Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has raised fears that the political posturing of President Goodluck Jonathan – using the military to delay scheduled election – might invite a military coup on the country.
“The signs are not auspicious,” Mr. Obasanjo told the Financial Times in an interview in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. “I don’t know whether a script is being played.”
“I sincerely hope that the president is not going for broke and saying ‘look dammit, it’s either I have it or nobody has it’. I hope that we will not have a coup . . . I hope we can avoid it.”
There have been concerns among opposition activists and civil society that Mr. Jonathan is excessively courting the armed forces and dragging them into politics.
National elections, earlier billed for February 14 and 28, were rescheduled for March 28 and April 11 following a “strong advisory” and a warning from the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and military chiefs that they could not guarantee security for the polls.
The opposition All Progressives Congress has accused the military of being used by the Jonathan administration to scuttle the election after it had earlier given a clear commitment to provide security for the elections just three days before making a volte-face.
Many Nigerians also expressed concern when the Nigerian Army addressed a press conference in January, saying it did not have the original certificates of Muhammadu Buhari, the APC presidential candidate Mr. Jonathan’s party is battling to disqualify from running.
And just recently, a leaked audio recording suggested that Mr. Jonathan ordered the military to rig last year’s Ekiti governorship election in favour of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party.
In his interview with the Financial Times, Mr. Obasanjo said the military, especially the army, is in bad shape and had not been properly led.
“It’s a question of leadership — political and military,” Mr. Obasanjo said. “I think you need to ask [Mr Jonathan] how has he let [the army] go to this extent . . . Many things went wrong: recruitment went wrong; training went wrong; morale went down; motivation not there; corruption was deeply ingrained; welfare was bad.”
There are suggestions Mr. Jonathan would prefer to hand over to the military rather than Mr. Buhari if he loses the coming presidential election, but there is so far no clear-cut evidence to suggest that, although the APC has repeatedly alleged that the president’s party is in cahoot with the military to rig the coming election.
In the interview published Tuesday, Mr. Obasanjo, a card-carrying member of the PDP, openly endorsed opposition candidate, Mr. Buhari, saying he is best for Nigeria at this time.
The APC candidate is a former military head of state, who ruled Nigeria between December 1983 and August 1985.
“The circumstances [Mr. Buhari] will be working under if he wins the election are different from the one he worked under before, where he was both the executive and the legislature — he knows that,” Mr. Obasanjo said. “He’s smart enough. He’s educated enough. He’s experienced enough. Why shouldn’t I support him?”
Mr. Obasanjo has repeatedly accused Mr. Jonathan of deepening corruption in Nigeria and mismanaging public funds.
Speaking about the financial crisis facing the country as a result of the crash in crude oil prices, Mr. Obasanjo sees some positives in the development.
“There’ll be less in the pot, for stealing or corruption,” the paper quoted him as saying.