A former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, demonstrated sadness when the plot to extend his tenure beyond the two terms approved by the Constitution failed in 2006, a former deputy senate president, Ibrahim Mantu, has said.
Mr. Mantu, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party revealed this in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
The Senate in 2006 overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to amend the Nigerian Constitution, which would have made Mr. Obasanjo eligible to contest again for president, after eight years in office.
Mr. Mantu, one of Obasanjo’s henchmen in the then Senate, was the chairman of the Constitution Review Committee.
“I don’t want to say much about that,” Mr. Mantu said, while responding to a question about Mr. Obasanjo’s attitude towards him when the plot failed on the Senate floor. “All I know is that he was not happy.”
“But he knew a tree could not make a forest,” the former deputy senate president said, apparently suggesting that he alone could not have pushed the tenure elongation proposal through, without the support of other senators.
But Mr. Obasanjo had on several occasions said he never wanted or pushed for a third term.
Mr. Mantu however said Mr. Obasanjo should be applauded for subjecting himself to a constitutional process when he wanted a third term, unlike other African leaders who forcefully stayed in office beyond their tenure.
“If Obasanjo had wanted to cause confusion, he was still the incumbent President, he could have caused a lot of problem,” Mr. Mantu said.
“He could have even asked the military to stage a coup against him.
Then, United Nations would come and say we should negotiate and that Obasanjo should be there for two years and all sort of things.”
Mr. Mantu said Mr. Obasanjo was a popular president.
He said the tenure extension plot “failed because most of the senators bought into the campaign of those people who did not want Obasanjo to have another tenure.”
Mr. Mantu said if he had the same opportunity today, he would lay down his life to get a third term for Obasanjo.
“The truth is if I had known Nigeria would find herself where we are today, I would have even taken the last drop of my blood to ensure it happened because it would have been in the greatest interest of the nation.
“We never envisaged we would be here. Since Obasanjo left, the way this country has been run up to this moment, I weep for Nigeria.”