Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his then deputy, Atiku Abubakar, are sworn enemies.
It seems though that they are on the path to reconciliation even as many other cross-party godfathers may be secretly rooting for Atiku’s candidacy ahead 2019.
In this report, KEHINDE OSASONA examines how Atiku intends to manage his numerous cross-party godfathers, including Obasanjo.
Godfather extraordinaire Although, some of them belongs to political parties other than Atiku’s PDP, but they are power brokers whose closeness cut across all leanings in the country.
Not only that, their clouts, and influence in the power blocs, are other factors which have enhanced their relevance.
Sequel to the developments, political observers have therefore christened them ‘Cross-party godfathers’ One of these classes of personalities is former President Goodluck Jonathan who had in an interview recently, described ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo as “the boss of bosses”, who is very instrumental to any presidential candidate’s ambition.
He had, therefore, advised the former VicePresident, Atiku Abubakar, to reconcile with Obasanjo in order realize his political ambition in 2019 and beyond.
Ex-President Jonathan’s counsel It was during an interface with Ovation Magazine publisher, Dele Momodu, which borders mainly on the 2019 general elections when former President Jonathan made the ‘weighty’ statement.
His position clearly acknowledged the inevitability of Chief Obasanjo in the nation’s political equation.
His say so indeed matters and therefore must be courted and genufl ected to if one must make political headway.
The immediate past president pointedly confirmed to the gatherings that the chances of Atiku Abubakar were bright in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but that he would need the endorsement of Obasanjo.
According to Jonathan, “We’ve all learnt at different times that you ignore OBJ at your own peril.
OBJ has the magic wand, respected at home and abroad.” Obasanjo it would be recalled played a major role in the political career of Jonathan.
He had influenced Jonathan’s choice as the running mate of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Jonathan, who rose to the number one position after the death of Yar’Adua, however fell out with Obasanjo in 2013.
Explaining further, Jonathan said: “If Atiku gets our party ticket, he would compete well.
But he would have to reach out to our boss, Baba Obasanjo, the boss of all bosses’ saying that any politician who ignores the elder statesman does so at his own peril.
The exalted presidential seat Blueprint recalls had continually eluded Atiku a number of times, he lost to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in the 2007 presidential election and lost again in the primaries to the eventual winners; President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, and President Buhari of the APC in the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections, respectively.
In apparent reaction to exPresident Jonathan’s epistle, Atiku’s media aide, Paul Ibe, had divulged to some section of the Nigerian media that the former Vice President won’t rule out the importance of anyone in his quest to becoming Nigeria’s president.
According to him, Atiku has not ruled out the possibility of holding talks with his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, in pursuit of his political ambition.
“Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has not ruled out the possibility of asking for the help of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the lead up to the 2019 presidential election.
“Atiku, a savvy politician and master of consensus building, would not discountenance the importance of carrying everyone along in order to build a consensus,” Ibe explained further.
What is Obasanjo up to? It seems though that the two leaders are not averse to such reconciliation, especially giving that in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies but permanent interests as represented by determination to oust a stubborn leader who refuses to kowtow to some of their demands.
Already, there have been moves particularly from the Atiku camp for a meeting.
Sadly though, it is claimed that some aides and loyalists in Obasanjo’s camp had been the ones scuttling all the reconciliatory moves that had hitherto been made to reconcile the duo.
The intent, according to the sources in the know, was to continue to widen the gap between the duo and thus frustrate Atiku who could be the greatest benefi ciary of the latest reconciliation.
Atiku had while reacting to a statement credited to the expresident that he would not be President while he was alive had said that: “If it is God’s will for me to be president, nobody, not even Obasanjo, can challenge God” He argued that Obasanjo was not God, saying that; “I didn’t lose sleep when I learnt that Obasanjo made such a statement.” Atiku was quoted as saying.
Pundits in the political sphere, attributes the genesis of their fracas to the time Atiku served as Obasanjo’s deputy during his two terms as president between 1999 and 2007.
They didn’t end the relationships on friendly terms due to their clashing ambitions.
The parting of ways was further festered by their inability to give peace a chance until recently when there appeared to be a need to oust the APC-led federal government come 2019.
However, in recent times, it appears that the duo have sheathed their swords for God’s knows reasons.
Political observers say that the ‘Ebora Owu’ as Obasanjo is fondly called may have mellowed down on his criticism of Atiku, his erstwhile vice president so as not to ruin his chance further as alleged by the latter’s supporters and loyalists and friends in the political realm.
As a pointer to that fact, in Lagos recently, Chief Obasanjo and Atiku reportedly reunites at the10th Memorial Symposium of Senator Abraham Adesanya, with the Theme” Leadership and the Future of Nigeria” which was held at Shell Hall, Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
At the occasion, Obasanjo was spotted discussing issues heartily with Atiku in an up-close and personal manner to the admiration of Mrs Modupe Adelaja, a convener of the programme and former Minister during Obasanjo’s administration.
It was further learnt that the duo sat together at the occasion and continued their discussions in hushed tones, just as guests present continue to relish their momentary friendships.
If that was not a pointer to the hoped for reconciliation, then nothing else would be.
Interestingly too, unconfirmed report has it that the former President, Obasanjo, may have secretly endorsed Atiku for the 2019 contest, as a way of spitting the President Muhammadu Buhari-led the government, who, according to him, has not brought the desired changed.
As Atiku gets IBB’s nod Expectedly, in 2017, former President, Ibrahim Babangida, finally gave his nod and declared his support for Atiku Abubakar, in his fourthattempt for the Presidency.
The support came on the heels of previous report allegedly peddled by some sections of the media that Babangida had advised Atiku against contesting for President again.
Countering, the insinuation, a spokesperson for the former military leader, Kassim Afegbua was quoted as saying that: “Anybody who has sponsored such report was just being unfair” to Messrs.
Babangida and Abubakar.
Afegbua said no one knew the outcome of the meeting between the duo because it was held behind closed-doors.
Media accounts of the meeting had it that Atiku angrily left his host because he was advised not to run against President Muhammadu Buhari.
The reports further speculated that the unfriendly face that Atiku allegedly wore indicated that he was rejected by Babangida.
Explaining further, Afegbua said: “The report is very, very untrue.
When I read the report, I was laughing.
Because it is far from what they both discussed.” “Number one, IBB will not discourage anyone from seeking office.
IBB will encourage anyone to seek election,” The relationship between my principal and his host remains cordial, and as such reporters should stop playing politics with people’s relationship.
In the same vein, Atiku’s spokesperson Paul Ibe, said since the meeting was held by only the two leaders, it would be difficult for anyone to know the details.
According to him, “Except those who were carrying these fake speculations were fl ying on the wall, there’s no way anyone would have known what happened saying that the report is a fi gment of the imagination of people.” “Both leaders have enjoyed a mutual relationship for many years and what I gathered was that the meeting was very, very fruitful,” he added.
Walid welcomes defection Senator Walid Jibrin, another ‘godfather’ while wooing Atiku back to PDP said: “He (Atiku) should join the cream of presidential aspirants in the party to fight for the ticket in 2019.
The statement, according to analysts, was an open invitation more like giving a favourite ‘Blank cheque’.
Prior to Atiku Abubakar’s eventual defection to his former party, Chairman of Board of Trustees of People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Walid Jibrin, said that although the party was ready to welcome former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to its fold, it would not guarantee him an automatic ticket to contest the presidential election.
Walid made the comment while addressing a press conference in Kaduna He said; “if the former vice president wants to contest the presidential election under the party’s ticket, he should be ready to contest against other candidates who might also be interested.
“The party met in Abuja to say that any party, any candidate from the north can contest.
Let us get them.
‘’I think they are getting set now.
For now, we have Ibrahim Shekarau, Sule Lamido, Attahiru Bafarawa, and so on preparing for the presidential ticket.
He should then join the cream of presidential aspirants in the party to fight for the ticket in 2019.” he explained further.
Professor Adeniran, SDP poser Although, Professor Jerry Gana was rumoured as a potential presidential candidate of the SDP in 2019, as it were, things are likely going to change quickly considering the arrays of political heavyweights including Atiku who are on the verge of being wooed by the party stalwarts.
Professor Tunde Adeniran, who recently decamped to the Social Democratic Party is another ‘godfather’ reportedly working under ground for Atiku’s emergence.
The South-West politician and a former minister is very articulate force to be reckoned with in the region.
Apart from having the ears of a handful of aggrieved PDP members still in the party, he had defected alongside other loyal members to his new party.
“Any moment from now, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), one of the reigning political party is set to receive some high profi le politicians into its fold, not only that, the party has equally intensify consultation with some newly registered political parties for possible mergers ahead of the 2019 general elections,” one of the party chieftain was quoted as saying.
A Party source, who is in the know and does not want his name in prints, divulged to Blueprint that ground is being prepared for Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, if he fails to clinch the 2019 Presidential election on the platform of the PDP to enlist with the SDP to actualise his presidential ambition.
Preparatory to the much-awaited defections, therefore, it was gathered by this medium that the SDP chieftains had notifi ed some of the notable godfathers on their plan ‘B’ especially on the need to have big fish like Atiku to fl y their party fl ag.
One of them was quoted as saying that: “I think it will be a good thing if Atiku joins us especially if those who are afraid of his popularity deny him of the Presidential ticket of the PDP.
“It is a good thing that the political space has been enlarged with the registration of more political parties,” he said.
But will Atiku bite the bait in view of the huge implications and image issues that may arise from his defecting as it were from the PDP again to another party as if he were an accursed prostitute? Kashamu’s secret intent When Senator Buruji Kashamu, the senator representing Ogun East senatorial district in Ogun State, was asked during an interview who he thinks could wrest power from President Buhari in 2019, he pointedly said: “Atiku is a respectable person.
I don’t know whether Atiku wants to contest the presidency or not.
He hasn’t made his position known.
“To get somebody who can contest against Buhari in 2019, PDP must follow justice and transparency in screening its presidential aspirants, including conducting exhaustive background checks.
We must present the right candidate at the right time,” he noted.
However, for keen followers of political happenings in the country, Kashamu statement was pregnant with lots of meanings.
Adeolu Fadaisi, a political analyst believes that the phrase ‘Right candidate’ being referred to by the senator was Atiku.
“When chips are down, all these guys would queue behind Atiku, their preferred man any day.
Bode George begs Similarly in 2017, before things fell apart between the embattled George and the new power brokers in the PDP, Chief Olabode George, had paid a glowing tribute to Atiku while addressing PDP supporters in Katsina as part of his tour to solicit for support to actualize his chairmanship aspiration.
George, one of the most vocal and respected voices in the PDP from the South-West had called on former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to return to the PDP.
He said; “The former vice president is a landlord in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as he was among the G-34 that established it, “In the All Progressives Congress (APC) party, Atiku is just a tenant that can be kicked out any time the landlord wants.
“But in the PDP, nobody can kick Atiku out because he has laboured for the establishment of the party, “Just because your house is leaking, you cannot abandon it and move to a rented house,” he noted.
Eventually Atiku heeded the appeal and is sure of the backing of the likes of Chief George, whose relationship with Obasanjo and Atiku is an open secret.
Is Chief George one of those angling for reconciliation? Aisha’s public endorsement It first started in a leaked video on social media, where the ‘Controversial’ minister Aisha Alhassan (Mama Taraba) endorsed the former vice-president for the 2019 presidential election.
Hers was more like an open confrontation which not only generated mixed feelings before it simmered, but also rattled the presidency.
Not done, Alhassan, in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service said that although she respected Buhari, but that Atiku remained her godfather.
Alhassan further declared her readiness to support former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s bid for the Presidency against President Muhammadu Buhari if the former decides to contest in 2019.
The minister, who spoke in Hausa in the video, said, “Your Excellency, our father and our president by the grace of God come 2019, before you are your people, your supporters for life, the people of Taraba State.
“Since I was in the civil service, His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, had been my mentor and godfather.
He has remained so even now that I have joined politics.
There is a reason for every political relationship,” she was quoted as saying.
2019: Will Atiku break jinx this time? The one million question remains; will Atiku break the jinx this time? Political alignments, quest for possible mergers and permutations going on underground is apparently a pointer to what to expect when the whistle is blown for the main contest.
Only time will tell, if this assertion or predictions as the case may be as being presently bandied by political watchers would come to pass
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his then deputy, Atiku Abubakar, are sworn enemies.