N45bn raised for tenure extension lobby - Ex-President offered VP slot to Masari Former FCT Minister Nasir El-Rufai has alleged that ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo badly wanted to extend his stay in office beyond 2007 such that he told his aides: "No third term, no Nigeria."
In his 627-page memoir titled The Accidental Public Servant, scheduled for public presentation on Thursday, El-Rufai also defended the dollar salaries paid two of his aides when he was minister of the Federal Capital Territory in 2003-2007. The former minister said when rumours of a third term plot began circulating in 2005, he confronted Obasanjo who responded thus: “Do you think I am looking for a job? I came out of prison, I was on my farm, I was begged to come and do this job. Now that we are about to finish this job, do you honestly think I would be looking for another job?”
He added: “I am looking forward to May 29, 2007, I will go back to my farm and that is it.” But, according to El-Rufai, as time went on he was convinced a third term plot existed and so he confronted Obasanjo again who now said “if the National Assembly wishes to amend the constitution it was not my business.”
El-Rufai said later in February 2006, in the gardens of the Presidential Villa, Obasanjo said to him, “No third term, no Nigeria,” a threat the president repeated to then-chairman of the EFCC, Malam Nuhu Ribadu. He said in May 2006 in the heat of the third term debacle, he along with three other cabinet members met Obasanjo’s chief of staff General Abdullahi Mohammed and asked him to lead them to confront the president and persuade him to drop the tenure elongation idea. But Mohammed told them the president had consistently denied to him of the existence of any such plot, and so there was no point leading them to him on that.
“I told the chief of staff that Obasanjo had admitted it to me and Nuhu (Ribadu) confirmed that he had had similar conversation in which the president even used the words, ‘No third term, no Nigeria’,” El-Rufai said. He also said the third term lobby team, funded by Lagos-based billionaires, raised more than $300 million (equivalent N45 billion) “by Nuhu Ribadu’s informed estimate.”
El-Rufai claimed to have worked behind the scenes to help defeat the third term project, by working with especially Senate President Ken Nnamani, Masari and Dr. Usman Bugaje, who was then a member of the House of Representatives. He said he feared that if Obasanjo lost the tenure elongation bid, he could turn into a “bull in a China shop” and may even consider declaring a state of emergency so as to remain in power. He said he told Buhari: “As national leaders you have a duty also to engage with him, and be talking to him, so that in case he does not get it, you would prevent him from becoming a bull in a China shop of the Nigerian state. He could destroy everything. He could endanger our democracy, he could make wrong choices or unleash vengeful policies that will negatively affect the people of Nigeria as his revenge on them for openly opposing his third term bid.”
He said Buhari agreed to re-establish communication with Obasanjo which had broken off since 2003. El-Rufai said after losing the third term gambit, Obasanjo picked Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan because they were weak and so would be servile to him. He said sometime in the run up to the 2007 elections, Obasanjo said to him: “The next four years - 2007 to 2011 - is just a transition period… Well, nothing will change. I will be in Ota but we will be running things. Everything will remain the same, you know, you will remain in the government, the economic team will remain. Nothing will change. Only I will move to Ota and Yar’Adua will be here but we will be running things.”