Aides of some past presidents, yesterday, picked holes in the Presidency's claims that former leaders demanded tips before awarding contracts.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, had on Monday, said unlike past leaders who demanded kick-backs before awarding contracts, President Muhammadu Buhari has abolished the old ways of doing things.
"The records of some of his predecessors in office bespeak a greedy trail. When they go abroad, they first ask: What is in it for me? What is there for my family? President Buhari is different," he had said.
The comment elicited hard knocks from Prince Kassim Afegbua, former Edo State Commissioner of Information and confidant of erstwhile Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, retd; Mr. Akin Osuntokun, former political adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo; and former Health Minister under Obasanjo, Professor ABC Nwosu.
Efforts to get other leaders or their aides to speak yesterday did not yield results.
Prove it, Afegbua challenges Garba Shehu
Prince Afegbua counseled Mallam Garba Shehu to desist from making allegations he could not substantiate and focus on engaging Nigerians on how best to make governance count for them.
Afegbua came short of questioning the suitability of Shehu for the exalted office of a Presidential spokesman, even as he urged him to stop pointing accusing fingers in the direction of past heads of government.
He said: "Garba Shehu is just seeking relevance. In the midst of a plethora of developmental challenges facing the government on account of poor service delivery, a spokesman worth his salt should, by empathy, engage Nigerians and not be throwing bile and allegations that cannot be substantiated. If he is sure of his facts, he should lay them bare.
"When you make such allegations, one would think that he was there with the ex-Presidents when they supposedly made such requests. It is ridiculous for anyone to contemplate that ex-Presidents made such baseless requests.
"The expectations from Nigerians are high; hence all hands must be on deck to salvage this country. Rather than the blame game, the government needs to coordinate all the centripetal and centrifugal forces to create the right synergy to drive national narrative."
Call the leaders to account- Osuntokun
Interacting with Vanguard on the issue from United Kingdom, Mr Akin Osuntokun said: "Any time you hear this kind of credulous smart-Alec claims, just refer them to Transparency International, Mo Ibrahim, rating agencies, US annual reports on Nigeria, Carnegie Foundation, IMF, etc.
"You can also refer them to Ganduje, Yahaya Bello, Timipre Sylva ad nauseum all whom his principal has adopted as favourite sons.
"If they had this kind of useful information, why have they not called such leaders to account, including Akpabio, Oshiomhole, who are held as poster boys of APC?"
Presidency went too far-- ABC Nwosu
On his part, Professor ABC Nwosu berated the Presidential spokesman for tagging past presidents as corrupt, stressing that there was need to caution him.
His words: "What the spokesman said is his personal opinion because I once worked under a President. I think he went too far and he should be cautioned. His sycophancy is too much. He's trying too much to turn his principal into a god. It won't work because Nigerians know past presidents, including late Umaru Musa Yar' Adua.
"Late President Yar' Adua is the only President that declared his assets completely in the proper way with nothing hidden. When people are hired to do a job, even if they are slaves, let them do the job like freeborn. Let them not do the job like the worst slave.
"I know the presidential spokesman personally; it is shocking that he could ever say such a thing. Like Chinua Achiebe would say; it's still morning yet on creation day. They have not even completed one year of their second term, he is spitting rubbish.
"How can he be abusing former presidents? It means he is saying Obasanjo was corrupt, Yar' Adua was corrupt, and Jonathan, Babangida and late General Sani Abacha were corrupt when his boss said late Abacha wasn't corrupt.
"Sycophancy is a profession in Nigeria but there is a level below which you don't go. If you are freeborn hired to do a slave job, don't do it like a slave, do it like a freeborn.
"You remember in 2015, when every effort was made to demonize the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the current chairman of the APC said a particular minister had $6 billion dollars in his account and the President said we are borrowing to sustain our budget. People should just keep their mouth shut and do the job they are hired to do."
Name, shame those involved -- Afenifere
Also reacting yesterday, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, challenged the Presidency to name and shame those involved in the matter, if it should be taken seriously.
Afenifere's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: "They should name and shame those involved, if they want us to take them seriously.
"These people don't take us seriously and think they can just throw any propaganda stuff at us and we would start shaking our heads."
Cock and bull story, but... --Junaid Mohammed
Similarly, Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, who described the statement as a cock and bull story, challenged the government to publish details of the scams.
Mohammed said: "I will want to be very careful and fair because I do not claim to have full knowledge of the workings of the Presidency under this President and previous presidents.
"But I want to state that that statement is to the extent that it concerns some of the Presidents and I cannot be persuaded that all of the Presidents were taking bribes on contracts.
"I want to be also careful not to blame people when there is no evidence. If the Presidency wants us to believe in this cock and bull story, they should publish in detail.
"Unless the details are published, I think it is rather reckless on the part of the Presidency in issuing such kind of statement.
"There are some in the recent past who may have been involved in some shady deals.
Those who have been found to have amassed billions in dollars, my inclination is that they may have been corrupt but I will not generalize it.
"I also insist that the Presidency has the onus to publish the details; otherwise, they should allow these old men (former Presidents) to go and rest in peace because I don't like this kind of thing. This is against the interest of the country."
Come up with names, figures -- Shehu Sani
For carpeting former Presidents, alleging that they demanded tips before awarding contracts, Senator Shehu Sani has asked the Presidency to come up with names and facts to buttress the allegations.
Speaking with Vanguard yesterday, Senator Sani who represented Kaduna Central in the 8th Senate first on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, said that the Presidency should raise the names of the past presidents because before the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, there were three others.
According to Senator Sani, before Buhari, there were past Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo; Late Umaru Yar'Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.
Senator Sani who warned the Presidency against over generalisation and attempt to criminalise past Presidents without substantiating the allegations, said: "My view is that it is a revelation by the Presidency that needs to be backed with facts and evidence in order not to generalize and criminalize all the past Presidents.
"It will be more moral if this could be backed by facts and names named because of recent and before the present government, we had Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; Late Umaru Yar'Adua and Goodluck Jonathan as past Presidents."
Unexpected at that level, says NECA
Director-General of Nigeria Employers' Consultative Association, NECA, Mr Timothy Olawale, said "It sounds ridiculous and unexpected at that level."