The allegation of training snipers to assassinate political opponents is particularly incomprehensible to me – President
President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday formally replied the 18-page letter written to him by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying it was a threat national security.
Unlike Obasanjo’s letter which was dated December 2 but leaked to the press on December 11, Jonathan’s letter was made available to journalists by his(Jonathan) Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati in Abuja.
In the letter titled “Re: Before It is too Late,” an obviously angry Jonathan said the former President did him grave injustice with the open letter in which he was accused of deceit, deception, dishonesty, incompetence, clannishness, divisiveness and insincerity, amongst other ills.
He gave 10 reasons why he chose to make his own letter public. One of them, according to him, is because Obasanjo’s letter is clearly a threat to national security, as it may deliberately or inadvertently set the stage for subversion.
“The third reason why I must reply you in writing is that your letter is clearly a threat to national security as it may deliberately or inadvertently set the stage for subversion,” Jonathan said in the letter which Abati also streamed on his facebook account, twitter handle and his personal website: www.reubenabati.com.ng.
In the letter, the President said it appeared to him that Obasanjo’s letter was designed to incite Nigerians from other geopolitical zones against him and also calculated to promote ethnic disharmony.
He added that the former President’s letter was also designed to instigate members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party against him.
The President said he had already directed security agencies and the National Human Rights Commission to investigate Obasanjo’s allegations and make their findings public.
While explaining the efforts so far made by his administration to address the issue of insecurity in parts of the country, the President recalled that the seeds of the present precarious situation were sown under previous administrations.
He claimed that those who have continued to downplay his administration’s efforts at restoring peace, including Obasanjo, seemed to have forgotten the depth in which the nation had fallen into before now.
He wrote, “You(Obasanjo) raised concerns about the security situation in the country. I assure you that I am fully aware of the responsibility of government for ensuring the security of the lives and property of citizens.
“My administration is working assiduously to overcome current national security challenges, the seeds of which were sown under previous administrations. There have been some setbacks; but certainly there have also been great successes in our efforts to overcome terrorism and insurgency.
“Those who continue to downplay our successes in this regard, amongst whom you must now be numbered, appear to have conveniently forgotten the depths to which security in our country had plunged before now.
“At a stage, almost the entire North-East was under siege by insurgents. Bombings of churches and public buildings in the North and the federal capital became an almost weekly occurrence. Our entire national security apparatus seemed nonplussed and unable to come to grips with the new threat posed by the berthing of terrorism on our shores.
“But my administration has since brought that very unacceptable situation under significant control. We have overhauled our entire national security architecture, improved intelligence gathering, training, funding, logistical support to our armed forces and security agencies, and security collaboration with friendly countries with very visible and positive results.
“The scope and impact of terrorist operations have been significantly reduced and efforts are underway to restore full normalcy to the most affected North Eastern region and initiate a post-crisis development agenda, including a special intervention programme to boost the region’s socio-economic progress.
“In doing all this, we have kept our doors open for dialogue with the insurgents and their supporters through efforts such as the work of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and the Peaceful Resolution of the Security Challenges in the North-East.
“You also know that the Governor of Borno State provided the items you mentioned to me as carrots. Having done all this and more, it is interesting that you still accuse me of not acting on your hardly original recommendation that the carrot and stick option be deployed to solve the Boko Haram problem.
“Your suggestion that we are pursuing a ‘war against violence without understanding the root causes of the violence and applying solutions to deal with all the underlying factors’ is definitely misplaced because from the outset of this administration, we have been implementing a multifaceted strategy against militancy, insurgency and terrorism that includes poverty alleviation, economic development, education and social reforms.”
On the allegation that he was training snipers to assassinate about 1,000 people who had already been placed under watch, Jonathan described it as the most invidious.
He said since he started his political career as a deputy governor, he had never been associated with any form of political violence.
While admitting that there had been cases of political assassinations since the beginning of the Fourth Republic, he said none of them occurred under his leadership.
Jonathan said if Obasanjo insisted on the spurious claim that some of his relatives and friends were being harassed, he should name them and tell Nigerians what agencies of his administration were harassing them.
He wrote, “Perhaps the most invidious accusation in your letter is the allegation that I have placed over one thousand Nigerians on a political watch list, and that I am training snipers and other militia to assassinate people. Baba, I don’t know where you got that from but you do me grave injustice in not only lending credence to such baseless rumours, but also publicising it. You mentioned God 17 times in your letter. Can you, as a Christian, hold the Bible and say that you truly believe this allegation?
“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. I have been a President for over three years now, with a lot of challenges and opposition mainly from the high and mighty.
“There have certainly been cases of political assassination since the advent of our Fourth Republic, but as you well know, none of them occurred under my leadership.
“Regarding the over 1000 people you say 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 evidence of 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.”
While admitting that corruption is an issue in the country, Jonathan said the seed was planted a long time ago. He told Obasanjo that his administration was making efforts to drastically reduce its effects on national development.
He insisted that while he would not shield any government official or private individual involved in corruption, he would follow due process in all that he does.
The President said Obasanjo could not claim ignorance of several highly placed persons in the country, including sons of some of PDP leaders currently facing trial for their involvement in the celebrated oil subsidy scam.
He said he could hardly be blamed if the wheels of justice still ground slowly in the country.
Jonathan accused Obasanjo and a few unnamed senior members of the PDP of instigating the seeming crisis in the party.
He observed that at the heart of all the current troubles in the party and the larger polity was the unbridled jostling and positioning for personal or group advantage ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Jonathan added, “Instigating people to cause problems and disaffection within the party is something that you are certainly familiar with. You will recall that founding fathers of the party were frustrated out of the party at a time.
“ The late Chief Sunday Awoniyi was pushed out, the Late Chief Solomon Lar left and later came back; Chief Audu Ogbeh and Chief Tom Ikimi also left. Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo left and later came back. In 2005/2006, link-men were sent to take over party structures from PDP governors in an unveiled attempt to undermine the state governors. In spite of that, the governors did not leave the party because nobody instigated and encouraged them to do so.”
On his alleged promise not to contest the 2015 elections, Jonathan
said Obasanjo and “ambitious acolytes” in the PDP were on a virulent campaign to harass him “out of an undeclared candidature for the 2015 presidential elections so as to pave the way for a successor anointed by you(Obasanjo).”
He said the former President’s claims about discussions he had with him and Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State and others were wrong.
He however said in keeping with his declared stance that he would only make his position on the 2015 election known in 2014, he would reserve further comments until the appropriate time.
Jonathan also described the allegation that he asked half a dozen African Presidents to speak to Obasanjo about his alleged ambition for 2015 as untrue.
“I have never requested any African President to discuss with you on my behalf. In our discussion, I mentioned to you that four Presidents told me that they were concerned about the political situation in Nigeria and intended to talk to you about it. So far, only three of them have confirmed to me that they have had any discussion with you. If I made such a request, why would I deny it?,”Jonathan wrote.
He said the claim that he was imposing Buruji Kashamu in the South-West was one of the lies that should not be associated with a former President.
He also denied stalling a water project in Rivers State, saying that he does not engage in negative political actions and will never, as President, oppress the people of a state or deprive them of much needed public services as a result of political disagreement.
On Obasanjo’s claim that he was ethnic in approach, the President said although he is the first President from a minority group, he had never been unmindful of the fact that he was elected leader of the whole of Nigeria.
He told Obasanjo, “Having twice held the high office of President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I trust that you will understand that I cannot possibly find the time to offer a line-by-line response to all the accusations and allegations made in your letter while dealing with other pressing demands of office and more urgent affairs of state.
“I have tried, however, to respond to only the most serious of the charges which question my sincerity, personal honour, and commitment to the oath which I have sworn, to always uphold and protect the interests of all Nigerians, and promote their well-being.
“In closing, let me state that you have done me grave injustice with your public letter in which you wrongfully accused me of deceit, deception, dishonesty, incompetence, clannishness, divisiveness and insincerity, amongst other ills.
“I have not, myself, ever claimed to be all-knowing or infallible, but I have never taken Nigeria or Nigerians for granted as you implied, and I will continue to do my utmost to steer our ship of state towards the brighter future to which we all aspire.”
When contacted on the telephone, an aide to Obasanjo, Mr. Tunde Oladunjoye, said he had yet to discuss Jonathan’s reply with his principal.
He said, “I am aware that the letter has found its way into the Internet and the media. I am yet to discuss it with Baba Obasanjo, who is presently attending the Ogun State Government Christmas Carol.”
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