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18 Critical Things Former President Obasanjo Said About President Jonathan In His New Book

December 10, 2014

"In the area of corruption, we have been going back steadily from the inception of Yar’Adua’s administration when the ‘hunter’ became the ‘hunted’," Obasanjo states. "Under Jonathan we seem to have gone from frying pan to fire. If in the past corruption was in the corridors of power, it would seem now to be in the sitting room, dining room and bedroom of power."

In his scathing new autobiography, My Watch, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo made a series of critical assertions against current President Goodluck Jonathan.


Due to the nature of the content, an ally of President Jonathan attempted to use a court order to block the publication of the book. President Jonathan also personally contacted the former president to appeal that the book not be published until next year, after the 2015 presidential election. Despite this My Watch launched yesterday, Dec. 9, in Lagos, in the presence of prominent political figures and officials. 

Review of the three-volume text by SaharaReporters noted that the elder statesman holds nothing back, characterizing Mr. Jonathan as weak, callous and incapable of managing Nigeria.

He also criticizes the handling of the Boko Haram insurgency crisis, the PDP, and the Governors Forum, among other things. Excerpts from some of the most significant critiques are below. 

On President Jonathan's character:

Jonathan is lacking in broad vision, knowledge, confidence, understanding, concentration, capacity, sense of security, courage, moral and ethical principles, character and passion to move the nation forward on a fast trajectory. Although he might wish to do well, he does not know how nor does he have the capacity to. To compound his problem he has not surrounded himself with aides sufficiently imbued with the qualities and abilities to help him out. Most of them are greedy hangers-on or hungry lacklustre characters interested only in their mouths and their pockets 

President Jonathan can still make amends to save himself, many of his associates in government, his government, and the nation. If, in the end, he fails he will have no one but himself to blame. He has great opportunities, many of which only come once in a lifetime; and if he misses them it will only be due to his inadequacy, myopia, personal interest and self-aggrandisement, lack of sagacity, wisdom. I hope he can and will avoid having any cause for regret.

The longest period that I have met one-on-one with the president was for one hour and ten minutes. That whole time, the president talked about nothing that was in the interest of Nigeria; instead he kept pointing out his supposed enemies and various matters that would not serve his interests. I could not stop myself from blurting out: “Mr. President, no Nigerian should be your enemy. You have to rule over all of them whether or not they like you. Please, you have to be like rain falling on good and bad people alike.”

An elder statesman who formed a close relationship with President Jonathan very early in his presidency came to the conclusion, after six months, that the president has not got what it takes to lead. It was the same elder statesman who reportedly tried to jolt the president into action by telling him that there were five presidents in Nigeria, and these were his wife the first lady, Deziani, Oduah, Ngozi and the president himself, and that he was the weakest of the five.

On corruption:

In the area of corruption, we have been going back steadily from the inception of Yar’Adua’s administration when the ‘hunter’ became the ‘hunted’. But under Jonathan we seem to have gone from frying pan to fire. If in the past corruption was in the corridors of power, it would seem now to be in the sitting room, dining room and bedroom of power.

If what is called ‘corruption’ is stealing, under the watch of Goodluck Jonathan, then government has become legalised and protected robbery.

The presidency had instructed EFCC to remove a vital document in Gbenga Daniel’s file in their custody, to assist getting Gbenga Daniel off the hook. All these cases were reported to the president and were known to him; but because they involve the president’s interests, directly or indirectly, no action has been taken.

With the 2011 elections, heavy financial prices were paid to Lagos and Ondo State opposition political leaders to secure the vote for the president, against the interest of PDP at the state level...The situation where the president surreptitiously invited Bola Tinubu, lifting him at night by presidential aircraft from Lagos to Abuja to hatch a plan for Bola to support one PDP presidential candidate at the expense of all other PDP candidates for any office in Lagos, can only be described as obscene, unethical, corruption-ridden and a show of bad leadership...Whatever amount of money was given to Bola Tinubu to procure votes for the 2011 presidential election in Lagos was, to say the least, unnecessary. What made this phenomenon particularly bad was that government had raised the money from government transactions which fuel corruption.

I got a warning that this administration was attempting to induce two of my daughters, including Iyabo, to do a dirty job. I warned them both against it, but because of her character, the influence of her mother and her attitude, Iyabo succumbed; the other daughter did not.

On the Boko Haram insurgency, the insecurity crisis, and #BringBackOurGirls:

I was in Sierra Leone on the day Boko Haram [bombed] the UN building in Abuja. As soon as I returned to Nigeria I called the inspector-general of police to hear his views on the issue. I was not impressed with his explanation. I also talked to the then national security adviser and his explanation was substantially blank. I went to Jonathan, the president, on the same issue. His reaction, and his view that Boko Haram were ‘a bunch of riffraffs’ left me even colder.

The one incident that overtly and graphically exposed the ineptitude, ineffectiveness, inefficiency, carelessness, cluelessness, callousness, insensitivity and selfishness of Goodluck Jonathan was the abduction of about 276 school girls from Chibok in Borno State by Boko Haram. The reaction and attitude of our president and his household was non-belief, to the extent that 18 days passed before he grudgingly concede to accept the reality of the abduction. If serious action had been taken within 48 hours, the story could have been different.

I was not surprised that the president went dancing twenty-four hours after the Nyanya explosion that took seventy-five lives. I also found believable the statement allegedly credited to the president after both the Nyanya explosion and the Chibok school girls abduction to the effect that since some people in the North had said that they would make Nigerian ungovernable, they could keep on killing and abducting each other.

If these girls are not released, it will be a big dent on the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, and a dark blot on Nigeria’s reputation and history; and, for years and indeed decades, Nigeria will continue to live with the agony and memory of the action and inaction of leadership regarding the Chibok school girls. But what is more, a bad precedent would have been created; Boko Haram has tasted blood and will always want more… Who knows, another group of terrorists might have learned from Boko Haram. This time it is Chibok; next time it could be Ibogun or Otueke.

Vice-President Biden had categorically told Jonathan during the African Summit in Washington in August 2014 that with the state of his governance and the level of the destruction of the military, they would not be able to help Nigeria. 

On PDP and party politics:

A political party, and its leadership, that condones corruption and engages discredited people to abuse and insult genuine, authentic and objective critics is a political party on the path of ruin and destruction. The PDP must be rescued from that path, otherwise it will soon fade into history. Criticism, particularly objective criticism, is an indispensable element of democracy and a democratic dispensation. 

PDP would need to be brought back to being a well-led, disciplined and respected, harmonious party that can easily win elections, rule and govern, and not one sacrificing the party’s interest for personal gain, setting governors of the party against each other, supporting candidates of other parties against candidates of the party as it happened in Lagos, Edo and Ondo States, and harassing credible leaders of the party and seeking to replace them with criminals and dubious characters in order to further presidential interests.

On the Nigerian Governors Forum election crisis:

Two governors from the [PDP] - Liyel Imoke of Cross River and Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta States - and Godswill Akpabio from Akwa Ibom State by himself, came to me in Abuja, appealing to me to intervene in the situation of the Governors’ Forum, particularly in the disagreement within the PDP governors. Akpabio said starkly in his frank and outspoken manner: “We have messed up and don’t leave us alone. For me, I don’t want to go to jail and my children are too young. I will report our meeting to the President.” Nobody, including President Jonathan, would like to go to jail, and he knew he could, depending on how things turned out or failed to shape from then on.

I have always seen the Governors’ Forum as a type of trade union as they behave that way most of the time. [Jonathan] told the story of how Obong Atta was relieved of his position as chairman and Lucky Igbinedion was enthroned by less than fifty percent of the governors, and of how Bukola Saraki manoeuvred the Forum to serve his presidential ambition.