By Eneoche Ocheme
If we go by Nigerian political precedents, there is considerable reason to doubt that former president Olusegun Obasanjo will go against the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan if he chooses to contest in 2015. But about two weeks ago Obasanjo had a private one-on-one discussion with Alhaji Rasheed Ladoja in Ibadan, and about two weeks after, a split occurred in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at a convention that was not attended by Obasanjo, who is now sponsporing Ladoja as a new secretary for PDP. These two events suggest some linkages.
If this information is true, it suggests some pre-meditated actions on the part of Obasanjo and strengthens the claims in some quarters that he started the fires that currently engulfs the PDP and should therefore be responsible for putting it out. But what does Obasanjo really want and how does the current disarray in the party characterize the political ideology that may be ascribed to him?
To begin to answer this question, it must first be pointed out that the travails currently buffeting the political ship of the PDP, under the leadership of President Jonathan is not new. Obasanjo should actually be the last person to start or stoke such a fire because just before the 2003 re-election of Obasanjo, many swore that he would never be allowed to run for re-election.
To support resistance to Obasanjo’s re-election bid in 2003, the then Senate president, Dr Pius Anyim, now Secretary to the Federal Government, SGF, who was brought in as a Senate president by Obasanjo, to replace the late Dr Chuba Okadigbo, stated that the PDP zoning scheme did not call for a second term for the President, this was a re-enforcement of an earlier report credited to Chief Sonny Okogwu, where the latter contended that there was a deal after Obasanjo’s nomination in Jos in 1999, in which he was supposed to be a ‘one term’ president. Compare this with the recent claims by Governor Aliyu of Niger State.
Moreover, the robust resistance of the so-called G5 governors to President Jonathan today, can also be compared to the antagonism of some former governors like Achike Udenwa of Imo State (see Guardian newspaper August 20, 2002). In the same way, Governor Bafarawa, then governor of Sokoto State insisted that speaking on behalf of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, the North would not back Obasanjo for re-election. Similarly, then Governor Orji Kalu swore that Obasanjo will never be allowed to go for re-election at the expense of a candidate from the South East. All these occurred before the presidential nomination of the PDP in 2003.
So, the resistance to President Jonathan is almost conventional within the PDP, except that it has now been calibrated with higher intensity, leading to a split in the party, purportedly led by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, a veteran of several failed presidential bids. But what may come as a shock to many is the role of Obasanjo in the whole affair.
At some point, he is seen dissociating himself from the activities of the present government, and aligning with perceived rivals of the President for the presidential nomination of the party, and in these instances making scurrilous remarks on the performance of the party in government. Whereas it is well known that if he has an advice to convey to government, he could easily do so through a phone call or through private discussions. At other points in time, he is either forecasting an imminent ‘’Arab spring’’ in Nigeria due to high levels of unemployment arising from lack of job opportunities that he could not provide while he was in office, or he is seen trying to play the role of conciliator and arbitrator of crises within the PDP? What is responsible for this disposition of the former president and what exactly does he want?
It is difficult to understand what former president Obasanjo really wants from President Jonathan. It has even been suggested in some quarters that Anyim’s appointment may have been partly to appease Obasanjo. There are some who even assert that the South West appears not to have much representation in the federal cabinet because of the type of nominations made by Obasanjo, with the exception of the Agriculture Minister from Ogun State who has performed exceedingly well.
In his own tenure as president during his first term, Obasanjo never brooked any dissent, nor heeded any advice from any quarters; he relegated some of the principal founders of the party and their political structures to the sidelines of PDP politics. When he became president, he immediately unseated the party executive and brought in Germade and Nwodo as chairman and secretary of the party respectively. Today he is prodding President Jonathan to shred his own trusted structure and install one that will do Obasanjo’s bidding. While it appears as if the G5 is representing the North, some prominent politicians in the North who understand what Obasanjo can do if the party structures are under his control are uncomfortably and suspicious of his motivations as he prods the G5 further into splitting the PDP.
For instance, Ango Abdullahi a well-known critic of President Jonathan, his bitterness being merely over the claim that the North should exclusively produce a presidential candidate, has this to say about former President Obasanjo: “We thought erroneously that his government’s performance between 1976 and 1979 was his own. But as it turned out to be, we could see that it wasn’t his……how would Nigerians rank Obasanjo from 1999 to when he left office as president? Every record shows that there has never been as much corruption in this country as during that period…”. . The above interview from AriseNigeria blog was conducted in 2011, just before the April election and shows that on Obasanjo’s character, President Jonathan may only just be finding out that he and Ango Abdullahi may just have something they agree on; that Obasanjo cannot be trusted politically.
Can this explain why very few people of note in the South West ever agree with Obasanjo? Can it also explain his unforgiving discord with PDP followers in his home state, which led to the political defeat of the party in the last general election in most local elections? Nonetheless, those who are currently being used by Obasanjo to stoke the embers of discord in the PDP may not know this yet. But, it is still early and there is still enough time for rapprochement or they may find themselves in political limbo after Obasanjo gets what he wants, like others who have been previously used for this type of agendum.
Mr Eneoche, a development analyst, wrote from Abuja.