John Alechenu, Samuel Awoyinfa, Eniola Akinkuotu and Olaleye Aluko
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday raised the alarm that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was plotting to slam false charges on him through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to pave way for his indefinite detention.
He also accused the government of putting his name on a watch list, alleging that information reaching him from the ‘top security echelon’ indicated that his safety could no longer be guaranteed.
The former President noted that the current administration wanted to blackmail him into abandoning his divine mandate to protect the rights of Nigerians to better life.
Obasanjo made these allegations among others in a statement signed and released on his behalf by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, on Friday in Abeokuta.
He further revealed that he was reliably informed that, daily, plans were being perfected to curtail his liberty either through the seizure of his passport, or hounding him with the anti-graft agency.
He noted that the nation’s number three citizen was currently being harassed and the number four citizen was equally facing similar threat within the same government they serve.
The statement read, “Since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo declared in his State-of-the-Nation special statement on January 23, 2018, the desperation to frustrate, intimidate and blackmail him into abandoning his divine mandate to protect the rights of the people to better life and living continued unabated and has even taken a bizarre dimension.
“Impeccable security sources have alleged Chief Obasanjo’s name is on their watch list and that the security of his life cannot be guaranteed.
“According to these informants, many of who are in the top echelon of the nation’s security management and close to the corridors of power, the operatives are daily perfecting how to curtail the personal liberties of the former President and hang a crime on him.
“Ordinarily, we would not have dignified these reports with a response but for the fact that many of these informants are not known for flippant and frivolous talks.
“This government has demonstrably exhibited apathy, and in some cases, encouraged by its conduct, daily loss of lives and property in many states of the country.
“The content of the alleged beastly designs, it was learnt are two-fold for now. One, to seize his passport and clamp him into detention indefinitely, in order to prevent him from further expressing angst on the pervasive mediocrity in the quality of governance, economic management and in the protection of lives and property by the government.
“But, since that could expose the government to a swath of international condemnation, embarrassment and outrage, it is said that another plot being hatched is to cause the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to re-open investigation into the activities of Chief Obasanjo’s administration using false witnesses and documents. This will be a re-enactment of the Abacha era in which Chief Obasanjo was one of the principal victims.”
Obasanjo reiterated his resolve to face probe anytime, but before an independent, objective and credible panel of enquiry.
While further condemning the ugly turn of events, Obasanjo noted that dissent was a fundamental principle on which liberal democracy was predicated.
The statement further read, “A true democrat must be ready to live with and accommodate dissent and opposition.
“While it is regrettable how the government has sunk in its shameless desperation to cow opposition, a resort to blackmail, despotism and Gestapo-tactics being employed by the goons of this government would not hold water. And no government ever remains in power forever.
Obasanjo said he would not be deterred by the alleged threats of intimidation and blackmail, adding that he was committed to ensuring that the socioeconomic conditions of Nigerians improved.
Nigeria, now a police state under Buhari-PDP
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party has said it is alarmed by the revelation of Obasanjo that the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government is plotting to arrest him on alleged trumped up charges in order to detain him indefinitely.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja on Friday, said Nigeria had become a police state under President Buhari.
Ologbondiyan explained that this revelation coming from a Nigerian of Obasanjo’s status was terrifying as it had heightened the tension in the polity and confirmed its fears that Nigeria had descended into a police state where any Nigerian who opposed Buhari’s 2019 re-election bid, was endangered.
The statement partly read, “The alarm by Chief Obasanjo has further shown that the PDP has not been crying wolf regarding the plots by the APC-led Federal Government to frame, arrest, detain and arraign political opponents of the APC, including regular Nigerians, for holding or canvassing opinions that are divergent to the interest of those in power.
“We invite Nigerians to note the travails faced by perceived opponents of Buhari’s Presidency, including Senate President Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, and senators, Shehu Sani and Dino Melaye, who had raised similar alarms in the past.
“The PDP urges Nigerians to note how the APC-controlled security forces, on Wednesday, arrested and detained opposition members in Ogun State, including a member of the House of Assembly, Adebiyi Adeleye, who were going about their legitimate activities, only to tag them as cult members.
“The PDP condemns APC’s resort to persecution, intimidation, harassment and framing of our members, as well as dissenting voices, just to suppress the opposition ahead of the 2019 election.”
We’ll shutdown Aso Rock if Obasanjo is touched- ADC
In a related development, the African Democratic Congress, which has been adopted by Obasanjo, has warned the Federal Government that it will shut down the Presidential Villa if Obasanjo is harmed.
The Chairman of the ADC, Chief Okey Nwosu, said this during a telephone interview with our correspondent on Friday.
Nwosu said having failed to deliver on its campaign promises, the Buhari-led government had resorted to hounding opposition members into submission.
He said when Obasanjo was supporting Buhari during the run-up to the 2015 general elections; he was described as an advocate of change by Buhari and his supporters, but the same man was now being treated as a criminal because he was speaking against the government.
The ADC chairman said, “What we are witnessing is the desperation of a failed government. When you have mediocre persons that are not focused on handling state power, they often go to dictatorial levels to try to achieve their aim but this time, the people of Nigeria and God are on our side and we will do what our country needs.
“President Obasanjo cannot be touched. When in 2014 and 2015, he was in the vanguard of trying to effect change because of the situation then, they were applauding him as the champion of a new Nigeria.
“Now that things have gone wrong in the area of security and economy and he is speaking out, they are now chasing the champion of new Nigeria. We will mobilise the whole of Nigeria to take over Aso Rock Villa if the government steps out of line.”
But two civil society organisations, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, said Obasanjo should be ready to face trial if there was any evidence of financial mismanagement traced to his administration.
The SERAP Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the former President’s alarm of a witch-hunt by President Buhari was unnecessary as the anti-graft agencies must carry out their statutory responsibilities.
Mumuni said, “The truth of the matter is that Buhari should not be the one to set the EFCC against anybody; the anti-graft agency should do its job, investigate allegations of crime against anybody and begin prosecution. That Obasanjo is crying foul will not stop the agencies from going after him, if indeed there are admissible evidences against him.
“I don’t think we should listen to Obasanjo. Rather, we should let the EFCC do what is legally appropriate and prosecute anyone who is supposed to be prosecuted. If Obasanjo has a case to answer, he should be ready to have his day in court under the due process.”
Also the CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “Obasanjo should not play to the gallery. For me, it will be a huge positive development if this government can muster enough courage to take on Obasanjo.
“If the government has credible information or evidence to take on Obasanjo, it will clearly show that all the people in the league of former presidents can be taken up.”
Caution security agencies, Atiku urges Buhari
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to caution security agencies to avoid further overheating the polity.
Atiku gave the piece of advice in response to an alarm raised by his former boss, Obasanjo over an alleged plot by agents of the Federal Government to arrest him on trumped up charges.
This was contained in a statement he personally signed in Abuja, on Friday.
He said, “Our nation has lost so much precious lives and property that we can no longer afford to travel that road again.
“I wish to appeal to President Buhari to call the security agencies to order in order to douse the tension in the land.”
We will not be distracted by frivolous allegations – FG
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said the Buhari-led administration will not be distracted by what he described as frivolous allegations from any quarter, especially those he said were cleverly choreographed to divert attention from a widely-acclaimed presidential proclamation and “to shore up support for a waning and egotistical cause.”
In a statement issued in Lagos on Friday, the minister said the administration was too busy trying to clear the mess of 16 years and build on its unprecedented achievements over the past three years to waste its energy and time on framing up anyone or dwelling on issues that are not grounded in fact.
He said while those who have skeletons in their wardrobes should be afraid, even of their own shadows, innocent persons needed not worry about any investigation, whether real or imagined.
He said, ‘’This administration will never engage in a frame-up of innocent citizens. That is neither in the character of President Muhammadu Buhari nor in that of his administration.
“Only the guilty should be worried. To paraphrase an African proverb, a man who has no wife cannot lose an in law to the cold hands of death.
‘The administration is also strongly committed to the tenets of democracy, including freedom of speech and the right to dissent.
“But we understand that those who, in their time, were untethered to those principles would find it hard to believe.”
The minister said it was curious that the frame-up and witch-hunt allegations came a day after a major presidential proclamation reversing some past acts of injustice was made, to the relief and acclamation of a long-expectant nation.
‘Apparently, the impact of this proclamation was too much to bear by those who, through acts of omission or commission, helped to deepen the wounds inflicted by the blow of injustice that followed an election that was widely acclaimed to be free, fair and credible, hence they felt the need for a red herring that will distract the nation.
‘’Added to that is the frustration brought about by the fact that the contraption they have so much hyped as a freeway to power has failed to gain traction. Faced with this double tragedy, even the strongest of men may begin to succumb to a figment of their imagination. They may start crying wolf where there is none,’’ he said.