Polls Shift: Jonathan May End Up Like Gbagbo

Abiodun Taiwo, Abeokuta
In what appears to be his first public reaction to the postponement of the general elections, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has warned President Jonathan to take caution so that he does not end up like the former Cote D’Ivoire President, Laurent Gbagbo.
Obasanjo warned that the general election must be conducted as scheduled, insisting that shifting the elections for the second time would portend danger for the country’s democracy.
Obasanjo who spoke in Abeokuta, accused President Goodluck Jonathan of trying to manipulate the elections in his favour, the same way Gbagbo did to his own peril.
The former president spoke to newsmen on Saturday in an interactive session at his Hilltop residence.
Obasanjo who said he heard the postponement of the elections while on tour of four countries, advised Jonathan not to make the same mistake Gbagbo made when he shifted the date of his country’s elections.
He advised against removing the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commision (INEC), Professor Atahiru Jega, for any reason whatsoever at this “critical period in time”, expressing the view that doing so would heighten suspicions that the president plots to manipulate the elections in his own favour.
In his view, President Jonathan?s behaviour and body language so far suggest someone who plans to win the election by “hook or crook”, a situation which he said would be dangerous for Nigeria and her democracy.
Obasanjo said: “? I was surprised. I was away outside Nigeria. I had a number of assignments which took me to Morocco, Munich, Nairobi and London. It was when we were in Munich for what they call “Munich Security Conference”, an annual event, ?that I heard of the shifting of the elections.”
I was there with Kofi Annan (former United Nations Secretary-General) and suddenly, people started asking me questions about what is happening in my country. The Americans, Germans, Kofi Annan, particularly was agitated.?
“But I refused,? he added, ?to make any categorical statement on this issue because I wanted to come back home and learn, first-hand what actually transpired and what was going on. It turned out that it (postponement of elections) was a decision forced on the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) because it was alleged that the security
chiefs said they would not be able to provide security as a result of which the chairman of the INEC had to postpone the elections in accordance with the dictate of the so-called security chiefs.”
“I thought, for me, that was a bad decision for democracy and for Nigeria. It means that it does not matter what preparations or lack of preparations any electoral body makes in Nigeria, the final
decision, whether elections will take place as scheduled or not, lies in the domain of security chiefs. It is a sad day for democracy in Nigeria and I will say this that we all must feel concern before democracy is killed,” Obasanjo added.
According to the former president “What is observable and what would appear to be happening is that the president has a grand plan to
ensure that by hook or by crook he wins the election or if it all fails, he scuttles it and creates chaos, confusion and unpleasantness in the whole country …
“The president (Jonathan) is the Chief Security Officer of the country and the Commander-in-Chief and if security is required anywhere, anytime, it is his duty and responsibility to provide it. Failure to provide it is dereliction of duty, pure and simple.”
In Obasanjo?s view, it is “either the president is following his own grand plan or he and his associates are working a script, which, of course, must have got his endorsement if not initiated by him.”
In response to a question, Obasanjo
declared: “What again will look to me as his plan is that the President is trying to play Gbagbo.
Gbagbo was the former President of Cote D?IVoire. And Gbagbo made sure he postponed the election in his country until he was sure he would win and when he finally allowed the election to take place, he got an inconclusive election in the first ballot and I believe this will be the sort of thing Nigeria may fall into if am right in what I observe as the grand plan.?
“And in that run-off”, he added, “Gbagbo lost with eight percent votes behind his opponent but refused to hand over power. All reasonable persuasions and pleadings were rebuffed by him and he unleashed horror in that country until Nemesis caught up with him.
“I believe that we may be seeing a repeat of Gbagbo or what I called Gbagbo saga here in Nigeria. I hope not.
?That is why I said it was strange to me. It wasn’t the duty and responsibility of the security service chiefs to tell INEC they would not provide security or they are not in a position to provide security because it is their job to do so and if they cannot do it, then they
might as well go home. Their job is to maintain law and order and provide security and if at any time, any place, they say they cannot do that, then they have failed.
“I want to believe that this was forced on them but whether it was forced on them or it was their own initiative, it was bad, very bad. I hope we will never have a repeat performance of this in this country because the unfortunate thing is that it is either they are over-exposing themselves or they are being over-exposed by whoever brought about that way of doing things and for me a monumental decision like that cannot be taken and be implemented by the service chiefs.”
Obasanjo recalled that President Jonathan in his media chat of February 11, claimed not to have knowledge or not to have authorised the shift.? ?So, I
get very, very worried that if the President of Nigeria is not in charge of security, maintenance of law and order and such a decision can be taken behind him, (assuming that is true) then the president must be reigning and not ruling.”
According to him, “It means that one day, we will wake up and discover that this country has been plunged into chaos, into commotion, into
confusion and the president would say ?I do not know about it.? Of course the president can run but he cannot run pass God. He has constitutional responsibilities and to claim he does not know is not
an excuse; so, I do hope that those service chiefs who were proud of the services of me and others like me, proud of the service that we have rendered and we are proud of what they are doing, will not shame
themselves and shame us because what this amounts to is what in the military we call ?very unmilitary conduct to the prejudice of good
order and military discipline?.”
Chief Obasanjo disagreed that the Boko Haram insurgency was responsible for the postponement of the elections as claimed by INEC, saying “Boko Haram problem has been with us since 2009 and now you say what we have not been able to achieve since 2009 we will achieve in six weeks. Well, all I will say is that God is a God of miracles; God can do anything. Countries like Syria had elections when they had a full-scale war all over the country; Iraq had election, they had full-scale war and they are still having. Afghanistan had election; they even had election where the incumbent had his term and left office.
“Even countries like Colombia where they have FARC, their own insurgency group, active for more than 50years have been regularly having elections and FARC is still very much active. So, to say that what you have not been able to achieve in five years, you will now achieve in six weeks; let us wait and see.
Fielding another question, the former president said Jonathan’s fear of leaving office might not be unconnected with the person who is likely
to succeed him— Gen. Mohammadu Buhari.
His words, “I believe that the president?s concern is ?being out of office. He and I have had occasions to talk about this both seriously and jovially. I believe the president wants an opportunity to disengage peacefully and have a nice, decent and glorious exist. I believe the president’s fear is particularly motivated by the person he sees as his likely successor, that is, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. I believe people would have been telling him that Buhari is a hard man, he will fight corruption and he (Jonathan) may end up in jail if not in the grave. I think people would have told him those sort of things.”
But Obasanjo explained: “But what I will say is that Buhari should have learnt his lessons by now. If he had not learnt his lessons, then he would be
probably the most unlearning human being. Now, if he has learnt his lessons, he will know that you do not fight corruption by putting people in jail for 200 years. And this had been done by my own
predecessor in office, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. ?He recovered over $750 million from Abacha’s Estate without putting anybody in?jail,
without harming or hurting anybody. When I took over, we recovered over $1.25 billion from the same Abacha Estate without hurting anybody without harming anybody.”
He added: “In fact, what would be rather unfortunate is the fact that our lawyer who is still alive and who is still able, who was chasing this
money all over the world said to us that there was still about well over $1 billion to be recovered from the Abacha’s Estate. The unfortunate aspect of that is that my successors (the late Umaru Musa Yar?Adua and Jonathan) could not do anything about it even though it was in my handover note. So I do not think the president is afraid of being out office. But, as I said when we (himself and Jonathan) talked about this, ?there is life after Aso Villa?. It will depend, of course, to a large extent on how he descends or how his descent takes place and how his exit takes place,” Obasanjo affirmed.
Corruption, Obasanjo insists, ?must not remain a part of our national life. Whoever is in power at any time in future must fight corruption and we must encourage successful fight against corruption.
Recklessness and impunity must not continue to be part of our way of life. Whether it is recklessness and impunity in the management of our
economic affairs or in our finances or even in our political affairs, that must not be allowed to remain a part of our life.”


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