Further revelations on the failed third term bid of former President Olusegun Obasanjo have been made known, as Senate Chief Whip, former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, disclosed how he got world leaders like former President George W. Bush and the late President Nelson Mandela to join forces against Obasanjo’s ill-fated ambition.
He also said, contrary to Obasanjo’s repeated denials that he never haboured such plans, former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, told him (Kalu) that Obasanjo discussed the issue with him on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting.
Kalu served as governor of Abia State between 1999 and 2007, the same period Obasanjo held sway as President.
The former governor, in his autobiography, “My Life,” said Obasanjo used all means at his disposal to push for the fruition of the unpopular third term plan.
In doing that, he said Obasanjo clamped down on progressive elements who were stridently opposed to his ambition and embraced lackeys and political opportunists that were in support of the third term plan.
He said: “I was, perhaps, one of the first persons to raise the alarm about the third term ambition of the President, back in August 2005, through a press statement. I stated that those who misled General Abacha were active participants in his administration and were goading him to find means to perpetuate himself in office as they did to Abacha.
“But a lot of people castigated me, saying there was no truth in what I said. My response was, if there was no truth in my statement, if indeed the President was not interested in a third term, his actions, words and deeds did not indicate that to me.”
Not ready to brood any opposition to his plans, Kalu said Obasanjo had to unleash the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on him and other individuals that kicked against third term.
“The President was quick to unleash the EFCC. The commission suddenly discovered that some governors had stashed away N17 billion in foreign banks,” he submitted
However, determined not to be intimidated, the Senate Chief Whip said he had to take the campaign against the third term bid of Obasanjo beyond the shores of Nigeria by reporting him to Bush and Mandela.
According to him, he asked the duo to call Obasanjo to order, noting that his request was immediately attended to as both Mandela and Bush confronted the former President on the allegation.
He recalled: “I was not prepared to be intimidated into abandoning my public threat to thwart the third term move, using all the resources at my disposal … so, I set to work in collaboration with people of like minds to ensure that the Constitution amendment he sought was defeated in parliament.
“And I was the one who told President Nelson Mandela. I also told President George Bush and persuaded them to call Obasanjo to order. Mandela called President Obasanjo in my presence and he completely denied.”
He continued “I also told President Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki agreed with me and said Obasanjo mentioned something like that to him in New York on the sidelines of UN General Assembly meeting and that he (Mbeki) should help him get me and a few other people to support the idea to build a very strong democracy in Nigeria .
“…Bush told me it would not happen, that US would not allow anything that would bring disunity or political conflict in Nigeria.
“I also had a meeting with Ambassador John Campbell for the same purpose. America never supported the third term; they stood by those of us who were fighting it.
“We were able to assemble a ream of trusted politicians, which included Atiku Abubakar and the late (Abdulkadir) Kure. We worked closely with US officials and got it scuttled.”
The former governor said he was surprised that a lot of people have been taking credit for the scuttling of the third term plot, even when some of them openly worked for the former President to realise the ambition.
Kalu commended the role of then deputy Senate president, Ibrahim Mantu, stressing that, contrary to widespread belief that he was Obasanjo’s field soldier in the plans, Mantu was used by anti-third term forces to obtain information and strategise against the plot.
Kalu said: “The hero of what we did should be Mantu and nobody else because he was the one who brought the strategy of how to vote; he was the one who brought the strategy of how we would do it; he was the one who told me not to tell Ken Nnamani, the Senate president.
“He told me that the Senate president was on both sides of the Atlantic. He said nothing we discussed should get to Nnamani because he was with them while he would appear to be with us.
“I insisted that we carried the Senate president along, but Mantu assured me that Obasanjo would get anything we discussed with the Senate president within seconds. He also told me to be careful with Sen. David Mark because he too would brief Obasanjo about anything that was said pertaining to the third term project,
“That was how we left both Sen. Nnamani and Mark out of the loop in our plot to destroy the third term agenda. We positioned ourselves during the process and coordinated those we recruited to vote against the amendment.”
He further said: “Sen. Uche Chukwumerije was of huge assistance to us. Obasanjo broke the Central Bank of Nigeria open and gave each senator N50m to vote for third term. Chukwumerije brought his own to Abia liaison office in Abuja to show me. I told him to return it to them.
“Even those fighting corruption knew that this money came from the CBN, yet they did not say anything.”