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Obasanjo’s Letter: Jonathan’s Response Likely Next Week

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Obasanjo-and-Jonathan-360x225In spite of the breakfast meeting between President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Nairobi, Kenya on Thursday, the President is likely to issue a written response to the former president’s allegations next week, we learnt.
Presidential aides saddled with the responsibility of compiling a response to the letter met again for hours inside the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday. They held a  similar meeting on Thursday.

Those who met included the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Mr. Ahmed Gulak; Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe; Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Umar Sani.

A source said, “The aides will present their work to the President over the weekend. By the time he goes throughout it and make corrections, the response may be ready any time next week.”
We learnt that the aides were almost through with the report and would present their report to the President anytime from now while the President is expected to take a final decision on the matter next week.

When contacted, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said the  statement issued by the Presidency on the matter still sufficed.
Abati who had earlier responded to Obasanjo’s letter, had said that the President would issue a written statement in response to the former President’s letter.

In the letter, Obasanjo had accused the President of pursuing “selfish personal and political interests based on advice from his “self-centred aides.”
Though both Obasanjo and Jonathan met in Nairobi on Thursday, Saturday PUNCH learnt that the controversial 18-page letter written by  the former president  to  Jonathan was not discussed at the breakfast session.

The two leaders who were in Nairobi to participate in Kenya’s 50th Independence Anniversary had met over breakfast at the Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi, where Jonathan was lodged on a day Nigerian media were awash with the letter titled, “Before it is too late” in which the former President accused Jonathan of condoning corruption and engaging in acts that were capable of destroying the country.

Before the event which was held inside the Safaricom Stadium, Obasanjo had made a surprise appearance at Jonathan’s hotel and had breakfast with the President.
But contrary to the belief of many that the issues raised in the letter would have been discussed and settled at the breakfast session, we also learnt that none of the two leaders made any reference to the letter during their brief encounter.

A source who did not want to be named said the encounter could not in any way be described as a meeting because no fewer that eight presidential aides sat with them throughout.
He said, “The issue of the letter was not discussed at all. That encounter cannot be said to be a meeting. No fewer than eight presidential aides were with them throughout the brief session.

“You will agree with me that if it was a proper meeting, the two leaders would have been excused. No aide would have been allowed.
“Nothing was discussed apart from the former President’s humorous way of saying he came to pay homage to the President and the way he sought the President’s permission to go ahead of him to the venue of Kenya’s Independence Day anniversary.”

In the letter, Obasanjo had accused the President of pursuing “selfish personal and political interests based on advice from his “self-centred aides.”
He also alleged that the President had failed to deliver on his promises to Nigerians and to curb insurgency and corruption in the country.

“Nigeria is bleeding and the haemorrhage must be stopped,” an obviously angry Obasanjo lamented. He went ahead to declare that “Jonathan had betrayed God and   Nigerians,” who voted him into power.

Obasanjo further alleged that Jonathan had not only   placed more than 1, 000 Nigerians on a political watch list,   he had succeeded in destroying the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and polarised Nigeria along regional and religious lines.
He also said the President was involved in anti-party activities. He said the President was using the PDP National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, to cause the lingering crises in the party.

Obasanjo said, “Let me start with the leadership of the ruling party. Many of us were puzzled over what was going on in the party. Most party members blamed the national chairman. I understand that some in the Presidency tried to create the impression that some of us were to blame.

“The situation became clear only when the national chairman spoke out that he never did anything or acted in any way without the approval or concurrence of the party leader (Jonathan) and that where the party leader disapproved, he made correction or amendment, that we realised most actions were those of the chairman but the motivation and direction were those of the leader.
“It would be unfair to continue to level full blames on the chairman for all that goes wrong with the party. The chairman is playing the tune dictated by the paymaster (Jonathan). But the paymaster is acting for a definitive purpose for which deceit and deception seem to be the major ingredients.”

Obasanjo stated that Jonathan’s failure to keep his promise not to seek a second term   had also worsened the crises in the PDP.

“Up till two months ago, Mr. President, you told me that you have not told anybody that you would contest in 2015. I quickly pointed out to you that the signs and the measures on the ground do not tally with your statement. You said the same to one other person who shared his observation with me. And only a fool would believe that statement you made to me judging by what is going on. I must say it is not ingenious. You may wish to pursue a more credible and more honourable path.”

He added that  before the 2011 general  elections,   the President told  some governors and  the PDP     stakeholders, including himself,   that he would not seek re-election.’’
However, Nigerians who spoke with Saturday PUNCH  insisted that the President owed the nation an explanation over allegations of financing a killer’s squad with the nation’s resources for personal reasons and placing 1,000 people on his political watch list among others.

A lawyer and human rights activist, Wahab Shittu, said Jonathan should respond to each of the allegations by the former president.

He said, “Each of the issues raised in the letter is quite weighty. Mr. President should attempt to set the records straight; those that are factual should be   admitted and addressed in the interest of Nigeria.

“However, those that the presidency considers to amount to falsehood, attempts should be made by the former president to substantiate. Those pertaining to killer squad are serious ones and border on alleged criminality which ought to be investigated and substantiated.

“The letter, coming from the former president in the stature of Obasanjo is one that cannot be treated lightly and issues raised should be examined on merits. The matter should not be reduced to sentiments, mudslinging or abuse. The reaction of the presidency to the letter should be guided by the national interest, leaving personality to the backline.”

Shittu added that the situation could have a few implications on the polity, speculating that it could force Jonathan into making a declaration as regards his political ambition.
He said, “I want to speculate that in the coming weeks, we are likely to see a self declaration to aspire by the incumbent president (Jonathan). I want to see the reaction of the president to each of the issues raised in the coming days because the matter is not just in the local domain but in the international domain. It’s likely to raise the level of public discourse to the highest pitch in the next few weeks and the reaction the letter will generate cannot be over-emphasized.

“It’s generally going to generate a chain of reactions and alter the political calculations in the country in the coming weeks ahead of 2015 elections. The letter may also have revealed the extent of divisions and mistrust in the ruling party.”

Also, Muyiwa Ige, son of slain Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, on Thursday, described the implosion within the ruling party as a good omen to Nigeria.

Muyiwa, who is Osun State Commissioner for Lands and Physical Planning, said many murders had remained unresolved in subsequent PDP-led governments at the centre.
Recalling that murders were unresolved during the Obasanjo era between 1999 and 2007, Muyiwa insisted that the leadership crisis rocking the PDP “is good for Nigeria.”

He said, “Prof Wole Soyinka, you will recall, described the PDP as a nest of killers. Nigerians can see the whole episode being played out. In 2015, a better party, the All Progressives Congress, will come on board.

“Unresolved murders have been part of the PDP since 1999. What Nigerians want is improvement of the deplorable infrastructures; Nigerians deserve a clean and total break from corruption, decadence in the education sector.”

“Nigerians cannot be distracted by the PDP shenanigans, who will soon be in the minority in 2015. University students have been idle at home for more than five months ago.

“The missing N49.8bn from the coffers of the nation is another serious issue. We should concentrate on issues that will move this country forward rather than the gale of bad news being presented to us daily by these people. Nigerians must be awake.

In his reaction, another lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, also described the issues raised in the open letter to President Jonathan as ‘very weighty and grave”, saying the issues should be addressed by the president.

“Regardless of the many valid grievances Nigerians may have against Obasanjo, including being one of the architects of the bastardisation of Nigeria’s federalism- a development which has created a powerful despotic and thieving presidency, these issues must be addressed.

In addressing the issues, Ogunye asked Nigerians to “refrain from sharing Obasanjo’s pains about the possible disintegration of the Peoples Democratic Party”, but critically analyse allegations bordering on presidency’s support for alleged criminality.
He added, “The health of the PDP is not the headache of most Nigerians. However, the critical state of health of Nigeria is our collective concern. Corruption, abuse of power, nepotism, impunity, political manipulation and exploitation of religion and ethnicity , insecurity, terrorism, structural imbalance, fiscal inequity, arbitrariness in government, rights of abuses and subversion of the rule of law may not only destroy civil rule, but also Nigeria.

“So Nigerians need to rise above the intra PDP and ruling class battle, which the letter demonstrates, to discuss these issues. We need to know, for example, whether there is a killer squad and whether Al Mustapha’s Court of Appeal release was facilitated and celebrated by the Presidency to enable him to offer consultancy and expert services on the recruitment, training, operation and deployment of the killer gang, towards 2015.”

However, the founder of Oodua Peoples’ Congress, Dr. Frederick Fasehun,  debunked Obasanjo’s allegations.
He said, “It’ was “libelous” for Obasanjo to accuse Jonathan of providing assistance to a “murderer” in his letter
Also,  the Niger Delta Peoples’ Volunteer Force advised the former president against dividing the nation, saying the unity of the country should be paramount to him as “a father of the nation.”

The National Coordinator, North Central/South-East of the group, Emmanuel Amakiri,  stated that Nigeria is a multilingual and multicultural nation and every competent person has the right to aspire to the leadership of the country.

Amakiri noted that no section of the country had the monopoly of the Presidency, adding that Obasanjo should not allow himself to be used by those clamouring for the political leadership of the nation.

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