Obasanjos 2015 Gambit: The agenda for Interim Government
*How Goodluck Jonathan dug deeper in a hole **And the scenario to come:
This story examines former President Olusegun Obasanjo's latest dance steps, a break-dance of twists and turns with one suspected objective: the actualisation of a self-serving agenda that is at variance with the projection of a united Nigeria. Yet, a more perceptive incumbent President would have pulled all the stops to successfully rein-in Obasanjo.
Instead, aides and confidants, who are far, very far, from being adroit at statecraft, continue to mislead President Goodluck Jonathan, as part of a turf battle that is raging inside Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Interestingly, the perceived shoddiness of the Presidency, a Presidency foisted on Nigerians by Obasanjo and which he ought to be working to adequately address, is being allowed to flounder because of self-conceited considerations by political leaders who ought to work at nation-building. Said to be desperately working for a stalemate immediately after February's presidential election, some political leaders in Nigeria, as this report will show, are going for broke.
YOU ARE ALL MARKED
Sometime last year, Matthew Okikiolakan Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, at a private meeting with two former aides and a former minister (while they were still hibernating in the All Progressive Congress, APC) implored them to ensure that Goodluck Ebele Jonathan did not return as President in 2015. At a time when the cluelessness of Nigeria's presidency was manifestly waxing more embarrassing by the day, especially with a First Lady that had become gung ho, Obasanjo's move appeared altruistic. Nigeria needed to be saved from the Jonathans – or so it seemed
It was at that meeting that Obasanjo revealed that should Jonathan return next year as President and Commander-in-Chief, those at that meeting would have to go on exile because, according to a source who was in attendance, the former Nigerian leader said, 'Jonathan would go after all of you here, including me; so you all would have to go on exile. But I, Obasanjo, would be here. Therefore, he must be stopped' by whatever means!
During a closed door meeting with the leadership of the APC sometime late last year, Obasanjo admonished it to do whatever it would take to ensure that Jonathan did not return.
Again, Obasanjo, just this month, repeated the same threat of stopping the President in a BBC Hausa Service radio interview. According to him, Jonathan must be stopped.
I WILL JAIL YOU
Last month, one of the key pillars in the merger that gave birth to the APC re-defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The reason for his movement back to PDP could not be ascertained by Sunday Vanguard at press time. However, Obasanjo is, according to sources, not taking matters lying low. He did not like the idea of his protégé returning to the PDP.
Just a fortnight ago, after the re-defection of the said confidant from the North-east and who is considered very close to Obasanjo, the latter, reportedly, sent two former state governors of South west extraction to the said confidant to convince him on why he should return to the APC.
According to a very dependable source, for two hours, the former governors tried in vain to convince the said confidant.
Undaunted, a telephone call was placed to Obasanjo in Maputo.
It was understood that for almost an hour, the former President also, in vain, tried to convince his erstwhile protégé that he should return to the APC.
Strangely, Obasanjo ended the not-so-pleasant conversation on the note that should the said confidant refuse to return to APC, he, Obasanjo, would jail him.
But the question is where will the former President get the power to jail somebody?
Meanwhile, Obasanjo, whose statements and actions should not be taken lightly, is believed to have his agenda close to his chest.
An Ebora is likened to a spirit – a strange one – in Yoruba folklore.
For those who know Obasanjo too well, he doesn't shoot in the dark; and if and when he does, he already knows the spot where his target is. His comments and statements are almost always weighted not necessarily on sincerity but on forbearance hinged on a self-conceited agenda.
According to Obasanjo, in his much fractured and derided book, My Watch, which Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has condemned as a pack of lies, the former President wrote of Jonathan: ”Jonathan is lacking in broad vision, knowledge, confidence, understanding, concentration, capacity, sense of security, courage, moral and ethical principles, character and passion to move the nation forward on a fast trajectory.”
That was not all. He went on: “Under Jonathan, we seem to have gone from frying pan to fire. If in the past corruption was in the corridors of power, it would seem now to be in the sitting room, dining room and bedroom of power.”
Obasanjo has not said anything new and this would not be the first time he would be taking on a sitting leader.
However, what makes this instance very curious is that it is this self-same Obasanjo who, against an agreement on power rotation which he signed, sealed and delivered on December 22, 2002, in Aso Rock Presidential Villa, urged Jonathan to run for election in 2011.
Diplomatic sources and political leaders across geo-political zones in the country disclosed to Sunday Vanguard that Obasanjo's agenda is not about saving Nigeria from Jonathan.
In fact, a very authoritative source, who remains very close to Obasanjo but who does not share his beliefs, confided in Sunday Vanguard: “The APC does not understand the game Obasanjo is playing. Obasanjo has committed himself to some northern political leaders and traditional institutions that he would return power to the North in 2015. It is obvious that Obasanjo is no longer interested in the success of the PDP. But the APC leaders should ask him why he has not openly declared as a member of their party.
The counterpoise, however, as put forward by Sunday Vanguard, is: How does Obasanjo's membership of a political party obviate the genuineness of his observations about President Jonathan?
In what was to shock Sunday Vanguard as would shock Nigerians, the source made it clear that Obasanjo's sudden realization that Jonathan must be stopped is not about Nigeria but about Obasanjo.
AN AGENDA WITHIN AN AGENDA
According to another source, the only thing that can stop the PDP from running away with victory next year would be an opposition that can match the ruling party. APC, which was the merger of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, with the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, was meant to address that challenge.
Curiously, the regime of derision that had
crisscrossed and dominated the relationship between Obasanjo; APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu; and the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, did not matter any longer.
However, unknown to the APC leadership, sources say Obasanjo's agenda is “purely to force a stalemate at the polls such that Nigerians will have only one option which is a third way – neither Jonathan nor Buhari,” an interim arrangement or a government of national unity.
The first plank of Obasanjo's grand design is, according to sources, to overwhelm leaders of the opposition with uncommon support for their cause. That way, he would be welcomed and seen as part of their party. That has already been achieved – but Obasanjo has never claimed to be a member of APC.
The second plank, Sunday Vanguard was told, is that Obasanjo himself would overheat the polity with incendiary comments. He has already started doing that. Unfortunately, however, the book he wrote, My Watch, is already suffering credibility crisis because in that book, only Obasanjo comes out clean. But, more significantly, the book is meant to sensitize the international community, rightly or wrongly, to the fact that the Jonathan Presidency is a never-do-well contraption headed by a President who is, at best, confused and, at worst, incompetent.
As part of this plan, sufficient public angst would have a fertile ground on which to germinate and set the stage of massive outpouring of resentment. Another component of this leg is the drive to engineer discontent in the polity through verifiable and unverifiable claims and counter claims that would further drive the wedge between both leading political parties.
That way, a diplomatic source concluded, “any outcome of the 2015 presidential election would not be acceptable to the losing party”.
The source went on: “But you know what that means for Nigeria once parties refuse to accept the result of an election. What Obasanjo has succeeded in doing is to help shore up the opposition which is good for democracy; but it is also good for his own agenda which is a return to power.”
The downside, however, is that Obasanjo's own agenda goes beyond having a strong opposition.
Another source disclosed: “The whole idea of supporting the APC is to force a stalemate at the polls. Obasanjo does not do anything without his own interest.”
To buttress the point of the former Nigerian leader's interest, Sunday Vanguard has been told of the existence of the report of a probe into the activities of General Buhari as Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, Chairman.
The interesting development is that between Obasanjo and the PDP leadership, the details of that report would become public knowledge. So, why would Obasanjo be interested in leaking the report? It is for the same reason as “damaging Buhari the way he has written about Jonathan”, an Obasanjo aide who has since fallen out with the former President disclosed.
The Obasanjo former aide added: “Since the first election in 2015 is the presidential election, any unpalatable fallout may make it difficult for subsequent elections to hold. In the event that that happens, Nigerians should begin to brace for an interim arrangement which is what Obasanjo is working towards. To him, it is either Jonathan is removed or another arrangement is put in place”.
When Obasanjo threatens that he would jail an individual, the question is, how? – he is no longer President. But the scenario, said to be anticipated is that the need to legislate for an interim government would not need too much push as Nigeria's National Assembly, by February ending, would house a preponderant of legislators whose stake would amount for nothing because they were not re-nominated by their parties for another term.
The dangerous mix of having a stalemate and an assemblage of disgruntled lawmakers would make for a tantalizing cocktail for disaster in a country of clashing socio-political, economic and religious interests.
The international community would wade in and would rather support an interim arrangement than sees a unstable nation.
CONCERN OF LEADERS
As investigations for the scripting of this piece was on-going, Bolaji Akinyemi, a professor, and former Foreign Affairs Minister and who just served as Deputy Chairman, National Conference, 2014, alerted Nigerians on Monday that danger looms. He sent an open letter to both Jonathan and Buhari, calling on both men to conduct their campaigns with decorum as well as ensure that they abide by the outcome of next year's presidential election in order not to set Nigeria on fire. He also called on leaders to intervene and meet with both candidates.
Since Monday when the letter was published, as if driven by a peculiar spirit, both camps have not ceased to tone down their rhetoric of assault. While the Buhari campaign claimed to tacitly support mutiny, insisting that the military has a right to protest, Jonathan's camp has been busy pouring invectives on the person of Buhari. This is exactly the type of scenario Obasanjo had allegedly envisaged.
Mercifully, a few of those leaders of thought that Akinyemi suggested should meet with both candidates appear to be on the same page with the former minister and erudite scholar.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that a former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, agrees totally with the observations of Akinyemi.
In separate interviews with Col. Abubakar Umar, the Caliphate and other prominent Nigerians, they all agreed that Akinyemi had hit the nail on the head.
WHEN OBASANJO SPEAKS
From the Olympian height of nationalism, logging a record in 1979 as the first African military leader to voluntarily hand over power to civilians, Obasanjo has fumbled down the hill with a deafening fall occasioned by his attempt at tenure elongation in 2006.
Perhaps, a more thorough interrogation of the man, Obasanjo, would have revealed a self-conceited individual whose only claim to goodness is opportunistic.
Yet, consider the following:
In 1983, during the deadly days of the post-1983 election violence, Obasanjo took a swipe at the then President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari for running a clueless government. Soon after, precisely on December 31, that year, the military struck.
Again in the early second half of 1985, Obasanjo, while delivering a lecture somewhere in the South West, lampooned the General Muhammadu Buhari junta and, barely two months later, Buhari was toppled.
When Obasanjo tried something similar in 1989 against the Ibrahim Babangida administration, attempting to ride on the back of the riots against the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, of that government, younger military officers out-shouted Obasanjo. Whereas Obasanjo, who holds the traditional title of Balogun of Owu, doubling as the Ekerin Egba, had counseled that Babangida's SAP must have a human face and a milk of human kindness, Navy Captain Okhai Mike Akhigbe charged back on behalf of that government, describing Obasanjo as a frustrated chicken farmer. That silenced Obasanjo for a while.
It was not until the troubling days of June 12, 1993 presidential election annulment, a time when it would have been expected of Obasanjo to be on the side of decency, common sense and logic, that the former President found his voice in a most ludicrous and egregious manner. Rather than keep quiet in the face of nothing meaningful and helpful to say, Obasanjo declared that the winner of that election, Bashorun MKO Abiola, was not the messiah Nigerians were waiting for. That statement further emboldened the military to stay the course and cause of annulment.
In retrospect today, maximum dictator Sani Abacha, by a twist of ironic tragic-comedy, hauled Obasanjo into prison as a way of stopping his serial pranks – the coup tribunal actually ordered Obasanjo kept out for life. Interestingly, had those administrations Obasanjo criticized found accommodation for his influence, all would have been well in his estimation!
For a traditional man, it takes a strange individual to do what Obasanjo does with relish. After imposing Umar Musa Yar'Adua on Nigeria, it was the same Obasanjo who railed against the former when his illness became imminently terminal.
And after campaigning for Jonathan to become President in 2011, and when the centre could no longer hold for both men, Obasanjo switched on his atavistic and cantankerous mode.
Make no mistake, it is only a manifestly shambling and shambolic presidency like Jonathan's that would be a receptacle for all manner of dirt. And which is why an Obasanjo, with the attendant ills of his administration, would not see anything good about Jonathan, his protégé