Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu, a former Deputy Senate President and still a member of the oppostion Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has expressed regret that former President Olusegun Obasanjo's publicized third term agenda was not realized.

Mantu in a recent explosive interview with Premium Times said; "The truth is if I had known Nigeria would find herself where we are today, I would have even taken the last drop of my blood to ensure it happened because it would have been in the greatest interest of the nation. We never envisaged we would be here. Since Obasanjo left, the way this country has been run up to this moment, I weep for Nigeria."

Bellow is the excerpt of Mantu's Premium Times interview as related to alleged Obasanjo's Third Term Tenure Elongation:

PT: You had very close relationship with Obasanjo. What brought you together? What is your relationship with Obasanjo?
Mantu: You remember that in the National Assembly from 1999, nobody hated Obasanjo like I did. Nobody abused Obasanjo like I did. He was my breakfast. He was my dinner. He was my lunch. Then, by the time I became deputy president of the Senate, I had the opportunity to work closer with him because by virtue of my being a presiding officer, we met once in a week. Before, I was viewing him from a distance and he was also viewing me from a distance. But now our offices had brought us to work closely together.
Even at that time, everybody maintained his hostility. Each time it came to my point to make contribution, I would attack whatever he said. He would do same to me. We continued like that until one day he called me to his office and said “listen, in my own part of the world we respect elders and authorities. Even if you don’t like my face, you should respect my office and I am older than you.” I said “in my own part of the world too, we respect elders and authorities.” “Then, why are you not respecting me,” he asked. I then said I was sorry. He stood and embraced me warmly.
And if you asked me why I was opposed to him; it was because we wanted Chuba Okadigbo to become the President of the Senate. Obasanjo didn’t offend me as a person. I didn’t know Obasanjo, he didn’t know me. I knew him as a former head of state but I never set eyes on him until he became candidate of the PDP because it was in Jos that we did the Convention. But most of us wanted Chuba Okadigbo to become Senate President because we knew his capacity in the NPN (National Party of Nigeria) and he was a role model to some of us. He was a dashing young man and we saw him as a role model.
But overnight, they came and used all sorts of influences and Chuba was not elected the following day. You know that time we were staying at Hilton. So Anenih would just come, knock on your door and say ‘your Chuba was erratic, he slapped the President and all sorts of things’. So they worked on our colleagues and we lost that election to (Evan) Enwerem. That was the only thing Obasanjo did to me.
That was why Enwerem, may his soul rest in peace, was the saddest president ever produced by the Senate. If he took one step forward, we would make sure he took three steps backward. So, he could only last for six months. Because with the kind of attacks we were giving him, he was always looking like somebody who had lost his mind and you would never see him smile.
He was under serious mental torture because we did not allow anything for him until we brought Chuba as our President six months after. So, that was the genesis of my hatred for Obasanjo but by 2001 when I became the Deputy Senate President, we had opportunity to interact closely like I said earlier. Our relationship continued to improve and I appreciate him for who he is. Obasanjo is a nationalist. He does not care whether you are Yoruba or Igbo. Once you have something to offer, it brings you very close to him and he would use you for his objective. He does not care whether you are Christian or Muslim.
PT: And people actually knew you were Obasanjo’s henchman in the Senate. Can you specifically tell us what he used you to achieve in the National Assembly?
Mantu: Well, I can say what he used me to achieve was what the National Assembly also used me to achieve for this country. You know Obasanjo was very unpopular with the National Assembly, both Senate and House of Reps. So, when he was almost impeached and it was clear he was on his way out, I called some people in that chamber and I said we were beginning to overheat this polity and we should be careful. I didn’t want a situation where the military would come and take over. We had suffered under the military for so long. Therefore, we should not allow our emotions to becloud our objectivity so that democracy would not be scuttled. So I began to appeal to the conscience of the people and was able to scuttle the impeachment process. That was the only thing that I did that Obasanjo appreciated me for.
PT: How did he appreciate you? You know some believe he must have given you a lot of money.
Mantu: But you know Obasanjo does not part with one kobo. Even his own relatives, when they come to him, he would give them five naira or N10. So, anybody who knows Obasanjo very well will tell you Obasanjo will never buy anybody. He is not the kind of person that expresses appreciation by giving you money. Never! He could shower encomiums, call you great man and so on. But if you have something you want like I took Julius Bala to him for BPE job. When he saw that Julius Bala was the only person in Nigeria that had Ph.D. in Privatization, that was what attracted him. Then he asked me to bring the person and Julius Bala reminded him that he was the one interpreting for him in Japan. Obasanjo said “oh you were the one!” That again helped. Again, that is to tell you Obasanjo cares for merit. Once he knows you are qualified for something and you have value to add to it, he will go for you.
Scuttling the impeachment process brought me closer to Obasanjo. But many people believe I was close to Obasanjo because I was the arrowhead of the tenure elongation project, the so-called third term project. That’s absolutely not true. I have held series of press briefing in the past when the accusation against me was at its peak.
I told people not to mix my role as Chairman of the Constitution Review committee with supporting tenure elongation of Obasanjo. I was the Chairman of the committee by virtue of being Deputy Senate President. I was not the first person, it is just part of the responsibility of the office of the Deputy Senate President.
First of all, when we were going around the entire nation to collect views about the clauses we intended to amend, one of the clauses was tenure elongation. When we collected the report, many people were encouraging opposition Senators not to sign the report that was going to be presented to the Senate and House of Reps. I asked all the sub-committee chairmen, especially one that had to be with tenure elongation to swear to God if there was anywhere I talked to anybody about tenure elongation project. They said no! I asked if there was a time I asked any sub-committee chairman to write what I wanted apart from what they collected from Nigerians. There was nothing like that. And that was how all the members of the committee, both those who are for and against, signed the report because they knew the report reflected what was collected in the zones and the states.
There was no input from my part as chairman of the committee. I only collected and presented. But because those who were having a burning ambition to become President of Nigeria went to the press like you people, and the press hyped something that was not a story at all. And they made tenure elongation out of 103 clauses as if that was the alpha and omega of all the changes.
Then, at the end of the day, we ended up throwing away the baby and the bath water. So, even recently, I asked if there was anybody in the entire nation that I called to support Obasanjo’s tenure elongation project. The answer is no. But the impression was as if I were made Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee to ensure Obasanjo’s tenure elongation project scale through. Unfortunately, when the press decides to overblow something, people will believe what they read as the golden truth. But that’s not the truth because many of us sponsor you people to write what suit our interest.
PT: So in simple term, what was your role in the tenure elongation project?
Mantu: Was there any hidden role again? The role was open. I did not have any hidden agenda about tenure elongation. If I had, would I have gone to discuss it with spirits? It was human beings that I would tell. And up till now, nobody has said Mantu came to him to canvass support for tenure elongation.
PT: Did Obasanjo speak to you at the time?
Mantu: Obasanjo did not tell me to bend the rules to accommodate his interest. Never! Indeed, let me say for the benefit of hindsight, I would have expected the media to approach Obasanjo if he had interest in elongating his tenure.
The fact that he subjected himself to the constitutional procedure of doing so should have been applauded because there were presidents who would sit tight. Of course, we are aware of a president in Africa who said “I am the country, the country is me”. And he refused to go.
If Obasanjo had wanted to cause confusion, he was still the incumbent President, he could have caused a lot of problem. He could have even asked the military to stage a coup against him. Then, United Nations would come and say we should negotiate and that Obasanjo should be there for two years and all sort of things. So, at times, no matter how bad something is, let us look at it objectively and see the other side of it. In everything that appears to be bad, there is something good also there. For subjecting himself to constitutional procedure, he should be applauded. Look at Rwanda, the President subjected himself to constitutional process of elongating his tenure and he is still there because he has brought a lot of transformation to the country.
PT: But it happened in Burundi and there is crisis.
Mantu: That’s because it’s not popular there. When it is popular, there won’t be crisis. Obasanjo too, many people felt he had done something well. People mentioned countries like Singapore, South Korea and said somebody had been there for over 30 years who brought transformation.
PT: But how did the third term project fail, given that your party had majority of the States’ Houses of Assembly and majority in the National Assembly?
Mantu: It failed because most of the Senators bought into the campaign of those people who did not want Obasanjo to have another tenure because they were also very eager to take over Aso Rock. And those were the people who went to buy the press, buy everybody to hype all sorts of negativity about Obasanjo’s tenure elongation.
PT: Something dramatic happened on the floor that day. The bill died. As a seasoned politician were you expecting it to happen? Did you see the handwriting on the wall as you were heading towards that stage of voting?
Mantu: As far as I am concerned, it (the third term plot) died before that day. It died some days before because something happened that led to its death. Let me say it was not popular with a lot of Senators. Maybe those who were supporting the tenure elongation did not do their work in terms of showcasing its advantages. But the mistake people made was that it was not going to be for Obasanjo alone. It was for all Presidents because proponents of that project believe two terms of four years is not enough to make impact in terms of transforming the nation economically.
PT: As Obasanjo’s friend in the Senate, what was his attitude towards you when this effort died?
Mantu: I don’t want to say much about that. All I know is that he was not happy. But he knew a tree could not make a forest.
PT: Where did the money come from? The N50 million that was shared to lawmakers at the time.
Mantu: Those who took the money know themselves. Some of your colleagues took pictures of those who went to Central Bank with bullion vans. Did you see Mantu there?
PT: Some people thought the money came from you and that you shared the money?
Mantu: Your colleagues who were smarter than you followed them to the CBN, took the pictures? Did you see me there? I was not even in Abuja when it happened.
PT: So they didn’t bring your share?
Mantu: I was not in Abuja. Nobody said I did.
PT: Looking back now, since this is a moment of reflection for you, what would you have done differently in the case of tenure elongation project?

Mantu: The truth is if I had known Nigeria would find herself where we are today, I would have even taken the last drop of my blood to ensure it happened because it would have been in the greatest interest of the nation. We never envisaged we would be here. Since Obasanjo left, the way this country has been run up to this moment, I weep for Nigeria.


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