Obasanjo: My Decision Not to Back Atiku in National Interest

    • Says God won’t forgive him if he supports former VP

    Femi Ogbonnikan in Abeokuta

    Former President Olusegun Obasanjo poured cold water on the presidential ambition of former deputy, ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, saturday, refusing to back him in his quest to become president in 2019. Obasanjo stated that his refusal to support Atiku was in the national interest and was not personal.

    The former president restated his opposition to Atiku to THISDAY through his spokesman, Kehinde Akinyemi. It followed an inquiry about Obasanjo’s earlier remarks in an interview with Premium Times, an online publication, where he was quoted as saying that Atiku “can never enjoy” his support for any political office.

    The former president’s spokesman said if his boss had taken such a position on his ex-deputy, then there must be something “fundamentally wrong somewhere.”

    Obasanjo had said in his comments published saturday that God will not forgive him if he supported Atiku’s presidential ambition, stressing that he had unknowingly backed the former vice president in the past.

    Akinyemi said, “The differences between Atiku and Baba is not and cannot be personal. It is only based on national interest.”

    He said Atiku, having served as vice president to Obasanjo for eight years, the former president “should be able to recommend him to Nigerians for his 2019 presidential ambition.

    “But if Baba fails to do that, then something fundamentally must be wrong somewhere. And that is just it.”
    Asked if Obasanjo will forgive Atiku if apologised for whatever wrong he might have done to him, Akinyemi told THISDAY, “Coming to beg Baba is far from it. To beg him for what? It is like saying, when you write stories badly and you say you want to come and beg me, as an editor, to recommend you for a higher and sensitive post, how is that possible?”

    “It does not mean, when he wants personal assistance, and it is in Baba’s power to do it, he will surely do it.
    “God will not forgive Baba if he fails to render such assistance. So, it is purely two different things; national interest and personal interest.”

    Akinyemi said Obasanjo might never change his position on his former deputy, underscoring suggestions that the ex-president could shift his ground to a consideration of certain circumstances, like Atiku entreating him to support his ambition.

    Atiku was vice president to Obasanjo during his two terms’ presidency from 1999 to 2007, though the former had sought to succeed his boss in 2003. They fell apart ahead of the 2007 presidential election, which Atiku contested on the platform of another political while still vice president. Their disagreement was exacerbated by Obasanjo’s alleged third term agenda, which Atiku fiercely opposed.

    Obasanjo said in the interview that he had no personal hatred against Atiku but was only interested in working with anyone “working for the good of Nigeria.

    “If I support Atiku for anything, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support,” Obasanjo was quoted as saying.

    He added, “It is not a question of working with or not working with an individual. If you are working for the good of Nigeria, I am working with you. If you are not working for the good of Nigeria, it does not matter who you are, I am not working with you.

    “I do not have personal grudges with anyone. If you do not do well for Nigeria, you do not do well for all of us.”
    He said his opposition to Atiku’s political ambition was only at the realm of politics.

    “If my children are getting married, he has sent representatives. If his children are getting married, I have sent representatives. That is social. That is not political,” he said. “On political ground,” however, Obasanjo said, “My position has not changed. If I support Atiku for a political office other than the one I supported him in the past when I did not know him … God will not forgive me.”