Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Tunde Sanni writes that with former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent exposure, he has some game plans 2015 polls
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has continued to state that he is not at ‘war’ with President Goodluck Jonathan but his body language has proved to the contrary.
Since his resignation as chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) early in the year, the former president has carried on with his life shunning cat calls that he has not been at ease with himself.
In his resignation notice sent to the President, he said that his disengagement as Chairman of the BoT would allow him devote himself to international duties and also allow him mentor others locally.
“By relieving myself of the responsibility for chairmanship of BOT of PDP, I will have a bit more time to devote to the international demand on me,” Obasanjo had said in a shocking development that caught many off guard last April.
He had dragged some of his ‘boys’ in politics to his Obasanjo library in Abeokuta for a fund raiser for a mosque project within his presidential library. Observers argued that the ceremony went beyond the religious purpose the mosque was designed to serve. They read politics as the motive for the ceremony. The mosque project, according to sources within the PDP was designed by the former president to assess his relevance and personality within the party, especially as political power game over 2015 has started to play itself out.
The former president has been traversing the length and breadth of the country, oiling the political machinery left behind by the erstwhile number two man, General Musa Yar’Adua. In the execution of the political agenda, he had been to Katsina where he had patched up the sour relationship with his erstwhile deputy, Atiku Abubakar and as well making fresh political contacts, especially in the South-west where he has been romancing his erstwhile political ‘foes’ in the bid to salvage his sapping political image in the region and to pursue his Owu origin cause.
It was learnt that before making his appearance in Katsina, Obasanjo had been to the South-east where he put up appearance at the burial ceremonies of the father of one of his former ministers, Mr. Frank Nweke jnr. Besides the burial service, Obasanjo, it was learnt also made contact with strategic political stakeholders in the South-east.
In all the trips, Obasanjo is sending a message that he is not a spent force and he is ready to dictate the political pendulum in 2015. There are feelers that he has been consulting with party heavyweights on Jonathan’s successor come 2015. There have been media reports of a possible Sule Lamido/Rotimi Amaechi ticket which has been linked to the former president, although Amaechi has since denied nursing any such ambition. He said he wants to go back to school.
However, signs that all is not well between Obsabnjo and Jonathan emerged during a presidential debate when Jonathan in a national television media chat dismissed Obasanjo’s use of force in Odi, Bayelsa State in 1999 as a failure. One of the former president’s former ministers, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has responded to the tirade, saying “with the greatest respect to Mr. President, this is factually incorrect. He has either forgotten the relevant facts or he has been misinformed. Whichever way, he is mistaken and it is important for those of us that proudly served the Obasanjo administration to respond to him in order to clarify the issues, clear the air and set the record straight for the sake of history and posterity.
The national leadership of PDP has been swayed by the constant refrain of peace between the former and sitting president, forcing the national chairman of the party, Bamangar Tukur to storm the Abeokuta residence of the former president in search of truce.
But Tukur said he was in Abeokuta to appreciate and thank Obasanjo for his persistent and consistent role not only for the party, “but for the country and the international communities,” adding “Your support has never been relenting and I have come to say thank you sir.”
Tukur affirmed the leadership of the Dipo Odujirin-led executive in the state, declaring that the party recognises only the elected executives.
“I have come here because of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is the leader of our party. As long as you build on harmony, consultation, consensus you will find out that the party will have almost zero conflict.”
But Obasanjo who understood the mission of Tukur declared that the country was on his mind, saying his passion, patriotism and love for the country would not allow him keep quiet on burning national issues and that the country, the party and government would remain his primary concern.
“If there is no Nigeria, there will not be a party, and if there is no party, there will be nothing to govern on the platform of the party. If there is anything that requires my own comment, position or views, I will say it. It is only when you kill me that I won’t talk. It is my passion, patriotism and love that will continue to make me express my own views. If I see something that is inimical to the growth of the party, I will talk,” Obasanjo said.
The former president, however, described the PDP national chairman as a respected leader, who is a delight to have always. According to him, “it is always a delight to have our Ogas to visit us to see what we are doing or what we are not doing.
In his trips in the South-west, he found a brother in the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, a fellow Owu descendant like him. Amosun was formerly of the PDP before Obasanjo deftly chased him out of the party into the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and later Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) whose banner he flew to become the governor of the state.
Interestingly, the former president has fallen out with those whose cause he championed against Amosun at the time.
Lately, he was in Osun State where he unveiled the bust of his slain former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief James Ajibola Ige, erected at the front gate of the Osun State governor’s office, Abere, Osogbo.
Obasanjo who said he was in government office over the selection process of the new traditional ruler of Orile-Owu which has become a matter of litigation was later asked by the host governor, Rauf Aregbesola, to help perform the official commissioning of Ige’s bust which was made to replace the old one.
As an Owu leader, the former president said he could not fold his arms when his people contacted him to intervene in the lingering obaship tussle in the community. Obasanjo told the governor that his coming was not to influence the choice of any candidate to the vacant stool but to make acceptable recommendations in order to prevent further acrimony that is almost tearing the town apart.
Ige while serving as the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice during Obasanjo administration was in December 2001 assassinated in his Bodija residence in Ibadan by yet-to-be identified gunmen.
Obasanjo, who led the delegation of Owu Development Foundation to Aregbesola’s office, told his host that “you have flabbergasted me and if I may use the military term, you have successfully ambushed me because I never expected to meet this large number of people. I was only billed to brief you on the development in Owu.
“When the situation that could cause disturbance to the selection of the new Oba, Owu Development Foundation, made up of prominent members came to me that I should not allow things to go sour and what I equally found on ground is gradually drifting to an alarming situation.”
In his speech, Aregbesola who recalled his days at The Polytechnic, Ibadan as a students’ union activist led a protest against Chief Obasanjo during his visit to the institution as Head of State in 1978.
He described Obasanjo as a rare personality not only in Nigeria but entire black race saying that it was a rare privilege for somebody to have ruled Nigeria as a military and two terms as a civilian president. He recalled that the former president never visited the state all through the seven and half years rule of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the governor of the state.
“It is not for nothing that Chief Obasanjo is a Yoruba person. As a Yoruba man, we must be proud of his achievements.
He described the Yorubas as lover of federalism and freedom and that they would find the Yoruba the best of people to befriend and be with. “Yoruba thrive on federalism. What I want the country to know is the fact that as far as our autonomy and freedom are recognised, we could be the best any people could have as neighbours.”
The visit of Tukur might have been to douse the tension of the cold war between Obasanjo and Jonathan but Northern political elements are still looking onto Obasanjo to right the wrong on the imposition of Jonathan on the nation and it might be in the bid to warm himself back to the hearts of the North that Obasanjo is finding it convenient to distance himself from Jonathan and assail his policies in a bid to laying the foundation of distrust for the government in 2015. But Jonathan has not been folding his arms as he has also deplored his foot-soldiers to the North.