The raging fight between the two dominant figures in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had in the past taken several forms and dimensions. In some cases, the attacks have been frontal and direct while in others its a covert operation, both President Goodluck Jonathan and his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo have continue to wage proxy war against one another.
In-between the never ending dog fight for the soul of the PDP, at times, they still find one reason or the other to seek to patch things up. OLAOLU OLADIPO dissects the issues in the never ending battle of wits between the godfather and the godson In what many termed, a political coup of sorts, a former president of the country, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in an 18-page long letter to his godson and incumbent, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan cast some aspersion on the current regime, regarding the state of the nation.
Clearly, the central theme of the long epistle from the Abeokuta born soldier-turned politician, the nation is on a gradual slide towards perdition, no thanks for the leadership being offered by Jonathan, which the former leader rated as having fallen below par. Quite simply, Obasanjo reasoned that Nigeria, as a corporate entity was bleeding with urgent need for attention of all well meaning Nigerians whom he admonished, should rescue it from total collapse ahead of the 2015 polls. Dated December 2, 2013, Obasanjo also expressed his reservations at the way President Jonathan is directing the affairs of the country citing some sundry issues bordering on cronyism, official graft, as well as what he termed the worrisome trend whereby the country was moving towards civilian dictatorship.
What even qualified it as a civilian coup of sort was that the contents of the letter was made public while the President was away in South Africa, alongside his counterparts from across the world to witness the burial of a former president of the RAINBOW COUNTRY, Dr. Nelson Mandela who passed on recently. Another indication that the publicity accorded it was deliberate was the fact that other former leaders of the country were also copied in the letter, they include, retired Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Those who should know however told LEADERSHIP that the decision to make the letter public was deliberate owing to the fact that similar others that had been written by Obasanjo to his protégé in the past had remained unheeded. “I don’t know how and why the letter leaked, I don’t know whether it was from the Presidency or from Baba (Obasanjo) himself but I know that it has served its purpose, the purpose of making the world know and appreciate the concerns and anxiety of Baba on the state of the nation,” a party stalwart close to the former leader told our correspondent.
Indeed, the contents of the letter has been eliciting comments from the general public, it has also brought with it some form of tension within the polity, as the two camps are once again in the trenches firing darts at one another.
Titled ‘Before it is too late’, Obasanjo in his characteristic manner did not mince words in the epistle when he pointedly used the platform to drive home his grief in the way the country is now being run by the Bayelsa born doctorate degree holder in Zoology. “I could sense a semblance between the situation that we are gradually getting into and the situation we fell into as a nation during the (late Sani) Abacha era,” he said. In the letter, he alleged that government was training some hit squad to liquidate perceived enemies of the president ahead of the 2015 polls.
Echoing the position of the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, he accused Jonathan of doing little to address the issue of corruption in the country. Waxing egocentric, he alluded to the fact that Jonathan recognized him as third most important being in his emergence as the nation’s leader, saying “after God and your parents I am among those that have impacted most” on the president’s life.
Obasanjo also used the medium to further divulge communication that hitherto would have remained personal issues. “I have had opportunity, in recent times, to interact closely with you and I have come to the conclusion painfully or happily that if you can shun yourself to a great extent of personal and political interests and dwell more on the national interest and also draw the line between advice from selfish and self-centered aides and advice from those who in the interest of the nation may not tell you what you will want to hear, it will be well,” he said.
The former presidents puts the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party squarely on the President, accusing the PDP Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, of merely following the tune of the piper, in this case that of the president. Synopsis of crisis Initial disagreement between the two began shortly after Jonathan won the 2011 presidential election. Sources stated that the two had series of disagreement over how the country should be managed.
Though, the disagreement was somehow muted, it blew open in April 2012 when Obasanjo resigned as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP. Those in the know who are very close to the former leader told our correspondent that his decision to call it quit then was to allow him do some other private things apart government and party matters. In a statement he personally, Obasanjo said he had sent the letter of resignation to top leadership of the party. “I have formally sent in my letter of resignation as the Chairman of BOT of PDP to the National Chairman of the party as prescribed in the party’s constitution.
I have formally requested the President to allow my bowing out and to issue a short statement to that effect. “By relieving myself of the responsibility for chairmanship of BOT of PDP, I will have a bit more time to devote to the international demand on me,” he said in the statement, the News Agency of Nigeria reports. He further said this would give him time “to give some attention to mentoring across the board nationally and internationally in those areas that I have acquired some experience, expertise and in which I have something to share.”
He wrote in the one-page letter. Sources within the PDP had hinted that the decision was premised on the fact that some forces within the PDP had actually concluded arraignment to whittle down his power, considering his strong personality make up, which those in this line of thought think poses a great threat to the second term bid of Jonathan. Operation ‘weed out’ Obasanjo supporters Added to the fact that those in this school of thought succeeded in forcing him out of the chairmanship of the BoT, they went ahead to ensure that those considered close to the former leader are removed from top party and government positions, in what is considered as ‘operation weed out Obasanjo sympathizer.’
Those affected include those loyal to the Otta farmer, especially in his South West base, they include personalities such as Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was hitherto the national secretary of the PDP. Also, the entire South West zonal executive council headed by a former governor of Ekiti State, Engineer Segun Oni was dissolved. Added to this is the fact that ministers believed to have had been nominated by governors believed to be close to the former leader were shown the way out of government in a move many considered as punitive by the government. in all ten of them were asked to go and their replacements are still being searched for till now.
Only recently, five of governors that formed the G-7 movement have announced their merger with the newly registered All Progressives Congress (APC). Their movement might not be connected with their perceived sympathy for the course of the former leader. Reactions to Obasanjo’s latest dart at the Presidency Reactions to the letter from Obasanjo have been varied, all bordering on the content, the context as well as the motive of the action, considering the antecedence of the wily former leader who many have come to see as cunny in action.
A former Minister for Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode seems to align himself with Obasanjo saying the country was indeed drifting under Jonathan and that his principal acted well as a statesman to come out with his observation, which he said was in the best interest of the country. Fani-Kayode in a televised interview in Lagos on Friday stated that the controversial spells doom for President Jonathan and the PDP, saying it would act as a catalyst to terminate the President’s 2015 ambition. “I believe that Obasanjo’s letter will end up ensuring President Goodluck Jonathan’s fortunes as President of the country post 2015 may not be realised.
I believe this is the end of Jonathan and I believe this is the end of the PDP as a party, unless Jonathan retraces his steps,” he said. Describing the letter as ‘timely’ and ‘historic’, the Ile-Ife born politician said Obasanjo had through the letter making attempts at correcting his mistake of supporting the aspiration of the president in 2011. “This country is going adrift and I think if an elder statesman and somebody who was instrumental in ensuring that President Goodluck Jonathan became president of this country, (a person who is considered a father to the president, a father to the nation and a father to the PDP) is not in a position to tell us the truth about what’s going on in our country and what is going on with our president, then the signals are clear that the country is on the brink of disaster”, he said.
The former minister’s sentiment was further echoed by a Lagos based human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) who in a statement made available to newsmen on Thursday urged the President to address the allegations levied against him by Obasanjo. To Falana, though the former president lacked the moral capital authority to tutor Jonathan on any of the subjects raised, he nonetheless counseled that the issue should not be swept under the carpet. “No doubt, the allegations which lacerated the controversial letter are weighty.
Instead of dismissing the contents of the letter the Presidency should respond to the allegations raised therein seriatim. In particular, the allegation that the Federal Government is setting up a Presidential Strike Force to carry out terrorist attacks on political opponents should not be swept under the carpet,” Falana said. The rights lawyer, who picked hole in Obasanjo’s letter, urged Nigerians to take advantage “of the intra-class war going on in the ruling party to get organised and take their political destiny in their own hands.”
When contacted, the Publicity Secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin however counseled that efforts must me made to differentiate the message from the messenger just as the motive of Obasanjo in writing the letter must also be scrutinized. “To us in Afenifere, the message is good, though Obasanjo is merely confirming our suspicions about the manner in which the country is being managed.
My worry is that Obasanjo is not credible enough as the purveyor of the message” Odumakin stated. He hinged his group’s position on the antecedence of the wily Otta farmer whom he accused of always championing advocacy that would always favour him materially and politically, as evidence by the role he had played in the past.
This position perhaps explains the meeting between the two feuding leaders in Nairobi Kenya where they reportedly sat down to discuss the turn of events. Though, details are still sketchy at the time of filing this reports, may be Odumakin is right. Give Obasanjo whatever he wants and peace will return to the PDP and by extension Nigeria, how well Jonathan will meet his terms remains to be seen as well.