Few months after former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his then deputy, Atiku Abubakar, made fleeting overture at reconciling their five-year-old feud, a newspaper publication has triggered a fresh war of words between the two men.
The latest clash, sparked by Mr Obasanjo’s newspaper interview where he said Atiku failed to succeed him in 2007 because he was inexperienced and self destructive, has got Mr Abubakar severely angry.
Reacting, the former vice president said he was “unbelievably shocked” by Mr Obasanjo’s distortion of truth in the interview.
He said his problems with Mr Obasanjo did not bother on competence but on his opposition to the former president’s third term ambition which he (Obasanjo) has continued to deny.
A former US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, had in her memoir, “No Higher Honour” confirmed that Mr Obasanjo indeed nurtured a third term agenda.
“In 2006 when President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria sidled up to President Bush and suggested that he (Obasanjo) might change the constitution so that he could serve a third term, President Bush told him not to do it,” Ms Condoleezza wrote on page 638 of her memoir.
In a statement earlier today, Mr. Abubakar said rather than malign him, Mr. Obasanjo should busy himself defending “this latest moral challenge to his reputation” thrown up by his “unpopular third term agenda” which was confirmed in Ms Condoleezza’s memoir.
Mr Abubakar claimed that Mr Obasanjo had no succession plan but wanted to be “Nigeria’s Robert Mugabe.” He said the former president reluctantly supported late President Umaru Yar’Adua to succeed him as a face-saving measure following the collapse of his third term ambition on the floor of the Senate on May 16th 2006.
Contrary to Mr. Obasanjo’s claims that he did not discuss the third term agenda with anyone, his former deputy claimed that he sent two senior cabinet ministers to him to discuss a draft constitution – bearing no remark to the tenure elongation – that alerted his curiosity. He said his curiosity led him to confront the former president in a manner that triggered his misfortunes in that administration.
On the allegations of inexperience, incompetence and unreliability made against him by his former boss, the ex-VP said Obasanjo lacked integrity to question the reliability of any other Nigerian.
Mr Abubakar also dismissed as preposterous the claim by Mr Obasanjo that he was inexperienced. He challenged Obasanjo to disclose any responsibility or task he assigned to him while in office, which he didn’t discharge competently.
“Rather than losing his head to underserved flattering newspaper attention, Obasanjo should apologize to Nigerians for dragging our politics into disrepute because of his disregard for fair play or the basic rules of democracy,” the former vice president said.
Mr Obasanjo could not be reached for comments, as calls to his mobile telephone and that of his spokesperson were unaswered.