While Nigerians were busy basking in the euphoria of exchanging pleasantries with loved ones and revelling in the New Year celebration with drinks, and food of all sorts, erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo was pondering over the dreams of Nigeria’s founding fathers and the future of today’s youths ahead of the crucial 2023 election perceived to bring a new dawn or otherwise, depending on the outcome.
Reputable for his profound letter writing, the former president at the comfort of his home in Abeokuta, Ogun State, South West Nigeria fired off a missive chronicling the travails of Nigeria’s journey and demystifying the core competencies needed to reposition the country into a progressive nation.
Unequivocally, the formal military head of state, in a six-part letter titled, “My appeal to all Nigerians particularly young Nigerians,” threw his heavyweight behind Peter Obi’s presidential bid for the general elections, citing knowledge, discipline, vitality and character as features that make the Anambra-born Labour Party’s standard-bearer stand out among other contestants in the race.
The Owu High Chief, while rallying support for Obi’s candidacy, pointed out that “None of the contestants is a saint but when one compares their character, antecedent, 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 thread attached to it from North and South and he may not get lost.
“In other words, he has people who can pull his ears, if and when necessary. Needless to say that he has a young and able running mate with clean track record of achievement both in public and private life.”
Obasanjo explained that he was constrained to write the letter to all Nigerians, especially young Nigerians, friends of Nigeria globally as well as development partners because of the gravity, responsibility and implications of the collective decision Nigerians, both young and old, will be making within the next two months.
The elder statesman further noted: “We have had campaigners going up and down the country feeding us with what they mean and what they do not mean, what they understand and what they do not fully understand, what is possible and what is not possible, what is realistic and what is unrealistic, what is true and what is untrue. I believe that we need not be confused nor be gullible. Let us be cautious, not to be fooled again.
“I have interacted with the major contestants and I find it interesting that, in one form or the other, each of them claims to want to do what I did during my Presidency and to take Nigeria back to where it was at the height of my Presidency and immediately after. I was pained that most of them do not realise that the Nigeria of today had been dragged down well below Nigeria of the beginning of my Presidency in June 1999.
“Although at that time, Nigeria was in very bad shape and was tottering on the verge of collapse and break-up. Even then, Nigeria was not faced with the level of pervasive and mind-numbing insecurity, rudderless leadership, buoyed by mismanagement of diversity and pervasive corruption, bad economic policies resulting in extremes of poverty and massive unemployment and galloping inflation.
“For these reasons, I kept pointing out to them that the instruments used in 1999 to 2007 and methodology used will grossly be inadequate for the perilous situation we now find ourselves.
“Without prejudice but with greatest respect to each individual with utmost regard for the best for Nigeria and all Nigerians and from my personal experience, all the major contestants claim to be my mentees. I will not deny such positions since I have worked with all of them directly and indirectly in government.
“I have come to realise a number of factors in character, attributes and attitude that are necessary in the job of directing the affairs of Nigeria successfully and at a time like this. These characteristics or attributes are many but let us be mindful of some key ones together.
“From interaction and experience, and as mentees as most of them claim, I will, without prejudice, fear or ill-will, make bold to say that there are four major factors to watch out for in a leader you will consider to hoist on yourself and on the rest of Nigerians in the coming election and they are what I call TVCP.
“TVCP: Track record of ability and performance; Vision that is authentic, honest and realistic; Character and attributes of a lady and a gentleman who are children of God and obedient to God; and Physical and mental capability with soundness of mind as it is a very taxing and tasking assignment at the best of times and more so it is at the most difficult time that we are.”
Read also: Obasanjo endorses Peter Obi for presidency, says it’s turn of youths
He, however, pleaded with Nigerian youths to use their growing numbers in the forthcoming polls to bring about meaningful change, saying “If you fail, you have no one else to blame. Your present and future are in your hands to make or to mar. The future of Nigeria is in the same manner in your hands and literally so. If for any reason you fail to redeem yourself and your country, you will have lost the opportunity for good and you will have no one to blame but yourselves and posterity will not forgive you.
“The power to change is in your hands. Your future, my future, the future of grandchildren and great grandchildren are in your hands. Politics and elections are numbers game. You have the numbers, get up, stand up and make your numbers count,” he added.
His endorsement immediately riled up the opposition camps, including the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party. While the presidential campaign council of APC said their candidate would not lose sleep over the endorsement, describing the former president as a paperweight, the PDP urged “Nigerians not to be distracted by subjective opinions but to remain focused on the resolve to salvage our dear nation by electing Atiku Abubakar as the next president of Nigeria, come February 25, 2023”.
While the dust created by former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter was yet to settle, Edwin Clark, an Ijaw leader, affirmed his support for Peter Obi, saying that the former Anambra governor was his preferred candidate for the February 25 presidential poll.
Clark, who is also the leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), said: “Given Obi’s sound educational background, distinguished antecedent in professional life and track record as one of the most outstanding governors Nigeria has ever produced, Obi is eminently qualified to lead this country as President”.
Likewise, Obi’s presidential race gained further momentum following Governor Samuel Ortom’s endorsement. Ortom, one of the five aggrieved PDP governors tagged G5, in a statement by Terver Akase, special advise on media and publicity, opined that “Obi possesses the qualities of a leader, who will be a true president of this country by guaranteeing justice, equity and fairness for all Nigerians.
Prior to the recent letter issued by Obasanjo, the former president had on several occasions hobnobbed with Obi and portrayed him as the man after his own heart. A body language majority of candidates solicit for so as to increase their support base
Commenting on the recent open endorsements, Ben Bowei, president and founder of the Niger Delta Volunteers For Good Governance (NDVFGG),who said endorsement from leaders speak volume because there are people who are highly respected in the society, however, noted that it will not cause jittery among the major political parties because they already have a large membership base.
According to him, “the letter may boost Obi’s chances, especially with the fact that we have a lot of youth who are undecided as well as non-partisan people. The non-partisan Nigerians are actually mobilising support for him. I think they will give him a boost and not those who are partisan. But as for the other parties with structures, their members will always work according to their party structure.
“There are political parties such as PDP and APC who already have their structures and membership who believe in them. Peter Obi’s LP is like a new team and every new team will gather momentum but the matter is if it will be enough to win the election. Nigerians are seeking a new face to lead them and some of them see Peter Obi as a new face and that is why you see the momentum,” Bowei said.
He added: “From all indications, the G5 governors are not ready to work with the presidential candidate of their party and I am sure they are likely going to work for either the APC or LP Candidate. The mission of the G5 is risky, it is either they earn honor at the end or face the consequences in their political career”.
Bright Oniovokukor, project director, Indomitable Youths Organisation (IYO), a non-governmental organisation, told BusinessDay that Obasanjo’s letter was meant to direct the youths in terms of the choice they would make in 2023.
“It is important to state that Obasanjo’s letter is only emphasising the position the youths have already taken. One may be tempted to ask that before this letter, apart from him enjoying juicy position as youth, of what impact was his administration to the youth that we can make reference to today.
“The letter will not in any way help Obi’s ambition but rather may compound it. The letter is further demonstrating that if Obi becomes President, he would have too many people to be answerable to and this would affect his focus on delivering on good governance. Obasanjo has fallen out with Presidents that have refused to do his bids, will Obi’s case be different?” Oniovokukor queried.
“Nigeria’s politics is basically of personal interest. These interest can change at anytime. It is amazing that those who had opportunity to help Nigerians and did not are now running to support Obi. It would have been a different ball game entirely if they were the ones that discovered Obi.
“They are beginning to endorse Obi because he has become popular, they want to use this as a tool to become relevant. These same endorsers are potential problems should Obi win hence it is better they keep their endorsements either to themselves or be silent about it,” he added.