As the furore surrounding the 18-page letter former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan is yet to die down, the National Assembly has waded into the debate; calling on Mr. Jonathan to “comprehensively” address issues raised by Mr. Obasanjo.
The two chambers said this on Friday in their separate reactions to the letter which has dominated public discourse since it became public knowledge last Wednesday.
However, while the Senate has chosen to tread with caution on the matter by awaiting the presidency’s response before it determines the next course of action, the House of Representatives hinted that it would, this week, raise a motion on the letter.
Mr. Obasanjo had in is controversial letter titled ‘Before it is too late’, accused Mr. Jonathan of dividing the country knowingly or unknowingly along religious and ethnic lines, condoning corruption and engaging in acts reminiscent of the dark days of military rule where perceived political enemies of government were placed on watch list.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang (PDP, Akwa Ibom) in his reaction said Mr. Jonathan should address the issues raised by Mr. Obasanjo in the letter in due time to avoid tension.
“The letter by Obasanjo touches on national security and all the issues raised therein cannot be ignored. President Jonathan has a duty of taking the issues raised in the letter, one after the other and explaining his side of the story to Nigerians”, he said.
Enang was of the opinion that the legislature cannot take action on the letter until an appropriate response from the Presidency had been made.
He said, “As it is, no legislative action can be taken unless the issue had been raised as a motion after appropriate responses had been made by the presidency in reaction to the allegation”.
Also, the Minority Whip, who is also a prominent leader of the opposition in the Senate, Senator Ganiyu Solomon (APC, Lagos), agreed that the issues raised by the former president were capable of heating up the polity and causing serious tension.
He said, “All issues raised are very sensitive and germane. The Presidency cannot just dismiss the letter just like that. They should give full explanation. It is not a beer parlour talk.
“Asking us to investigate it at the National Assembly level may not achieve the desired result. Any responsible government owes the citizenry the responsibility of letting the world know the true position of things.
“The sensitive issues raised by Obasanjo are enough to make us to shiver as a nation. A situation when a former President for eight years is saying the symbol of the ruling party has performed woefully called for a serious action”, he said.
On their part, members of the House of Representatives said it would serve President Jonathan’s interest and the interest of the nation for him to respond “urgently” to Mr. Obasanjo’s allegations.
The lawmakers said silence was not golden in this instance as it would be “dangerous” not to respond and that delay could “give political forces the opportunity to heat up the polity”.
Speaking on the issue, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed (PDP, Kwara), said the green chamber has been vindicated by Mr. Obasanjo’s letter.
According to him since June 2011, the House had always fought corruption, cautioned the executive, demanded details of budget implementation, but made little progress.
Mohammed said, “These are very serious, dangerous allegations and we should not look at the messenger but the message.”
On whether the House would conduct a probe specifically into the content of the letter, Mohammed simply stated that the House would continue to perform its duty of exposing corruption where ever it may exist.
“It is not just about the letter, but we will continue to conduct investigations; we have a job to do and we will continue to do it”, he added.
Speaking along the same line, the House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), said that “Jonathan must respond to the weighty allegations”.
According to him, some of the allegations “are almost satanic” and did not fall in the category of issues the ruling PDP usually wished away as a “family affair”.
Gbajabiamila, who is the caucus leader of the All Progressives Congress at the House, noted that the allegations on arming of security personnel, training of snipers and placing some people on security watch list were “grave and must not be wished away”.
He stated that members were still studying contents of the letter and would likely raise motions on the floor next week.
“There are aspects of these allegations having to do with national security.
“In the coming week, members may want to ask more questions on these security allegations, like placing people on a watch list”, he added.