Monday, 2nd October 2023

Obasanjo says 2023 polls shameful, urges next government to end ethnic division

By Odita Sunday and Matthew Ogune (Abuja)
07 April 2023   |   4:36 am
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, described the just-concluded general elections as a “sickening show of shame,” saying that efforts should be made by patriotic Nigerians to not only correct it but prevent reoccurrence.

Obasanjo. Photo/FACEBOOK//MrUdomEmmanuel

• ‘Spending like drunken sailors on frivolity and corruption won’t take Nigeria into fourth industrial revolution’
• DHQ: Interim national government unconstitutional, we stand with the presidency
• Treason: Obi, Datti’s comments didn’t violate Section 37 of criminal code, says Falana

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, described the just-concluded general elections as a “sickening show of shame,” saying that efforts should be made by patriotic Nigerians to not only correct it but prevent reoccurrence.

Speaking in Abuja at the presentation of a book authored by Prof. Tunji Olaopa, the former president said he is too old to keep quiet on national issues, noting that the outcome of the election has made Nigeria more divided than ever before and the country more corroded than what its founding fathers had in mind.

Obasanjo said with the current situation on ground, it would not be out of place for a national reconciliation, which will assuage the feelings of aggrieved Nigerians, particularly, the youth population.

He, therefore, urged the incoming administration to put measures in place that would foster national reconciliation, as “efforts are required to rescue the country from its launch into dystopia and it would only be possible with a common vision.”

He criticised the growing debt profile and spending spree of government at all tiers, especially those at the helm of affairs currently, likening the situation to “spending like a drunken sailor.

“We cannot be spending like a drunken sailor on frivolities and corruption and expect development and growth. Such a situation cannot take us into the fourth industrial revolution already underway.

“My experience and understanding, however, is that the money to develop and grow our economy is out there if we provide a conducive environment for it to come and stay.”

Obasanjo, however, advised that for reforms to take root, there must be political will and concerted effort to drive it by all stakeholders in Nigeria. On the issues of reforms, he said governance in Nigeria now calls for thinking outside the box in terms of development financing.

According to him, this trend of thinking has become inevitable in the face of Nigeria’s dwindling fortune in oil revenue, huge foreign indebtedness and the urgency to diversify Nigeria’s neo-cultural economy.

“Let me conclude by stating clearly that I am now too old to keep quiet and watch Nigeria’s seemingly clueless launch into dystopia. All efforts are now required from all well-meaning and committed patriots to rescue the nation from the precipice.

“And when I look at the audience, I have a feeling that among the people who can do it, and who must do it, are some of you here.
“It has become my own personal obligation, continuing in my relentless service as a letterman, dedicated in my twilight years to say the truth, as I see it, so as to push Nigeria in the direction of our collective aspirations.

“What is our collective aspiration? A better society where all Nigerian can become what the Almighty God is destined to be.

“At times like this, some of us have to adopt the attitude of being known to be blind and not being afraid of the dark. But we must continually work for the light of all.”

The event, put together by Nextier SPD, also witnessed the public presentation of a book: “The Unending Quest for Reform: An Intellectual Memoir”, authored by Olaopa.

He congratulated the author of the book for continuing to labour on behalf of the Nigerian public service, and adding the significant intellectual memoir to his huge collection of publications and to the annals of administrative reforms in Nigeria.

Also speaking, the Founding Partner of Nextier SPD, Patrick Okigbo, said election promises could only be implemented if civil servants driving it were reformed.

Okigbo noted that reforming the civil service was necessary to drive electoral programmes and promises that would better a lot of all Nigerians.

According to him, “every four years, we go to the polls, politicians make promises of what they want to do and at the end of the day, not a lot happens.

“It is not because these politicians are bad people, it is not because they do not want to do stuff, it is basically because all the electoral promises will have to be delivered by the public service, the civil servants and political appointees.

“If the civil service does not have the capacity to deliver on these promises, they will remain mere promises, so what we are attempting to do here is to convene leading scholars, practitioners, policy advocates and development partners to say what is the pathway for reforming Nigeria’s public service.”

MEANWHILE, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has said those calling for an Interim National Government were being ‘mischievous’ and warned the promoters of the idea against such unconstitutional adventure.

The Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Musa Danmadami, fielding questions from newsmen, yesterday, after the biweekly update on the Armed Forces operations, said the military would always defend what the Constitution says. He said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had conducted elections and declared a President-elect, which the military recognises.

He said: “On the issue of interim government, it is rather unfortunate, an election has been conducted and INEC, which is mandated, has announced a President-elect. It is not our responsibility to speak on that issue, but I know that several calls have been made from the Presidency that there is nothing like ING.
“So, I think people were just trying to be mischievous. It is unconstitutional and all of us know that the Constitution does not provide for an ING and that is the point the Presidency has been hammering and that is our stand because that is what the Constitution says, it is unconstitutional.”

LEADING rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has, however, dismissed the claim by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration that the Labour Party (LP) presidential team of Peter Obi and Baba Datti-Ahmed is engaging in subversive acts.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had accused the duo in Washington, this week, of plotting violent change of government in Nigeria by not accepting the outcome of the February 25 presidential poll.

Datti, Obi’s running mate in the election, in particular, has been in the eye of the storm over his comment that the winner of the poll, Bola Tinubu, would not be sworn in on May 29.

Falana, however, said all the candidates pronounced victorious by INEC in the different segments of the elections would be sworn in on the said day, including those of LP.

Dismissing government’s charge of treason against Obi, the Senior Advocate said Section 37 of the Criminal Code Act is clear and the duo of Obi and Datti had not infracted it by their recent utterances, regardless of the political optics.

He said: “They have approached the court to challenge the results of the presidential election in line with the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

“The law provides that the persons declared by INEC to have won the elections shall be sworn in pending the determination of the election petitions.

“The law prescribes 180 days (six months) for hearing of election petitions and 60 days (two months) for appeals arising from the decisions of trial courts or tribunals.”

Speaking on Datti’s comments that have heightened the political temperature in the country, Falana said expression of one’s opinion doesn’t amount to treason.

“Whoever says inauguration will not hold is merely expressing his or her opinion. It is not treason to express one’s personal opinion” he said, adding, “by virtue of section 37 of the Criminal Code Act, treason occurs when any person levies war against the State, in order to intimidate or overwhelm the President or governor of a state.

“Any person found guilty of treason is liable to the punishment of death,” he concluded.