With their differences being narrowed down to character debate, the ongoing feud between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari gets messier, writes Shola Oyeyipo
Slowly but gradually, the relationship between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is deteriorating beyond repairs.
Though it is obvious that the two leaders, who share common backgrounds as retired military generals and one time military leaders were heading for a bout after Obasanjo advised Buhari against his second term ambition, no one expected that it would soon degenerate into personality attacks.
The trouble between the two former military presidents started on January 23, 2019, when Obasanjo wrote a lengthy and damning letter, in which he castigated the Buhari leadership and advised him not to seek re-election.
The federal government was, however, tactical in responding to Obasanjo. In fact, the two presidential spokesmen, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, were initially mute on the matter until the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, issued a temperate statement, disagreeing with Obasanjo on the achievements of Buhari.
Mohammed said Obasanjo might have been too busy such that he could not keep track of the progress recorded by the Buhari administration.
When Buhari eventually commented on Obasanjo's letter he simply called it “abusive.”
Apparently sure that Buhari would not heed his advice, Obasanjo set up what he called Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), which was launched at the Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Centre, Abuja. The platform, according to him, could later metamorphose into a political party and oust the current leadership.
Obasanjo and his collaborators did not leave it at that, they have stepped up the ante ahead of the 2019 election. Already underground, there are widespread consultations, alignments and realignments. And anybody who has his or her ears close to the ground would have noticed that the gang-up against Buhari is thickening by the day. In an obvious attempt to demystify Obasanjo and address his holier-than-thou posturing, Buhari fired his own salvo. The president accused the former president of squandering $16 billion on power projects without concrete results.
Though he did not specifically mention Obasanjo, Buhari, in his jab, referred to those he said mismanaged the country's economy in the past, through fraudulent electricity projects and misuse of revenue earnings from oil, saying they do not love the country.
But apparently referring to Obasanjo, he said: “One of the former Heads of State was bragging,” and from that point it became obvious that the last has not been heard of the fight.
Already, two civil society organisations, the Socio-Economic and Right Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), have implored Buhari to probe the $16bn power projects and other perceived corrupt former leaders in the country.
According to SERAP Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, “We have consistently maintained the position that previous regimes have misappropriated large sums of money on projects. What should happen is that the president must look into them.”
SERAP, therefore, urged Buhari to “urgently refer the allegations of mismanagement of $16 billion power projects between 1999 and 2007 to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation.”
For example, intervention in the health sector, was said to have amounted to N9 billion in total, and projects in this sector were said to have been executed by the APC and PTF in-house staff, where loss of billions of naira were recorded due to price inflation of products and services.
The committee also discovered that the APC (the company) bought spectacle frames, which could have been done locally at a price between N80 to N880, under the watch of Buhari, at an inflated price of N1, 900 each. Ambulances were said to have been purchased at N13 million per unit, instead of N3 million. And then price inflation of drugs was done to the tune of N1.5 billion.
The report further revealed that the PTF lost money to the tune of N3.5 billion from its bank account operations and that PTF operated its bank accounts under three different categories: Administration, Project and Treasury accounts, and the loss of money to these accounts were said to have been due to “overcharge on Cost of Turnover (COT), non-payment of interest on current account balances as stipulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), short payment of interest on deposited funds, and other various discrepancies.”
But the presidency which did not find the revelations funny, soon issued a statement, in which it said Obasanjo as civilian president toppled many state governors, using the police and the DSS. The kind of image the statement painted of the former president remains another slant to their filthy fight.
However, now that the two generals have returned to the trenches in what is building up as a fight to the finish, except something is urgently done to reverse the situation, it can only get dirtier with more revelations. But the fear is that hostilities between the two may end up having negative consequences on the country and her people.