Closing Ranks

08 Feb 2013

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

Chuks Okocha examines last Sunday’s visit by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Goodluck Jonathan in Aso Rock and wonders how long the rapprochement between the duo will last

Last Sunday, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was at the presidential villa, Abuja, where he attended a church service with incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan. The meeting, it was gathered, was arranged by some of Obasanjo’s close business associates led by the cement magnet, Alhaji Aliko Dangote. And as it is in Obasanjo’s peculiar way of making peace with his “adversaries”, the meeting ended with a sumptuous lunch, probably some pounded yam and bush meat.

Obasanjo was reportedly accompanied to the service by two of his daughters; one of his sons identified simply as Juwon, and a businessman, Mr. Femi Otedola. But Dangote, who though, was the mastermind, could not make the church services.

At the church service, Obasanjo read the second lesson of the service, after which he led a prayer session. Moving from there, the former president visited the children’s wing of the church in company of Jonathan. There, again, Obasanjo offered prayers for the children. Finally, after all the church activities and visitation, Obasanjo went with the President to his official residence where they both had lunch.

But knowing Obasanjo’s antecedents, political observers are quick read meanings to the sudden visit, also coming a time some of Obasanjo’s former ministers- Oby Ezekwesile, Nasir el-Rufai and Femi Fani-Kayode, were busy trading tackles with some of Jonathan’s aides on the pages of newspapers over some issues of interest, especially the alleged frittering away of $67 billion by the administrations of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Jonathan.

Ezekwesili had during the convocation ceremony at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, accused the two administrations of wasting $67 billion from both the Foreign Reserve and the Excess Crude Account.
In what was not more than a show of support, el-Rufai and Fani-Kayode also came out to engage aides of the President on same and other issues. In fact, Fani-Kayode and Reuben Abati, Jonathan’s aide on Media and Publicity, have had it quite rough in recent time over issues bordering on performance and disposition of the opposition.

Prelude to this was the fact that Obasanjo had accused the Jonathan administration of tolerating the menace of the Boko Haram sect, citing lack of will power. Obasanjo, in an exclusive interview published in the February edition of the pan-African magazine, New African, said Jonathan should be held responsible for the deteriorating security situation caused by the Islamic sect.
“If the president is the chief security officer of the country and there is a security problem, where do you go for the solution? And if that solution is not coming from the chief security officer, who has everybody and can mobilise everybody, inside and outside to get a solution, then, nobody else should be blamed but him.”

The former president had noted with same conviction, some weeks ago when he made reference to how he had sent soldiers to Odi, in Bayelsa State, after some policemen were killed in the community. He was later believed to have reviewed his stand on the issue when some days later, he told the CNN that a military response could not resolve the campaign of violence launched by Boko Haram sect.
But in spite of the offensive so far launched against Jonathan, whom he practically helped to become President; Obasanjo, last week, made-up with Jonathan over a meal of pounded yam and bush meat. But going by Obasanjo’s antecedents, observers have likened the latest peace moves to what Obasanjo did to many people, including former Senate President, Chuba Okadigbo, former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Audu Ogbeh and former governor of his home state, Gbenga Daniel.

Obasanjo had visited the late Okadigbo at the National Assembly legislators’ quarters where he feasted with him. He ate Okadigbo’s bush meat and pounded yam and a week later, plotted his removal as senate president. Oyi of Oyi as Okadigbo was called did not forgive Obasanjo till he breathed his last.

In the same fashion, Obasanjo visited former PDP chairman, Ogbeh at his residence in the Aso Villa quarters; had his favourite pounded yam and bush meat and even danced with his wife. But two week later, he struck and removed Ogbeh from office. Ogbeh was immediately replaced by Dr. Ahmadu Ali.

That was not all. Daniel too did not learn from the fall of others. Obasanjo, in the full glare of national television, fed the former Ogun State governor. Weeks later, he manifested himself: the PDP in Ogun State was factionalised and the situation led to the removal of a minister presumed to be close to Daniel, in person of Alhaji Sarafadeen Ishola who was in the ministry of Mines and Steel. Till date, by reason of that move, Ogun PDP has yet recovered. Instead, the party has continued to wobble from one crisis to another, almost intractably.
Against this backdrop, it is understandable why many political pundits are worried about Obasanjo’s visit to Jonathan last Sunday. Again, some have argued that the visit had more to do with his economic interest than political reconciliation.

For instance, some observers noted that the continued bickering between the two leaders was not in the interest of Obasanjo’s business associates. It was believed, therefore, that the meeting was designed to safeguard the economic interest of the likes of Dangote, Otedola and Tony Elumelu’s Heir Foundation, custodian of the Transcorp Investment, where Obasanjo has huge economic interest.

It is worthy of mention that it was under Obasanjo that the Ibeto Cement Factory was deregistered. Most of the imported cements by Ibeto Cement were emptied into the Atlantic Ocean. But relief came the way of the cement factory when the company’s license was released under the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration and now Jonathan’s government.
But lately, Dangote and other cement manufacturing companies have been complaining about the importation of cement into the country, which they said was detrimental to their business interest. Dangote had gone a step further to justify this claim when closed down the Gboko Cement Company, one of Dangote’s subsidiaries. But it has since been reopened.

An observer had noted that “the meeting between Obasanjo and President Jonathan could be seen more from the economic angle than political,” adding that it was no longer in the economic interest of Obasanjo to be at loggerhead with Jonathan.
According to the source, what has happened between Obasanjo and Jonathan is nothing but a move to protect the business interest of his ‘boys’ represented by Dangote and others.

The source said: “How can there be peace when Femi Fani-Kayode, Ezekwesilie, el-Rufai and others are busy fighting dirty and the same President Jonathan’s boys led by Doyin Okupe and Ruben Abati are also fighting back? If there is a truce, the best way out is to ask the aides to ceasefire,” the source said.
Even at that, observers have asked Jonathan and his men to beware of Obasanjo’s lethal rapprochement, “because experience has shown that his peace moves usually end with a victim.”

Tags: Featured, Nigeria, Politics, Ranks

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