President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday met behind closed-doors with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in what appeared to be a fence-mending effort aimed at wooing the former president who is known for openly criticising the present administration’s handling of some national issues lately, including the Boko Haram insurgency.
Also, four governors from the Northern part of the country who apparently avoided President Jonathan met separately with Obasanjo behind closed-doors in his Hilltop Mansion.
The meeting between Obasanjo and Jonathan, which held at the former president’s residence in Owu, Abeokuta, came a few days after the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Governors’ Forum, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, met with the former President in Abuja to convince him to support Jonathan.
Akpabio is an ally of the two leaders.
Although the meeting is believed to be part of Jonathan’s consultations ahead of his declaration of interest in the 2015 presidential election, the President told journalists that he was in Abeokuta to commiserate with his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, and his family on the death of their matriarch, Taiwo, and felt it would be disrespectful if he did not visit Obasanjo whose house is a stone’s throw from the Abatis’.
“It is true that we saw (former) president Obasanjo in his house because we came to Abeokuta to commiserate with Abati who buried his mother yesterday (Friday). Knowing that Abati’s house is at the backyard of Obasanjo’s house, it will not be good if we come and we did not visit him. Even the man (Obasanjo) himself will not be happy if we don’t visit him. I am like a son to Obasanjo,” Jonathan told reporters at Abati’s residence.
Jonathan’s meeting with Obasanjo lasted over an hour.
Dressed in a black flowing agbada and a cap to match, the President arrived Obasanjo’s residence around 12noon in company with Senator Grace Bent and met with the former president for about one hour 30 minutes before proceeding to the Asero Estate residence of his spokesman.
The gates to Obasanjo’s Hilltop mansion were shut against other visitors immediately Jonathan drove into the expansive compound while security was also beefed up outside and along the road leading to the former president’s home.
It was immediately after the meeting that Jonathan moved to Abati’s family house where he commiserated with his spokesman whose mother was buried in the Ogun State capital on Friday.
The President said he had planned to attend the burial service after he inaugurated a 200-unit Idimu Police Housing Estate in Lagos but was unable to do so because there was an urgent need for him to travel to Togo for a meeting with the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Allasane Quattara, in order to forestall an undisclosed looming political crisis.
Describing Abati as a member of his family, Jonathan advised the household to take solace in the fact that their mother lived to a ripe age beyond the biblical three scores and 10.
Abati, on his part, said the family was no longer expecting the President since he was fully represented at the service by his Chief of Staff, Chief Mike Ogiadomhe.
While expressing delight at the surprise visit, the presidential spokesman said his family would cherish the momentous occasion for a long time.
The four PDP northern governors who met with Obasanjo were Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Aliu Wamako (Sokoto) and Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano).
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the governors were earlier scheduled to meet with Obasanjo at about the same time as President Jonathan but decided to tarry a while at an undisclosed location in Abeokuta perhaps to avoid contact with the President.
The Northern governors later arrived at Obasanjo’s Hilltop Mansion around 1:28pm, few minutes after President Jonathan had left.
The North is believed to be courting the former president as part of the strategies to regain the nation’s presidency by 2015.
Speculations are already rife that Governor Lamido has been pencilled down as the North’s PDP Presidential flagbearer for the 2015 poll if the region should succeed in clinching the ticket.
When the Northern governors emerged about one hour later from their meeting with Obasanjo, Governor Nyako said he and his colleagues were in Abeokuta for “consultation” with the former president on “very important matters.”
“We have come to greet the most accomplished Nigerian ever and would remain so for a very long time and to consult him on very important matters,” Nyako said.