Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Ndubuisi Ugah and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo Wednesday said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Lagos State has the political will to dislodge the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2015 elections.
Obasanjo, however, noted that for the PDP to take over Lagos from ACN , the leaders must subjugate their egos and set aside their individual interests for the general interest of the party.
The former president stated this when the PDP executives in Lagos State paid him a courtesy visit at his Hilltop residence in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital.
But ACN has accused the PDP of stoking the fire of ethnic and sectional politics by implying that President Goodluck Jonathan is being criticised by opposition parties because he (Jonathan) is from a minority tribe.
Obasanjo, who described PDP as a party in wilderness in the state, noted that leaders of the party needed to work together to build the party.
He expressed optimism that if the leaders and members are united, they could capture power from the ACN in the state.
“If only the leaders would sink their egos and regard the party’s interest as supreme and above that of individuals, then the party will come out strong and able to wrestle power from the ruling party,” he said.
Speaking on the fire incident at his residence last week, the former president said the fire would have killed him if the incident had happened in the middle of the night, describing the damage done by the fire as “enormous.”
He said the fire, which occurred inside the office of his private secretary, consumed a number of inflammable items that aided the fire, resulting in a thick smoke that found its way into his bedroom.
“The fire incident, which occurred in the office of my private secretary, resulted in thick smoke which pervaded my bedroom. If it had happened at night, I would have been a dead person now,” Obasanjo said.
The former president, who was full of praises to God for sparing his life, as well as protecting him to be part of the living to witness the new year, stated that he had continued to receive telephone calls from within and outside Nigeria over the incident.
“I want to thank all; and all those who called me on phone both within and outside the country. Let us appreciate the mercy and kindness of God. There are many, we started last year together but no more today, we are not mocking them, but to extol God,” he said.
“In fact, that I’m able to stand erect is God’s blessing, Many of my age group cannot stand well, I am not mocking them, but I am thanking God. My hope and prayer is that this year 2013 will be a glorious year,” he added.
Earlier in his speech, the Chairman of the Lagos PDP, Tunji Shelle, told Obasanjo that the party executive came to see him for three reasons.
“Our Baba, our leader and our president, we are here for three reasons: to sympathise with you over the fire incident, to celebrate New Year with you, and to get your blessings for the 2015 elections,” Shelle said.
The PDP leader said the party thanked God for sparing Obasanjo’s life.
However, the war of words between PDP and ACN over Jonathan's administration raged on Wednesday.
The ACN, reacting to the PDP's statement that Jonathan was being criticised because he is from a minority tribe, described the comment as irresponsible, cheap and inflammatory.
The ACN spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, expressed disappointment that a party which flaunts its "nationalist" credentials would stoop so low to stoke the fire of sectional politics.
The party rejected PDP’s view, saying as a democratically-elected leader, Jonathan is subject to criticism from those who elected him into office as well as the opposition, which has a stake in the well-being of the country.
“President Jonathan is not an oracle or the head of an absolute monarchy who cannot be criticised. He is a democratically elected president whose actions are subject to scrutiny by the people, irrespective of what part of the country he comes from,” it said.
ACN said if the PDP feels that the president is being unfairly criticised over his administration’s poor performance, it should use verifiable facts and figures, not cooked-up statistics, to counter such criticism, instead of resorting to a desperate tactics that could inflame the polity.
“This statement credited to the PDP spokesman, Olisa Metuh, is unprecedented. Never before has the spokesman of a ruling party or a central government in Nigeria accused the opposition of criticising the president because he is from one part of the country. This statement can only be the product of a lazy and desperate party official, who will find the easy way out, even at the risk of setting the country on fire, just to keep his job,” the party said.
It wondered why the PDP did not blame the scathing criticism of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua on the fact that they are from a section of the country, considering that both former leaders were not spared by the opposition during their tenures.
“Therefore, we reject and condemn the irresponsible accusation that President Jonathan is being criticised because of the part of the country he hails from. We reject the cheap blackmail that our criticism of the president’s action amounts to abuse of his person. We say unequivocally that while we have nothing but total respect for the office of the president, this will not prevent us from criticising his administration as constructively and responsibly as we have been doing.
“We note that there is nothing that the opposition has said about the Jonathan administration’s non-performance and cluelessness that other Nigerians, including clerics, politicians and public commentators have not said, and wondered why the PDP has singled out the opposition for castigation,” ACN said.