The horse-trading ahead of the 2015 elections barely two years away took centre stage on Democracy Day as ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo decided to show up else where instead of the Eagles Square he was invited alongside other former heads of state to commemorate May 29. We all saw the screaming headlines that inundated the print and electronic media thereafter. The headlines of his speech at the Jigawa State Economic Summit almost overshadowed President Goodluck Jonathan’s mid-term scorecard that also dominated national discourse albeit for the wrong reasons in the days that ensued.
Pundits insinuated that the later part of Obasanjo’s remark that; “You can only help someone to get a job, you cannot help him to do the job, if SOMEBODY (emphasis mine) cannot do the job we have Sule Lamido who is competent to do the job” may have been directed at President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he hand-picked as Vice President to late Yar’adua and later installed as President in 2011. “It was Obasanjo that convinced us to support Jonathan,” said a PDP founding member. “He convincingly sold Jonathan to us that we had no choice but to support Jonathan. If he sold Jonathan to us and he is now disagreeing with him, he should call us and tell us his reasons.” He queried.
Obasanjo told the gathering at the Economic Summit; “…Once again, I congratulate you and I congratulate myself; because if you can say, yes, Obasanjo forced this one (Governor Lamido) on us, it is a good forcing.” He made good use of the podium in Dutse to sing Lamido’s praise to high heavens. He paralled the road from Kano to Jigawa as better than the deplorable condition of the National malaise the Lagos-Ibadan expressway has become, forgetting that it was his protégé, Wale Babalakin who stalled work on the project before the contract was revoked by the Jonathan government.
For the better part of the eight-years of his civilian administration, he imposed his wish on Nigerians. He almost single-handedly, picked his successor and now, President Jonathan as the PDP’s presidential flag bearers of the ruling party. What makes him believe without him the country will not get it right is still a mystery to many.
If Sule Lamido and the embattled Rivers state Governor, Rotimi Amaechi’s posters that has strategically surfaced at different time in Jigawa, Abuja, Ogun and Rivers states in recent months are anything to go by, the two governors whom many adjudged to have shown strong leadership models, can give the incumbent a run for his money in a free and fair primaries. Undoubtedly, Lamido has got the credentials and experience to contest for any political office in the land. But as Yar’adua and Jonathan have shown, the plum job requires more than that.
In the past, Obasanjo’s choices have been calamitous for the country. Today, the leadership atrophy of the PDP which is tearing the party apart can be attributed to his dictatorial tendencies that successive governments imbibed. The aftermath of his succession choice abound across the country. After late President Yar’adua became somewhat overwhelmed by the task of running Nigeria on a daily basis, former president Obasanjo sold Jonathan to us. But it is surprising that Baba has jumped in front of the queue ahead of those he convinced to endorse Jonathan’s candidature to begin the long process of pushing him out of office in 2015. Looking back at how he has dealt with Yar’adua and now Jonathan when he was sidelined from party politics, we can surmise that Obasanjo is always ‘building to destroy.’ Is Governor Sule Lamido aware of this? For months, he has been trotting the country campaigning against same Jonathan he once convinced party bigwigs to support for the presidency in 2011. “Was he not the one who endorsed Jonathan in 2011 like he did Yar’Adua in 2007?” Asked a bemused party member. Certainly, Nigerians and indeed Lamido cannot afford to risk the country’s future on the whims and caprices of an erratic Obasanjo.
As President, Obasanjo flagrantly disregarded the rule of law, dismembering whatever was left of the internal democracy of the PDP. His wish predominated over that of the people. He’s was government by himself for the people. States like Jigawa saw his own candidate, Lamido, imposed on them. The ignominious reputation Prof Maurice Iwu earned still taints him till this day as he connived with his “Oga at the top” to conduct the most flawed elections in the history of the country. The former military ruler described elections as a “do or die” affair. He is still an advocate of that brand of politics. Perceived political enemies went through untold humiliation by Obasanjo and his acolytes. The fault lines of the present crisis rocking the PDP can be traced to the former president. He always used the word ‘capture’ to imply PDP will win states under control of the opposition and to show his rigging prowess. Capture denotes force, coercion or imposition which has unmistakably, been the trademark of Obasanjo. The Ota farmer, strutted with a deported mindset of an imperial president who gutted any pretence to respect for democratic mores within his party. To him unctuous servility was everything that mattered before holding or aspiring to any political office in the PDP. He treated almost everyone around him as his vassals and minions, there to take the emperor’s bidding.
He settled for a Yar’adua and Jonathan ticket in spite of other candidates who many thought could have done a better job. For him, it has always been malleability over suitability, obsequiousness over competence. That Mr Yar’adua was sympathetic to his third term agenda put them in good stead as The Former Minister of FCT, Mallam Nasir El-rufai’s memoir, The Accidental Public Servant revealed. But Obasanjo got a shocker when he was shut out by the late President barely months after taking over. Same with President Jonathan after winning the 2011 elections. Today, he is everywhere campaigning for Sule Lamido with various shades of innuendos at the incumbent. His Gangnam dance steps would have been different if President Jonathan had given him the latitude to run the rule over his government. His alter ego cannot bear being shut out. Lamido must take time out to research for himself why Obasanjo is always kept at arms length months after his protégés clinch power.
Katsina State of the former President Yar’adua bear geographic and economic semblance to Jigawa. Both receive very meagre allocation from the federation purse. The rhetoric by Obasanjo at the Jigawa state summit that the developmental strides of Sule Lamido across all sectors of the economy and uncommon transformation of the state as one of the poorest in the country to the investors preferred destination can be translated at the federal level might not hold water. After all, same was said of late President Umaru Yar’adua.
Obasanjo is advertently strengthening the tug line of the well publicized feud between President Jonathan and Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi. There is none pushing that ticket other than the former president. How far can he go in subverting the peoples’ will yet again in 2015, time will tell.