Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, has revealed that he cooperated with Abdulsalami Abubakar, Nigeria’s former Head of State, to frustrate the third-term ambition of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Former president Obasanjo has repeatedly denied he was the mastermind of the legislative effort to amend Nigeria’s constitution to enable him run for office for a third time, contrary to the original stipulation.
Mbeki was speaking virtually on Thursday at the Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar Festschrift Conference held in Abuja
He said, “As a privilege to reiterate the commitment of General Abubakar to democracy in Nigeria in 2006, more than five years after he had handed over powers to Olusegun Obasanjo, the constitution on whose basis president Obasanjo was elected described a two-term limit for the head of state, and since he [Obasanjo] had been elected for the second time, this meant that he would end his term in 2007.
“But some time before, in 2005, a campaign began in Nigeria to amend the constitution to allow for three presidential terms. This developed to a point that the draft of the proposed amendment had been presented to the Nigerian parliament as papers.
“When I heard about this development, I engaged Obasanjo to communicate my unease at the proposal. In the end, I discussed it with General Abubakar, and we agreed that the proposed amendment was undesirable. We shared the view that the amendment must be avoided at all costs. We were of one mind that it spells bad both for Nigeria and the rest of the continent, tampering with and compromising our democratic system, which is just a few years old.
“We agreed to add our voices to those kicking against the amendment. We agreed that Abdulsalam would follow the situation in Nigeria closely and indicate to me when we should intervene against the constitutional amendment. I was very pleased when he called that the Nigerian Senate has voted against the amendment.”