Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s ‘rogues and armed robbers’ comment attracted more umbrage across the country on Thursday.
Obasanjo on Tuesday at the Fourth Academy for Entrepreneur Studies, Nigeria, annual national conference in Lagos, had said that the National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly had armed robbers and rogues as members.
The Senate on Wednesday challenged the former President to name the rogues and robbers in its chamber, while the House of Representatives set up a panel to investigate the comment.
Speaking on Thursday, First Republic Information Minister, Edwin Clark, submitted that Obasanjo lacked the moral strength to call anyone corrupt.
Clark said, “In this country, Obasanjo accused the federal legislators, labelling some of them as armed robbers. He is not the person to make that statement because he too has not given a good example to Nigerians.
“He (Obasanjo) was brought from the prison to become President of Nigeria for eight years and granted pardon. He contested election in 1999, even when he had no money.
“I am told that his military friends like the Generals (Theophilus) Danjuma, Ibrahim Babangida and others were the people who provided the money with which he won the election. But today, Obasanjo is one of the wealthiest people in the world.”
The duo of Itsay Sagay and Olisa Agbakoba, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria, dismissed the comment, adding that it could not be acted upon by the courts and anti-graft agencies.
Sagay said, “That statement is too general. There is nothing the police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other anti-corruption agencies can do about it. If he had mentioned names, it would have been a useful piece of information for the police or the EFCC.
“He made the statement in a political atmosphere. The allegation is weighty but I think he made it because he was a bit carried away. The applause was much at the event; he made the statement at the end of a very lengthy presentation.”
Agbakoba, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, added that Nigerians were tired of allegations like the one made by Obasanjo. He said Nigerians had remained a laughing stock in the world because its government had failed to show enough seriousness in fighting the menace of corruption.
He said, “When Obasanjo made the allegation, I took it as a joke. Obasanjo is aware that nobody is taking him seriously. Obasanjo himself was accused of corruption. Nigerians are tired of stories and allegations of corruption. The truth of the matter is that Nigeria has remained a laughing stock as one of the most corrupt nations in the world because of the government’s failure to take corruption seriously.”
Rivers State lawmakers however told Obasanjo that they were not rogues.
The Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Otelemaba Amachree, said the members of the assembly were men of integrity, adding that rather than making a general statement the ex-President should have mentioned names.
Ondo State lawmakers said the Obasanjo statement was reckless.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, the Minority Leader of the House, Mr.Ifedayo Akinsoyinu, described as unfortunate if such comment could come from Obasanjo. He challenged the ex-President to provide evidence to back up his claim.
Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Mrs. Monsurat Sunmonu, declined comment on the issue but another lawmaker in the state, Yisau Adesope, said it would have been acceptable and true if Obasanjo had called the Peoples Democratic Party lawmakers rogues and armed robbers.
Adesope said, “His comment lacks credibility because he does not have the full information about all the lawmakers in Nigeria at his disposal.
“If he is talking about lawmakers in the PDP, that is understandable but he cannot claim to know what is going on with others, especially those in other parties. He should tender an apology to the legislators and desist from general comments.”
The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, said Obasanjo’s comment was sad and unfortunate.
In a statement by his spokesman, Rotimi Adebayo, the Speaker insisted that the legislature had been saving the country from total collapse.
He said, “Chief Obasanjo’s comment is not only sad but unfortunate. It is necessary to educate the likes of the former president that, but for the legislature, Nigeria’s democratic development would have been long derailed.
“For instance, it is on record that it was the legislature that saved our great country from disintegration when federal lawmakers were heavily pressurised to the point of monetary inducement to legalise his (Obasanjo’s) infamous third term agenda.
“It appears Obasanjo, an elder statesman, is now hitting back at the nation’s lawmakers that prevented him from realising his third term agenda.”
Coalition of opposition political parties under the aegis of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties on Thursday asked Obasanjo to render account of his eight years in office.
The Nationa Publicity Secretary of the CNPP, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said since the ex-President cast the first throne, it behoves on him to render account of his rule between 1999 and 2007.
In a statement, Okechukwu said, “Obasanjo’s regime harvested unprecedented oil revenue without commensurate project performance; a regime that bastardised our democracy and a regime which simulated the fault lines hence Boko Haram and other insurgencies.
“Those who live in glass houses, the saying goes, should not throw stones, for we recall with pain how Obasanjo, who came out of prison as poor as a church rat, paradoxically has become one of the richest Africans after eight years of looting in power.”
Meanwhile, the PDP may have chosen not to interfere in the current exchange between its Board of Trustees ex-chairman and lawmakers.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh, said the party did not believe that there was any face-off between the former President and members of the National Assembly.
“Is there any face-off? The former President made a comment and the members of the National Assembly reacted. That is the end. As far as we are concerned, there is no face-off. All is well,” Metuh said.
A member of the National Working Committee of the PDP, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, however said the party would not want to be involved in the matter.
He said though the party felt that the statement by the former President was capable of causing disaffection among its members, the party was also aware that the Assembly was made up of members of other political parties.
“It was a comment by a former President and he is allowed to speak as an individual. It is his opinion,” the source said.