Obasanjo and The Buhari Clap-back
With Oke Epia, Telephone (sms only): 07059850016 Email: email@example.com.
s the 2019 elections draw close, the lines are beginning to fall in unpleasant places for many in the political loop. This includes but not limited to aspirants, godfathers, political party apparatchiks, navigators and ex-navigators alike. The days, weeks and months ahead hold plenty of drama that will excite the polity and incite jugular jibes as played out between Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari during the week.
The latter took a calculated swipe at the former while hosting a cluster of supporters at the presidential villa in Abuja. Buhari rehashed an existing but hardly validated accusation that the administration of President Obasanjo spent $16billion on power with only colossal darkness to show for it. Not one to take a blow below the belt without a (dis)proportionate response, the former president fired back querying, “is it not beneath the dignity of the exalted office he holds to join the chorus of beer parlour gossips?
How can a president who has all the information at his beck and call degenerate to this level?” Not done, the ex-president caused his spokesman to issue a scathing rejoinder thus: “We believe that the President was re-echoing the unsubstantiated allegation against Chief Obasanjo by his own predecessor but one, while it is doubtful that a President with proper understanding of the issue would utter such, it should be pointed out that records from the National Assembly had exculpated President Obasanjo of any wrong-doing concerning the power sector and has proved the allegations as false. We recommend that the President and his co-travellers should read Chapters 41, 42, 43 and 47 of My Watch for Chief Obasanjo’s insights and perspectives on the power sector and indeed what transpired when the allegation of $16 billion on power projects was previously made. If he cannot read the three-volume book, he should detail his aides to do so and summarise the chapters in a language that he will easily understand.”
This falling out between Buhari and Obasanjo was predicted in this column when the signs first appeared in the public space. When in 2016 Obasanjo openly criticized the Buhari administration in an abrupt disruption of a period of political romance from the pre-2015 elections, I projected the trajectory of sour relations that would culminate in a total breaking of ties. From that public criticism to a virulent disparagement earlier this year, the Ota farmer has since become the arrowhead of the opposition within Nigeria’s mainstream political establishment to Buhari’s bid to retain the presidency in 2019.
Until now, the incumbent had restrained his lieutenants from frontally taking on his predecessor in what many interpreted as respect to military hierarchy drawn down from their days in service. But having broken that bound by hitting hard at Obasanjo, Buhari has willy-nilly opened the floodgate for his band of supporters to follow suit. The father figure of opposition to Buhari has now become a target of ravenous rants and tactless tirades from the Buhari camp. And since the gloves are off, Obasanjo, a time-worn warhorse known for roforofo fights is likely to respond in similar if not worse fashion. The theatre is now open and it will be long before the curtains are drawn.
The battle between both men will on one hand bring orgasmic excitement to an increasingly tensed political environment in a manner which allows for the occasional ventilation transitional periods like this require. On the other hand however, it portends a possible descent into a realm of die-hard or do-or-die politics that has the potential of further pushing Nigeria down the dangerous precipice on which she is already dangling. And if that is not checked, the country risks an inevitable slip into a consuming abyss. Somewhere in between though is the hidden value that can be gained from the presidential punches in that it presents an opportunity for some disclosure of the deep institutional rot plaguing the country. This disclosure will be valuable if it eventually serves the purpose of correcting the wrongs of the past, including the application of sanctions, rewards and restitutions as may be desirable.
Otherwise, it will end up as another item of scandalous discourse that further muddles up the public space with more dirt, hurt and hate. Like the late literary icon, Chinua Achebe said, it can open our eyes to know where the rain began to beat us and thereby provide a leeway to navigate an escape from the storm.
As the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) admonished, President Buhari should go beyond alleging that Obasanjo misappropriated $16 billion and institute a holistic probe of the power sector. “We expect President Buhari to institute a full-scale public inquiry into the spending on power by former President Obasanjo’s administration. This will give teeth to his anti-graft war. His administration’s concentration on one particular administration, while leaving the ones before the former President Goodluck Jonathan government has been the reason for our doubt of the sincerity in his war against corruption. Therefore, if the President knows what we don’t know, it is time to prove to Nigerians that he is really fighting corruption.”
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) also offered a similar advice to Buhari. In a statement by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization demanded that the matter be referred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation. I align myself with this position.
PIX: Obasanjo.jpg and Buhari.jpg