President Muhammadu Buhari’s two Media Aides, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, Sunday launched double-barreled attacks against former president Olusegun Obasanjo with a spate of one hour over his recent assessment of incumbent President’s leadership style.
Launching the first counter-attack on Sunday, Shehu, in a statement titled: Obasanjo is Nigeria’s Divider-in-Chief,” advised the former president to once again “sheathe the sword and rest the pretentiousness about the Messiah that has (mis)led him to pronounce often wrongly, as he disastrously did in the 2019 elections, about the life and death of Nigerian governments.”
Comparing Buhari to Obasanjo, the presidential media aide said the “difference is clear.”
Unlike Shehu, Adesina appeared diplomatic, explaining that Buhari has been focusing on nation building and unity of Nigeria.
Throughout his statement titled: “President Buhari focused on nation building and unity of Nigeria,” Adesina highlighted the achievements of incumbent Nigerian leader and never made direct reference to Obasanjo.
But in what seemed to be an indirect line of attack on Obasanjo, the presidential media aide said: “However, what is sad, and most reprehensible is the conduct of those who should know better and should be seen to be playing a leading role in bridging and or mediating these fissures that we have lived with, who now invest their time in trying to deepen those fault lines and stoking ethnic embers in very subtle and manipulative ways that eventually find their way to the public sphere.”
It would be recalled that Obasanjo, while recently delivering a speech titled: “Moving Nigeria Away from Tipping Over” at a consultative dialogue attended by various socio-cultural groups including Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo and Pan Niger Delta Forum, lamented that he had never seen Nigeria so divided.
According to him, “I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in. Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state.
“Economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.
“And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country.
“Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.
“It will amount to dangerous and destructive self-delusion for anybody to claim that all is well in Nigeria today.”
But, Shehu, a Senior Special Assistant to the President, described the Buhari administration as a pro-business administration that has used diplomacy to unlock bilateral trade and investment.
With so much to show and many more coming, he advised Obasanjo and other politicians to stop making Buhari their subject of attack.
According to him, “In his most recent statement former President Olusegun Obasanjo attempts to divide the nation while President Muhammadu Buhari continues to promote nation building and the unity of Nigeria.
“The difference is clear. From the lofty heights of Commander-in-Chief, General Obasanjo has descended to the lowly level of Divider-in-Chief (to adapt the coinage of Time).
“Before responding further to the unfair attacks on President Buhari and his administration by the former President, it is important that we categorically state that contrary to the assertions by a few analysts, the recent speech in which President Buhari advised West African Presidents against tenure elongation beyond constitutional limits has been consistent with his long held views on the need to adhere to the rule of law.
“Even though he tried it and failed, the recent uptick in the number of such leaders proposing to do, or actually carrying on in office beyond term limits is sufficient to cause concern among democrats in the sub-region given its prospects of destabilising the states and the region.
“President Buhari’s advocacy is consistent with his principles and in line with the current policies of his administration and indeed that of the ECOWAS Charter which is that term limits must be respected and that the change of government is only permissible through the ballot box.
“Having cleared this misperception, we hope that Chief Obasanjo would once again sheathe the sword and rest the pretentiousness about the Messiah that has (mis)led him to pronounce often wrongly, as he disastrously did in the 2019 elections, about the life and death of Nigerian governments.
“As some commentators are already suggesting, Chief Obasanjo should, in accordance with his mantra as a statesman, get involved with problems solving, when and where they exist instead of helping the mushrooming of a poisonous atmosphere of ethnic and religious nationalism.
“Surely, he must have disappointed many of his local and foreign admirers by showering commendations on a few extremist groups who have vowed to shun the invitation to the National Assembly to participate in the process of constitutional amendment.
“No doubt, he must have left those admirers confused in announcing the support for the boycott of a democratic process of changing the constitution, at the same time calling for dialogue and engagement.
“The fact that the process he ushered in under his administration with the dubious intention of amendments that sought tenure elongation failed-as did two other attempts by the successor administrations of the same political party- does not in any way justify his dismissal of the exercise by the 9th Assembly as a another waste of time and resources.
“To the credit of the All Progressives Congress-led 8th Assembly, the process of constitutional amendment was kickstarted and carried through, paving the way for, among other benefits, the financial independence of local government councils, States Houses of Assembly and the country’s Judiciary. These changes have already been signed into laws by the President as mandated by the constitution.
“The recent decisions by the administration as they relate to subsidy withdrawal, helping to plug some of the most horrendous notorious holes and release of scarce resources for the more pressing needs of the people has also not escaped the ire of the former president.
“It’s a known fact that the withdrawal of subsidies had been on the wish list of the Obasanjo-led Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. They failed in achieving these measures because, one there was a shared greed. They plundered the treasury as much as anyone could in the name of either subsidy or waiver with reckless impunity.
“Two, is to say it takes courage and rare statesmanship on the part of a leader to do as President Buhari to shun populism and seek the best interest of the people and the state, providing the kind of reform and development that Nigeria urgently needs.
“This President has run an administration focused on infrastructure and development. He has repaired our damaged relations with neighbours and our traditional allies such as the UK, US, China, Russia, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the others with lots of benefits to the country.
“It is a pro-business administration that has used diplomacy to unlock bilateral trade and investment.
“He leads a government that has liberalised the investment climate and market access by achieving reforms that have placed the country in the list of the world’s top reforming economies.
“Nigeria, which other nations had mocked and ridiculed for so many things that were wrong is today progressing at a pace reflecting its size and potential.
“With so much to show and many more coming, it is little surprise that President Buhari would be the object of envy and harsh unfair challenges by politicians who failed to deliver, but continue to nurse ambitions of delighting the audience long after their curtain has been drawn.”
Adesina, who is Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, approached the matter differently.
He took his time to explain the peculiar scenario Nigeria has found herself and subsequent actions taken by Buhari to address emerging challenges.
Adesina said: “To state that we live in challenging times is perhaps an understatement and does very little justice in accurately capturing our current realities. Those realities include a world faced with a pandemic the scale of which hasn’t been seen in 100 years. The crisis has crippled economies, destroyed global supply chains and obliterated once productive and viable sectors of the economy.
“Our dear nation has not been spared in this difficult period and, indeed, has felt the impact of the global crisis. But as a responsive government, the Buhari administration has within limited resources designed responses that are targeted at mitigating the full impact of this scourge.
“The Economic Sustainability Plan has earmarked N2.7 trillion in spending to create and sustain jobs and livelihoods for those who have been impacted the most by this crisis.
“Despite battling with low public revenues, and the hydra-headed monster of low oil price and a reduced production quota from OPEC, this administration remains committed to honouring the promises made to the Nigerian people across the key areas of security, economy and fighting corruption.
“At the just concluded Inter-ministerial Retreat, where the entire government apparatus was gathered under one roof to review performance over the last year; with a singular objective of identifying how to improve in those areas where successes fell short of target, and how to replicate those key elements that led to success in others.
“A frank conversation took place between the participants and independent assessors. Amongst the critical themes that emerged from the two-day session was the need to improve focus, coordination and collaboration amongst Ministries, Departments and Agencies, and the importance of rigorous execution, monitoring and evaluation of projects and activities against set targets.
“Regarding domestic policy actions, the last week has seen critical decisions around the economy being taken. These are decisions that for many years previous governments have shied away from, and as a result cost our country several billions of dollars.
“This was funding that could easily have been deployed elsewhere in support of millions of our citizens, as opposed to subsidising a small percentage of our population. If we continued along this path it would portend a very dark and uncertain future for our country.
“As most crisis managers state, ‘Never allow a crisis go to waste.’ Such periods present an opportunity to take stock and make difficult decisions. These domestic policy decisions were by no means easy, but are in the best interest of our nation.
“The impact of this decision is to have an improved allocation of very scarce resources, create an opportunity for private sector investment to return to sectors where government intervention had created distortions in various ways. The return of the private sector promotes job creation and provides for the entrepreneurial genius that is embedded in Nigerians.
“Leadership is about making tough and difficult decisions and not a popularity contest. President Buhari’s commitment to doing the right things in the best interest of our country should never be in doubt.
“In the regional sphere, Mr. President has not shirked from his responsibilities of promoting alongside other subregional leaders the principle of non-acceptability of change of government other than by constitutional means, and the values of democracy in places like Mali and ensuring that peace and security are maintained in neighbouring countries as they have a direct impact on our own security and territorial integrity.
“Mr. President is also fully aware that there are historic fissures that exist in various locations across the country, and has advocated for dialogue between key parties who are direct stakeholders in ensuring peace. An example is the recent peace dialogue that took place in Kaduna between warring groups that have been at each other’s neck for quite some time. Their efforts to sit across the table and dialogue on how best they can resolve their differences, is the pathway that needs to be charted in addressing our internal issues. Such peace moves, which would be deepened and extended to other parts of the country, are critical to our continued existence as a people and as a nation.
“However, what is sad, and most reprehensible is the conduct of those who should know better and should be seen to be playing a leading role in bridging and or mediating these fissures that we have lived with, who now invest their time in trying to deepen those fault lines and stoking ethnic embers in very subtle and manipulative ways that eventually find their way to the public sphere.
“Given the plethora of challenges that confront our nation, Mr. President’s attention is on how our growing youthful population can compete in a world that has no boundaries and barriers, given our very fertile land. Focus is on how we can best improve agricultural practices and increase yields per hectare, so our farmers benefit from their sweat and honest labour.
“Also under attention is how connectivity between markets and people can be improved so that commerce and movement of persons can thrive and flourish.
“How do we deepen technology penetration to ensure that we are not left behind in the digital race. These are a few amongst the things that occupy the thoughts of the President. All statesmen will be judged by their records long after they exit the scene, and President Buhari is focused on deepening Nigeria’s unity and laying a solid foundation for the transformation of our country so that future leadership can build on. Therefore, he will not be deterred by those whose singular objective, carried out through a veil of deception, is a cocktail of hate-inspired messaging and vitriol intended to distract and undermine our march towards prosperous nation building.”