This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Jonathan, Obasanjo Meet in Kenya

President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday met over breakfast in Kenya, a day after Obasanjo's vituperation against the president contained in a December 2 letter was made public.

Although details of what transpired between the duo during the meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes, were not revealed, it was gathered that Obasanjo made a surprise appearance at Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi for the meeting with the president.

Obasanjo's scathing criticism of Jonathan elicited diverse reactions Thursday, just as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) moved to calm frayed nerves in the party with the decision to consult some of its founding fathers such as former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Second Republic Vice-President Alex Ekwueme, on how to contain the fallout of the attack on the president.

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar also urged party leaders to weigh in, adding that on this occasion, silence was not golden.

But Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, queried Obasanjo's moral authority to level such weighty accusations against the president, saying that he was also guilty of some of the allegations during his eight-year tenure in office.

The former president in the letter had queried Jonathan's second term quest, accused him of being tepid towards the anti-graft war, fomenting the crises in PDP and for promoting divisive tendencies in the polity, among others.

Notwithstanding the furore generated by the letter, which the presidency described as self-serving, provocative and mischievous, the former president visited Jonathan at his hotel in Nairobi where they had breakfast together.

Jonathan and Obasanjo were among dignitaries in Nairobi for the 50th independence anniversary celebration of Kenya, which held yesterday at the Safaricom Stadium in Kasarani, Nairobi.

At the venue of the event, Obasanjo sat quietly and was seen making calls on his mobile handset at intervals while the event lasted.

In his speech at the event, Jonathan called on Kenyans to unite, urging them to make unity their focal point.

He said the destiny of Kenya lay with its people and as such, the people must strive hard to take their country to greater heights.

Jonathan said he was happy that the leader of the opposition, Raila Odinga, was present at the event and was working with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

"Nobody can love you more than Kenyans, so you all have to jointly develop your country. All Kenyans should come together to form an inclusive society.

"Since 2007, many African countries like Kenya have been celebrating 50 years of independence and freedom, our founding fathers talked of political freedom to be followed by economic freedom.

"The present generation of African leaders must work hard on science and technology as well as industrialisation, so that there could be economic development and freedom," he added.

Back home, PDP leaders and presidency officials met on how to manage the crisis arising from Obasanjo's attack on the president.

Besides, PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, was also said to have begun consultations with the founding fathers of the party on how to address the seeming faceoff between Jonathan and Obasanjo that resulted in the 18-page letter to the president.

The letter also elicited reactions from civil society groups, which took different positions on the letter.

THISDAY gathered that presidency officials were concerned that Obasanjo sent a copy of the letter to Babangida and the latter might consider writing his own letter to worsen the situation.

Accordingly, they decided to meet him to seek advice on how to respond to the Obasanjo's letter.

A senior presidency source said: "We are indeed disturbed by the letter from the former president. We are aware of the letter, but are worried that it has become public knowledge. We have just finished a meeting, where it was agreed that a delegation should visit General Babangida to seek his advice on how to handle this matter."

Another source said: "Since the letter was copied to General Babangida and other leaders like the former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme, it would be wise for us to visit them and seek their opinions on how to manage this matter before it gets out of hand."

Tukur, on his part, Thursday visited the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, and was expected to visit Ekwueme and other founding members of the party on the issue.

In his reaction, Atiku said although he was not competent to speak on the content of the letter because he was not privy to the communication, he urged those leaders consulted by the former president before the publication of the letter to intervene and reduce the tension created by Obasanjo's weighty allegations.

The former vice-president, in a statement by his media office in Abuja, said like every other Nigerian, he was nervous about the allegations made and that those elders mentioned by Obasanjo had a moral duty to add their voices to the issue.

According to him, the allegations were too disturbing to be treated with apathy by any political stakeholder like him.

He explained that at a time the rest of the world was looking at Nigeria as a beacon of hope for stability, the content of Obasanjo's letter should be urgently addressed by former leaders and elders.

He said: "Our priorities for Nigeria are forging lasting solutions to our chronic unemployment, providing safety and security for all, and vastly improving our failing education system. President Jonathan's government has consistently failed to address these critical concerns.

"That said, it is on record that I have firmly fought for a democracy where the voters choose their future leaders, not political party bosses. If the incumbent president insists on continuing to destroy his own party with vindictive internal wars and thinks his record of rising youth unemployment, never-ending violence, corruption and scandals are worthy of another term, then he is welcome to run.

"We are confident Nigerians will exercise their democratic right to choose a new leadership in 2015."

However, Falana, in a statement yesterday, accused Obasanjo of hypocrisy, adding that while in office, he too committed most of the misdeeds he accused Jonathan of doing.

Nonetheless, he said instead of dismissing the contents of the letter, the presidency should respond to the allegations raised therein, especially given the allegation that the federal government was setting up a Presidential Strike Force to carry out terrorist attacks on political opponents.

He added: "Finally, instead of celebrating the hypocrisy of frustrated power mongers, the Nigerian people should take advantage of the intra-class war going on in the ruling party to get organised and take their political destiny in their own hands.

"The time has come to put an end to the opportunism of discredited rulers who are in the habit of exploiting the frustrations and disenchantment of the people to become emergency heroes."

Unlike Falana, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) asked Jonathan to resign "because Obasanjo has clearly spoken the minds of all Nigerians and it is clear that Nigerians have lost faith in this administration."

The Benue State chairman of the CNPP, Mr. Baba Agan, according to a report by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said in Makurdi that the letter was explicit enough and it had opened the eyes of Nigerians to how the incumbent administration was under-developing Nigeria.

A civil society group, United Action for Democracy (UAD), on its part, called on Jonathan to respond to the issues raised in the letter.

The group, at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, expressed apprehension over allegations on corruption, state-induced terrorism and promotion of ethnic and religious divisions in the country, which Obasanjo levelled against the president.

The National Convener of the group, Baba Aye, warned that unless the issues are addressed by Jonathan quickly, Nigerians would continue to live in fear of the unknown.

However, a PDP bigwig in the South-west, Mr. Kashamu Buruji, has threatened to sue Obasanjo over statements he considered libellous in the letter.

In the letter, Obasanjo had alleged that Buruji was a drug dealer, and had wondered why the president continued to fraternised with him and had stalled moves to extradite him to the United States to face charges.

Buruji's lawyers, Mr. Ajibola Oluyede and Mrs. Ifeoma Esom, told reporters yesterday in Lagos that they would not give Obasanjo any notice before commencing libel proceedings against him.

They also said a rejoinder to counter Obasanjo's claim had been delivered to the president.

Also speaking at the event, Buruji said Obasanjo was his political ally and that he had depended on him to fight a former Ogun State Governor, Chief Gbenga Daniel, to a standstill in the state, pointing out that during the period, he never referred to him as a drug dealer.

Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Youths Administrative Council (NDYAC) has faulted Obasanjo's letter to Jonathan, describing it as lacking in substance and a mere attempt to cause disaffection among various ethnic groups in the country.

The group's President, Mr. Marvin Yobana, at a press conference in Abuja, said Obasanjo was wrong to have attacked Jonathan, adding that the former president lacked the moral justification to castigate the incumbent president.

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