OBI ENDORSEMENT: How Obasanjo Ruffled Tinubu, Atiku’s Feathers

OBI ENDORSEMENT: How Obasanjo Ruffled Tinubu, Atiku’s Feathers

2023 CAMPAIGN WATCH

In his New Year message to Nigerians, former President Olusegun Obasanjo officially threw his weight behind the presidential ambition of former governor of Anambra State and the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi. 

In a special letter addressed to young Nigerians, Obasanjo said the current leaders have done their best but their best has not been good enough for the country. He added that it has been hell on earth. He said those alive should brace themselves for the remaining few months of the present administration and prepare for a better future of liberation, restoration and hope. 

“Our leaders have done their best, but their best had turned out to be not the best for Nigeria and Nigerians at home and abroad.  For most Nigerians, it was hell on earth. Those of us who are alive should thank God for His mercies, brace ourselves for the remaining few months of this administration and pray and work very hard for an immediate better future – future of liberation, restoration and great hope and expectation,” Obasanjo wrote. 

He added that there were contestants going up and down the country and saying what they meant and what they did not mean as well as what they understood and what they did not. 

“I believe that we need not be confused nor be gullible.  Let us be cautious, not to be fooled again.”

He said he had interacted with the major contestants and what he found interesting was that one way or the other, many of them wanted to replicate what he did during his Presidency between 1999 and 2007 and probably take the country even beyond that. He said while this might be laudable, what they have failed to realise was that the Nigeria of today was no longer that of June 1999 when he took over as the nation has been dragged so down that it was barely recognisable from the one he took over 24 years ago. 

In a direct indictment of the ‘Emi lo kan’ mantra, which is the unofficial campaign slogan of the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, Obasanjo said it was a wrong mentality and attitude to adopt when contesting for the presidency of the country as it smacked  of  a sense of entitlement. 

”Let me say straight away that ‘Emi Lokan’ (My turn) and ‘I have paid my dues’ are one and the same thing and are wrong attitude and mentality for the leadership of Nigeria now. They cannot form the new pedestal to reinvent and to invest in a new Nigeria based on an All-Nigeria Government for the liberation and restoration of Nigeria.  Such a government must have representation from all sectors of our national life – public, private, civil society, professional, labour, employers, and the diaspora.  The solution should be in ‘we’ and ‘us’ and not in ‘me’ and ‘I’.”

In endorsing Obi, Obasanjo had this to say: “None of the contestants is a saint but when one compares their character, antecedents, their understanding, knowledge, discipline and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that I personally had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge. Others, like all of us, have what they can contribute to the new dispensation to liberation, restoration and salvaging of Nigeria collectively. One other important point to make about Peter is that he is a needle with a thread attached to it from North and South and he may not get lost.”

As expected, it was not Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi that has unsettled the camps of both Tinubu and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP. His indictment of Tinubu and the Presidency has also unruffled not a few feathers. In fact, Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, issued a strongly-worded statement saying Obasanjo was envious of the sterling achievements of his principal; adding that Buhari is celebrated across Africa as an “anti-corruption champion”. 

On their own part, the campaign handlers of Tinubu said Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi was “worthless”. In a statement signed by Bayo Onanuga, the spokesperson of the team, Obasanjo was described as having no electoral goodwill. 

“The endorsement is actually worthless because the former President does not possess any political goodwill or leverage anywhere in Nigeria to make anyone win a Councillorship election let alone win a Presidential election. He is a political paperweight,” Onanuga said. 

Coming after Obasanjo’s was renowned Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark’s endorsement of   Obi. 

While they have been indignant, the fact is that the Tinubu group was more disappointed that Obasanjo eventually threw his weight behind Obi even more than Atiku. When Tinubu and his crew visited Obasanjo last year, the visit was massively celebrated in the media and some of his associates even issued statements announcing that the former president had endorsed Tinubu. This was debunked by Obasanjo. That was how much the Tinubu camp desperately wanted Obasanjo’s endorsement.  

However, now that Obasanjo has endorsed Obi, the same endorsement they desperately craved has become worthless and Obasanjo suddenly has no goodwill value. 

Harvard-trained public health expert and founder of the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, one of the newly-registered political parties, Dr. Jay Osi Samuels, in a telephone chat with THISDAY said the Tinubu camp was simply unhappy with the endorsement, adding that with what Obasanjo has done, it would encourage other former leaders, religious as well as opinion leaders and respected statesmen to come out and endorse Obi. 

“Obasanjo has thrown the gauntlet. In the coming days and weeks, other leaders will come out and endorse Obi and that would change the game. Nigeria is back to where it was in 2014 when they were tired of PDP and just wanted a change. But now, we don’t want a change just for the sake of it. Nigerians are just tired of both APC and PDP and want another tendency. And it is like a movement that is set to shake so many people,” Samuels said. 

While they attacked the former President, both Tinubu and Atiku camps would secretly wished he threw his weight behind any of them. And there lies the essence of the endorsement itself.

Is Makinde Walking Down Career Cul-De-Sac?

The governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, is perhaps one of the most confused and worried politicians in the country today as he continues his ‘war’ with the national leadership of  his party by stubbornly pitching his tent with the so-called G-5 while also pursuing his second term ambition on the platform of the same party. 

 Last Tuesday, there was a press briefing ahead of the pro-Atiku rally to be held by the Oyo State chapter of the party. Conspicuously absent at the press briefing was Makinde and any of his aides. The briefing was held at the state secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Iyaganku, Ibadan. Present at the media parley were former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide; former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Elder Wole Oyelese; former Deputy Governor of the state, Hazeem Gbolarumi, and another party stalwart, Femi Babalola.

Speaking at the media briefing, Oyelese had this to say: “Since the return of democracy in 1999, Nigerians can now see the difference between the PDP government and the APC government. During the Obasanjo and Jonathan years when PDP was in power at the centre, the Nigerian economy was much better than what it is now. Nigerians never had to suffer like this.”

While that might be the normal talk ahead of  a political rally, the fact that Makinde keeps ostracising these party leaders and still hopes to win a second term is what is baffling many political watchers within and outside the state. Sources told THISDAY that when Makinde flew the cat of working for Senator Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, it was roundly rejected by party leaders in the state and even his loyalists. Besides, he was said to have been told that since the APC has its own governorship candidate, Senator Teslim Folarin,  he should work for the presidential candidate of his party. 

Perhaps, there are some salient points the governor might have forgotten or doesn’t take seriously. First is the fact that the presidential election is coming before the governorship election. Some analysts believe that if Makinde works for Tinubu and the latter emerges, it would be politically naïve for him to expect the APC to abandon Folarin and work for him during the governorship election. 

“I doubt if Makinde is aware of this,” a party chieftain who did not want his name in print told THISDAY recently. “This has happened before and that was how five governors in the South-west lost their seats in 2003. If Makinde works for Tinubu and he defeats Atiku, he would be a political neophyte to expect that APC would return same favour to him during the governorship election and work against Teslim Folarin. 

Ironically, when the G-5 governors came in last week to mobilise for Makinde, he got a taste of what might be coming for him. Wike had told the ecstatic crowd to vote for Makinde but should await instruction from the governor on who to vote for in the presidential election. But the crowd would have none of that as the shout of “Atiku, Atiku” rent the air. 

Of Makinde needed any proof that he might not be able to mobilise PDP faithful in the state against Atiku, he got it from the crowd. 

Against this background, the party chieftain adduced that Makinde might have been tagging along with Nyesom Wike, the Rivers State governor and leader of the G-5, due to the fact that his businesses are in Rivers State and he feared that if he worked at cross-purposes with Wike within the PDP, the Rivers governor might target his businesses just the way he has been doing to anyone he suspects of working for Atiku in the state. 

“Perhaps, Makinde places more emphasis on his businesses than his re-election,” the party chieftain said. “If not, I could not find any rational explanation for his continued membership of the G-5 when he is the only governor seeking a second term among the five.”

And that is why the Oyo governor seems to be confused. Even if all is well within his party, PDP, in Teslim Folarin, he has more than a battle to win if he is to return to Agodi Government House, Ibadan. Another school of thought has it that the fact that Adebayo Adelabu, (Penkelemesi) has decamped from the APC to the Accord Party might have strengthened his belief that the APC is no longer having the political firepower to fight him but  it would be naïve to think so.

El-Rufai Faces Uphill Battle in Bid to Install Successor

When shortly before the primaries, the Chief of Staff to the Kaduna State governor, Mohammed Dattijo, announced that he was stepping down as a governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, he simply made the job of his principal and governor of the state, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, easier. It was a known fact that El-Rufai’s preferred candidate was Uba Sani who eventually picked the ticket in albeit controversial circumstances.

Sani was the special adviser on political affairs to El-Rufai between 2015 and 2019 and is a serving senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District. After withdrawing from the governorship race, Dattijo had offered himself to be picked as the senatorial candidate of the party for the Kaduna North Senatorial District.

Accusing the governor of manipulating the process to ensure the emergence of Uba Sani, aggrieved aspirants had gone to court to seek the nullification of the exercise and order for a fresh one. The court dismissed this and by September last year, the aspirants, under the auspices of Kaduna APC Aspirants’ Forum, agreed to drop the cases and work for  Sani to ensure the party retained power in the state. Though when they announced the withdrawal, they did admit that they were still discussing with Sani Sha’aban and Bashir Abubakar, a retired assistant controller-general of customs, to sheath their political swords and work with Sani.

Chairman of the forum, Hon. Ishaq Baba Sale, said they had agreed to work with Sani in the interest of the party. 

“We just concluded the meeting with our gubernatorial candidate, Senator Uba Sani. We all know his capacity. We all know the kind of person he is. He is a person that will ensure that everyone is carried along. The outcome of the meeting is that, we have come together as a Forum to collapse all our structures into one and support our party’s candidates from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to Senator Uba Sani and all others, to ensure that all of them emerge victorious in the forthcoming general election.”

While this sounded a good music to the political ears of Rufai, it must be noted that ensuring that Sani succeeds him won’t be a stroll in the park with the PDP in the state saying it would be a do-or-die battle to ensure that APC is sent packing.

It has always been very difficult to say which party is actually dominant in the state in the last sixteen years. It must be noted that PDP was in power in the state  between 1999 and 2015. And those years, safe for religions and ethnic crises, the state was safe from kidnapping and banditry attacks that have sacked so many villages and even entire local governments in the state.

With this in the minds of the people, how El-Rufai would convince the people to still vote for his party remains to be seen. In the area of security, even his ardent supporters know that his performance is nothing to write home about. Will the electorate be reinforcing that? That is the million-dollar question.

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