Abuja - The presidency on Wednesday hit back at criticism by former president Olusegun Obasanjo, describing his widely leaked letter accusing Goodluck Jonathan of leadership failures as "indecorous" and "reckless".
Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said in a statement that Obasanjo's letter to President Jonathan was deliberately leaked to the media in an effort to "to impugn the integrity of the president".
In the 18-page missive, the former head of state -- who ruled from 1999 to 2007 -- accuses Jonathan of failing to tackle a litany of problems, from corruption to piracy, kidnapping and oil theft. He also takes the president to task over party infighting and a crackdown on dissenters.
"I want nothing from you personally except that you should run the affairs of Nigeria not only to make Nigeria good, but to make Nigeria great for which I have always pleaded with you and I will always do so. And it is yet to be done for most Nigerians to see," Obasanjo wrote.
He added that he was speaking out because he felt the country was heading in the wrong direction.
"I could sense a semblance between the situation that we are gradually getting into and the situation we fell into as a nation during the Abacha era," he said.
Sani Abacha, a dictator in power from 1993 to 1998 when he died, ruled Nigeria with an iron fist, jailing and driving his critics into exile. Abacha's regime jailed Obasanjo and several others for his alleged involvement in a failed coup plot in 1995.
Abati said Jonathan would in due time respond to the letter and "the most reckless, baseless, unjustifiable and indecorous charges levied against him and his administration".
He added that it was "highly unbecoming, mischievous and provocative" that the letter was "deliberately leaked to the mass media in a deplorable effort to impugn the integrity of the president and denigrate his commitment to giving Nigeria the best possible leadership".
Obasanjo contested and won elections in 1999 and 2003 on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, now enmeshed in crisis.
He guided his chosen successor Musa Yar'Adua to an election win in 2007 and still holds huge sway in Nigerian politics.
Yar'Adua died in office and was succeeded by Jonathan.