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Goodluck Jonathan: Breaking loose from Obasanjo’s PDP?

This report traces the strategy employed by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in hijacking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from its founding fathers and the perceived tango between him and President Goodluck Jonathan over who to replace the out-gone national chairman of their party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor.  Does the president need to break loose?  Will he succeed in cutting Obasanjo’s grip on PDP?

By Jide Ajani , Deputy editor

It is his cross and he must continue to carry it. Because he seems to radiate a negative aura, any act of omission or commission on the part of former President Olusegun Obasanjo is quickly insinuated into the realm of mischief.  For a former military head of state whose strategy of subterfuge helped him neutralise the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the present relationship between Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan is already generating its own heat.  Although the latter continues to present a front of meekness in his dealings with the latter, Sunday Vanguard can reveal that all is not particularly well.

Just last week, Obasanjo visited Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, for the first time since Jonathan was sworn-in as President on May 6, 2010.  For company, Senate President, David Mark, was on hand.


But contrary to reports suggesting that Mark had taken Obasanjo to the Villa to mediate in the face-off between President Jonathan and the former president – Sunday Vanguard can now reveal that nothing of the sort happened.

Aso Rock and Senate sources said it was Obasanjo who sought and got an appointment with President Jonathan and that Obasanjo received a warm welcome.

Sources  told Sunday Vanguard that “Obasanjo wanted to meet with Jonathan on the need for the Board of Trustees of the PDP to meet.  For the meeting to hold, the President needed to be briefed.  And although when Obasanjo was President, Commander-in-Chief, he determined when such meetings took place.

In his position as chairman, now, he sought the President’s understanding, not permission, to call the meeting. The meeting, it was gathered, had been called for Monday, May 24, 2010.  But information for the meeting did not go out until 12noon, Sunday, May 23, 2010.  The message was sent via text messages.  But the meeting had to be postponed as a result of logistics occasioned by inability of mid-day daily flights from some parts of the country. But Obasanjo as chairman of BoT knew the importance of such a meeting, especially at a time when the party was attempting to fill the vacant slot of chairmanship of the party.

Therefore, Obasanjo, in the company of Mark, visited the Villa.

Upon arrival, President Jonathan who was in a meeting, was informed.  Jonathan then excused himself from the meeting to receive both Obasanjo and the Senate President.  That was a demonstration of Jonathan’s respect for Obasanjo.  It was deliberate and calculated. But Obasanjo, ever foxy, while appreciating Jonathan’s gesture insisted that President Jonathan should go ahead and finish his other meeting which was already mid-way.  President Jonathan, Sunday Vanguard was told, insisted on having his parley with the duo of Obasanjo and Mark but Obasanjo refused, saying that the President should just go ahead and finish his meeting.

The duo agreed to return later in the evening for their meeting with the President.  They did.

Obasanjo’s Ways

Obasanjo is a man who would always want to have his way and does have his way – except, of course, his tenure elongation gambit, the Third Term.  However he does it, only he can tell.

During the politicking and lobbying for ministerial appointments three months ago, Obasanjo, according to sources, was always on the phone, piling pressure on the President on who to pick and not to pick.

“He did not only want to dictate the persons to represent south west states, but stretched his influence into other geo-political zones,” a source told Sunday Vanguard. In fact, one of the state governors who were short-changed by Obasanjo in the appointment, from one of the zones said “there was a particular instance when Obasanjo called Jonathan three times in quick succession”.

Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that while this lasted, Jonathan kept his cool.

But at no time did Obasanjo’s forceful nature come to bear on Jonathan than during the quest for a vice presidential nominee.  Obasanjo, at some point, was playing all sides in the North.  He nominated Sule Lamido, Mukhtar Shagari as well as Danjuma Goje.  None of them sailed through as Jonathan had made up his mind to pick Kaduna State governor, Namadi Sambo.

But if Jonathan thought Obasanjo was domineering, he should go back and ask the founding fathers of the PDP, or General Ibrahim Babangida who engineered his return to power in 1999 or Barnabas Gemade, who was used to outwit Sunday Awoniyi in the bid for PDP chairmanship and later dumped; or Audu Ogbe, former chairman of the party whom Obasanjo, against PDP constitution, appointed a Presidential adviser on Agriculture; or Chief Anthony Anenih, who, though serving the system, was an Obasanjo ally but who was cruelly unseated as BoT Chairman, even before the expiration of his tenure (see list of Obasanjo’s victims since 1999)

Jonathan’s Calmness

The history of the relationship between Obasanjo and Jonathan is a study in its own right. Some time in 2006, when local government primaries of the PDP were to be held in Bayelsa State under Jonathan as governor, Obasanjo summoned the latter and Ndutimi Alaibe, then Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to Otta, Obasanjo’s country residence.  The reason was to broker a deal between both men whose loyalists were threatening to turn Bayelsa into a battle field.

At the meeting, it was Obasanjo who saved Jonathan from Alaibe’s rampaging influence in the Bayelsa State chapter of the PDP.  In fact, Alaibe’s resignation letter as MD, NDDC, was rejected by Obasanjo, who insisted that Jonathan should be allowed to seek re-election.

And so, Jonathan became the PDP gubernatorial candidate, only to be further elevated by Obasanjo as Umaru Yar’Adua’s running mate for the 2007 presidential elections.  Therefore, a subservient Jonathan is quite in order. However, “as President, Commander-in-Chief, Jonathan has become wiser and more powerful, not to be pushed around any more”, a source who understands the history of the relationship between Jonathan and Obasanjo very well told Sunday Vanguard.

President Jonathan

Earlier in the month, during the jostling for nomination as vice president, Jonathan gave Obasanjo a dose of his own pill.  Whereas he allowed Obasanjo to keep piling pressure on him, Jonathan never allowed the former president into the workings of his mind.  A source in Aso Rock Presidential Villa told Sunday Vanguard that “’Yes Sir’ became a constant refrain from President Jonathan  to Obasanjo; whenever Obasanjo was the one at the other end of the line, it was always obvious, judging from the way President Jonathan always responded; you did not need to be told who the caller was; Obasanjo’s access was direct and, therefore, President Jonathan could not avoid him”.

At the end of the day, the source went on, “President Jonathan acted presidential by picking a vice president of his choice, just as Obasanjo did in 1999 when he picked Turaki Atiku Abubakar”. Unknown to Obasanjo, while he was busy supplying names to Jonathan, the latter equally kept talking with Namadi Sambo.

“Right inside Aso Rock Villa”, a Villa source told Sunday Vanguard, “Sambo kept coming in and going out and people never noticed or caught the awareness that it could be Sambo.  It was that same week when all hell almost broke loose regarding who the choice would be, Sambo visited the Villa more than twice, even exchanging banters with a few reporters on the beat”, a senior journalist told Sunday Vanguard.

For now, what many thought would have become a degenerate relationship may be going through some frictional motions but is not out of kilter.

Avoiding the way of Yar’Adua- For the late President Yar’Adua, his problem started with Obasanjo when his presidency was hijacked by some of those who later constituted what Nigerians came to know as the cabal.  It was the amount of pressure brought to bear on Yar’Adua that led him to alienate Obasanjo, sometimes denying the latter visits to Aso Rock Presidential Villa.

In fact, Sunday Vanguard gathered that at the height of the David Mark Appeal Court case, some powerful politicians wanted the Senate President to score some points which the former considered cheap.  The idea was to make Obasanjo a cannon fodder, as it had become expedient in the polity to throw barbs at the former President.

The reason why Mark refused to budge and still went on to win his appeal was that “the senate president insisted that Obasanjo had not done any wrong to him therefore, he saw no reason in criticizing him”, a senate source said. In the present case of Jonathan, Sunday Vanguard can reveal that he has been under tremendous pressure from many quarters that he should dump Obasanjo.

Some of those bringing the pressure to bear, including Danjuma, who is also the Chairman of Jonathan’s Presidential Advisory Council, PAC, may be right because of Obasanjo’s long history of political debauchery, many of whom have been victims (see Obasanjo’s victims since 1999). But Jonathan continues to walk the fine line between subservience and outright eyeballing.

What, however, is becoming clearer from the new relationship Jonathan is building with Obasanjo is that while the President is not about to dump Obasanjo, he does not appear ready to submit his presidency to the dictates of a man who spent eight years as President yet, the plethora of problems on ground in 1999 continue to bug Nigeria down in 2010, eleven years after.

This is because Jonathan continues to insist that he wants freedom of the Nigerian citizenry to be an imperative, voting to become a virtue and the introduction of due process as a directive principle of state policy.

Used and dumped by OBJ

This is a catalogue of those Obasanjo used and dumped (and even embarrassed in the process) since 1999

*Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President:  After assisting in the emergence of Obasanjo with the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, wing of the PDP, he became vice President but was soon to know the “new” Obasanjo could be.  In fact, he is a serial victim: First, Obasanjo sought his understanding for a second term on the eve of the PDP primaries in 2003, after which his life was never going to be the same again.

He was made redundant as vice president; then he was not fully re-registered as a PDP member sometime in 2006 after the failure of Third term.  He was almost stopped from contesting the 2007 presidential election even on another party’s platform, the Action Congress, AC.  After some four years of bad blood, he visited Obasanjo in Abeokuta for a truce only to be set-up by the latter who had invited the media to an otherwise private matter. Obasanjo then went to Atiku’s Adamawa State where, unknown to him that he was being recorded and gave sleazy details of Atiku’s political game.

*Commodore Olabode George, former Deputy National Chairman, PDP, Obasanjo’s alter-ego and mouth-piece for all of eight years is languishing in Kirikiri prisons because Obasanjo handed him over to the dogs.  He is serving time for not following due process in awarding contracts (and according to the trial judge, not for stealing or benefitting from the contract proceeds) while he was Chairman, Board of the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA.

*G-34 leaders who formed the embryonic PDP – not up to six of them were left either as leaders of the PDP or in Obasanjo’s administration by May 28, 2007, after his two terms of office

*General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, former military President whom Obasanjo politely told to forget about contesting for the presidency in 2007.

*General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former head of state who handed over to Obasanjo – once Obasanjo took over, he harangued the former head of state so much that the latter always avoided him

*General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, who raised massive funds for Obasanjo’s 1999 election, served as Minister of Defence under Obasanjo but was ditched by Obasanjo before the end of his second term.  Today, they do not see eye to eye as their battle continues.

*Chief Sunday M. Afolabi, who, against all odds in the South West, stuck out his neck for Obasanjo in the early days.  He died with a case of corruption hanging on his neck.

*Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN, who was one of those who helped Obasanjo respond to the impeachment notice handed to him by the National Assembly
*Anyim Pius Anyim, former Senate President, whose romance with Obasanjo became legendary.  Even the story of the allegedly forged Electoral Act, 2002, is yet to be fully told.  But once Anyim broke loose from Obasanjo’s grip, the latter went after him, prompting him to bid the Senate farewell.

*Adolphus Wabara, whom, Obasanjo forced into the Senate in 2003, made him Senate President; but Obasanjo made a public embarrassment of Wabara when he addressed the nation on the alleged N55million bribe for screening scandal involving the Senate and Education Minister, Professor Osuji (Error regretted)

*Chuba Okadigbo, another former Senate President whom Obasanjo felicitated with in the House-Warming ceremony of the Senate President’s residence and a few hours later arranged for his removal as Senate President.

*Ghali Umar Na’Abba, former Speaker, House of Representatives, whom Obasanjo’s PDP assisted in a fund-raising for his campaign for a return to the House, only for the same PDP in Kano State to assist the opposition in causing Na’Abba’s defeat

*Leaders of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political and economic organization, whom Obasanjo cajoled to instruct their wards, the Alliance for Democracy, AD, state governors to support his second term bid.

*Five of the six AD state governors – Segun Osoba of Ogun State; Lamidi Adeshina of Oyo State; Ade Adefarati of Ondo State; Niyi Adebayo of Ekiti State; Bisi Akande of Osun State – who were all deceived into not holding local government elections, contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution that there shall be at all times a democratically elected councils for local governments in Nigeria.  Obasanjo didn’t want the LG elections in those states because he knew he would never win any seat and, therefore, would be deprived of delegates to the PDP national convention where his fate would be determined via presidential primaries.

*Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State, with whom he worked in 2003 to become governor; today, there is a bitter feud between both men and most people, knowing Obasanjo, place the blame at his doorsteps.

*Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, a business man and long time friend of Obasanjos.
*Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State, after spending so much money to sustain and promote the PDP, his presidential ambition was not made to germinate beyond the level of an aspiration by Obasanjo.


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