Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday raised the alarm over an alleged plot by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to frame him up for phantom crimes.
Obasanjo, who faced a similar ordeal during the late General Sanni Abacha junta, said impeccable security sources informed him of the development, explaining that his name had been placed on a watch list, and that security officials had told him that his safety could not be guaranteed. In a press statement issued yesterday by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, the former president claimed that the “two-fold beastly designs” against him included plot to seize his international passport and clamp him into detention. Obasanjo noted that the grand plot to deal with him came after his state-of-thenation special statement on January 23, 2018, wherein he asked Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019 due to poor performance.
The ex-president said though he would not have dignified the plot with a response, he had to act in view of how the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, are being harassed within the same government they serve. He added that another plot being hatched by the current regime is to cause the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to reopen investigation into the activities of his administration “using false witnesses and documents.”
He said it was regrettable how the Buhari government has sunk in its desperation to cow opposition noting that dissent remains a fundamental principle on which liberal democracy is predicated. Obasanjo however vowed not to succumb to plans to cage and embarrass him while reiterating his readiness to face probe again but such must be before an independent, objective and credible panel of enquiry to account for his stewardship in government.
The Obasanjo statement reads:
“Since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo declared in his State-of-the-Nation Special Statement on January 23, 2018, the desperation to frustrate, intimidate and blackmail him into abandoning his divine mandate to protect the rights of the people to better life and living continued unabated and has even taken a bizarre dimension. “Impeccable security sources have alleged Chief Obasanjo’s name is on their Watch List and that the security of his life cannot be guaranteed.
“According to these informants, many of who are in the top echelon of the nation’s security management and close to the corridors of power, the operatives are daily perfecting how to curtail the personal liberties of the former President and hang a crime on him. “Ordinarily, we would not have dignified these reports with a response but for the fact that many of these informants are not known for flippant and frivolous talks. Secondly, this Government has demonstrably exhibited apathy, and in some cases, encouraged by its conduct, daily loss of lives and property in many States of the country, the office cannot be indifferent. “We are currently in a nation where the Number Three citizen is currently being harangued and the Number Four citizen is facing similar threat within the same Government they serve.
There is a groundswell of our nationals that live in fear that they could be hounded, harassed, maimed or even killed as the battle for 2019 takes this worrisome dimension. “For Chief Obasanjo, this is a joke carried too far and being someone who do not act on unofficial information, he had cautioned all informants and adopted a wait-and-see attitude to the bestial propositions allegedly being contemplated to cow, cage and embarrass him.
“The content of the alleged beastly designs, it was learnt are two-fold for now. One, to seize his International Passport and clamp him into detention indefinitely, in order to prevent him from further expressing angst on the pervasive mediocrity in the quality of governance, economic management and in the protection of lives and property by the Government. “But, since that could expose the Government to a swath of international condemnation, embarrassment and outrage, it is said that another plot being hatched is to cause the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to re-open investigation into the activities of Chief Obasanjo’s administration using false witnesses and documents. This will be a re-enactment of the Abacha era in which Chief Obasanjo was one of the principal victims. ”
The same EFCC that had conducted a clinical investigation on the activities of Obasanjo in and out of Government, it was said, would now be made to stand down the existing report that gave Chief Obasanjo a clean bill of health on the probes are now to get him indicted, fair or foul for possible prosecution and persecution like it is being done to real and perceived opponents, enemies and critics of this Government.
“Dissent is a fundamental principle on which liberal democracy is predicated. A true democrat must be ready to live with and accommodate dissent and opposition.
“While it is regrettable how the Government has sunk in its shameless desperation to cow opposition, a resort to blackmail, despotism and Gestapo-tactics being employed by the goons of this Government would not hold water. And no government ever remains in power forever.
“For the record, Chief Obasanjo reiterates his readiness to face probe again after that of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the ICPC, and the EFCC, but before an independent, objective and credible panel of enquiry to account for his stewardship in Government and beyond. “Chief Obasanjo reiterates that he has taken a principled position to ensure that the ship of the Nigerian State does not capsize and he remains steadfast in his resolve to turn the tide of maladministration, poor economic management and rudderless governance model that has tore Nigerians apart on account of religion and ethnicity which is a great threat to our democracy.
“We would like the Government and its supporters to understand that no amount of campaign of calumny, no matter how well contrived, orchestrated or marketed would deter Chief Obasanjo from calling a spade by its name. “Chief Obasanjo is a patriot whose sole agenda is to ensure that the country’s unity, progress and democracy are not negotiated on the altar of incompetence and provincialism and mediocrity. “It is important to point out that chief Obasanjo is one former President and Head of State who has engaged the current administration privately and in a bilateral manner on several issues of direct interest to the government and other matters of national concern. That channel of private engagement remains open and continues. “However, should there be the need for public engagement, the right to free speech will always be exercised and jealously guarded, again in the best interest of Nigeria and the government.”
Only the guilty are afraid –Lai Muhammed
But in a swift reaction,the Federal Government said it would not be distracted by frivolous allegations meant to divert attention from a widely acclaimed presidential proclamation to shore up support for a waning and egotistical cause. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement yesterday said the Buhari administration was too busy to waste its energy and time on framing up anyone or dwelling on issues that are not grounded in fact. The statement addedwhile those who have skeletons in their wardrobes should be afraid, and that innocent persons need not worry about any investigation, whether real or imagined.
“This administration will never engage in a frame-up of innocent citizens. That is neither in the character of President Muhammadu Buhari nor in that of his administration. “Only the guilty should be worried. To paraphrase an African proverb, a man who has no wife cannot lose an in-law to the cold hands of death. The administration is also strongly committed to the tenets of democracy, including freedom of speech and the right to dissent. “But we understand that those who, in their time, were untethered to those principles would find it hard to believe,” the minister added. Alhaji Mohammed said it was curious that the frame-up and witch-hunt allegations came a day after a major presidential proclamation reversing some past acts of injustice was made, to the relief and acclamation of a long-expectant nation. “Apparently, the impact of this proclamation was too much to bear by those who, through acts of omission or commission, helped to deepen the wounds inflicted by the blow of injustice that followed an election that was widely acclaimed to be free, fair and credible, hence they felt the need for a red herring that will distract the nation”.
So much tension in the land, say Atiku, PDP
In his reaction, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar advised the Federal Government and security agencies to avoid aggravating the already over heated polity. Atiku in a statement, said he received with serious concern the alarm raised by Obasanjo, saying that he is “disturbed by this turn of events in our dear country considering the huge price that was paid for us to have democracy”. He regretted that the alert by Obasanjo was coming against the backdrop of earlier alerts by some leaders, especially those of the opposition of deliberate and orchestrated attempt to intimidate and frame them up. “I wish to state without equivocation that President Obasanjo is a historical figure in Nigeria’s democracy and that the primary purpose of government is to provide security of lives and property of all citizens and residents irrespective of their status, political affiliation, religious inclination and ethnic leanings. “Our nation has lost so much precious lives and property that we can no longer afford to travel that road again. I wish to appeal to President Buhari to call the security agencies to order in order to douse the tension in the land,” Atiku further advised. In the same vein, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) expressed worry at the turn of events, saying that Obasanjo’s revelation has confirmed its fears that Nigeria has descended into a police state where any Nigerian, who holds a divergent view to Buhari’s 2019 re-election bid, would be endangered. The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, noted that the revelation coming from a Nigerian of Chief Obasanjo status has already heightened tension in the polity.
“The alarm by Chief Obasanjo has further shown that the PDP has not been crying wolf regarding the plots by the APC Federal Government to frame, arrest, detain and arraign political opponents of the APC, including regular Nigerians, for holding or canvassing opinions that are divergent to the interest of those in power. “We invite Nigerians to note the travails faced by perceived opponents of the Buhari presidency including the Senate President and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, Senators Shehu Sani and Dino Melaye, who had raised similar alarm in the past,” the statement added. The party noted that security forces, last Wednesday, arrested and detained opposition members in Ogun State, who were going about their legitimate activities, only to tag them as cultists.
“The PDP condemns APC’s resort to persecution, intimidation, harassment and framing of our members, as well as dissenting voices, just to suppress the opposition ahead of the 2019 election. “PDP wants the APC and Buhari presidency to note that no amount of coercion, intimidation and illegal arrests will alter the determination of Nigerians to vote out the dysfunctional APC and rescue our nation from the shackles of the Buhari Presidency and its misrule, come 2019,” PDP vowed.