Tobi Soniyi in Lagos and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
For the first time since Tuesday when former President Olusegun Obasanjo issued a 13-page statement accusing President Muhammadu Buhari of bad governance and nepotism, and advising him not to seek re-election in 2019, both men met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the weekend during the African Union (AU) summit.
This is just as the AU named Buhari the “African Anti-Corruption Champion”.
Making this known yesterday the president’s Senior Special Assistant, Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, said in a Twitter post that the president had been named the African anti-corruption champion and congratulated him.
On Buhari’s meeting with Obasanjo, THISDAY learnt that both leaders met briefly before the opening ceremony of the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the AU and exchanged pleasantries.
It was also learnt that Obasanjo made the first move to meet Buhari after he made a beeline to where the president was seated to exchange pleasantries with Buhari.
THISDAY sources disclosed that both men were the cynosure of all eyes inside the Nelson Mandela Hall where they met and had a brief meeting as photojournalists struggled to capture the meeting.
Both of them spoke briefly in low tunes shortly before the meeting kicked off.
Buhari, it was learnt, was just settling down for the next agenda of the meeting, which was the launch of a new logo for the AU, when Obasanjo appeared before him.
The president at the time was warming up to deliver a paper on the theme: “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.”
Walking up to Buhari, Obasanjo was said to have stretched forth his hands towards him for a handshake after which both of them engaged in a converstation, which lasted for a few minutes before they were joined by another former Nigerian Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, who is also a delegate at the summit for group photographs.
Expectedly, the development caused a murmur in the hall as all eyes were on both leaders.
It was gathered that their meeting became the subject of discussion among participants in the hall who discussed the matter in low tones.
However, there was no information on what they discussed, just as their smiles for the cameras seemed to be shrouded in mutual suspicion.
Nonetheless, Buhari while launching the continental anti-corruption war at the event stated that the scourge of corruption robs Africa of over $50 billion annually and challenged his fellow leaders to halt the menace.
Stating that the anti-corruption fight had come to stay in Nigeria, Buhari said his administration would remain resolute in its commitment to bring corrupt elements to justice, stressing that the anti-graft war will be fought in Nigeria “today, tomorrowand the day after tomorrow”.
Stating that his administration had pursued the battle with vigour to the extent that the battle had become institutionalised, Buhari challenged his colleagues to borrow a leaf from Nigeria by empowering anti-corruption agencies in their respective countries and giving them the necessary independence.
He added that the rampaging acts of corruption in Africa speak volumes of the need for strong leadership on the continent.
“African nations must find a way of building a synergy between the executive, judiciary and legislature in order to entrench good governance. Leaders must have a change of mindset by prioritising accountability and transparency in order to succeed in the fight against corruption.
“This is not stating that fighting corruption is going to be a straight forward task as corruption will always fight back. Irrespective of any setback faced in the fight against corruption, African leaders must remain resolute,” he said.
Buhari also advocated for the integration of African youths into the fight against corruption, pointing out the necessity for Africa to raise a generation purged of corruption.
Also, Buhari on the sidelines of the AU summit, canvassed the need to curtail the flow of funds for financing terrorism.
He made the call while addressing a meeting of the Peace and Security Council, with the theme: “Towards a Comprehensive Approach to Combat the Transnational Threat to Terrorism.”
According to him, deliberate moves must be made not only to crash the network between transnational organised crimes and terrorist organisations, but also to ensure that the payment of ransom to terrorist groups is disallowed.
Meanwhile, interest in the proposal to form a Coalition for Nigeria (CN), as proposed by Obasanjo, continues to grow as the former president has been inundated with calls from individuals and groups who are seeking more information on the proposal.
Aides to the former president who spoke with THISDAY in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital at the weekend, said since the Obasanjo’s statement wherein he advised the president to consider a dignified exit after completing his first term in office, Obadanjo’s phone has not stopped ringing.
“Some want to know how the CN will produce leaders for the country since it is not a registered political party, especially given the fact that the law that will allow independent candidates to participate in elections has not been passed.
“Others are just curious about the whole thing and want to know whether the idea stands a chance of success in a polarised society like ours. Some want further clarification,” one of the former president’s aides told THISDAY.
He said Obasanjo has told them to wait for further details coming in the weeks ahead.
Obasanjo, in the statement release last Tuesday, had stated that the polity needs a Coalition for Nigeria.
The former president said such a movement at this juncture needed not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians could belong.
According to him, the movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being, and progress.
He said it must be a coalition to salvage and redeem the country.
“You can count me with such a movement. Last time, we asked, prayed and worked for change and God granted our request. This time, we must ask, pray and work for change with unity, security and progress. And God will again grant us.
“Of course, nothing should stop such a movement from satisfying the conditions for fielding candidates for elections. But if at any stage the movement wishes to metamorphose into candidate-sponsoring movement for elections, I will bow out of the movement because I will continue to maintain my non-partisan position.
“The Coalition for Nigeria must have its headquarters in Abuja. This Coalition for Nigeria will be a movement that will drive Nigeria up and forward. It must have a pride of place for all Nigerians, particularly for our youths and our women.
“It is a coalition of hope for all Nigerians for speedy, quality and equal development, security, unity, prosperity and progress. It is a coalition to banish poverty, insecurity and despair.
“Our country must not be oblivious to concomitant danger around, outside and ahead. The Coalition for Nigeria must be a movement to break new grounds in building a united country, a socially cohesive and moderately prosperous society with equity, equality of opportunity, justice and a dynamic and progressive economy that is self-reliant and takes active part in the global division of labour and international decision-making.
“The movement must work out the path of development and the trajectory of development in speed, quality and equality in the short- medium- and long-term for Nigeria on the basis of sustainability, stability, predictability, credibility, security, cooperation and prosperity with diminishing inequality.
“What is called for is love, commitment and interest in our country, not in self, friends and kinship alone but particularly love, compassion and interest in the poor, underprivileged and downtrodden. It is our human duty and responsibility so to do.
“Failure to do this will amount to a sin against God and a crime against humanity. Some may ask, what does Obasanjo want again? Obasanjo has wanted nothing other than the best for Nigeria and Nigerians and he will continue to want nothing less.
“And if we have the best, we will be contented whether where we live is described as palaces or huts by others and we will always give thanks to God.
“I, therefore, will gladly join such a movement when one is established as Coalition for Nigeria taking Nigeria to the height God has created it to be.
“From now on, the Nigeria eagle must continue to soar and fly high. CN as a movement, will be new, green, transparent and must remain clean and always active, selflessly so,” he had said.