Generals in the Trenches as Buhari Jabs Obasanjo


President Muhammadu Buhari and one of his predecessors, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, have gone ballistics over their differences, preparatory to the 2019 elections, writes Abimbola Akosile

Since his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari in January, titled: ‘The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement,’ former President Olusegun Obasanjo has not hidden the fact that he’d taken a position as far as the 2019 election is concerned. The former president, who is hitherto one of the few Nigerians with enviable access to Aso Rock, the seat of power, was unequivocal in his letter, where he pointedly asked Buhari to shelve the idea of seeking re-election in the nation’s interest.

In following this up, Obasanjo had immediately set up a group, Coalition for Nigeria Movement. This was soon given immense boost with several consultations with some of the critical stakeholders in the country, with whom Obasanjo discussed the inanities of the Buhari administration and the implications of allowing him continue in office.

Weeks after, Obasanjo’s coalition movement adopted a political party, African Democratic Congress (ADC) as its platform to challenge the status quo in 2019. From that juncture, he elevated the debate as purely issue and context-based, often openly calling out Buhari as unfit, in what can also be categorised as character debate.
Curiously, the Buhari had ignored Obasanjo all the while he was attacking him. Aside the response done to his January letter by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, which was well tempered by all standards and utterly atypical of the disposition of the administration, Buhari definitely maintained silence while the former president sustained his offensive.

Unexpectedly, however, Buhari broke his silence last week, perhaps, realising it was no longer golden as he too threw jabs at Obasanjo, accusing him of “bragging” that he spent $16 billion on the power sector without anything to show for it.

“You know the rail was killed and one of the former heads of state between that time was bragging that he spent more than $16 billion, not naira, on power. Where is the power? Where is the power? And now, we have to pay the debt.”

Quite expectedly, Obasanjo fired back, describing Buhari as ignorant and that it was doubtful the president had a proper understanding of the issues before he made what he dismissed as ‘the unfounded allegation.’

“We recommend that the president and his co-travelers 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,” Akin Osuntokun, a director in the former president’s CNM said in statement last week.

Naturally, the disagreement between the two generals was soon taken up by their supporters as some form of proxy war, particularly on the social media. It is also interesting to note that the vigour with which Obasanjo canvassed for Buhari at the expense of his then estranged godson, former President Goodluck Jonathan, is the same he is out against Buhari.

Both retired generals of the army and former heads of state. Obasanjo has had the privilege of also leading as a civilian president while Buhari is currently serving out his first term of four years. What this means is that they are both grounded in the art of war and perhaps, understand the consequences of the choices they have made.

Much as it is not going to be easy for the both of them as they try hard to undo each other, it needs no further telling that their choices would have its devastating effect on the country and her people.

The other point is that Obasanjo’s capacity to mobilise the international community on local matters as well as stir instructive debate cannot be underestimated, an edge which appears to have bolstered his courage about his capacity to show Buhari the way out in 2019.

But the president does not appear bothered, whatever is considered his limitation, and has shown increasing determination to give his second term project all the required push. Besides, a taciturn Buhari can be mean if and when he chooses to fight back, the reason this battle of the general should worry the discerning.

Although the plight of the president might have been compounded by the growing clamour that he should stand down his re-election bid, the argument that it is his right and choice also suffices. From the northern leaders to their youths, the Christian Association of Nigeria and of course, other stakeholders and interest groups, Buhari’s re-election bid appears unpopular, but he has resolved to take his chances, the very reason 2019 promises to throw up a lot of upsets.