Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo has raised alarm over an alleged plot by President Muhammadu Buhari to frame him for a crime in a bid to silence his criticism of his administration.
The former president made the sensational claim in a press statement signed by his spokesperson, Kehinde Akinyemi, on Friday, June 8, 2018. Obasanjo alleged that Buhari's administration has an active plan to indefinitely detain him by using false witnesses and documents to frame him.
According to him, he caught wind of the plot after he was tipped off by several reliable security sources who have told him that he's on a government watchlist and that the security of his life cannot be guaranteed.
Comparing the alleged plot to something more likely to be seen during the era of military dictator, Sani Abacha, Obasanjo said it largely involves making the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reopen investigation into the activities of his administration.
The former president alleged that the current witch hunt against him is fueled by his wave of criticism against Buhari starting with his scathing statement in January where he failed the president's administration and called on him to step down after his first term.
Obasanjo also compared the alleged plot to the criminal allegations hanging over the head of current senate president, Bukola Saraki, who has been accused of being the political sponsor of a criminal gang that killed 33 people during a robbery operation in Offa, Kwara, in April.
The statement read, "Since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo declared in his State-of-the-Nation Special Statement on January 23, 2018, the desperation to frustrate, intimidate and blackmail him into abandoning his divine mandate to protect the rights of the people to better life and living continued unabated and has even taken a bizarre dimension.
"Impeccable security sources have alleged Chief Obasanjo's name is on their Watch List and that the security of his life cannot be guaranteed.
"Ordinarily, we would not have dignified these reports with a response but for the fact that many of these informants are not known for flippant and frivolous talks. Secondly, this government has demonstrably exhibited apathy, and in some cases, encouraged by its conduct, daily loss of lives and property in many states of the country, the office cannot be indifferent.
"We are currently in a nation where the Number Three citizen is currently being harangued and the Number Four citizen is facing similar threat within the same government they serve. There is a groundswell of our nationals that live in fear that they could be hounded, harassed, maimed or even killed as the battle for 2019 takes this worrisome dimension.
"For Chief Obasanjo, this is a joke carried too far and being someone who do not act on unofficial information, he had cautioned all informants and adopted a wait-and-see attitude to the bestial propositions allegedly being contemplated to cow, cage and embarrass him.
"The content of the alleged beastly designs, it was learnt are two-fold for now. One, to seize his international passport and clamp him into detention indefinitely, in order to prevent him from further expressing angst on the pervasive mediocrity in the quality of governance, economic management and in the protection of lives and property by the government.
"But, since that could expose the government to a swath of international condemnation, embarrassment and outrage, it is said that another plot being hatched is to cause the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to re-open investigation into the activities of Chief Obasanjo's administration using false witnesses and documents. This will be a re-enactment of the Abacha era in which Chief Obasanjo was one of the principal victims.
"The same EFCC that had conducted a clinical investigation on the activities of Obasanjo in and out of government, it was said, would now be made to stand down the existing report that gave Chief Obasanjo a clean bill of health on the probes are now to get him indicted, fair or foul for possible prosecution and persecution like it is being done to real and perceived opponents, enemies and critics of this Government."
I'm ready to face EFCC - Obasanjo
Obasanjo, who was president between 1999 and 2007, noted that it is regrettable that the current government is targeting its perceived enemies in a bid to silence opposition voices with blackmail and Gestapo-tactics.
He said he's ready to face an independent and credible probe and promised to remain undeterred in his mission to rescue Nigeria from a terrible government that has torn Nigerians apart.
The statement read, "Dissent is a fundamental principle on which liberal democracy is predicated. A true democrat must be ready to live with and accommodate dissent and opposition. While it is regrettable how the government has sunk in its shameless desperation to cow opposition, a resort to blackmail, despotism and Gestapo-tactics being employed by the goons of this government would not hold water. And no government ever remains in power forever.
"For the record, Chief Obasanjo reiterates his readiness to face probe again after that of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the ICPC, and the EFCC, but before an independent, objective and credible panel of enquiry to account for his stewardship in Government and beyond.
"Chief Obasanjo reiterates that he has taken a principled position to ensure that the ship of the Nigerian State does not capsize and he remains steadfast in his resolve to turn the tide of maladministration, poor economic management and rudderless governance model that has tore Nigerians apart on account of religion and ethnicity which is a great threat to our democracy.
"We would like the government and its supporters to understand that no amount of campaign of calumny, no matter how well contrived, orchestrated or marketed would deter Chief Obasanjo from calling a spade by its name. Chief Obasanjo is a patriot whose sole agenda is to ensure that the country's unity, progress and democracy are not negotiated on the altar of incompetence and provincialism and mediocrity.
"It is important to point out that Chief Obasanjo is one former President and Head of State who has engaged the current administration privately and in a bilateral manner on several issues of direct interest to the government and other matters of national concern. That channel of private engagement remains open and continues. However, should there be the need for public engagement, the right to free speech will always be exercised and jealously guarded, again in the best interest of Nigeria and the government."
Obasanjo vs Buhari
Obasanjo's war of words with Buhari started when he publicly condemned the president's administration in January and asked him to not seek re-election in next year's election.
In that 13-page statement titled, "The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement", Obasanjo also expressed his lost hope in the ability of the ruling All Progressives' Congress (APC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) to provide Nigeria with the initiative it needs to progress.
He subsequently launched the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) which he said would be a movement of all well-meaning Nigerians that will engage in democratic practices that will drive Nigeria forward and be a source of hope for all Nigerians. That movement has recently adopted the as its political platform to install a new political class in the 2019 general elections.
With Obasanjo constantly criticising Buhari since that January statement, the most high-profile clash between the two happened in May when the president raised questions over the $16 billion allegedly spent on power projects during Obasanjo's administration.
While speaking at the Presidential Villa on May 22, 2018, Buhari remarked, "One of the former Heads of State was bragging that he spent more than 15 billion USD on power in Nigeria. Where is the power?"
In response to the accusation, Obasanjo fired back later that day, saying that Buhari was ignorant on the subject for re-echoing an unsubstantiated allegation that has been proven false.