Obasanjo makes U-turn, says Atiku bet­ter than Buhari

• Oyedepo, Kukah, Gumi, Ade­banjo meet ex-leader • Ap­proval in­con­se­quen­tial, in­sists pres­i­dency • How Afenifere, Ohanaeze, oth­ers paci­fied ex-pres­i­dent

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - From Leo Sobechi, Seye Olu­mide, Ke­hinde Olatunji (La­gos), Ter­hemba Daka (Abuja) and Charles Coffie Gyamfi (Abeokuta)

FOR­MER Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo yes­ter­day made a sur­pris­ing re­ver­sal of his stance by en­dors­ing the po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tion of his for­mer vice pres­i­dent, Atiku Abubakar.

Fol­low­ing sev­eral al­lega- tions he made sug­gest­ing the as­pi­rant is cor­rupt and self­ish, Obasanjo struck a cli­max when he swore: “With what I know about Atiku, if I had put Atiku for- ward, God will not have for­given me.”

But he buried the hatchet when the pres­i­den­tial stan­dard-bearer of the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) paid him a visit along­side em­i­nent Nige­ri­ans and op­po­si­tion party chief­tains. Thus the for­mer pres­i­dent con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion of anoint­ing yet an­other seek- er of the high­est of­fice, a rit­ual he suc­cess­fully per­formed for the late Al­haji Umaru Musa Yar’adua, and Good­luck Jonathan.

“Let me start by con­gratu- lat­ing pres­i­dent-to-be, Atiku Abubakar,” Obasanjo be­gan, be­fore open­ing the lid on his long-held griev­ances. “In the pres­ence of these dis­tin­guished lead­ers of good­will to­day, let me say it openly that we have re­viewed what went wrong on the side of Atiku. And in all hon­esty, my for­mer vice pres­i­dent has re-

dis­cov­ered and re-po­si­tioned him­self. As I have re­peat­edly said, it is not so much what you did against me that was the is­sue but what you did against the party, the gov­ern­ment and the coun­try,” he said.

Obasanjo said he had main­tained his vex­a­tious stance “based on the char­ac­ter and at­tributes” Atiku ex­hib­ited, stress­ing: “I strongly be­lieve that I was right. It was in the over­all in­ter­est of ev­ery­one and ev­ery­thing to take such a po­si­tion.”

He said how­ever that “from what tran­spired in the last cou­ple of hours”, Atiku had shown “re­morse” and “asked for for­give­ness”. He had also in­di­cated that he learned “some good lessons” and would “mend fences and make amends as nec­es­sary and as de­sir­able.”

He there­fore said: “When­ever or wher­ever you might have of­fended me, as a Chris­tian who asks for God’s for­give­ness of my sins and in­ad­e­qua­cies on a daily ba­sis, I for­give and I sin­cerely ad­vise you to learn from the past and do what is right and it will be well with you. Ob­vi­ously, you have mended fences with the party and fully rec­on­ciled with the party. That’s why to­day, you are the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of the party.”

Obasanjo fur­ther ex­pressed why he thought Atiku stands a bet­ter chance to de­feat the in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari in next year’s gen­eral elec­tions.

He said: “For me, rel­a­tively and of all the as­pi­rants in the PDP, you have the widest and great­est ex­po­sure, ex­pe­ri­ence, out­reach and pos­si­bly the best ma­chin­ery and prepa­ra­tion for see­ing the tough and likely dirty cam­paign ahead through. From what I per­son­ally know of you, you have ca­pac­ity to per­form bet­ter than the in­cum­bent. You surely un­der­stand the econ­omy bet­ter; you have busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence, which can make your ad­min­is­tra­tion busi­ness-friendly and boost the econ­omy and pro­vide jobs. You have bet­ter out­reach na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally and that can trans­late to bet­ter man­age­ment of for­eign af­fairs. You are more ac­ces­si­ble and less in­flex­i­ble and more open to all parts of the coun­try in many ways.”

In his re­sponse, Atiku told his for­mer boss: “This visit is a his­toric one for all of us and for this coun­try. I couldn’t have been where I am to­day with­out his wise coun­sel, with­out him pick­ing me as his vice pres­i­dent for eight years and with­out the train­ing that I got from his tute­lage and his lead­er­ship.

“Af­ter your pres­i­dency, we have had three pres­i­dents in this coun­try. The only pres­i­dent you have trained is me and I will com­mit my pres­i­dency, if I be­come one, to the con­tin­u­a­tion of your own pres­i­dency and le­gacy.”

At the event were: PDP chair­man, Prince Uche Se­con­dus; Sen­a­tor Ben Bruce; for­mer Cross Rivers State gover­nor, Liyel Imoke; the di­rec­tor gen­eral of Atiku’s cam­paign or­gan­i­sa­tion, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; the Pre­sid­ing Bishop of Win­ners Chapel, Dr David Oyedepo; Afenifere chief­tain, Ayo Ade­banjo; Sheik Abubakar Gumi; and Rev. Mathew Has­san Kukah.

But re­act­ing, the spokesman for Buhari, Garba Shehu, dis­missed the en­dorse­ment as in­con­se­quen­tial. He said: “They will lose to­gether. Lis­ten­ing to the pre­pared state­ment of the for­mer pres­i­dent af­ter the meet­ing showed the usual ego trip and ‘I know it all’ char­ac­ter of Chief Obasanjo. In the first place, we dare to say that a pompous state­ment from the for­mer pres­i­dent ad­vis­ing Nige­ri­ans on a vote against Pres­i­dent Buhari is the best rec­om­men­da­tion that can come at this time.

“It also be­trayed a lack of un­der­stand­ing of to­day’s pol­i­tics which is about good gov­er­nance. The coun­try voted for change in 2015 and a leader that en­sures good gov­er­nance, which only Pres­i­dent Buhari and the APC can pro­vide. Bent on these laud­able goals, we will not al­low our­selves to be dis­tracted.

“We are busy on var­i­ous na­tional is­sues in­clud­ing the restruc­tur­ing and the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of the econ­omy, fight­ing cor­rup­tion, ter­ror­ism and other threats to na­tional se­cu­rity; in­creas­ing the avail­abil­ity of elec­tric power, im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion, health, and pro­vid­ing long-de­layed.”

Mean­while, in a phone con­ver­sa­tion with The

Guardian the na­tional pub­lic­ity sec­re­tary of Yoruba so­cio-cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tion, Afenifere, re­vealed how the group and oth­ers like Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mid­dle Belt Fo­rum, PAN­DEF and some north­ern el­ders caused Obasanjo to have a change of heart. “We are all both­ered about the way the coun­try is go­ing, es­pe­cially since 2015 when Buhari came on board. And un­less some­thing crit­i­cal is done, an­other term of the present gov­ern­ment may spell doom for us all. As a mat­ter of fact, we had to plead with the for­mer pres­i­dent not to look at what might have tran­spired be­tween him and Atiku but place the in­ter­est of Nige­ria above all,” he said.

Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Has­san Kukah ( left); for­mer Pres­i­dent, Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo; pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP), Al­haji Atiku Abubakar and em­i­nent Is­lamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Gumi af­ter a meet­ing in Abeokuta, Ogun State...yes­ter­day.

PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Char­ter, Dr. Ur­ban Rus­nak ( left); Min­is­ter of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, Og­bon­naya Onu; Min­is­ter Coun­sel­lor Head of Co-op­er­a­tion Euro­pean Union Del­e­ga­tion to Nige­ria and ECOWAS, Kurt Cor­nelis and Di­rec­tor-gen­eral, En­ergy Com­mis­sion of Nige­ria, Prof. Eli Jidere Bala, dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Na­tional En­ergy and Cli­mate Change Sum­mit, held at the State House Con­fer­ence Cen­tre, Abuja …yes­ter­day.

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