Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo alleged on February 14 that Goodluck Jonathan plotted to scuttle the elections as he fears the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Specifically, Jonathan's fear is that the ex military head of state will send him to jail if elected.
He made this known while briefing journalists yesterday at his Hilltop presidential residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Punch reports.
"I believe the President’s fear is particularly motivated by whom he sees as his likely successor, that is, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. I believe people would have been telling him that Buhari is a hard man; he will fight corruption and he (Jonathan) may end up in jail if not in the grave. I think people would have told him that sort of thing and he is not the only one afraid of Buhari."
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Regarding Buhari's candidacy, and his plans for dealing with corruption, Obasanjo said:
"If he has not learnt his lessons, he would be probably the most unlearning human being. Now if he has learnt his lessons, he will know that you do not fight corruption by putting people in jail for 200 years. This was done by my predecessor in office, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. He recovered over $750m from Abacha’s estate without putting anybody in jail and without harming or hurting anybody.
"When I took over, we recovered over $1.25bn from the same Abacha without hurting anybody and without harming anybody. What is rather unfortunate is the fact that our lawyer who is still alive, who was chasing this money all over the world, said to us that there was still well over $1bn to be recovered from the Abacha estate."
Obasanjo compared the election situation in Nigeria with events in Ivory Coast under the country's former leader Laurent Gbagbo.
"President Jonathan has a grand plan to ensure that he wins the election by hook or crook and if he loses, he scuttles it and brings chaos and confusion in the whole country.
"It looks to me that the President is trying to play (Laurent) Gbagbo. Gbagbo was the former President of Cote d’Ivoire and Gbagbo made sure he postponed the election in his country until he was sure he would win and then allowed the election to take place. He got an inconclusive election in the first ballot and I believe this is the sort of thing Nigeria may fall into if I am right in what I observed as the grand plan.
"Then in the run-off, Gbagbo lost with 8 per cent behind (Alassane) Quattara and then refused to hand over. All reasonable persuasion and pleading was rebuffed by him and he unleashed horror in that country until nemesis caught up with him. I believe that we may be seeing the repeat of Gbabgo or what I called Gbagbo saga here in Nigeria, I hope not."
Commenting on the decision announced on February 7 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the polls for 6 weeks, the politician recalled how world leaders confronted him over political developments in the country.
"I was away because I had a number of assignments abroad which took me to Morocco, Munich, Nairobi, London and New Delhi. Exactly a week today, when we were in Munich for what they called the Munich security conferences annual event, everyone in the security community was there.
"I refused to make any categorical statement on this issue because I wanted to come back home and learn what actually transpired and what was going on, and it turned out to be a forced decision on the INEC, because it was alleged that the security chiefs were unable to provide security and as a result, the Chairman of INEC had to postpone the elections, in accordance with the dictates of the so-called security chiefs.
"For me, that was a bad precedent for democracy in Nigeria. It meant it doesn’t matter what preparation or lack of preparation any electoral body could make in Nigeria, the final decision on whether election will take place on the day scheduled for it lies in the domains of the security, it is a sad day for democracy in Nigeria."
Obasanjo also lamented Jonathan denying prior knowledge of the polls shift during the Presidential Media Chat.
"It was even made worse when the President in the media chat on the 11th of this month claimed not to have knowledge or not to have authorised it. I get worried, very worried that if the President of Nigeria is not in charge of security, maintenance of law and order and such a decision can be taken behind him, assuming that it is true, then the President must be reigning and not ruling."
In conclusion, Obasanjo, who is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), urged Jonathan not to destroy democracy in Nigeria, but strengthen it.
On the same day the presidency issued a statement in which Obasanjo was accused of plotting to form an unconstitutional Interim National Government and to become its leader.
The document by special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, was published on the official's website. See the text in full below:
"We find the false claims and allegations reportedly made against President Goodluck Jonathan by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday in Abeokuta very odious and repugnant.
"As we have had cause to say before, it is most regrettable indeed that a man like Chief Obasanjo, who should know better, chooses to repeatedly, wantonly, and maliciously impugn the integrity of a sitting President of his country for the primary purpose of self-promotion.
"It is obvious from Chief Obasanjo’s serial vituperations against President Jonathan who is doing his best to positively transform Nigeria for the benefit of all of its people that he has wilfully chosen to close his eyes to the present administration’s good works and intentions. For reasons best known to him, Chief Obasanjo has set his mind on regime change by fair or foul means.
"Otherwise, it would be completely senseless, irrational and out of place for Chief Obasanjo, who still claims to belong to the same party as the President, to accuse President Jonathan of plotting to win the rescheduled presidential elections by “hook or crook” and planning to plunge the nation into crisis if he loses the election.
"For the record, President Jonathan has no such intention and will continue to give the greatest possible support to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other relevant federal agencies to ensure that the rescheduled elections are successfully conducted.
"Indeed, it is not President Jonathan who remains faithful to his oath of office who is trying to plunge Nigeria into crisis, but Chief Obasanjo who is scheming to plunge the country into chaos in pursuit of a selfish and highly egocentric agenda.
"Chief Obasanjo’s plot with others within and outside the country to thwart the general elections and foist an unconstitutional Interim National Government, which he hopes to head, on the nation is well known to us, but by the Grace of God Almighty, his odious plan to return to power through the back door will fail woefully.
"We know very well that it is in pursuit of this nefarious plot that the former President continues to sow the seeds of discord and crises in the polity by purporting to remain in the ruling party while openly consorting with the opposition, endorsing its candidates and predicting victory for opposition candidates in a manner most unbecoming of a supposed elder statesman.
"Thankfully, the vast majority of Nigerians who are patriotic and right-thinking cannot be fooled by Chief Obasanjo’s antics.
"We urge them to be assured that President Jonathan’s commitment to democracy in all its ramifications remains constant and that he will never be party to the use of any unlawful means to remain in office or gain political advantage over his opponents.
"The President stands by his commitment, which he reaffirmed on national television last Wednesday that on his watch, all elections in Nigeria, will be free, fair and credible, and that all certified election results will be respected.
"As President Jonathan has also assured the nation, the rescheduling of the general elections was in the best interest of the nation and was never driven by any ulterior motive on the part of government as Chief Obasanjo and others have alleged.
"President Jonathan will continue to put his best efforts into giving Nigeria quality leadership and will not be distracted from his purpose by unwarranted and needless criticism by persons who ought to know better.
"The President also continues to trust in the good judgment of Nigerians and to believe that in appreciation of his sincere efforts to move the country forward over the past four years, they will re-elect him for a second term on March 28, 2015 with a mandate to pursue his agenda for national transformation to a successful conclusion."
It should be noted that Obasanjo has been recently in the news in connection with his purported endorsement of Muhammadu Buhari.
Reacting to the reports, however, the politician was not so specific about his position as he said that he "didn’t endorse him [Buhari] or endorsed him as such". Obasanjo insisted that he would vote for the candidate with the best track of record.