Presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday lampooned former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for declaring support for one of the presidential hopefuls, Labour Party’s Peter Obi.
In a special New Year message released to newsmen Sunday afternoon, Obasanjo said though none of the contestants is a saint but when compared in terms of knowledge, discipline and what they can offer, Obi has an edge over others. He therefore called on youths to rally round the LP candidate.
Obasanjo also took a swipe at Tinubu and Atiku, saying ‘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.
In a swift reaction, the APC candidate described the endorsement as “worthless” that would not pose threat to his ambition, while the PDP, on its part, said it was not looking for the endorsement of any individual.
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Daily Trust reports that both Tinubu and PDP’s Atiku Abubakar, had at different times met with Obasanjo and sought for his blessings.
I’ll not lose sleep over Obasanjo’s choice – Tinubu
Tinubu in a statement by the Director of Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, described the endorsement as worthless, which will not make him lose sleep.
He said Obasanjo does not possess any political goodwill or leverage anywhere in Nigeria to make anyone win an election.
Part of the statement reads, “We pity Peter Gregory Obi as we are confident that Chief Obasanjo cannot win his polling unit and ward in Abeokuta for Obi in the coming Presidential election on 25 February, 2023.
“Chief Obasanjo’s endorsement is not a political currency Mr. Peter Obi can spend anywhere in Nigeria because he is not a political force, even in his part of the country.
“Chief Obasanjo similarly endorsed Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Peoples Democratic Party candidate in 2019 against President Muhammadu Buhari. Atiku was walloped by Buhari with a wide margin in the election.
“History will repeat itself in February as our candidate, Asíwájú Bola Ahmed Tinubu will equally beat Obi by a large margin,” he said.
The APC candidate accused the former president of “Always opposing progressive political forces, as he did against MKO Abiola in 1993.”
Only the endorsement of Nigerians matter to us – PDP
In its reaction, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it is only concerned about the endorsement of the Nigerian people and not that of an individual no matter how important the person is.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba told Daily Trust on phone that Nigerians have endorsed PDP and Atiku Abubakar, saying that the endorsement of a single individual does not bother them.
“Nigerians have endorsed PDP, they have endorsed Atiku Abubakar and that is happening on a daily basis. You can see that from the reception from our campaigns. Our recent victories in Osun, FCT and others are indicators. We are confident that the PDP will win irrespective of whatever endorsement that is given because experience on the ballot matters,” Ologunagba said.
The party spokesman further said the “Endorsement of Obasanjo is that of an individual and it is within his rights to endorse whoever he wants. But as a party, our focus is to get the endorsement of the Nigerian people, no one person endorsement will translate to vote one way or another.
“As important as Obasanjo might be, what is important is that it is within his rights to endorse who he wants, but we are focused on the Nigerian people for their endorsement. What is important is that Nigerians have seen what is happening and they cannot be carried away by an endorsement from an individual. That is why as a party, we are focused on the issues of the election.
“What are the issues? Insecurity, nepotism, inexperience in government, the lack of preparedness of the APC government, which is apparent, those are the issues. The PDP has provided Nigerians with candidate Atiku Abubakar, who has adequate experience for the task ahead. That is why many people even from the APC are coming in to join Atiku. They are leaving the party because they know the true situation of things.” He said.
Why I backed Obi against Atiku, Tinubu – Obasanjo
Obasanjo’s position was contained in an open letter titled: “My Appeal To All Nigerians, Particularly Young Nigerians”, which was made available to our correspondent in Abeokuta, Ogun State, by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi.
In the six-page letter, the former president said his decision was informed by his interactions with the major contestants, who he referred to as his “mentees”.
He said Nigeria needs “Selfless, courageous, honest, patriotic, in short, outstanding leadership with character and fear of God beyond what we have had in the recent past”.
Obasanjo said the attitude of entitlement “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’.”
The former president identified “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 factors that should form the decision of youths while voting for their choice in the 2023 election.
Obasanjo said, “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 a clean track record of achievement both in public and private life.”
‘Nigeria hell on earth under Buhari’
Obasanjo lamented that the last seven and a half years of President Muhammadu Buhari administration “have no doubt been eventful and stressful years for many Nigerians.
“We have moved from frying pan to fire and from the mountain top to the valley. 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,” Obasanjo said.
He urged Nigerians, especially the youths to “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 said the 2023 elections would be a unique opportunity for Nigerians to “correct ourselves by ourselves for the good of ourselves.”
The former president said those preaching division, segregation, and separation as “Enemies of the nation, no matter what else they may disguisedly profess or proclaim.”
How candidates lobbied ex-president for support
Our correspondent reports that all the major presidential candidates had visited Obasanjo at different times to seek his blessing.
On February 26, 2021, PDP’s Atiku Abubakar, who was then aspiring for the party’s ticket visited Obasanjo in Abeokuta.
Obasanjo and Atiku had turned political foes during the second term of the administration between 1999 and 2007.
Daily Trust reports that in 2018, Obasanjo said he had forgiven Atiku for some grievances he had against him while in office and endorsed him as his candidate for the 2019 presidential election. But Atiku lost the contest to President Buhari.
On August 17, 2022, the APC presidential candidate, Tinubu, met with Obasanjo in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Tinubu met Obasanjo as part of his consultation and fence-mending process to actualise his presidential bid.
His chopper landed at 1pm within the premises of Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Oke Mosan, Abeokuta.
Tinubu was received by Governor Dapo Abiodun, his Deputy, Noimot Salako-Oyedele and former governors Olusegun Osoba, Gbenga Daniel and other APC bigwigs, who were already on the ground, who accompanied him to the meeting.
Daily Trust reports both Tinubu and Obasanjo were silent on the outcome of the closed-door meeting.
But Gbajabiamila while speaking the following day at the Surulere Local Government Area (LGA) APC meeting in Surulere, Lagos, reportedly said Obasanjo backed Tinubu’s candidacy during the meeting.
“Obasanjo spoke at length and we were all happy. He embraced our candidate like a brother, gave him a pat on the back and prayed for him copiously”, he reportedly said. In what appeared to be a twist, Obasanjo denied endorsing Tinubu, saying the statement credited to him was fake and that the people behind the report are not helpful to the candidate.
Obasanjo said, “Those claiming to be insiders at the meeting issuing statements on the discussion and those crediting to me statements I had not made are enemies of the visitor and are not doing the visit any good.”
Obi had also met with Obasanjo at least twice over his ambition in Abeokuta.
In July, Obi alongside his running mate, Dr Yusuf Baba-Ahmed, the LP National Chairman, Julius Abure, and the Senior Pastor, Trinity House Church, Ituah Ighodalo met Obasanjo at his penthouse residence.
The LP candidate via his Twitter handle disclosed his visit to Obasanjo, which he hinged on a matter of national interest.
He also met Obasanjo in September.
Former Kano State governor, Sen Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, also visited Obasanjo on May 20, shortly before he emerged as the presidential candidate of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP).
His visit alongside the leaders of the NNPP including the Ogun State Chairman, Oginni Olaposi, was to seek Obasanjo’s backing on his presidential bid.
Kwankwaso, who was governor of Kano State during Obasanjo’s first term, was also appointed as minister of defence by Obasanjo when he failed his re-election bid.
Daily Trust could not get Kwankwaso’s reaction to Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi yesterday as his campaign and party spokespersons did not respond to our reporter’s request for comment.
By Saawua Terzungwe & Baba Martins (Abuja), Peter Moses (Abeokuta)