Olusegun Obasanjo is not going to be cowered into supporting Muhammadu Buhari’s second tenure by some social media theatrics. Seeing Buhari fail in 2019 is a cause he’s not going to back down from. Period.
We know this because on Wednesday, the former president’s media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, released a statement on behalf of his boss categorically dismissing any insinuation in the press that OBJ was backtracking from his January 23 missive which asked the incumbent president to leave office with honour after the expiration of the current term. The statement refers to a suggestion of an Obasanjo conversion as “desperation” on the part of those who want to re-elect the president.
On the whole, it is basically the former president doubling down on his letter four months ago. But there’s more; here are the talking points.
Who has an idea of a “Superlative” Buhari?
The main feature of the letter was that Obasanjo’s new support for Buhari sprung from his being impressed by the president’s performance at the meeting with US President Donald Trump at Washington this week. President Buhari was, as a matter of fact, the first leader of a sub-saharan Africa to be invited to the White House since the Trump administration came on board in January 2017. Both leaders held a joint press conference in the Rose Garden on Monday, were pictured in a comfortable scene that generated suspicions about whether Nigeria was being sold to Trump, and, generally, it was hailed as an okay event.
But whatever was ‘superlative’ about the meeting? It was, at best, a properly choreographed outing by the presidency in which Mr Buhari held back in his responses to curious questions like the one about Trump’s comment-in-bad-taste about certain African countries. If it was ‘superlative’, it must be because…
Trump Ordered Buhari To Fix The Killings
In their meeting at the Oval Office, President Trump did say that the killings of Christians in Nigeria would not be handled lightly by the United States government if it continues unabated. Obasanjo’s aide pictured it, in this statement, as a condescending directive to Mr Buhari. While asking the president to heed Trump without seeing the message as abusive, Obasanjo paints the picture that a number of Nigerians have of the Buhari administration’s reception to criticism, including that of January 23.
Has Labour Given Its Votes To Buhari?
Mr Akinyemi’s statement on Obasanjo’s behalf also discredited any information that the former president celebrated Workers’ Day at Abuja with “a labour man or woman”. Why? Apparently, because it would constitute a “supposed volte-face to support Buhari”.
To be sure, Workers Day (May 1) was officially commemorated at Eagles Square in Abuja, and it featured Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Labour Minister Chris Ngige and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president, Ayuba Wabba among the dignitaries; former President Obasanjo was not at the event. It is not uncommon or untoward that the members of public service labour unions sometimes mix with politicians, though they are careful to do so only as it pertains to labour issues, staying as much as possible away from partisan politicking.
Isa Aremu, the General Secretary of Textile Workers Union and a member of the NLC’s national executive council reacted to President Buhari’s re-election declaration by affirming it was within Mr Buhari’s rights, but he did not endorse him, saying the union will vote “based on critical assessment of all political office holders”. Unless, of course, the unions or factions of them have already openly declared for Buhari to carry-go in 2019, it would be absurd that a labour person’s meeting with Obasanjo suggests a campaign for Buhari.
Can Ordinary Nigerians Have Free Speech Like Obasanjo?
Not a few Nigerians have had to be taken by the Police or the Department of State Services (DSS) for criticism of the Buhari administration, from bloggers and journalists, to legislators and non-violent activists. Even a spokesperson for a former head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, Kassim Afebgua, spent time at the Police headquarters for something close to Obasanjo’s January letter bomb.
Obasanjo says he will continue to exercise his “freedom of speech” to speak up against Buhari but the privilege he has to be able to do that is clear to the blind. Heck, OBJ and PMB were pictured loving and hugging at a meeting of the African Union (AU) after that January letter. Not every Nigerian can do that after criticising the president. On that, Nigerians are not morons to follow Obasanjo as their ‘leader’ in some struggle for emancipation.
So Obasanjo Has No House in Abuja?
Impressive, after those years as president and the alleged push for a third term. When fact-checked and confirmed, it would be something, not to praise, but to acknowledge as not part of the archetypal Nigerian elite’s drive for acquiring estates in Abuja and Lagos.