Obasanjo’s mosque: The mysteries, mission and his men

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By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Daud Olatunji
When the sharia legal system was launched in 1999, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had described it as Political Sharia which he said would fizzle away.

Having gone into what he claimed to be retirement, President Obasanjo last Friday caused a stir when he gathered Muslim associates of his to raise funds for a mosque project within his presidential library. Will it fizzle away like political sharia?

DRESSED as usual in the Hausa traditional flowing gown, the sight of Atiku Abubakar genuflecting before a seated Olusegun Obasanjo at the Customs conference in Katsina last Wednesday almost wiped away bitter memories of the past power struggle between both men.

Few men would have heard the discussion between both men that day, but the body language of their actions is increasingly becoming clear to many of a surreptitious political shift in the country.

Before making his appearance in Katsina, Obasanjo had been in the Southeast where he put up appearance at the burial ceremonies of the father of one of his former ministers, Mr. Frank Nweke jnr.

Besides the burial service, Obasanjo it was learnt, also made contact with strategic political stakeholders in the Southeast.

Before traveling to the Southeast, the 75 year old former president had last Friday played host to a fund raising for a mosque project in the President Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta.

The exerting journey from the Southwest, to the Southeast and to the North by the former president would come as a surprise to those who received Obasanjo’s retirement from politics last April.

In his resignation notice sent to President Goodluck Jonathan, his one time protégée, the three time Nigeria leader said that his disengagement as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP would allow him devote himself to international duties and also allow him mentor others locally and abroad.

By relieving myself of the responsibility for chairmanship of BOT of PDP, I will have a bit more time to devote to the international demand on me,” Obasanjo had said in a shocking development that caught the nation off guard last April.

He added that his disengagement would also create time for him “to give some attention to mentoring across the board nationally and internationally in those areas that I have acquired some experience, expertise and in which I have something to share.”

The journeys across the country and the reconciliation with former foes, it was learnt are indicative of the desperation of the former president to salvage what is increasingly being felt what is left of a legacy.

The Obasanjo legacy which was at one time believed to be personalized in President Umaru Yar‘adua and after him, in President Goodluck Jonathan, it is now generally believed is in danger.

That danger is reflected in the increasing rift between presidential godfather and godson which came to fore on national television about two weeks ago when President Jonathan openly dismissed Obasanjo’s insinuations of weak leadership.

Jonathan in a national television media chat had rubbished Obasanjo’s application of force in Odi, Bayelsa State in 1999 saying that it was a failure. Before Jonathan went to bed that night penultimate Sunday, Obasanjo was in contact with his Man Friday, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode who the following morning

“With the greatest respect to Mr. President this is factually incorrect,” Fani-Kayode said in a press statement following Jonathan’s television appearance. “He has either forgotten the relevant facts or he has been misinformed.

Whichever way he is mistaken and it is important for those of us that proudly served the Obasanjo administration to respond to him in order to clarify the issues, clear the air and set the record straight for the sake of history and posterity,” Fani-Kayode who served as Obasanjo’s Minister of Culture and before then presidential aide said.

Signs of the rift between the former president and President Jonathan are also reflected in the cantankerous relationship between core elements in the Obasanjo presidency and the Jonathan administration.

Direction of the country

Among them are Fani-Kayode, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu among many others.

Besides, at 75 Obasanjo is alleged to be seriously concerned about the direction of the country.

But even more, the former president is said to be worried about the import of President Jonathan seeking another term in office in 2015 and the import of that on the polity.

Obasanjo it is believed to have assured northern political stakeholders ahead of the 2011 general elections that President Jonathan would exit in 2015 and allow the presidency to return to the north.

However, no sooner than after the last presidential elections the former president it was learnt began to sense plans by President Jonathan to seek a second term in 2015 and allegedly became discomfited over the development.

Whether Obasanjo voiced his objection to the incumbent president is not known, but his action in resigning from the Board of Trustees of the PDP is believed to be his first action to distance himself from the collateral damages that may ensue from whatever plans Jonathan has for a second term.

Known for his nationalistic tendencies, Obasanjo it was learnt, believes that at 75 he still has one last mission to prevent Jonathan from self destruction or destruction of the polity through a second term.

The mosque project was perhaps the first in the unfolding strategy for the Owu born Christian. Remarkably, the event which was supposed to be a solemn religious gathering was largely interpreted as a political strategy forum towards 2015.

The geopolitical spread of guests at the fund raising was equally significant.

None of the governors of the South East and South South geopolitical zones where Jonathan is believed to be counting on for his 2015 aspiration was present.

It was gathered that, Obasanjo decided to construct a mosque within

the premises of the Presidential Library to make the place look international and as well erase the impression that, he hates northerners  and their religion which is  Islam.

An insider at the Obasanjo Hilltop building hinted that, shortly before

the event , Obasanjo held a closed door meeting  with the four northern governors that came; Usman Dakingari of Kebbi, Rabi Kwakwanso of Kano , Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto and the Katsina state governor, Shehu- Shema who  was represented by  his deputy.

Remarkably, all four northern governors are said to have presidential aspirations in 2015.

Construction of the mosque

Besides, some state governments such as Adamawa, Niger , Kaduna , Katsina Zamfara Kogi ,Kwara and  Ogun  states also donated N20 million each  for the construction of the mosque.

Atiku Abubakar who could not attend sent N5 million through his friend Otunba Oyewole Fasawe who ironically fell out with Obasanjo on account of his (Oyewole’s) close association with Atiku at the peak of the troubles between the former president and the former vice-president.

Speaker Aminu Tambuwal of the House of Representatives, Chairman of Dangote group of companies ,Alhaji  Aliko  Dangote, former governor of  Kebbi State , Senator Adamu Aleiro were also present at the mosque fund raising.

Immediate past governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki who is still mourning his father and still has his eyes in the 2015 contest did not miss out and pledged his own N2 million to the Obasanjo mosque.

The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Lamido Sanusi who was in his traditional attire made a personal donation of N5 million.

Addressing the people at the gathering, Obasanjo  who counseled Nigerians to be tolerant and accommodating said  the legacy he is laying with the mosque project is one “that knows no boundaries, religion, gender, age, tribe,race language.”

Concluding, he said: “This legacy must serve the community, and if we are to serve the communities, it must reflect inspite of the odds of the community,” Obasanjo said.

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