The Presidency said on Sunday that President Goodluck Jonathan has utmost respect for former President Olusegun Obasanjo and even call him Baba (father).
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, stated this in an interview with State House correspondents in Abuja.
He said it was therefore wrong for the Leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Mujaheed Asari- Dokubo to have said that Jonathan was “fighting” Obasanjo.
Abati then diagnosed Asari-Dokubo of suffering from ‘crab mentality’.
“I read that interview granted by Asari-Dokubo and I was quite surprised that he would talk like that because as he himself admitted in that interview, he is close to government. And his interview was full of proverbs.
“So, I don’t know whether it is a wise thing for you to be a member of the house and then for you to stand outside and urinate into that same house,” the spokesman said, as the government labours to close the gap between Mr. Jonathan and Obasanjo.
“The president has the utmost respect for the former president whom he regards as his father. He even calls him Baba. And I don’t think anybody can say he has any evidence anywhere where the president has been disrespectful to the elderly man.”
"So, those things that you see in the newspapers about people saying President Jonathan and former President Obasanjo are quarreling are exaggerated. They do not reflect the truth. He (Asari-Dokubo) claims that there is a rift between President Jonathan and former President Obasanjo; so, you can see that the whole of that commentary is based on a wrong premise”.
On Asari-Dokubo’s allegation that Jonathan is surrounded by greedy people who have refused other Nigerians access to the president, Abati turned to crab theory to explain that people are simply trying to pull down his boss.
“What is that crab theory all about? If you put a number of crabs in a bucket and one of them tries to go to the top, the other crabs will be struggling to pull that one that is trying to go to the top down. They will keep reminding that top crab that you are one of us; this is where you belong and you cannot leave us; we are together.
“When you translate that crab theory into the governance arena, you find that it puts people who are in leadership position under enormous pressure because there are too many other persons saying they don’t want progress because they all want to be at the same level.”
Having said that, Abati turned around and issued what seems to be a direct contradiction, saying that the Asari-Dokubo interview is consistent with the principle of freedom of speech. He told the correspondents that it was about making noise and gaining attention, and that the statements do not reflects Asari-Dokubo’s innermost feelings about the Jonathan administration and the President Jonathan in particular.
“I believe that he, having been a very strong supporter of the administration and who has been on record as having saying a lot of positive things about the administration, having made whatever point he has now made, will also see the need to be consistent, honest and truthful, and to see the big picture and to worry less about greedy people who are preventing other Ijaws, as he seems to be making out, from reaching the president because at the end of the day, President Jonathan is not running an Ijaw project.”
Jonathan, said Abati, is running a ‘Nigerian project’ and is a man who is very conscious of his place in history.
According to the spokesman, “That is the man Nigerians voted for and all of us, whether we are his kinsmen or we are his staff or we are his friends, I think we should focus more on the Nigerian project, the Nigerian assignment that President Jonathan has been given and worry less about insinuations like all these people are blocking me from having access, he has forgotten his brothers, he is arguing with a particular person.”
He restated that President Jonathan has no problems with Obasanjo, the man Nigerians accuse of inflicting Jonathan on Nigeria, and that they have an “excellent relationship.”
As with Jonathan himself, Abati did not go beyond these generalizations to comment on the heavy criticisms that Obasanjo has inflicted on Jonathan in the past few months.
Obasanjo has openly criticized Jonathan’s handling of the Boko Haram crisis, presenting him as weak and confused. It will be recalled that early this year, Jonathan promised to defeat the militants by June, a promise that he not only failed to keep, but which seemed to elevate the violence.
Obasanjo has also lampooned Jonathan’s so-called fight against corruption, warning that Jonathan’s incompetence has seen blossoming unemployment in the country that could trigger a revolution.
Critics say that Abati’s lengthy defence of his boss is a desperate ploy that simply compounds the situation as it demonstrates that the Jonathan administration lacks understanding, integrity, and answers.