Femi Ogbonnikan in Abeokuta
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo Thursday vowed to do “everything humanly possible” to save Nigeria’s democracy.
The former president has also denied the claim that he threatened to fight and divide the country if President Muhammadu Buhari wins his re-election through rigging in the forthcoming February 16 presidential election.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja during the public presentation of ‘Politics as Dashed Hopes in Nigeria,’ written by a former Solicitor-General of the Federation, and Obasanjo’s former special assistant on Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Dr. Auwalu Anwar, the former president said the world is watching how Nigeria will handle upcoming elections.
He also called on Nigerians to guard the country’s democracy ahead of the general election.
“If we cherish democracy, we will all guard and protect our democracy. And that I believe is the main purpose of the book,” he said.
According to the former president, “I am in despair; our hope lies in democracy and good governance as one of the hallmarks of free fair and credible election.
“As for me, I will do everything humanly possible to safeguard democracy, with good governance for Nigeria and for all Nigerians.”
He added that he is happy most Nigerians are “rising up to their duties and responsibilities in guidance of our democracy.”
“Remember that if you stand aloof when evil is being perpetrated, you become an accomplice in the perpetuation of the evil,” he said.
Obasanjo said, “The quality of politicians in Nigeria is deteriorating.
“I also agree that money has become an unnecessary important aspect of our politics. And that the elites are not putting their act together.”
He noted, “But I believe we have one thing that joins us together which is Nigeria’s nationality. I believe strongly that Nigeria should not be divided.”
Obasanjo used the occasion to deny the claim that he threatened to fight and divide the country, if President Buhari wins his re-election through rigging in the forthcoming February 16 presidential election.
He maintained that as a Nigerian who fought for the unity of Nigeria and “shed part of my blood in the warfront. I am a strong believer in non-divisibility of Nigeria…”
He, however, noted that he could understand “the frustration and feeling of despondency by Nigerians who watch seemingly and helplessly as Nigeria is being destructively and divisively administered.”
The former president added that, while, “melancholic despondency is no option for us at any time. I believe Nigerians will fight back not to divide the country but rather to unite it in democracy and good governance and God, the Creator of Nigeria, will be on the side of such valiant Nigerians to get us out as He has got us out in the past.” According to him, “I read a couple of days ago in the social media, a statement ascribed to me that if Buhari rigs the election, I will fight to divide Nigeria. Those who know me will know that such a statement will never come from me.
“I fought for the unity of Nigeria and I spit part of my blood in the warfront. I am a strong believer in non-divisibility of Nigeria, as Nigeria divided diminishes each of us who proudly call ourselves Nigerians,” Obasanjo added.
The former president disclosed that he is optimistic “and full of hope for a continued democratic Nigeria which will surely be attended with good governance leading to a great, happy, equitable, united, prosperous, secure and wholesome nation.”
On the book title, Obasanjo said that he could “understand where Anwar is coming from to get the title of this book. But we must replace despair with optimism.
“Only last November, at the launching of Africa Progress Group (APG), which I have the honour of chairing, I raised five pillars of Africa’s development, growth and progress as politics, population, protection, prosperity and partnerships. And politics, which essentially is governance, has overarching implications for other four Ps.
“But I am not in despair and I will ask Dr. Anwar and the rest of us not to be in despair. Our hope lies in democracy with good governance as one of the hallmarks of which is free, fair, transparent and credible election.
“Between now and next year, there are four significant countries where elections are taking place in West Africa–Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The incumbent in the three cases were in opposition and took over from ruling parties. It was good for democracy.
“The world is looking at these four countries with the incoming elections to see what will be their contribution to cumulatively strengthen, deepen and stabilise democracy in each of these countries.
Anwar, the author, said the book gives an insight into the activities of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which President Muhammadu Buhari co-founded.
“When the CPC went into crisis, there were committees set up … we created a code of conduct because we believed the principal problem of the CPC was indiscipline.
“It was not a normal political party. There were various segments including the owners, labourers and workers, and the slaves,” he said.