President Muhammadu Buhari has stated reasons why he did not reply ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s scathing open letter condemning his administration and advising him not to contest in 2019.
Obasanjo’s caustic statement circulated to the press last January had caused national ripples, which the President tried to wade through before he eventually declared his intention to run for a second term earlier this month.
Speaking in Bauchi during a state banquet in his honour Thursday night as part of his two-day official visit to Bauchi State, Buhari said he had preferred a complete silence to Obasanjo’s letter and had vehemently resisted attempts by Information Minister, Lai Mohammed to make a response.
He said he was, however, forced to cave into pressure when the Minister equally vehemently insisted that it would be proper to make a veiled response without mentioning Obasanjo’s name but to just outline the achievements of the administration thus far.
The President told the dinner guests that “tonight, I want to remind the people of what Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information did against my wish, in the sense that when a letter was written containing our failures as an administration, Lai Mohammed agitated that he should reply and I said no.
“I said no for two reasons: He is much younger than the person who wrote the letter and myself; two, he is from the same constituency as the person who wrote the letter.
“But when Lai Mohammed came, I said he should go out but he said he won’t go. I asked why and he said let me give him a chance to say what he wanted to do. I said go on.
“He said in what he would do, he would not mention names but only try to remind Nigerians what the country was when we came in, where we are now, and what we have done with the resources available to us.
“Eventually, I had to admit that he was right and I was wrong because a number of people who could get in touch with me have said that Lai had done a good job. A lot of them are in the media who I don’t have time to see – but of course, they are very busy people. Therefore, I am very happy with the performance of our party, the All Progressive Congress.”
Buhari also went down memory lane to narrate how the betrayal of some of his former political associates informed his insistence on finding credible platform that would enable him rescue the country from sinking as he said it would have if the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) continued ruling Nigeria.
“I will like to go down some historical antecedents so that people can assess. When we were in the APP, I went through an impartial primary and I won the ticket. I think for the third or fourth time and while I was in court, because I felt I was ready to be president, the person who was to be my vice-president, allowed himself to be appointed by the presidency.
“The chairman and vice-chairman of the party accepted; even when I was still in court as a presidential candidate. That’s why I got out and formed the CPC; when we realised that if we don’t work together, that is the opposition parties, and wrestle power from the PDP, this country is going to sink,” the President recalled.
He restated his position that between 1999 and 2014, crude oil prices were quite high above $100 per barrel, yet the PDP administrations could not leave legacies of infrastructure and enduring national development as sectors like the railways and power, were allowed to decay or remain stagnant.
Buhari further highlighted his concern for the large number of young Nigerians, 90 percent of them below 30 years, who throng the streets, when he visits different parts of the country, as they yearn for a change of the way things had been done in the past and which left the country in a sorry state.
He therefore challenged leaders at all levels to make sure their conscience is clear in taking actions, to make sacrifices for the people, and to make special efforts in providing the people access to education, which he stressed was critical to national development, and above all, never mislead the people.
The President then thanked the Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar for being a good host, and the people of the state for their large turnout wherever he went during the visit.