• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Sour end of Obasanjo-Jonathan romance

Sour end of Obasanjo-Jonathan romance

Barely a month when Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president, made a surprise appearance in Abuja at a wedding ceremony of one of the daughters of President Goodluck Jonathan and made obeisance to the President, wearing a cosmetic smile which tried to show that the relationship between the duo was still intact, the Ota farmer made a voluntary exit out of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

But pundits are of the view that such seeming “hypocritical” gesture by the former president, despite the obvious feuds that had characterised the relationship between the duo, has rendered it increasingly difficult for political commentators and analysts to predict the political behaviour of present-day politicians going by the Obasanjo’s unceremonious exit from the umbrella party he once described as “the largest party in Africa”, under which he rode to power in 1999 and 2003.

Obasanjo defiled the ‘permanent interest’ theory

Tene John, a political scientist and head of, the Department of Political Science, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, said Obasanjo’s end of romance with the ruling PDP, has defiled the ‘permanent interest’ political theory, an age-long variable in forecasting and determining political behaviour in a given climate.

He said: “Are there political parties in the country that can best serve Obasanjo’s political interest?” “In studying political behaviour”, he continued, “it is stated that, in politics, ‘there are neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies. Agreed, that Bola Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos State and Obasanjo, who were bitter enemies when they were in power have become friends at the expense of Jonathan who was a ‘beloved son. That is part of the theory. But let’s face the fact; Obasanjo became president of Nigeria under the PDP. Where else can he get that? Even when he claimed to have retired from active politics his counsel was consistently sought. He enjoyed the position of a founding father at the PDP; that he can never get anywhere else”, he told BD SUNDAY.

He said that the manner the former president dumped the ruling PDP was a step in repositioning himself towards the likelihood of Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency borne out of his political calculation since he was losing his grip over the Jonathan-controlled PDP; advising that the former president should learn from African icons like South Africa’s Nelson Mandela who remained in African National Congress (ACN) despite the trying times the party had under ex-president Tambo Mbeki and current President Jacob Zuma.

The genesis of the hate speech between Obasanjo, Jonathan

The ex-President as a guest speaker at the West African Regional Conference on Youth Employment, held last year in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, had said a revolution was looming in Nigeria if the high rate of youth unemployment which he put at 72 per cent remained unchecked and should the Jonathan government fail to create employment, the attendant catastrophe would consume even the elite.

Obasanjo started by using the propitious chance of a CNN interview to criticise Jonathan’s approach to the Boko Haram insurgency by suggesting that to deal with a group like the Islamic sect, a ‘carrot and stick approach was required, explaining: “The carrot is finding out how to reach out to them. When you try to reach out to them and they are not amenable to being reached out to, you have to use the stick”.

At another event in Warri, Delta State, to mark the 40th anniversary of the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ayo Oritsejafor’s Word of Life Bible Church, Obasanjo described Jonathan as ‘a weak leader’ for what he called “government’s lukewarm approach” to the Boko Haram crisis and the pervading insecurity in the country which he said could have been effectively tackled if decisive action had been taken by the Jonathan administration.

On his part, President Jonathan use the opportunity of a media chat to respond to Obasanjo’s prescription, describing the military invasion “to fish out militants who killed some security men” and brute use of force on the people of Odi as futile, saying it only resulted in bloodshed and loss of innocent lives. Obasanjo subsequently accused Jonathan’s administration of waste of the country’s foreign reserves which he puts at $35 billion in 2007 when he left office.

Read also: A roadmap for inclusive prosperity (2)

Before it is too late

Nigerians may not forget in a hurry the 18-page letter written by Obasanjo to President Jonathan which was leaked to the media; where Obasanjo said Nigeria risked drifting into a sorry state it fell into during the Abacha era.

He also talked about Jonathan’s alleged one-term presidency agreement with some leaders of the party, including the PDP governors.

“Up till two months ago, Mr President, you told me that you have not told anybody that you would contest in 2015. I quickly pointed out to you that the signs and the measures on the ground do not tally with your statement. You said the same to one other person who shared his observation with me. And only a  fool would believe that statement you made to me judging by what is going on. You may wish to pursue a more credible and more honourable path. Although you have not formally informed me one way or the other, it will be necessary to refresh your memory of what transpired in 2011. I had gone to Benue State for the marriage of one of my staff in the state. Governor Susan was my hospitable host.  He told me that you had accepted a one-term presidency to allow for ease of getting support across the board in the  North. I decided to cross-check with you.  You did not hesitate to confirm to me that you are a strong believer in a one-term of six years for the  President and that by the time you have used the unexpired time of your predecessor and the four years  of your first term, you would have almost used up to six years and you would not need any more term or time,” Obasanjo stated in the letter.

Accusing Jonathan of anti-party activities, the former president stated that many  party  members felt disappointed  in  the  double  game  the president allegedly  played  in supporting non-PDP candidates  against  PDP  candidates  in  exchange  for promise  for  his election  in  the  past  or for  the  one  that  he had  yet  to  formally  declare; citing Lagos in  2011 as an example when  Bola Tinubu was ‘nocturnally’ brought to Abuja to strike a deal to support Jonathan’s personal election at a great price materially  and in the fortune of PDP gubernatorial candidate.

“Allegation of keeping over 1,000 people on political watch list rather than criminal or security watch list and training snipers and other armed personnel secretly and clandestinely acquiring weapons to match for political purposes like Abacha, and training them where Abacha trained his own killer squad, if it is true, cannot augur well for the initiator, the government and the people of Nigeria. No one should prepare to kill or maim Nigerians for personal or political ambition,” he further wrote in the letter.

Jonathan’s response to Obasanjo’s open letter

In Jonathan’s reply, he accused Obasanjo of trying to incite Nigerians from other geopolitical zones against him and also to promote ethnic disharmony, and to instigate members of the PDP against him.

The president said the letter conveyed to him the feeling that landmines had been laid for him and that Nigerians needed to have his response to the issues Obasanjo raised before the mines exploded.

Jonathan explained that the letter was clearly a threat to national security as it may deliberately or inadvertently set the stage for subversion, and that the purpose and direction of Obasanjo’s letter was distinctly ominous, saying that his administration was working assiduously to overcome current national security challenges, the seeds of which he said were sown under previous administrations.

“You have always referred to how you hit Odi in Bayelsa State to curb militancy in the Niger Delta. If the invasion of Odi by the Army was the stick, I did not see the corresponding carrot. I was the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State then, and as I have always told you, the invasion of Odi did not solve any militancy problem but, to some extent, escalated it. If it had solved it, the late President Yar’Adua would not have had to come up with the amnesty program. In terms of general insecurity in the country and particularly the crisis in the Niger Delta, 2007 was one of the worst periods in our history,” Jonathan said.

Chiding Obasanjo for presenting current problems as if they were creations of the Jonathan administration as most uncharitable, Jonathan reminded the former president that the first major case of kidnapping for ransom took place around 2006, and that the Boko Haram crisis dates back to 2002 when Obasanjo was the president of the country.

Jonathan further wrote that the seed of corruption in the country was planted a long time ago, stating that a number of Army Generals were to be retired because of corruption before the Dimka coup; and also, that the late General Murtala Mohammed wanted to retire some top officials in his cabinet on corruption-related issues before he was assassinated, and reminded Obasanjo the Siemens and Halliburton scandals in the Fourth Republic.

The Buruji Kashamu factor

The emergence of Buruji Kashamu as PDP’s South West leader was another major key that may have infuriated Obasanjo the more against the PDP.

Denying that he had anything to do with the controversial emergence of Kashamu as  leader of PDP South-West, Obasanjo said he can never recommend a “wanted criminal” by the UK and the USA to supplant legitimately elected leader in the region, and that putting  a “certified and  unashamed criminal” wanted abroad to face justice and who has greatly contributed to corruption within the judiciary on a high profile of politics, was the height of disservice to the country politically and height of insult to the people of  South-West in  general, and members of PDP in the zone in particular.

But Jonathan responded by saying that the issue of Buruji Kashamu was one of the lies that should not be associated with a former President.

According to him, the allegation by Obasanjo that he imposed Kashamu on the South-West was most unfortunate and regrettable.

“I do not even impose party officials in my home state of Bayelsa and there is no zone in this country where I have imposed officials. So why would I do so in the South West? Baba, in the light of Buruji’s detailed public response to your ‘open letter’, it will be charitable for you to render an apology to Nigerians and me”, he said.

On his part, Buruji Kashamu responding to Obasanjo at the time, said: “Where was his self-righteousness when I took the party structure from Daniel and handed it to Obasanjo? Where was his discipline when he hosted me severally in his Hilltop mansion, taking me into his bedroom and innermost recesses? Where was his decency when he accepted donations from me to his church and other concerns? Now, on the issue of my so-called indictment in the United States, I wish to state for the umpteenth time that there is NO request for my extradition for any offence whatsoever.”

Then, the book (‘My Watch’)

In the book, which the presidency and its allies did all within its powers to stop the circulation, Obasanjo accused President Jonathan of incompetence, saying that the president has failed Nigerians and considered his administration as inept and a colossal failure; while exonerating himself from the blame of the Musa Yar’Adua/Jonathan presidency that resulted in the current administration.

The final rage that sent Obasanjo out

Addressing journalists at his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, Obasanjo, who had few days before endorsed Buhari, as his preferred presidential candidate in next month’s polls, went for the broke when he alleged that Jonathan’s plan may be to stir chaos in the country as former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo did in that country; adding that the incumbent may be driven by a grave fear of having Buhari as his successor.

But in a rather swift response, President Jonathan through Reuben Abati, his spokesperson, accused Obasanjo of attempting to return to power through the backdoor by foisting an Interim National Government on Nigeria, in the hope he will be made head of the administration.

“As we have had cause to say before, it is most regrettable indeed that a man like Chief Obasanjo, who should know better, chooses to repeatedly, wantonly, and maliciously impugn the integrity of a sitting President of his country for the primary purpose of self-promotion. Chief Obasanjo’s plot with others within and outside the country to thwart the general elections and foist an unconstitutional Interim National Government, which he hopes to head, on the nation is well known to us, but by the Grace of God Almighty, his odious plan to return to power through the back door will fail woefully,” Abati said in a statement.

A Lagos-based political pundit, Solomon Esongban, said General Obasanjo (rtd) was saliently heating up the polity and thus, should be cautioned by security agencies ahead March’s polls.

According to him, while politicians are currently being urged by well-meaning Nigerians and concerned foreigners to toe the part of peace by refraining from inciting comments, the former president has continued to use every avenue to ensure that President Jonathan is sufficiently maligned.

He said: “If Obasanjo has personal issues with Jonathan, he should deal with it personally, rather than hide under ‘national interest’ to promote hate against the president. Obasanjo, who recently endorsed Muhammadu Buhari as his preferred candidate, once accused Jonathan of anti-party activities for supporting non-PDP governorship candidates. You can see his insincerity and hypocrisy. Obasanjo should be called to order before he sets Nigeria on fire with his personal agenda”.

NATHANIEL AKHIGBE