Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday said he would not reply President Goodluck Jonathan’s December 20 letter accusing him of threatening national security.
Obasanjo, who addressed a news conference through his media aide, Tunde Oladunjoye,at his Hilltop Mansion in Abeokuta, Ogun State, said in spite of requests by Nigerian and international media for him to reply the President, he would still maintain his “serenity.”
But he made it clear that he had through his December 2,2013 letter to Jonathan, done his duty to the President, the Peoples Democratic Party and the nation, as a former President and an elder statesman.
Obasanjo, had in his 18-page letter titled “Before it is too late,” accused the President, among other things, of placing 1,000 Nigerians on a watch list and training snipers to assassinate his political opponents.
He had added that Jonathan’s actions were capable of derailing the country’s democracy.
But the President replied Obasanjo on Sunday, claiming that his letter was full of lies against him and his administration.
In a tone indicating that he was highly pained by the former President’s letter, Jonathan wrote, “The allegation of training snipers to assassinate political opponents is particularly incomprehensible to me. Since I started my political career as a Deputy Governor, I have never been associated with any form of political violence.
“Regarding the over 1,000 people you said are on a political watch list, I urge you to kindly tell Nigerians who they are and what agencies of government are ‘watching’ them.
“Your allegation that I am using security operatives to harass people is also baseless. Nigerians are waiting for your proof. That was an accusation made against previous administrations, including yours, but it is certainly not my style and will never be. Again, if you insist on the spurious claim that some of your relatives and friends are being harassed, I urge you to name them and tell Nigerians what agencies of my administration are harassing them.”
He went on to add that the letter by Obasanjo also suggested to him that landmines had been laid for him.
But Obasanjo told journalists in a two-page statement read by Oladunjoye , a former deputy governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State, that he had resolved not to make further comments on either his letter or Jonathan’s.
Immediately after reading the statement titled, ‘Re: Before It Is Too Late,’ he rose from his seat, declining to entertain questions from the journalists.
The statement reads,” Since the publication of the letter written by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, which was in response to the letter earlier written by former President, Commander-in-Chief, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR; we have received several enquiries from local and international media asking to know Chief Obasanjo’s reaction to Mr. President’s response.
“One, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, acknowleges Mr. President’s letter/response. However, Baba, as he already indicated in his December 2, 2013 letter does not wish to make further comments beyond the contents of his last letter to Mr. President or react to the said letter/response from Dr. Jonathan. Let me quote from page 14, paragraph two of Chief Obasanjo’s letter to Mr. President dated December 2, 2013 and titled Before It is Too Late: “I will maintain my serenity, because by this letter, I have done my duty to you as I have always done, to your government, to the PDP, and to our country, Nigeria.
“Two, let me reiterate here, that Chief Obasanjo has tremendous respect for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Oladunjoye added that Obasanjo “sincerely appreciates all of you, my cherished colleagues; gentlemen and women of the media profession, who have been very upright, ethical and robust on the subject matter.”
Obasanjo’s claim that Jonathan was playing politics with the Africa Development Bank and World Bank Rivers State water project in Rivers State was however supported by Governor Rotimi Amaechi during a rally by the All Progressives Congress at the Liberation Stadium in Port Harcourt.
“If they tell us that it is the ADB, tell them I said it is both ADB and the World Bank. We have completed everything we need to complete. They don’t want to sign, they want you and I to die of hunger,” Amaechi told APC supporters.
He added, “I will not lie, I drink table water. So the best I can do for you and the best your President can do for you is to ask the World Bank about the water project.
“All those that say they want South-South President, I agree, you want South-South President. If a South-South President refuses to give you water, you can still sweep him out. Let him tell us what project he has done for us.”
Meanwhile, two Northern groups – the Arewa Consultative Forum and the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen – have differed on Jonathan’s reply to Obasanjo’s letter.
While the ACF said Jonathan’s reply had given Nigerians an opportunity to judge, the CNPAPB said it was a poor attempt to respond to ‘very serious’ issues raised by a former President of the country.
The ACF spokesman, Mr. Anthony Sani, in an interview with one of our correspondents, however expressed reservations about the open nature of the altercations between the two Nigerian leaders.
Sani said, “I have read both letters and wish to state that such open altercations be avoided in favour of confidential correspondence, especially when regard is paid to their personal and political relationships which have profound effect on the pace of development of the Nigerian project.
“But since the genie has been let out of the bottle, it is good that Mr. President has replied the letter. It is now left for Nigerians to pass their judgment in the larger interest of Nigeria.”
However, the Convener of the CNPAPB, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, cautioned Nigerians against taking their eyes off the issues made public by Obasanjo.
Mohammed said, “If Nigerians decide to take their eyes off the ball until this issue becomes serious, then we have ourselves to blame.
“In addition, one of the inadequacies of the latter by the President is that it was unlike Obasanjo’s.
“Jonathan’s letter is more of a civil service draft- a combination of all sorts of contributions by half-baked politicians, mediocre civil servants and journalistic thugs in the service of the President.
“Whether Obasanjo is liked or not; is beside the point, let Nigerians insist that issues raised by Obasanjo in his letter be properly addressed.”
The medical doctor turned politician said the allegation that the Jonathan administration was training snipers must not be glossed over.
But the Ijaw National Congress said that Obasanjo should open up on the training of snipers.
Lauding the President’s reply, it said that Nigerians could not be deceived by Obasanjo.
The INC spokesman, Mr. Victor Borubo, also said that Obasanjo was not in a position to advise Jonathan on whether or not to run for the Presidency in 2015.
He said, “President Jonathan is trying his best to develop the country. Obasanjo should not forget that the PDP crisis did not start with Jonathan. Nigerians cannot be deceived by his letter.
“Obasanjo is claiming that Jonathan promised to go for only one term as President, but he (Jonathan) has told his critics to produce evidence that he made such a promise.”
Also on Monday, a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, appealed to Jonathan and Obasanjo to close ranks and proffer solutions to the country’s challenges.
Alamieyeseigha told journalists in Yenagoa that even though Obasanjo’s motive for making the letter public was unclear, the issues he raised in it were weighty and should not be ignored.
“The advice, through a letter to President Jonathan, no doubt is coming from a respected person who has ruled the country both as a military head of state and a two-time president of a democratic government,” the News Agency of Nigeria quoted the former governor as saying.
“We can concede to him (Obasanjo). He has the in-depth knowledge of governance; he has seen it all; and so a letter coming from him should not be taken on the face value,’’ he advised.
Alamieyeseigha noted that leadership and nation-building were responsibilities that required the input of various stakeholders.
“President Jonathan is not a super human, so if the country is drifting in the eyes of objective and patriotic persons in the country, they can come out and proffer solutions after identifying the problems.’’ he said.