by Hauwa Gambo
As we reported on Friday, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo had claimed, in an exclusive interview with Channels Television, that he had never instructed anyone, including his Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Florence Ita-Giwa to lobby for tenure elongation; adding that if he wanted such, he would have gotten it as God.”
According to Obasanjo, the request for a third term was not sent in as an executive bill, and legislators had included the vexatious clause in their proposed amendments to the 1999 constitution all on their own.
The first retort came from Ken Nnamani, the Senate President at the time, who is credited for masterfully killing the idea, and who is now in the race to succeed Obasanjo as chairman of the People’s Democratic Party Board of Trustees.
Barely able to hold his anger in an interview with the Punch, he said, “Immediately I became Senate President, he told me of his intentions and told me how he wanted to achieve it. I initially did not take him seriously until the events began to unfold.
“I also read in your paper where he said that if he wanted third term he would have had his way. Well that man is just a joker. I don’t know the magic he would have used to get such bill through when all Nigerians were against it. I don’t want to tell you other dubious and unpatriotic things he discussed with me. If I do, you would really know the kind of person he is.”
And just in case you don’t get the point, the usually reserved Nnamani underlines it clearly: “I am telling you as the man who presided over (the third term bill) that it was an executive bill. I can defend this anywhere and anytime, with more than enough facts. No one should claim ignorance. If anyone is saying that the bill was not an executive bill, then such a person is only being a liar. At a certain age in life, there are certain things one shouldn’t expect from an old man.”
In addition to legislators like Halims Agoda and Ahmed Lawan, Femi Gbajabiamala, who is Minority Leader of the House of Representatives also expressed shock, saying the denial sounds like a dream.
“What is (Obasanjo) talking about? He has insulted the collective intelligence of Nigerians and members of the National Assembly. His aides came to me to solicit support for third term. I recall vividly that people were being given N50m, some N100 to support third term. The money totaled over N10bn How could N10bn be taken out of the national treasury for a project when you were the sitting president, yet that project was not your idea?”
It’s a lesson our former president could easily have learnt from his colleague Ibrahim Babangida – who has been the subject of vicious backlash and contemptuous ridicule whenever he has made any dodgy claims concerning his cancellation of the June 12 election results.