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Nigerian President Jonathan Takes Aim at Predecessor’s Criticisms

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan arrives for service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, First National Bank Stadium, Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan arrives for service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, First National Bank Stadium, Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
A spokesman for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said former President Olusegun Obasanjo should stop trying to ‘play God’ when it comes to Nigerian politics.

Reuben Abati said the former president crossed the line when he criticized Jonathan’s performance in office in a lengthy letter made public December 2nd.

Abati said it is something the international community and friends of Obasanjo should be concerned about.

Jonathan Sunday sent a strongly worded response to Obasanjo in which he accused the former president of trying to incite ethnic disharmony, as well as instigate members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to rise up against him.

Abati said Jonathan also made clear that Obasanjo’s letter was a threat to national security “as it may deliberately, or inadvertently, set the stage for subversion.”

“If you were in Nigeria, you will see that, within the last one month or so, with the emergence of the APC (All Progressives Congress), which is a coalition of opposition groups, that particular group has been trying to undermine the president. In the past, any time former President Obasanjo wrote a letter against a sitting president there were consequences in the form of military intervention, or maybe the failure of the government,” he said.

In his December letter, Obasanjo raised concerns about the security situation in Nigeria. In his reply, Jonathan said, although the current national security challenges were sown under previous administrations, his government was working assiduously to overcome them.

“Those who continue to downplay the successes in this regard, amongst whom you must now be numbered, appear to have conveniently forgotten the depths to which security in our country had plunged before now,” Jonathan said.

Abati said Jonathan also took exception to Obasanjo’s allegation that Jonathan was training snipers to assassinate political opponents.

“In that particular section of the response to former President Obasanjo, President Jonathan said that, one, it is an offense and an insincere allegation. And, he made it very clear that if President Obasanjo feels [that way] about this, he should provide evidence,” Abati said.

Jonathan responded to Obasanjo’s allegation of “high corruption” by saying that the seed of corruption in Nigeria was planted a long time ago.

“That corruption is an issue in Nigeria is indisputable. It has been with us for many years. You [Mr. Obasanjo] will recall that that your kinsman, the renowned afro-beat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, famously sang about it during your first stint as head of state. Sonny Okousn also sang about corruption,” Jonathan said in his reply.

Jonathan described as untrue Obasanjo’s allegations that he (Jonathan) asked half a dozen African presidents to speak to Obasanjo about Jonathan’s ambition to seek re-election in 2015.

“I have never requested any African president to discuss [this] with you on my behalf. In our discussion, I mentioned to you that four presidents told me that they were concerned about the political situation in Nigeria and intended to talk to you about it,” Jonathan said in his letter to Obasanjo.

Abati said Obasanjo crossed the line when he tried to allocate to himself the power to determine who should run Nigeria.

“If you go back to former President Obasanjo’s letter, he says in that letter that he is the one who put President Jonathan there as president. Now, for a man to go public and boast publicly, internationally, that he installed the president, and that he did it also in 1979, I think the international community must be concerned about that, that one individual would allocate to himself the powers of God, the power to install a president in a country of over 170 million people,” Abati said.
Butty interview with Abati
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