On Wednesday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, responded to the 13-page statement by former President Olusegun Obasanjo which rated the performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration as below par.
In the explosive statement, Mr. Obasanjo highlighted the widespread discontent with the Buhari administration and advised Mr. Buhari not to seek re-election but to “dismount the horse” with honour and dignity.
While Mr. Mohammed’s response was measured and devoid of raucous counter-attack that is usually associated with such retorts within political circles in Nigeria, he, however, dodged some salient issues raised by the former president in his statement.
Mr. Obasanjo had tongue-lashed the president for Nigeria’s economic woes saying though he had suspected that Mr. Buhari was not to be trusted with properly handling the economy, he had supported his election and in fact, voted for him because he thought the president would appoint capable managers to take charge of the economy.
However, Mr. Mohammed’s response was mainly aimed at Mr. Obasanjo’s commentary on the state of the economy. He also spent some time highlighting the infrastructural projects being undertaken by the government.
In the main, Mr. Mohammed was silent on some of the main grouses raised by Mr. Obasanjo. Below are eight issues the former president wrote about that Mr. Muhammed failed to address.
1. Mr. Obasanjo accused Mr. Buhari of turning a blind eye and condoning reported cases of corruption within his government. He mentioned the infamous recall of a former chairman of the Presidential Pension Reform Task Force, Abdulrasheed Maina. Mr. Muhammed’s statement completely avoided this.
2. Mr. Obasanjo accused the president of being clannish and failing to act in cases of reported corruption and bad behaviour of people from his part of the country. He added that it appears that Mr. Buhari was prepared to sacrifice national interest on the altar of nepotic interest.
“What does one make of a case like that of Maina: collusion, condonation, ineptitude, incompetence, dereliction of responsibility or kinship and friendship on the part of those who should have taken visible and deterrent disciplinary action? How many similar cases are buried, ignored or covered up and not yet in the glare of the media and the public?”
Mr. Mohammed said nothing on this, too.
3. Mr. Obasanjo criticised the president’s handling of the herdsmen crisis while lashing out at some governors of the All Progressives Congress for endorsing the president for re-election a day after 73 people killed in the crisis were buried.
“It is no credit to the Federal Government that the herdsmen rampage continues with careless abandon and without finding an effective solution to it. And it is a sad symptom of insensitivity and callousness that some Governors, a day after 73 victims were being buried in a mass grave in Benue State without condolence, were jubilantly endorsing President Buhari for a second term! The timing was most unfortunate,” he said.
Mr. Mohammed statement completely ignored this.
4. Mr. Muhammed was also silent about Mr. Obasanjo accusation that Mr. Buhari lacks understanding of the dynamics of internal politics. According to him, this has “led to wittingly or unwittingly making the nation more divided and inequality has widened and become more pronounced.”
5. The minister of Information was also silent about Mr. Obasanjo’s claim that the president was in the habit of passing the buck instead of taking responsibility for his failures.
6. Mr. Mohammed merely described talks about reelection of the president as a distraction, as the ministers did not respond to Mr. Obasanjo’s assertion that Mr. Buhari does not have the physical energy required to run the country and should consider quitting office at the end of his tenure to attend to his failing health.
“President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country. His place in history is already assured. Without impaired health and strain of age, running the affairs of Nigeria is a 25/7 affair, not 24/7,” he wrote.
7. Mr. Mohammed did not say something about Mr. Obasanjo’s accusation that the ruling party does not have what it takes to salvage the country, obviously leaving it to the party, which also on Wednesday issued a reaction concentrating mainly on aspects of Mr. Obasanjo’s statement that affected the party.
8. Mr. Muhammed also did not respond to Mr. Obasanjo’s call for a third force, which he named Coalition for Nigeria (CN) to oust the ruling party.
The APC’s reaction, however, covered the issue, with the party decrying Mr. Obasanjo’s “wholesale” rejection of the nation’s 72 registered parties.
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