Obasanjo’s deadly lunch outings
BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN
Given that President Olusegun Obasanjo became a Man of God in the course of his very difficult times during the Sani Abacha regime, it is not surprising that he often goes out to make peace with his enemies. What sensible man wouldn’t after escaping the hangman’s noose by the whiskers?
A normal signpost of Obasanjo’s charm offensive is to eat, dance and merry with the human objects of his peace offensive.
It was in this light that Obasanjo and his entourage, men who have been described by the men of today as ‘yesterday’s vainglorious men’ took the effort to worship with President Goodluck Jonathan at the Aso Villa Chapel last Sunday.
The sight of the two presidents worshipping together must have stupefied many given reports of the sour relationship between them.
Following the church service the two men sat down with close relations and friends for lunch. It is, however, not known whether it was an ancient cuisine fitting for the men of yesterday or a modern junk food patronized by the men of today that was on the table.
Obasanjo’s action should ordinarily be hailed as the right steps of a statesman. But such efforts given the Obasanjo persona are laced with premonition of ill wind.
It was in June 2000 at the height of the face off between Obasanjo and the then senate president, Chuba Okadigbo that he shocked many when he honoured the invitation to commission the senate president’s official residence in Apo. To the amazement of many the president dined and danced away with Okadigbo’s wife in an apparent demonstration of his determination to put the antagonism of yore away.
It was the last time Obasanjo would see Okadigbo as senate president as few days later, the Obasanjo boys in the senate decisively outflanked Okadigbo sending his senate presidency to history.
With Okadigbo out, the remaining sour was the House of Representatives where the majority of its members and its leadership were steadfastly in opposition to Obasanjo.
The Obasanjo that loves his enemies again reached out to Speaker Ghali Na‘Abba and his boys during the Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Abuja in January 2002 when he openly served the speaker and his other principal officers pieces of the anniversary cake.
Few months later, Obasanjo followed up by donating handsomely to Na‘abba’s re-election campaign purse after ensuring that the former speaker got his PDP ticket easily. Few weeks later many were shocked to receive the news that Na‘abba despite his popularity in his constituency lost the main election. The whisper was that the state and the system worked against him.
Chief Audu Ogbeh as national chairman of the PDP served Obasanjo’s desires greatly, but not beyond the point of hurting his conscience. When his conscience could no longer take some of the political foibles of that regime, Ogbeh blurted out in January 2005, irretrievably damaging his relations with the president.
Ogbeh was harassed out of office after initiating a series of exchanges with the president in which he detailed how the party was derailing from the path of democracy.
Despite the harassments that came his way, Ogbeh refused to heed the admonitions of friends and foes to jump ship. After failing to remove him during a meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC meeting of the party, Obasanjo shocked many when he drove with Ogbeh to the latter’s residence where they ate a meal of pounded yam and egusi soup.
A week later with a gun reportedly on his head, Ogbeh was forced to resign his chairmanship of the party.
No one has for now said what was eaten during last Sunday’s make up lunch for the two presidents. No one may bother. That is unless something untoward develops as to make the lunch between President Jonathan and his predecessor and one time benefactor, Obasanjo a footnote in the history of the two men.