This is a focus on the attempt by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to yank off the ‘Yar’Adua problem’ which has become an  albatross on his neck. Can he succeed?  Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor examines how far he can go.

Olusegun Obasanjo thought he had it going.  The former president already had about 11 members queuing behind his position. But he was shot down. It was at the Board of Trustees’ meeting of Thursday, January 14, 2010.

A senator from the north got up to speak in what Sunday Vanguard later discovered was a choreographed move – in concert, of course, with Obasanjo as Chairman, BOT, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.  As chairman, he presided and directed the affairs of the meeting.  So, when the senator from the north got up to speak, Obasanjo allowed him all of 30 minutes to make his presentation at a time when the meeting was about being concluded.

The senator said he was very sad at the turn of events, especially as the BOT meeting was being wound down, that the most burning issue in Nigeria was not being discussed dispassionately.  He said he had hoped that the BOT would rise to the occasion and lead the way for Nigerian in the present impasse over President. Obasanjo allowed him to speak for 30 minutes.

Then Obasanjo made his own case.  He said it was time for President Yar’Adua to do the right thing, which is, write formally to the National Assembly about his vacation, an act which automatically transfers power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.

Ibrahim Mantu, former Deputy senate President and a one-time Obasanjo acolyte, Sunday Vanguard was told, led the BOT members who shot Obasanjo’s move down.

They countered Obasanjo’s argument insisting that the constitution, as it is, has not suffered any breach on account of what President Yar’Adua has done or not done.

Then penultimate Thursday, the same Obasanjo, speaking this time at a public forum went for President Yar’Adua’s jugular.  Said he: “If you take up an appointment, a job, elected, appointed, what ever it is and then your health start failing and will not be able to deliver to satisfy yourself and satisfy the people who you are supposed to serve, then there is a path of honour you are supposed to take. There is a path of hounour and morality and if you don’t know that then you don’t know anything”.

Many have criticized Obasanjo for attempting to shield himself from what is now being described as the Yar’Adua problem which, might it be added, he is accused of creating.

The attacks have become so virulent because Obasanjo dared say that in his bid to get a good successor, he wanted an individual with enough intellectual capacity to run the affairs of the Nigeria nation and that two, such an individual would possess sufficient personal integrity and, three, the person is sufficiently broad minded enough, politically, religiously, socially.  Obasanjo said “these three were important and very primary to me”.

Why Obasanjo Came Out Smoking
For a man who did the campaign for Umaru Musa Yar’Adua for all of four months, Obasanjo handed over on May 29, 2007, believing that he had put a stooge in office.  One of the first things Yar’Adua did as president was to launch an assault on Obasanjo’s so called reform programmes.  Even the Independent Power Project, IPP, which Obasanjo had hoped would provide adequate power supply to Nigerians, was allowed to be rubbished using the subterfuge of a probe. Then, next on the chopping block were the so called army of Obasanjo boys both in government and the PDP.

But what Sunday Vanguard learnt actually made Obasanjo come out openly is far from his desire to see his boy, Goodluck Jonathan, whom he made governor and later Vice President, to take over – although it is not totally unconnected.

It was gathered that Obasanjo had made a number of discoveries on the modus operandi of some of the key players in the Yar’Adua administration even before Yar’Adua traveled to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.  It was gathered that  Obasanjo, armed with a photocopy of a financial instrument, confronted Yar’Adua on the delinquent nature of some of the actions of one of his core loyalists, asking, “Umoru, is this right”? The individual in question remains a very strong pillar in the Yar’Adua administration.

Another incident which related to the facilitation of an award of a contract to a multi-national corporation also saw another core loyalist making demands which bothered on the avaricious.  This was also said to have been brought to the notice of Yar’Adua but the individual still remains one of those calling the shots in Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Conversely, Sunday Vanguard learnt that on a few occasions, Obasanjo himself had attempted to facilitate some engagements with Yar’Adua but the latter was always shielded from him.

In fact, this was why Obasanjo told some of the people who had sought clarification on his outburst penultimate Thursday that “they annoyed” him.

What Obasanjo Said
“Then Umoru Yar’Adua who is now president, I know he had kidney problem and was under dialysis. Sometimes earlier he had gone abroad for almost six months when he was governor of Katsina. When the idea was for him to contest I asked him and he gave me a medical report.

The medical report shows that he has turn off dialysis. I asked experts who then told me that if you are on dialysis and you are no longer on dialysis, it means you have had a successful kidney transplant and that you can live for as long as you may wish to live.

“Now that was the situation before we went campaigning and you remember at one stage of the campaigns, it was intense, he was run  down, the Chairman of our party then Ahmadu Ali was also run down. Ahmadu Ali didn’t go abroad for check up but he went abroad for checkup and the rumour was that he was dead. And I phoned him and I put the telephone on speaker and I said ‘Umoru are you dead?’ and you heard his voice live and clear and he came back and continued the campaign. That was the true situation. That was the true situation.

“And Umoru to the best of my knowledge wasn’t on dialysis after that. When the issue of dialysis came he was well into his first year which must mean one thing, that the kidney transplant is failing. If that is the case, that is an emergency situation, you cannot put the blame on him.

So for people to say that I Olusegun Obasanjo deliberately picked somebody who is an invalid, I think it is the height, height of insult. How can I who has given so much to this country, both in peace and in war give the running of this country to somebody who will run it down? If you have fear of God you will not make that statement.   Speaking further, he said, “If you say there is a constitutional crisis or no constitutional crisis, I will not comment on that. What I needed to say on that I have said as the chairman of my Board of Trustees last week. But the one that I need to say is the fact that nobody picked Yar’Adua so that he will not perform. If I did that God will punish me…yes, because I love this country so much that there is no way I can do that”.

Condemnation Galore
Once Obasanjo made that statement, he took off to Cotonou, Republic of Benin.
But criticism trailed him all the way there.  From being a self-serving old man from Owu, Ogun State, to being a  power monger who has suddenly seen another opportunity to feast on a possible Jonathan presidency, Obasanjo received a plethora of attacks.  Many insist that Obasanjo should not be the one asking Yar’Adua to do the right thing because righteousness begets righteousness.  The subtext being that Obasanjo willfully imposed Yar’Adua on Nigeria therefore, he has no business sermonizing.

PDP, his party, took him on thus:  “That General Obasanjo has been a subject of ridicule despite his pre-eminent position in society is unfortunate and indeed a great disservice to all the accolades he has garnered for himself over the years. It is even worse that the odium he currently faces from friends and foes alike is self inflicted because his comments are generally perceived as unwarranted and an insincere attempt at self exoneration. The Peoples Democratic Party therefore finds it difficult to understand what his motives are, and what he seeks to achieve by these needless pronouncements”.

Ogbeni Lanre Banjo, National Conscience Party,NCP, gubernatorial candidate, 2003 and 2007, from far away United States, also added his voice to the growing criticism of Obasanjo:  “In 1979, General Olusegun Obasanjo glaringly demonstrated his undemocratic norm to all and sundry by ensuring that the “best man” was not given the opportunity to rule Nigeria, even if elected by Nigerians. This action resulted in the destruction of our economy and taking over of power by General Muhammadu Buhari, later by the evil genius, General Ibrahim Babangida, followed by the annulment of the freest and fairest election in the annals of the country, and finally by General Sani Abacha. One would have thought that age and experience of life would have taught Obasanjo better.

Twenty eight years later Obasanjo took the same stand that it would “not augur well” for him to hand over power to a Southerner regardless of who Nigerians voted for.  This is the most corrosive insulting statement to the collective intelligence of well-meaning and truly patriotic Nigerians”.

Can He Wash  Himself Clean?
Whereas since Obasanjo made his comments other well-meaning Nigerians have jumped on the bandwagon, insisting that Yar’Adua should do the right thing, that does not in any way mitigate from the fact that Obasanjo’s imposition of Yar’Adua in 2007 is not the genesis of the present crisis.

Apart from the Anyim Pius Anyim group which visited the National Assembly last week, a new group, Eminent Elders’ Group, EEG, came out last Thursday meeting with Senate President David Mark, Speaker Dimeji Bankole and Vice President Jonathan, with an admonition that Yar’Adua should transmit the necessary letter to the national assembly. The EEG comprises: Yakubu Gowon, former Head of State (1966 – 1975); Shehu Shagari, President (1979 – 1983); Ernest Shonekan, Head, ING (1993); Alex Ekwueme, Vice President (1979 – 1983); Mojammed Uwais, CJN (1993 – 2006); Alfa Belgore, CJN (2006 – 2007); T Y Danjuma, Minister of Defence (1999 – 2003); Jerry Gana, former minister; Adamu Ciroma, foemr minister, former CBN governor; Edwin Clark, former minister; Ahmed Joda, former Perm Sec; Solomon Lar, former PDP Chairman; and Jonathan Zwingina, former senator.

It may be easy to muddle the intentions up.
However, the facts of Yar’Adua’s emergence would always drown whatever laundry attempt Obasanjo makes.

How Obasanjo Imposed Yar’Adua
First, Obasanjo pulled all the stops, bruising noses, breaking limbs, threatening men of means and substance, all in his bid to ensure that Yar’Adua emerged as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

For a man who had already secured  an appointment to teach in the university after his gubernatorial stint for eight years in Katsina, Yar’Adua was the last person Nigerians expected to bid for the presidency.

In a field which had heavyweights like Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, a disengaged General of the Nigerian Army and former military President; Aliyu Muhammed Gusau, another disengaged General of the Nigerian Army who served as national Security Adviser, NSA, to Obasanjo for almost eight years; former governors of Rivers, Kaduna, Bauchi, Nassarawa, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Cross River, Jigawa, Imo, Peter Odili, Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, Adamu Mu’Azu, Adamu Abdullahi, Obong Victor Attah, Chimaroke Nnamani, Donald Duke, Saminu Turaki and Achike Udenwa, Obasanjo muscled all of them into submission – even the expected keen voting at the convention between Gusau and Yar’Adua became a no-competition as the sea slide victory of the latter put paid to many a presidential ambition.

And with the instrumentality of the presidency, muscling Vice President Atiku Abubakar out of the PDP, and even creating landmines on his path to contesting as a candidate on another platform, and the mushrooming of presidential candidates from over 40 nondescript political parties, the coast was all but clear for the emergence of a Yar’Adua presidency.

After all these, Obasanjo wants Nigerians to believe he did not impose Yar’Adua.

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