Former President Olusegun Obasanjo came under fire last night for sticking his neck out for the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi in next month’s election.
The two leading political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – knocked the former President.
One-time External Affairs Minister Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi and a former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Usman Bugaje, expressed displeasure at the position of the ex-president, which he made known through an open letter released yesterday.
The letter was the unveiling of his support for the LP standard bearer, which he had surreptitiously done in the last few months.
Obasanjo’s letter was titled: “My appeal to all Nigerians, particularly young Nigerians”.
The former president, who praised himself for offering responsible leadership, urged the youth to shun prejudices.
However, Bugaje expressed reservations about Obasanjo’s advice, saying he was not impressed by his past record.
He said: “First, President Obasanjo is entitled to his opinion. He can make his choice and he can decide to make his choices public as he has done in this case. I don’t know the objective criteria for his decision.
“Before you take what somebody says, check the person’s record. For me, Obasanjo’s record doesn’t encourage me to take whatever he says.
“I was at the National Assembly when he attempted to extend his tenure by changing the constitution. We had to stand up to him in that respect. So, for me, I can’t find his endorsement trustworthy.”
Bugaje added: “What I think we should be doing now, is to set agenda on issues that should guide the voters. We are almost at the precipice.
“We need a leadership that can pull this country back from the precipice that can actually strengthen the institutions and can give the direction this country should go. We need a leader that can unite this country.”
Also faulting Obasanjo, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi described him as a leader responsible for Nigeria’s woes.
He said Obasanjo should emulate former military rulers – Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar – who are in retirement.
Akinyemi stressed: “Some of us believe that President Obasanjo was one of the foundational problems that this country had. One of the things I said is that once you have occupied the post of the president and you have served your term, leave, and be like Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar. Just be quiet. You have had your term and let others get on.
“But for you to create problems for us and then come back and present yourself as a problem solver, I find that difficult to swallow.”
‘A worthless endorsement’
The Presidential Campaign Council of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) dismissed Obi’s endorsement by Obasanjo, describing it as worthless and of no political value.
The APC-PCC, in a preliminary response through its Director, Media and Publicity, Bayo Onanuga, said neither the party nor its candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will lose sleep over Obasanjo’s move.
“Obasanjo is notorious for always opposing progressive political forces, as he did against MKO Abiola in 1993.”
The council described the former president as a political paperweight, who lacked the political goodwill or leverage anywhere in the country to make anyone win a councillorship election, let alone win a presidential election.
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.
“Except that he made it known formally in his New Year message, any discerning political watcher in Nigeria knows that Chief Obasanjo’s preference for Peter Obi is expected. He had earlier stated his position at various public events, the last being at the 70th birthday anniversary of Chief John Nwodo, former President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Enugu.
“We make bold to say that our party and candidate, Asíwájú Bola Ahmed 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.”
Onanuga further recalled “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 Gregory Obi as we are confident that Chief Obasanjo can not win his polling unit and ward in Abeokuta for Obi in the coming presidential election on 25 February 2023.”
Tracing the political antecedent of the former President, the APC-PCC recalled that Obasanjo similarly endorsed Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP 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 Asíwájú Bola Ahmed 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.”
Atiku campaign: Obasanjo’s endorsement personal
The Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation (PCO) described the endorsement as a personal decision.
The campaign organisation, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the former President’s choice did not reflect the position of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians.
Stressing that Obasanjo was entitled to his opinion, Ologbondiyan said the choice cannot influence the determination of Nigerian voters to
rally with “the more experienced, more proficient and more accepted” candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar “to rescue and rebuild our nation.”
The statement reads: “What is surprising to the 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.
“It will 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.
“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, come February 25, 2023.”