former House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Aminu Masari, who chaired the occasion, urged people who had held public office to document their experiences for posterity and to assist others coming after them to learn some lessons.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said the book launch had brought Nigerians from across political divide together to honour el-Rufai, whom he described as a man of humility and who has respect for family.
The book reviewer and Director General of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, described the book in a simple term as 'excellent' and rigorously fair to former President Obasanjo with six of the 17 chapters describing el-Rufai's experience while working with the former president.
His assessment was, however, at variance with the mood in Obasanjo camp as many of the former president’s allies boycotted the book launch.
A source said Obasanjo, who is angry with el-Rufai over his account of events in his administration, is planning to rebut some of the issues the former minister addressed in the book.
In his response, el-Rufai said he was overwhelmed by the speeches at the occasion and the reactions that his book has generated.
In his reaction to the book, Atiku dismissed it as a collection of fiction, half-truths, exaggeration and reflection of selective memory.
A statement from Atiku’s Media Office, said he was particularly piqued by the claim of el-Rufai that he almost resigned as Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) because of alleged persistent pressure and interference by the former vice-president who was then the chairman of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP).
His account of his relationship with the former vice-president, the statement added, contradicted el-Rufai’s testimony at the Senate Public Hearing on BPE from August 8 to 13, 2011 where he told the committee that because he had a special relationship with Obasanjo, he could bypass the council in the decision making process.