Obasanjo Moves Against Buhari


State Of The Nation

Obasanjo Moves Against Buhari

Barely a year after the inauguration of the APC-led government, conjectures are running wild already that former President Olusegun Obasanjo may have parted ways with President Muhammadu Buhari, following his alleged deft moves and coordinated meetings against the administration. AMOS TAUNA dissects alleged behind-the-scene manoeuvers of Chief Obasanjo and his allies ahead of the 2019 polls


Few months before his election as President in March 2015, the relationship between General Muhammadu Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo was widely described by political pundits as ‘cozy, cordial and mutually beneficial’. The former president’s activities and his brusque condemnation of then President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had peaked with the official launching of his book, ‘My Watch’, which proved calamitous to the political fortunes of the former helmsman from Bayelsa. Pointedly, Jonathan’s publicists could not contain the raging fire of criticisms that portrayed him as an ineffectual leader. With this scenario, it was clear where the pendulum would swing in the permutation of the Ota farmer whose subtle quest for a third term had demeaned his profile as Nigeria’s leading democratic president. But despite low public rating over his quest for tenure elongation, Obasanjo later recovered well to deploy his political sagacity in turning the tables around and imposing late Malam Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as president in 2011. While a section of the North accused him of plotting to foist Jonathan on Nigerians, since he probably knew that Yar’Adua’s ailment could prove tragic before the expiration of his first tenure, the former President however denied such insinuations. According to him, he was unaware of the health status of Yar’Adua, who spent most of his three years in office shuttling between Germany and Saudi Arabia for medical attention. With Yar’Adua’s death in May 2010, Jonathan assumed the reins of governance and was initially seen as a political buddy of Obasanjo. Before former President Jonathan could consolidate his power base, things seemingly fell apart between godfather and godson when he supposedly rejected Obasanjo’s choice for Vice President. Competent sources said that to Obasanjo’s mortification, Jonathan rather requested General TY Danjuma (rtd.), who had become Obasanjo’s foe over oil bloc, to present a nominee for the position of Vice President. Obasanjo was said to have flared up and hurriedly left the meeting venue in company of his erstwhile Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs, Dr. Andy Uba. With the battle line drawn, Jonathan reached out to those who had fallen out of favour with Obasanjo, including Chief Tony Anenih and former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for consolidation and support. Anenih, popularly known as ‘Mr Fix It’, was appointed as Chairman of the PDP’s Board of Trustees. With the new re-alignment that left Obasanjo in the cold, the prospects of political winter cast its pall on the political master schemer and strategist whose relevance in Nigerian politics remains undisputed.

Early Signs Of Disagreement

With Buhari’s swearing in as president on May 29, 2015, Obasanjo had hoped that his influence and possible control of the nation’s political levers were foregone conclusions. Few weeks after the inauguration of the APC-led government, he was a regular visitor to Aso Villa for consultations, just as Buhari appointed him as Special Envoy to Guinea Bissau for trouble shooting mission. But the first sign of trouble appeared when Buhari stood his ground against external influence in the appointment of Federal Executive Council (FEC) members. Insiders said Obasanjo had approached Buhari with a list of nominees for ministerial appointment, but he was shocked when Buhari turned down his request. Miffed by the insistence of PMB, Obasanjo walked out in silence but later expressed anger over his rejected ministerial nominees. A source privy to the ministerial nomination process by the APC-led government told Forefront in confidence that, “Despite mounting pressure on PMB to accept nominees from influential Nigerians, he stood his ground and insisted on having his way. Notable names were mentioned as nominees from Obasanjo, but none of them saw the light of day. That shows Buhari stood by his words and never allowed anyone to interfere in the appointment of ministers. For doing that, Buhari drew the ire of the former president who played a prominent role in chasing Jonathan out of power.” Following early signals as to where the Buhari Presidency is headed, information pieced together by this magazine indicate that Obasanjo has since commenced moves to reach out to former political allies who have shown displeasure over the way and manner the APC government is managing the nation’s affairs. Since his public declaration that he has retired from active politics, Obasanjo has resisted pressure to lead the battle to unseat the APC in 2019. Commenting on the subject matter, an APC chieftain, Chief Osita Okechukwu said Obasanjo’s support for Buhari was an escape route in order for people not to condemn him for imposing Jonathan, adding that the former president knew Jonathan’s capability. According to Okechukwu, “The EFCC listed Jonathan as one of those who squandered the commonwealth of Bayelsa people. If he was not a con man or Nollywood actor, Jonathan never told anyone that he wanted to be President. And after his failure to gain third term, Obasanjo imposed a candidate of his own. Yar’Adua never told anyone he wanted to be president. Obasanjo knew that Yar’Adua was sick and he reacted by imposing a sick man. If going by the PDP zoning arrangement, there were competent persons in the North. But he chose his candidate. Similarly, former Kano State governor Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso seems to have led the way in spearheading the war to end the APC government in 2019. With a motley crowd of Senators that are against the current travail of Senate President Bukola Saraki, sources hinted that Kwankwaso may have become the rallying point for a group that could pose grave threat to the governing party in 2019. To buttress his anger at the manner the anti-corruption war is being fought; Obasanjo used his birthday celebration in March 2016 to lampoon the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for inactivity, describing the current war on graft as mere window dressing. Sources in government hinge Obasanjo’s tirades on Buhari’s government resolve to re-open the Halliburton case file on allegations that some former Nigerian leaders received huge sums of bribe money to facilitate contracts to the company. Again, the APC Chieftain, Osita Okechukwu said Obasanjo has no moral right to criticize the fight against corruption being waged by PMB, saying; “For me, to talk about this, I consider it inappropriate. You can also recall the signature bonuses were queried by the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC). I am one of those who queried his regime when he awarded the Lagos-Kano rail line, a distance of a little 1,000 kilometres for $8.3 billion, whereas the same Chinese he gave the contract to were embarking on over 4,000 kilometre rail project at $4.2 billion. I do not want to talk about that regime. If Obasanjo had done well, our decayed infrastructure would have improved. He also spent billions of dollars to provide electricity that was not commensurate.” A government official, who is not allowed to speak to the media equally said; “Anyone who condemns current effort at fighting corruption is doing it for selfish reasons. No one can fault the appointment of Ibrahim Magu as the EFCC boss. His moral standing and his professional competence is beyond reproach. The war against graft is continuing and this government cannot reverse its decision to rid this country of corruption.”

Yet Another Rescue Mission?

Sources close to Obasanjo reveal he has been under pressure to rally political allies and raise a political platform that could wrest power from the APC-led government in three years time. But not wanting to identify directly with the movement, the former president has given his blessing for a rainbow coalition of political parties to challenge the ruling party. “I can inform you authoritatively that Obasanjo has been reached and he has given his blessings to the formation of a rainbow coalition platform, comprising political allies in all parties, to establish an enduring platform to wrest power from the APC. He believes the PDP, as at now, is simply there to serve the interests of certain politicians and not that of the country. He has endorsed the formation of a rainbow coalition to rescue the nation from Buhari, who has not sped up things to address the myriad of problems haranguing this country,” the source privy to Obasanjo’s moves disclosed. The rainbow alliance’s main strategy, according to a politician involved in the re-alignment process, is to weaken the support base of the APC government in the North and rally the voices of dissension against the PMB-led government that had so much hope placed on it. This is just as checks by Forefront clearly indicate that those who invested in the Buhari project are presently disappointed and cannot believe what they are seeing, particularly against the backdrop of the hardship that is almost strangulating people. Sadly, the government is yet to do anything concrete at redeeming its pledge of alleviating poverty in the land. Former Governor of Kano State, Senator Kwankwaso, considered as one of OBJ’s political godson and other former governors, who formed the bulwark of support for Buhari, have been turned into victims by the PMB administration in its determination to entrench a new power block in the corridors of power. Even Tinubu, who was there for Buhari, has not been fully acknowledged for his contributions. Simply put, the internal bickering among top APC chieftains has clearly revealed the existence of groups within the party and this can only lead to an implosion and possible destruction of the governing party. In a bid to stay connected with his political allies, Obasanjo is planning visits to several states aimed at perfecting the subtle re-alignment of forces that would wrest power from APC come 2019. Forefront gathered that the visits will focus on the North-east and North-central geo-political zones where the APC coalition gained strong grounds in crushing PDP during the 2015 elections. Towards this end, an insider said, “it is apt to state that the coming days will be fraught with nocturnal visits and political consultations across the states. The essence will be strictly for a review of political prospects and what should be done in undertaking a rescue mission. Findings by Forefront indicate that former President Obasanjo is not happy with the blame game embarked upon by the Buhari government. It was further gathered that the former President believes that if the situation is allowed to go unchallenged, it could send wrong signals and convince unsuspecting members of the public that PDP’s 16 years administration was a monumental waste and failure. Another source said, “Obasanjo recently came out to advise the President that despite inheriting less than $5 billion from the General Abubakar Abdulsalami regime, he went to work to tackle most ofthe nation’s pressing challenges. With the way things are going, it will not be out of place to expect an open letter from Obasanjo over Nigeria’s state of affairs soon. He is really not happy with the way and manner the government is being run. He is angry that Buhari did not hit the ground running, and this has led to where we are today. By now, there is no clear direction where the government is headed. Buhari is always singing anti-corruption war, but where has that taken us? The economy is still in the woods and there seems no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Reaping from Internal Wrangling

It is a fact that since Buhari appointed members of FEC, not a few have predicted that the internal conflicts that trailed their selection, if not addressed, could lead to an implosion. With some governors expressing suppressed anger at what used to be the exclusive reserve of political godfathers, Buhari’s insistence on having his way in the appointment of ministers is fraught with foreboding predictions. Checks by Forefront indicate APC governors and other political juggernauts, who worked behind the scene for the Buhari Presidency, feel stabbed in the back as they cannot boast of having a single nominee in the Federal Executive Council (FEC). In the past, it was the prerogatives of political godfathers and governors to anoint candidates for membership of FEC. Already, some prominent Northerners and leading politicians, among them former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Professor Ango Abdullahi and a former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed have carpeted Buhari for appointing incompetent people as ministers. The duo advised the government to review some of the appointments and ensure that round pegs are placed in round holes.

Discordant Tunes From Inside

As a party, the APC has not been without some internal wrangling that have threatened to cast a dark pall on its ability to hold and keep the centre. Apart from some of its top members being enmeshed in petty squabbles, the battle line seems drawn as various groups within the party that worked for its success are engaged in fighting for recognition and relevance. The in-fighting, top insiders reveal, may not be unconnected with who flies APC’s ticket in 2019 presidential poll. The current prosecution of Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over false assets declaration has split the upper legislative chamber, with most former state governors in the National Assembly pitching their tent with Saraki. Asked why many of the former governors turned senators, are identifying with the former Kwara State helmsman, a senator stated that Saraki’s trial by the CCT is simply a prologue to expected sweeping prosecution of more senators allegedly involved in various acts of misdemeanours. “However, if the Federal Government, through the CCT, insists on going ahead with the Saraki case, then I can confidently inform you that everyone will ultimately answer his father’s name. We cannot simply sit and watch, while one of us is disgraced,” the lawmaker who craved anonymity said. Okechukwu, who was spokesman of the former Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) said; “If you go and check the assets declarations of other senators, they may be found in the same shoes. The same applies to Senators Ahmed Lawan and Marafa. Let’s us put aside sentiments and allow the law to take its full course. You should also remember that Saraki has not put up his defence.” Forefront was reliably informed that, while the Saraki group in the Senate are leaving no stone unturned to ensure it truncates the ongoing CCT trial, which some believe is at the behest of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Senator Ahmed Lawan group, that was forced to kiss the dust over the Senate headship, is said to be regrouping to test its mettle in the event a guilty verdict is served on Saraki by the CCT. Recently, a Federal High Court in Abuja squashed the prayers of Saraki aimed at stopping the CCT from continuing with its trial over false declaration of assets. Political pundits opined the court’s verdict could serve as an ominous signs that the days of Saraki Senate Presidency may have been numbered. Clearly and pointedly put, there is no doubt that since the governing APC assumed office, its popularity rating among Nigerians has waned, following what opposition described as the party’s inability to effectively confront major issues plaguing the nation. With such a declining popularity status and a growing dissension within and outside of its fold, political pundits predict hard days ahead for a party that defeated an incumbent government in the 2015 polls.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply