Former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the weekend took on former Head of State, retired General Yakubu Gowon for describing him as "highly irresponsible" for criticising President Goodluck Jonathan's 'weak' approach to the insecurity in the North-East.
General Gowon used the phrase on Obasanjo at the launch of a book, Stay At The Top, authored by a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN), Omoniyi Komolafe, last week. Gowon's remark was captured in the media thus: "Obasanjo is highly irresponsible to have made such comments about the present government. Many people have condemned what he (Obasanjo) did in Odi and Zaki Biam. So, it was irresponsible for him to defend it or accuse the present administration."
The former Head of State referred to Obasanjo's response to a question on the Boko Haram crisis in Warri recently, where Obasanjo said there was need for President Jonathan to be decisive in tackling the insecurity, just as he did in dealing with the militancy in Odi, Bayelsa State in 1999.
In a statement last night, Obasanjo, through his spokesman, Malam Garba Deen Mohammed, said, Obasanjo was shocked by General Gowon's comments, wondering, "When did General Gowon become the spokesman of the Jonathan administration?"
Garba Deen quoted Obasanjo as saying, "There's nothing irresponsible about my comments on the insecurity in Nigeria. I was only interpreting the reality. I expressed an opinion on the way the Boko Haram crisis is being handled and said if the current strategy is not working, then there has to be a change of strategy to achieve results. If the strategy were working, Boko Haram would have become a thing of the past by now." It said further that, "In expressing my opinion, I drew from my personal experience. General Gowon can disagree with me without being insultive. Gowon's comment is unkind, unfair, and unguarded."
The statement added that as a result of his commitment to end the insecurity, Obasanjo left his abode in Abeokuta, Ogun State, to Maiduguri, the Boko Haram enclave, to solicit for peace and dialogue with the sect. "Where was Gowon? Why has he not visited Maiduguri to solicit for peace? Is he not a leader of the North? What effort has he made to ensure an end to the crisis?" Obasanjo queried in his statement.
It added that, "Just two weeks ago, the government of Borno State came out in the open to declare that it had been abandoned by the Federal Government. Why didn't Gowon convince the Federal Government to help Maiduguri?"
At the time General Gowon made the remarks, Obasanjo was playing host to several northern governors in Abeokuta where the foundation stone was laid for a mosque, Islamiya School and staff quarters for the Imam and teachers at the mosque located in the Obasanjo Presidential Library. More than N350 million was raised at the event.
Some of the governors who attended the event included Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, Alhaji Saidu Usman Dankingari of Kebbi State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, representatives of many governors, former governors, and leaders of the National Assembly.