It’s been interesting times in the country as a lot has happened since the celebration of Nigeria’s Democracy Day was marked on the 12th of June 2019.
One of the happenings that caught attention nationwide and which became a hot topic for debates and discussions was the conspicuous absence of all former Presidents and Heads of State in the country.
One of the former Presidents who had spoken up after not attending the event was Olusegun Obasanjo.
Mr. Kehinde Akinyemi, the media aide to former President Obasanjo had said that his boss did not get the invitation to attend the event, stating that it may have been sent but maybe got lost in transit as the former President did not receive the invite.
Garba Shehu had released a strong worded statement on Wednesday, June 19 2019 on behalf of President Buhari, saying that the lie told by Obasanjo on his absence could not be sustained.
In the statement, Garba made sure that he gave a breakdown on how the former President was reached by the Presidency on the ceremony.
The statement as was obtained from PM News is shown below:
“He owes an answer to Nigerians on his absence from the 2019 Presidential inauguration and Democracy Day celebration”, said Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on media and publicity.
“Since the claim was first made, elements in the polity that have deliberately and consistently been trying to lead the country toward polarization have cashed in on it, throwing all manner of rubbish at the Buhari Presidency.
“The fact remains that the Secretary to the Government, Boss Mustapha wrote on May 16th, 2019 to:
“His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, Former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Agbe L’Oba House, Quarry Road, Ibara, P.O.Box 2286, Abeokuta, Ogun State.”
“The invitation was sent to Chief Obasanjo’s known forwarding address, detailing out all the major events, and the invitation cards were delivered by a reputable courier company as confirmed.
“The receipt of the letter and invitation cards as delivered by the courier company was confirmed by Mr. Taiwo Ojo, the long standing Personal Secretary to the former President.
“If, in the circumstance, Chief Obasanjo did not see or receive the letter and invitation cards as published by Vanguard newspaper (Page 16, June 16, 2019) and several other news platforms, then the former President needs to find out what is happening with his own secretariat.
“The government office did its job diligently and should not be blemished for no reason”, Garba said.
Former President Obasanjo is yet to make any reply to this counter claim by the Presidency, but going by his body language in recent months, it can be deduced that he was absent from the ceremony for one of, or a combination of these likely reasons which we will consider below.
Fallout With Buhari
It is no secret that Obasanjo was one of the political stalwarts in the country who played a major role in the emergence of Buhari as President in 2015, who made history as he defeated a sitting President.
However, Obasanjo had a falling out with Buhari three years into the first tenure of the President, over the state of affairs in the country. Obasanjo went on to release a scathing open letter addressed to Buhari, just as he had done to former President Goodluck Jonathan, where he highlighted the pitfalls of the Buhari administration.
In the letter which was made available to the public, Obasanjo had expressed his disappointments in the manner in which Buhari was handling the insecurity and corruption in the country, rating him low amidst other issues which was plaguing the country.
At this point, it was clear that Obasanjo was not really comfortable with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari as he out-rightly rejected Buhari by stating that a Coalition was needed to save the country.
Obasanjo’s criticism of Buhari did not stop there as almost exactly one year after the open letter, he again wrote another one which was as well publicized to attack the President, likening him to former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.
He lamented about how the Government was using security agencies in the country to fight against perceived political enemies and how he was doubtful on INEC’s ability to conduct a free and fair election Presidential election.
Obasanjo had said that his issue with Buhari was not personal, but then, his displeasure with the Governing style of Buhari may have been a major reason why he had kept his distance on the Democracy Day celebration.
Obasanjo’s Dissatisfaction With Conduct And Result Of 2019 Elections
As the 2019 elections drew closer, Obasanjo declared his support for the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, saying that he was better suited for the role than President Buhari as he was well grounded in economical matters.
Before the elections, Obasanjo had raised concerns on the integrity of INEC in conducting a free and fair election. He had made a reference to the Osun State gubernatorial elections which the APC had won under very controversial circumstances as he expressed his reservations.
Buhari would eventually go on to win the elections against the wish of Obasanjo. And although Obasanjo had categorically refused to speak on the 2019 elections since the Presidential candidate of the PDP had gone to the courts to contest the result of the election, his body language suggests that he was not satisfied with the conduct and result of the polls.
This is because, Obasanjo had later spoken of his support on the decision taken by Atiku to go the Presidential Election Tribunal to contest the result of the Presidential polls.
“Those who have conceived and are promoting the narrative that if Atiku Abubakar continues to seek legal redress, there will be violence, are evil minds looking for excuse to unleash violence on Nigerians.
“At no time in history has sustainable peace built on theft, injustice, corruption and inequality.
“We will continue to sustain Nigeria in stability and unity on the altar of justice, equity, fairness, freedom, human rights and democracy.
“Stability cannot be successfully built on injustice, corruption, inequity and divided nation, and incompetence, nepotism and one-sidedness,” he said.
Thus, Obasanjo may not have wanted to be associated with the victory of Buhari at the polls, hence, his absence during the Democracy Day Celebration.
The MKO Abiola Saga
After Buhari announced that democracy day was going to be celebrated on June 12 as opposed to May 29 in 2018, Obasanjo had come under attack from many.
The reason why Obasanjo was attacked was because, many had felt that it was a big shame on him for failing to honour the late Abiola. More so, as Obasanjo has been termed by many as the biggest beneficiary of the June 12 struggle, which saw him being elected as President in 1999 shortly after his release from prison.
Obasanjo as well, hails from the same state as MKO Abiola and so was expected by many to champion the course honouring the late business mogul, but that was never the case. This left many disappointed.
On the day of the ceremony, which was chosen to specifically honour the contributions of Abiola to the development of democracy in the country, Obasanjo was conspicuously missing.
Thus, former President Obasanjo may not have been comfortable enough to grace the occasion with his presence for this reason.
In any case, it should be noted that Obasanjo was not the only former past leader of the country who snubbed the event, so there may have been other reasons for their actions which of course we are not privy to.
Do you agree with these reasons? Let us know what are your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.