- Vows to abandon CNM if it ventures into partisan politics
Femi Ogbonnikan in Abeokuta and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has explained that his exchange of pleasantries with President Muhammadu Buhari in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, during the African Union (AU) summit, did not in anyway undermine the significance of his statement to the president advising him not to contest the 2019 elections.
Obasanjo, who spoke at the secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the Oke Ilewo neighbourhood of Abeokuta, Ogun State, yesterday when he went to register at the launch of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), added that his statement to Buhari was not borne out of malice but out of deep concern for the parlous state of the country.
CNM, which was launched at the national level in Abuja on Wednesday, is a political movement comprising politicians, professionals and civil society group, that have come together to chart the way forward for Nigeria in the areas of governance, development and poverty alleviation.
Obasanjo said he never condemned the Buhari-led administration in totality, explaining that he commended the president in areas where he had performed creditably.
The ex-president, who addressed scores of potential members of the CNM who came for the launch in Abeokuta, said: “Last week, I issued a statement which I did not do lightly or frivolously but out of deep concern for the situation of our country.
“I wonder why some Nigerians were worried why I had to pay respect to the Nigerian president at Addis Ababa. That’s my own upbringing as a well-born and bred Yoruba boy.
“That doesn’t mean that what I have said about the president, which I did not say out of bitterness and hatred… it is evidence that the president has performed, in some areas, good enough.
“In other areas not good and the proper advice I gave, which he may take and he may not take.
“I didn’t do that out of malice or out of ‘bad belle’. I did it out of my respect for that office and my interest and I hope in your interest and the interest of Buhari.”
He declared that his envisioned CNM was not a third force as being touted, but a popular movement to accommodate all Nigerians, regardless of their political leanings, in order to propel Nigeria forward.
Obasanjo, who sounded confident that the movement would spearhead the processes, programmes, policies and priorities to make Nigeria a great country both in the West African sub-region and on the African continent, equally averred that the group would mobilise membership all over Nigeria and in the diaspora.
He noted that though members of the movement would be free to collectively decide on whether CNM becomes a political party or not, he vowed to abandon the movement the day it decides to enter active partisan-politics.
Obasanjo, who was accompanied by the former governors of Cross River and Osun States, Donald Duke and Olagunsoye Oyinlola, respectively, two-time Ogun State PDP gubernatorial candidate, Gboyega Nasiru Isiaka, former Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Modupe Adelaja, and party stalwarts drawn from both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was afterwards decorated with the official emblem of the movement by Duke.
Youth organisations, pressure groups, professional bodies and members of civil society groups were also in attendance at the event.
Speaking further, Obasanjo, who expressed delight at the launch of the movement in Abuja, observed that Nigeria as a nation, cannot continue with business as usual, observing that “if the instruments we have used so far in our nation building and governance since independence have not served us well, it is imperative that we should have a rethink and retool”.
Obasanjo stressed that Nigeria, like any other nation, has various challenges, stressing that the coalition’s readiness to mobilise Nigerians for peace, unity, security, stability, love, welfare and the well-being of vulnerable Nigerians, particularly the youths and women, was timely.
He referred to the disrespect for the federal character as espoused in the country’s constitution, the spate of killings and violence in virtually every part of Nigeria, and the parlous nature of the nation’s economy under the Buhari administration, as some of the reasons for the birth of the coalition.
“Let me emphasise important areas, programmes, priorities, or processes for improved attention: To start with, we seem to have taken nation building for granted.
“Nation building must be given continued attention to give every citizen a feeling of belonging and a stake in his or her country. For instance, the federal character principle, as espoused in our Constitution, was to guide the leadership to search for competent holders of major offices to be distributed within the entire nation and avoid concentration in a few ethnic hands or geographical places as we currently have in the leadership of our security apparatus.
“To avoid such a non-integrative situation, we have the National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission (FCC), both institutions which must raise the alarm or call for correction of actions by the executive that violates the spirit of our Constitution.
“In the like manner, the spate of violence, criminality, organised crime, insurgency and terrorism have not received sufficient proactive ameliorative responses through transformational leadership – a determined leadership that brings cohesion and wholesomeness to the polity.
“Nobody and no group should feel excluded in his or her country. Inclusion and popular participation must be visibly pursued in terms of politics, the economy and our overall social life,” he declared.
He, however, noted that through CNM, Nigerian youths will be emboldened, empowered, have employment and play meaningful and responsible roles in the leadership and governance of the country in all ramifications.
Obasanjo added: “Nigerian women will have dignity, responsibility and equal consideration with men in the affairs of Nigeria. The movement is a means to an end.
“The end is Nigeria unshackled, united, dynamic, strong, secure, cohesive, stable, and prosperous at home and respected outside, and as a result, able to play decisive roles assertively within the comity of nations.
“A Nigeria of hope, aspiration and assurances which belongs to all with no sacred cow nor sacrificial lamb is what we want.
“My Nigeria, your Nigeria and our Nigeria with an enchanting presence and secure and glorious future. Join the movement to build a new Nigeria that will be in the hands of God.”
Accusation of Plagiarism
However, as the CNM was being launched in Abeokuta, a group under the auspices of Coalition for Nigeria (CN) yesterday accused the former president of plagiarism, saying Obasanjo stole its idea and name by launching the CNM.
Speaking at a press briefing, Sabo Odeh, a spokesman for the group, said the authentic Coalition for Nigeria has noble intentions centered around galvanising Nigerians for nation building around tenets that are long term without pandering to unnecessary drama and media hype.
According to him, “Our coalition is not limited to creating a backdoor for retired and tired politicians to install puppets in government for the purpose of continuing to loot the treasury while ruling by impunity as had been experienced in the past.
“The Coalition for Nigeria has noble intentions centered around galvanising Nigerians for nation building around tenets that are long term without pandering to unnecessary drama and media hype.
“Obasanjo’s coalition movement seeks to do the exact opposite while leveraging on our credible name to sell its lies to Nigerians.”
He described the Obasanjo-led coalition as a group of failed politicians and those that had made immense contributions towards wrecking Nigeria, with a sprinkling of youths that have anger issues.
Odeh stated: “The Coalition for Nigeria, having the best intentions of our dear nation at heart, is careful to go about effecting change in a way that does not jeopardise the stability and safety of Nigeria.
“There is nothing to be gained in burning our country in the name of seeking improvement; the reforms we all desire are achievable through persuasion, consensus building and collaboration without resorting to inflammatory acts and utterances as we have seen with some people.
“Instead of pursuing peaceful growth and evolution, what we have seen in the children of anger in the Obasanjo coalition movement is a situation where old politicians in their twilight are manipulating youths to be incendiary.
“Our coalition is made up of Nigerians that yearn for a better country with the firm belief that the dismantling of the infrastructure for corruption is a necessary first step that can ensure that we can then build the country on a solid foundation that provides a level playing field to all citizens.
“The Obasanjo coalition movement is however at variance with this noble and laudable assembly, hence its obsession with stealing such a respectable name.
“The failed assemblage is made up of former public office holders that are suffering the withdrawal symptoms of not having access to the proceeds of corruption upon which their unsustainable lifestyles had depended.
“This demographic is supported by their entitled offspring and lackeys that have similarly lost access to easy money.
“The authentic Coalition for Nigeria will continue to pursue the noble objective of having credible persons to drive the Nigeria project irrespective of differences pertaining to class, ethnicity, religious or political affiliation.
“Our belief is that such melding is important for building prosperous nations and Nigeria should not be left behind. This is why we find it distasteful that an impostor coalition is using our identity to malign fellow Nigerians on the divisive concepts of ethnicity and geo-political differences. This is not only criminal but also sick.”
The group cautioned Nigerians not to be duped into “thinking they are dealing with the authentic group when in reality they could be playing into the den of persons that have track records of being political dupes”.