Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Friday delivered a damning verdict on the performance of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, describing it as “below average”.
Speaking at the ongoing Ake Arts and Book Festival in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Mr. Obasanjo also said security is the greatest danger Nigeria is currently facing.
“I rate this current administration below average,” Mr. Obasanjo said in response to a question about Mr. Jonathan’s performance.
The former president also said he deserved credit for helping an individual from a minority tribe become Nigeria’s President.
“Rather than take blame for bringing Jonathan to power, I should be taking credit,” he added.
The book chat session of the Festival, which ends on Saturday, was titled ‘Defining a legacy,’ and Mr. Obasanjo used the opportunity to note some of the highlights of his eight-year presidency.
He specifically underlined his refusal to sign death warrants during his tenure.
Mr. Obasanjo also shared some stories about his childhood and about his time in the military.
He then lamented that Nigeria has had a problem of leadership right from Independence in 1960.
“The biggest problem we have in Nigeria is that we have regional leaders, but no national leader.
“I have always believed that our problem as a country is that at independence we did not have a true leader.”
The former President denied speculations that he deliberately foisted a successor he knew was sick on the country.
“Yar’Adua gave me concrete evidence that he was healthy,” Mr. Obasanjo said.
On why he did not field a former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, as Vice President in 2007, the former President said, “You know Donald Duke is my boy. In my own life, I don’t put all my eggs in one basket.
“Donald Duke needs to tone down and have his feet on ground, now he is having his feet on the ground…”
Despite being instrumental to Mr. Jonathan becoming president in 2010, Mr. Obasanjo has continued to be one of his fiercest critics.
Last December, the former President wrote a strongly worded letter to President Jonathan expressing dissatisfaction with the administration and warning him about the “danger that may be lurking in the corner”.
“Move away from culture of denials, cover-ups and proxies and deal honestly, sincerely and transparently with Nigerians to regain their trust and confidence,” Mr. Obasanjo wrote in the 18-page letter.
In the letter, Mr. Obasanjo also frowned at President Jonathan’s “deceit and deception” by stating that he had promised not to run for president in 2015, whereas his body language was showing a different stance.
“Although you have not formally informed me one way or the other, it will be necessary to refresh your memory of what transpired in 2011.
“I had gone to Benue State for the marriage of one of my staff, Vitalis Ortese, in the state. Governor Suswam was my hospitable host. He told me that you had accepted a one-term presidency to allow for ease of getting support across the board in the North.
“I decided to cross check with you. You did not hesitate to confirm to me that you are a strong believer in a one term of six years for the President and that by the time you have used the unexpired time of your predecessor and the four years of your first term, you would have almost used up six years and you would not need any more term or time.
“As a leader, two things you must cherish and hold dear among others are trust and honour both of which are important ingredients of character.”
However, on November 11, Mr. Jonathan officially declared his intention to contest for president next year.
“History has shown that the path of honour for any true leader is not to walk away from his people in moments of challenges,” Mr. Jonathan had said before a mammoth crowd in Abuja.
“After seeking the face of God, in quiet reflection with my family and after listening to the calls of our people nationwide to run, I have accepted to present myself to run.”
Mr. Jonathan has repeatedly dismissed criticism by Mr. Obasanjo and other critics, saying he has done his best for Nigeria and delivered on his electoral promises to the electorate.
“We have advanced our regional, continental and global objectives,” Mr. Jonathan said on November 11 while formally declaring his intention to seek reelection.
“I am convinced that I have kept my pact with Nigerians, and it is now time to look to the future. With your tremendous support, we have collectively done so much in the last three and half years, but to take our country to the next level, there is still more to be done.”
But Mr. Obasanjo said in his famous December 2, 2013 letter that it would be “fatally morally flawed” for Mr. Jonathan to contest in 2015, adding, “… I will want to see anyone in the Office of the Presidency of Nigeria as a man or woman who can be trusted, a person of honour in his words and character.”