- Says Adeleke’s victory at tribunal saved Nigeria from embarrassment
- Buhari group hits back, says former president angry over defeat
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Femi Ogbonnikan in Abeokuta
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo Saturday chided those trying to discourage the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, from challenging the outcome of the last general election in court, saying, “If Buhari could go to court three times to seek justice, even without reasonable cause, any Nigerian who feels denied of justice must feel free to go to court.” Obasanjo stated this in a congratulatory letter to the Osun State PDP governorship candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, who was on Friday declared winner of the September 22, 2018 election in the state by the governorship election tribunal. The former president said those insinuating that Atiku’s decision to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the presidential election tribunal was an invitation to violence were “evil minds” engaged in a deceptive tactic calculated to rationalise a plot to unleash turmoil on the country.
He said Adeleke’s electoral court victory against the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who had been declared winner of the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Gboyega Oyetola, had saved Nigeria a national embarrassment.
But the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) hit back at Obasanjo, alleging that his criticism of Buhari is an expression of anger over the defeat of Atiku, his preferred candidate at the last presidential poll. In a statement jointly signed by its chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, and secretary, Cassidy Madueke, BMO accused Obasanjo of playing up “a false narrative because of his animosity towards President Muhammadu Buhari”. The group was reacting to Obasanjo’s statement at a recent public function where he bemoaned the state of affairs in the country, especially the conflict generated by the general election.
Obasanjo, who was in Dubai attending the Global Education and Skills Forum meeting, stated in the congratulatory message, “Those who have conceived and are promoting the narrative that if Atiku Abubakar continues to seek legal redress, there will be violence, are evil minds looking for an excuse to unleash violence on Nigerians.
“At no time in the history has sustainable peace been built on theft, injustice, corruption and inequity. These merchants of chaos and violence should have no peace in any decent society. And they must know that no intimidation or prophecy of violence and doomsday will cow anybody.
“Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians. We will respect as friends those who believe that what is good for their country should be good for Nigeria. Yes, we are Africans, but we have values that are consistent with international standards.
“Court is part of our democratic process and it must be used when necessary if only to achieve justice, stability, unity and progress for our country.”
The former president also stated, “While I have refrained from commenting on the 2019 elections, because one of the parties has gone to court, may I point out that those who call themselves our development partners and friends and preach, sacrificing justice on the altar of the so-called stability, are enemies of justice, democracy and Nigeria.
“We will continue to sustain Nigeria in stability and unity on the altar of justice, equity, fairness, freedom, human rights and democracy. Stability cannot be successfully built on injustice, corruption, inequity and divided nation and one-sidedness.
“Nigeria will match forward with or without those who will want to feed us with diet of values and actions that are not acceptable in their own countries. Nigeria is of age.”
Obasanjo commended the Osun governorship election tribunal for its courage in nullifying what he described as “clearly an illegality”, saying, “This action by the judicial officers, albeit a first step in the legal process, gives renewed confidence in the judiciary at a time when there are coordinated efforts by some political leaders to undermine, if not destroy it.
“As I have repeatedly said, the world is watching with keen interest. What we do or do not do right in our electoral process will have implications, not just for Nigeria, but for Africa and, indeed, the world.
“By correcting what was clearly a desperate attempt to change the will of the Osun people, the tribunal has saved Nigeria from great embarrassment and started the process of saving and strengthening our democracy. This is the right and proper thing to do in any decent society.
“Going to court must be encouraged as some people are now attempting to do.”
However, the pro-Buhari group condemned Obasanjo’s disposition to last general election. BMO stated, “It has come to our notice that former President Obasanjo has opted to use the platform presented to him by the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria to again take subtle pot-shot at the Buhari administration.”
It said the former president was being mischievous in drawing a comparison between the civil war and the current situation in Nigeria.
“So we wonder what exactly is happening in the country now that compares with that ugly period in our nation’s history,” it stated.
The group also alleged that the former president’s criticisms were “a reflection of Chief Obasanjo’s disappointment that he was unable to influence the outcome of the February 23 presidential election in favour of his preferred candidate.
“This is the first time since 2007 that the former president cannot authoritatively say he was instrumental to the electoral success of a Nigerian president, so he finds solace in creating the impression of a divided nation.”
The pro-Buhari group said Obasanjo’s comments about the outcome of the presidential election won by Buhari indicated, “This must have hurt his massive ego tremendously and he holds Buhari responsible for that. So it is not surprising that he took that subtle dig at the president, even though he was quoted some time ago as saying that he is not yet ready to speak on the 2019 elections.
“We at BMO believe that as much as the former president has a right to rally support for any presidential candidate, we think this is the time to play the role of a statesman rather than continually singing the ‘losers anthem’
“Having just gone through a major campaign season and a hard-fought presidential election, one would expect people like Obasanjo to be at the forefront of efforts to heal the wounds, not to exacerbate the situation by drawing inaccurate comparison with a part of the Nigerian history that is best forgotten.”