January 2, 2023

2023: Atiku, Tinubu kick as Obasanjo endorses Peter Obi

PDP, APC, LP reel out security plans ahead of polls


By Dapo Akinrefon, Omeiza Ajayi, John Alechenu & James Ogunnaike, ABEOKUTA

MIXED reactions, yesterday, greeted former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s endorsement of the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi,  for the nation’s exalted seat in the February 25 Presidential election.

While the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, described Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi as worthless, the LP and Director-General of the Obi-Datti Campaign Organisation, Mr Akin Osuntokun, commended Obasanjo, saying the endorsement is a clarion call to other statesmen, Nigerians.

Obasanjo, in a letter titled ‘My Appeal to all Nigerians, particularly Young Nigerians’, described Peter Obi “as a needle with thread attached to it from North and South and he may not get lost.”

The former president, however, urged young Nigerians to stop inheriting other people’s prejudices and enemies.

The letter reads: “I am constrained to write this letter to all Nigerians especially young Nigerians, friends of Nigeria globally as well as our development partners because of the gravity, responsibility and implications of the collective decision Nigerians, both young and old, will be made within the next two months.

“The last seven and a half years have no doubt been eventful and stressful years for many Nigerians. We have moved from frying pan to fire and from the mountain top to the valley.


Last 7 years hell on earth

“Our leaders have done their best but their best had turned out to be not the best for Nigeria and Nigerians at home and abroad. For most Nigerians, it was hell on earth.

“Those of us who are alive should thank God for His mercies, brace ourselves for the remaining few months of this administration and pray and work very hard for an immediate better future – a future of liberation, restoration and great hope and expectation.

“We have had campaigners going up and down the country feeding us with what they mean and what they do not mean, what they understand and what they do not fully understand, what is possible and what is not possible, what is realistic and what is unrealistic, what is true and what is untrue. I believe that we need not be confused or gullible. Let us be cautious, not to be fooled again.

“I have interacted with the major contestants and I find it interesting that, in one form or the other, each of them claims to want to do what I did during my Presidency and to take Nigeria back to where it was at the height of my Presidency and immediately after.

“I was pained that most of them do not realise that the Nigeria of today had been dragged down well below Nigeria at the beginning of my Presidency in June 1999.

“Although at that time, Nigeria was in very bad shape and was tottering on the verge of collapse and break-up. Even then, Nigeria was not faced with the level of pervasive and mind-numbing insecurity, rudderless leadership, buoyed by mismanagement of diversity and pervasive corruption, bad economic policies resulting in extremes of poverty and massive unemployment and galloping inflation.

“For these reasons, I kept pointing out to them that the instruments used from 1999 to 2007 and the methodology used will grossly be inadequate for the perilous situation we now find ourselves in.

“Without prejudice but with the greatest respect to each individual with the utmost regard for the best for Nigeria and all Nigerians and from my experience, all the major contestants claim to be my mentees. I will not deny such positions since I have worked with all of them directly and indirectly in government.

“I have come to realise several factors in character, attributes and attitude that are necessary for the job of directing the affairs of Nigeria successfully and at a time like this. These characteristics or attributes are many but let us be mindful of some key ones together.

Factors to watch out for in a leader

“From interaction and experience, and as mentees as most of them claim, I will, without prejudice, fear or ill-will, make bold to say that there are four major factors to watch out for in a leader you will consider to hoist on yourself and the rest of Nigerians in the coming election and they are what I call TVCP: Track record of ability and performance; Vision that is authentic, honest and realistic; Character and attributes of a lady and a gentleman who are children of God and obedient to God; and Physical and mental capability with the soundness of mind as it is a very taxing and tasking assignment at the best of times and more so it is at the most difficult time that we are.

Emilokan wrong mentality for Nigeria’s leadership

“Let me say straight away that ‘Emi Lokan’ (My turn) and ‘I have paid my dues’ are the same thing and are wrong attitudes and mentality for the leadership of Nigeria now. They cannot form the new pedestal to reinvent and invest in a new Nigeria based on an All-Nigeria Government for the liberation and restoration of Nigeria. Such a government must have representation from all sectors of our national life – public, private, civil society, professional, labour, employers, and the diaspora.

“Solution should be in ‘we’ and ‘us’ and not in ‘me’ and ‘I’

Mind you, I reiterate that no human being is an angel let alone a Messiah, but there are elements of these attributes and on a comparative basis and by the measure of what we know of, and what some of us have experienced from the front-runners, we must assess judiciously and choose wisely.

“If anybody claims he or she has anything to the contrary, it will be up to him or her to prove to us.

“I pray not to be proved right again in the bad sense but rather to be proved right in the positive and glorious sense of Nigeria becoming what God had created it to be – a land of plenty and prosperity united for the common purpose of an inclusive society, common security, shared prosperity, equity, egalitarianism, justice, and equal stake in the Project Nigeria with the leadership role of Nigeria for the black race and fair share of a global division of labour.

“One ridiculous point that has been touted to justify unjustifiable appointments and selections is ‘competence’. In truth and reality, genuine competence can be found in any region or section of Nigeria through track record and performance if only people will honestly and sincerely look hard for people with such attainment and attribute. Most of us in good conscience can testify to competence when we see any anywhere. What is masqueraded as ‘competence’ is self-interest and nepotism.

“We have a unique opportunity to correct ourselves by ourselves for the good of ourselves. Those who are preaching division, segregation, separation, and want to use diversity for their self and selfish interest are enemies of the nation, no matter what else they may disguisedly profess or proclaim.”

We must not fall prey again

Speaking further, the former president said: “If we fall prey again, we will have ourselves to blame and no one can say how many more knocks Nigeria can take before it tips over. To be forewarned is to be fore-armed. The future is not emotion. I challenge the youth to arise. Let nobody pull wool over your eyes to divide you and/or segregate you to make you underlings. Nigerian youth, wherever they come from, North or South, East or West need education which is now denied to over 20 million children; Nigerian youth also need skills, empowerment, employment, reasonably good living conditions, welfare and well-being.

Challenges young Nigerians

“My dear young men and women, you must come together and bring about a truly meaningful change in your lives. If you fail, you have no one else to blame. Your present and future are in your hands to make or to mar. The future of Nigeria is in the same manner in your hands and so. If for any reason you fail to redeem yourself and your country, you will have lost the opportunity for good and you will have no one to blame but yourselves and posterity will not forgive you. Get up, get together, get going and get us to where we should be. And you, the youth, it is your time and your turn. ‘Eyin Lokan’ (Your turn).

“The power to change is in your hands. Your future, my future, and the future of grandchildren and great-grandchildren are in your hands. Politics and elections are a game of numbers. You have the numbers, get up, stand up and make your numbers count.

Nigeria has no business with insecurity, poverty

“Let me say it again, loud and clear, Nigeria has no business with insecurity, poverty, insurgency, banditry, unemployment, hunger, debt, division and disunity. We are in these situations because advertently or inadvertently, our leaders have made the choices. They have done the best they could do. Let them take their rest deservedly or not and let them enjoy their retirement as septuagenarians or older.

“I became Head of State at 39 and 42, I had retired into the farm. When it was considered necessary, I was drafted back into active political life after 20 years of interregnum. I came back at 62 and by 70, I was on my way out.

“Others like General Gowon and Enahoro became national leaders at 33 and 27 respectively and General Gowon at the helms of the leadership of Nigeria at the highest level. The vigour, energy, agility, dynamism and outreach that the job of leadership of Nigeria requires at the very top may not be provided by a septuagenarian or older.

“I know that from personal experience. And it is glaring out of our current experiences. Otherwise, we will be fed with, “The President says” and we will neither see nor hear him directly as we should. Yes, for some, age and physical and mental disposition are not in tandem.

“But where and when they are with obvious evidence, they must be taken into account for purpose of reality. And yet it is a job in our present situation where the team leader or captain of the team should be up and doing, outgoing inside and outside and speaking to the nation on almost daily basis visibly and as much as possible interactively and meeting his colleagues all over the world on behalf of Nigeria.

Awa Lokan (Our turn)

“Youth of Nigeria, your time has come, and it is now and please grasp it. If not now, it will be never. I appeal to you to turn the tide on its head and march forward chanting ‘Awa Lokan’ (It is our turn) not with a sense of entitlement, but with a demonstrable ideological commitment to unity and transformation of Nigeria.

Leave the past, face the future

“Can we let the past go? I appeal to young Nigerians to stop inheriting other people’s prejudices and enemies. Make your friends and stop inheriting your father’s enemies. Let’s stop criminalizing and demonizing one another based on the civil war on which we are all wrong. And let’s praise and thank God for preserving the oneness of Nigeria. The Scripture says that if God would take account of all our wrongdoings, nobody would be able to stand before Him. While not suffering from amnesia, let us stop still fighting and reacting to the civil war in our hearts, minds, heads and our attitude acrimoniously.

No region can claim to be innocent

Let’s stop living on our different wrongs or mistakes of the past: treasonable felony, the Tiv riot and its handling, the first military coup and its aftermath; the second military coup, Araba, pogrom and the civil war, all in the 1960s. And more recently OPC, Egbesu, MASSOB, IPOB, Boko Haram and banditry. No region can claim to be innocent or to be saintly. And no justification will suffice. In our respective individual or regional positions, we have done right and we have done wrong. It is therefore not right for any of us to be sanctimonious to see ourselves as saints and the rest as devils incarnate.

“Just let us agree to move forward together in mutual forgiveness, one accord, inclusive society, equality and equity. Together and without bias and discrimination, fear or favour, we can have Nigeria as one nation in diversity, in truth and practice.

“Let us honour, cherish, respect and even celebrate our diversity which is the basis of our potential greatness and strength. If we will only continue to harp on wrongs done by each of us individually or collectively, we will never be able to stand together.

If we will continue with a wide brush to paint a national or sub-national group as bad and never to be trusted with leadership because of past errors or mistakes that some of them were responsible for and treat their offspring as inheritors, it will amount to great injustice that will surely lead to no peace, no security and no stability for development and progress.

“First, no group is faultless; second, for the greatness of the whole, we need one another as constituents of the whole; third, we cannot be talking and working for Africa’s integration and Nigeria’s disintegration at the same time. “Why for instance should I be stigmatized or despised because of my place of origin, place of birth or where I come from? Where I was born, by whom I was born and when I was born were not choices made by me. They were choices and prerogatives of God. Any antagonism against me on that basis is unfair and is tantamount to fighting against God, the Creator.

We must rise above primordial animalistic instincts

“Such derogatory attitude and mindset do not build any human institution let alone a nation. While not forgetting the past, let us put the past behind us so it does not continue to mar our present and our future and that of the coming generation. We must rise above primordial animalistic instincts and behaviour. Yes, we are human and higher than animals in the wild. Let us develop the national ethos and national characteristics that can take us collectively to the promised.

“My dear young men and women, let me assure you that there are only two tribes of people in Nigeria a tribe of good people and a tribe of bad people. You are either a good Nigerian of Igbo extraction, Kanuri extraction or a bad Nigerian of Yoruba extraction, Ijaw extraction.

“I will at this juncture want to commend the politicians as they have generally been reasonably civil in their campaigns without making politics a call to war against opponents. Genuine and fair competition conveys greater legitimacy in any political rivalry or competition.

“A situation where people in authority and power assume such positions through foul and despicable means and continue to espouse and act in ways that only engender conflict or war by subverting legitimacy of power and authority does not augur well for the polity and as such, the moral foundation of the government and the society will be weakened.

May God help, save, protect and sustain Nigeria for all Nigerians, Africa and the human race.

We can only continue to play politics of ethnicity, religion, region and moneybags at the peril of our country and to self-destruction.

“We need selfless, courageous, honest, patriotic, in short, outstanding leadership with character and fear of God beyond what we have had in recent past.

None of the contestants is a saint

“None of the contestants is a saint but when one compares their character, antecedent, understanding, knowledge, discipline and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job, particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that I had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge..

“Others, like all of us, have what they can contribute to the new dispensation to liberation, restoration and salvaging of Nigeria collectively.

“One other important point to make about Peter is that he is a needle with thread attached to it from North and South and he may not get lost. In other words, he has people who can pull his ears, if and when necessary. Needless to say that he has a young and able running mate with a clean track record of achievement both in public and private life.

“In conclusion, I want to bring to our remembrance part of the great speech that Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa made on October 7, 1960, on the occasion of Nigeria being admitted as the 99th member of the United Nations:

“Co-operation is for each man to be true to his religious belief and to reaffirm the basic principles of his particular creed. It may be that, when we hear the world crying out for peace, we may receive the inspiration to deal with these intractable problems and be able to devote all our resources to the advancement of mankind by applying those eternal truths which will inevitably persist long after we are utterly forgotten.

“The Tafawa Balewas are gone. But the eternal truths inevitably remain and persist that cooperation, friendship, justice, equity, love and fear of God which are hallmarks of the three religions practised in this country are the basis of our full and fulfilled lives and living as Nigerians.

“In faith as Nigerians, we must pray and relate with God as it depends on Him and at the same time, in faith also we must work as it depends on us. Then we will win.”

Your endorsement of Obi is worthless, Tinubu tells OBJ

Reacting to the endorsement, the APC Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Tinubu described it as “worthless”.

Tinubu, in a statement by the Director, Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Mr Bayo Onanuga, said he was responding to the development after a series of calls by journalists seeking his reaction.

The statement reads: “We read with amusement the endorsement of Mr Peter Obi, the Labour Party Presidential Candidate by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his New Year message on Sunday.

“Following calls by journalists from various media houses who asked for our reaction we decided to make this preliminary statement, though we didn’t consider the so-called endorsement to be of any value.

“We respect the democratic right of former President Obasanjo to support and endorse any candidate of his choice in any election.”

The Tinubu campaign council added that except that the former president formally made his decision known in his New Year message, “any discerning political watcher in Nigeria knows that Chief Obasanjo’s preference for Peter Obi is expected.”

Noting that Obasanjo is not a democrat, who anyone should be proud to be associated with, the Tinubu campaign said it would not lose any sleep over the development.

The organisation said: “We make bold to say that our party and candidate, Bola Tinubu will not lose sleep over Obasanjo’s move, as Obasanjo is notorious for always opposing progressive political forces, as he did against MKO Abiola in 1993.

“The endorsement is worthless because the former President does not possess any political goodwill or leverage anywhere in Nigeria to make anyone win a Councillorship election let alone win a Presidential election. He is a political paperweight.

“He is also not a democrat anyone should be proud to be associated with.

“We recall that in 2003 and 2007 general elections when he was a sitting President, Obasanjo used all the coercive instruments of State at his disposal to railroad people into elective offices against the will of Nigerians as expressed at the polls. In 2007, he declared the polls a do-or-die affair after he failed in his bid to amend our constitution to have a third term.

“From our records, President Obasanjo has not successfully made anyone win an election in Nigeria since then.

“Not even in Ogun State can anyone rely on his support or endorsement to become a governor or councillor.

“We pity Peter Obi as we are confident that Chief Obasanjo cannot win his polling unit and ward in Abeokuta for Obi in the coming Presidential election on 25 February 2023.

“Chief Obasanjo’s endorsement is not a political currency Mr Peter Obi can spend anywhere in Nigeria because he is not a political force, even in his part of the country.

“Chief Obasanjo similarly endorsed Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Peoples Democratic Party candidate in 2019 against President Muhammadu Buhari. Atiku was walloped by Buhari with a wide margin in the election.

“History will repeat itself in February as our candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will equally beat Obi by a large margin.

“We take particular notice of the part of the endorsement statement where Chief Obasanjo said none of the presidential candidates is a saint.

“We want to state here that Chief Obasanjo is not a good judge of character. He is a man who considers only himself as the all-knowing saint in Nigeria.

“Over the years, Chief Obasanjo has also convinced himself that integrity, honesty and all good virtues begin and end with him.”

It has killed Atiku’s chances, says Keyamo

On his part, Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN, described Obi’s endorsement as a bad commentary on the chances of the Presidential Candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Keyamo, who is the Director, Public Affairs and Chief Spokesperson of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, PCC, however, said the former president was well within his rights to make his choices known.

The Minister, in a tweet, said: “Quite within Obasanjo’s right to endorse anyone, but bad for PDP in two ways: One, Atiku’s former boss does not think he deserves to be President this time around. Two, the little support Obasanjo gave PDP in 2019 and they failed, he has taken that away to LP. No effect at all on @officialABAT”.

ObJ’s wish on Obi doesn’t reflect wishes of Nigerians—Atiku/Okowa Campaign

Also, the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organization said Obasanjo’s subjective support for Obi was his personal wish, which does not reflect the opinion or position of overwhelming majority of Nigerians across the country.

Spokesperson, Atiku/Okowa Campaign Organization, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan said: “While former President Obasanjo is entitled to his personal opinion; as remarkable as it may appear, it remains individualistic and cannot redirect Nigerians from their determination to rally with the more experienced, more proficient and more accepted Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, to rescue and rebuild our nation from the APC misrule.

“What is surprising to majority of Nigerians is that in the face of the alarming challenges facing the nation, which requires a tried and tested hand, former President Obasanjo is suggesting a candidate that has not had any experience in governance at the national level.

“In any case, Chief Obasanjo’s opinion cannot sway Nigerians who can easily remember how he endorsed President  Buhari, whose administration, he (Obasanjo) now describes as “stressful years for many Nigerians,” during which our nation “moved from frying pan to fire and from mountain top to the valley.”

“It is, therefore, be extremely difficult for Nigerians, particularly the youth demography, to accept Chief Obasanjo’s opinion as the solution to the myriad of challenges facing the nation today because the last candidate he introduced, by his own estimation, failed Nigerians.

“Our campaign holds that none of the Presidential candidates has the experience, capacity, tenacity of purpose, presence of mind and readiness to serve like Atiku Abubakar.

“Atiku remains the most widely accepted candidate, whose choice is not predicated by sectional, tribal, ethnic or religious sentiments or the endorsement of any individual, high or low, but by the record of ability and performance, authentic vision, honesty and character; physical and mental capacity; the very indices set by the former President.

“It is instructive to state that every claim by former President Obasanjo on the success of his administration is a reflection of the performance of Atiku Abubakar as his Vice President and Chairman of the National Economic Council during which our nation achieved unprecedented economic growth to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

“It, therefore, amounts to a disservice for the former President to make subjective suggestion even when it is clear that if a hand like Atiku Abubakar with their shared experience is brought to the forefront of governance, our nation will be rescued from this current sullen state

“Our Campaign, therefore, urges Nigerians not to be distracted by subjective opinions but to remain focused on the resolve to salvage our dear nation by electing Atiku Abubakar as the next President of Nigeria, in February 25, 2023.”

It’s a clarion call to other statesmen, Nigerians- LP PCC

Welcoming the endorsement of its Presidential candidate, the Labour Party said Obasanjo had as always proved himself as a unique individual who truly cares about Nigeria’s well-being now and in the future.

Chief spokesman for the LP PCC, Dr Yunusa Tanko, said: “What former President Olusegun Obasanjo has just done is what we expect of true Nigerian statesmen.

“We want to thank Chief Obasanjo for speaking up in favour of one united Nigeria where every citizen irrespective of ethnicity, the religion of political affiliation will be given a sense of belonging.

“A Nigeria where competence, track record of achievement and patriotism will play a pivotal role in the leadership recruitment process.

“We are happy to confirm that these qualities exist in the persons of our candidate, Peter Obi and his running mate Yusuf Datti-Ahmed.

“We urge other statesmen to take a cue from Chief Obasanjo by endorsing our candidate and urging other contestants to see beyond themselves by sacrificing for Nigeria’s future which Obi-Datti represents.”

We’re not surprised-OSUNTOKUN

When contacted, the Director-General of the ObiDatti Campaign Organisation, Mr Akin Osuntokun, said the endorsement does not come to them as a surprise.

Osuntokun, in a chat with Vanguard, said: “It does not come to me as a surprise. Obasanjo is the personification of Nigerian patriotism. What that patriotism demands of all Nigerians are the steps he has taken.”