A GODFATHER AND HIS GODSONS
Though former President, Olusegun Obasanjo has consistently denied having any Third Term ambition and has made it clear to anyone who cared to listen, it is common knowledge in the polity that towards the end of his second tenure, the former President had put in every arsenal within his power in trying to coerce the lawmakers into 'adjusting' the Constitution to fit in a Third Term for political office holders.
But when the Ken Nnamani-led National Assembly truncated the bid, many who saw it as a triumph of democracy and felt that it was the end of a pipe dream, heaved a sigh of relief.
Beginning of Obasanjo's era
When some powerful elements in the North facilitated the emergence of Obasanjo as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999, political analysts believed that the move was compensation to the South-West for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election which MKO Abiola who is from the region, was said to have won.
The game plan, according to observers, was to recompense the South by giving them the presidential slot for eight years, of which after the expiration of the time, a northerner will take over. That was the script written for him by the northern power brokers. At the inception of his tenure, he acted the scripts written, but by the time he had gotten a second term, created his own political structure and consolidated power, he sidetracked his 'benefactors' and put his own plans in motion.
As one who is often described as an astute politician and who enjoys wielding his influence wherever, his first option was to coerce the lawmakers into maneuvering the Constitution to give room for a three to four-year tenure for each political office holder, but when that was foiled, and the plan which is now popularly known as 'the Third Term bid' was aborted , he resorted to the second option which was to get a stooge to replace him as President and one that will ensure that his interests will be protected, and this set the stage for the tussle that was to ensue in 2007.
And Yar'Adua emerges
Sequel to the 2007 presidential elections, the political intrigues and powerplay that typify an election was at its peak. A lot of candidates had signified interests in clinching the PDP ticket. The former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili, his counterpart in Cross River, Donald Duke, Sam Egwu, Achike Udenwa, Aliyu Gusau, the late President Yar'Adua, Rochas Okorocha amongst others.
Among the contestants, the tide seemed to go in favour of Odili whose supposed closeness to Obasanjo, many felt, would give him the leverage and the push to achieve his ambition. But the candidates felt that their individual relationship with the former president was going to fetch them the PDP ticket, they were in for a shocker as Obasanjo's prefered candidate was Umaru Yar'Adua.
His choice of Yar'Adua came to many as a surprise especially, as the latter did not initially indicate interest in the job and was a relatively unknown person even as the governor of Katsina State from 1999 to 2007. Apart from the obvious fact that Yar'Adua had always had health challenges even as governor and was not also the favoured candidate of the north, Obasanjo who felt compelled to fulfil his own part of the agreement between him and the power brokers that put him in power to hand over to a northerner chose an ailing Yar'Adua as the candidate of the north.
As expected, his choice of Yar'Adua met with stiff opposition, as northerners felt they were being shortchanged by the former president when there were candidates they felt would be a better choice.
Speculations were rife that the former president whose Third Term plan had failed was fully aware of the late Yar'Adua's health history and to ensure a continuation of his rule, he sought for one who will willingly play the role of a stooge and whom he could easily influence to carry out his bidding.
In an election that was adjuded the worst in the history of the country, Yar'Adua was foisted on the people, with Jonathan as his running mate.
If Obasanjo felt that Yar'Adua saw a willing stooge in the late President, he was in for a surprise because contrary to the fears of the generality of Nigerians, Yar'Adua showed that he had an independent mind by some of the policies and actions he took that was against the wishes of his benefactor.
One of such actions was the trial of the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu who is rumored to be Obasanjo's hatchet man.
Though Ribadu cried wolf, telling all those who cared to listen that his trial by Yar'Adua's administration was politically motivated, he was accused of not declaring his assets, demoted from the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police and subsequently was forced to leave the police force.
Ribadu was not alone. Allegation of corruption was also levelled against the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Obasanjo's administration, Nasir El-Rufai, and investigations on his activities, especially the unpopular demolition of houses and allocation of lands that took place during his tenure were part of the issues he had with the EFCC .The trial of the duo eventually led to their self-exile.
Yar'Adua did not stop there. He immediately refunded the funds which belonged to Lagos that was withheld by the Obasanjo administration, and this singular action earned him the respect of many Lagosians.
Another case was the re-opening of the Ibeto Cement Company which was closed down by his predecessor. It was speculated that Obasanjo had closed down the cement company to guard the interests of one of his allies who is also in the cement business.
When Yar'Adua came to power, the closure of the company was revoked and the license restored to the owner.
The rampant sales of oil blocks in the previous administration was immidiately probed by the Yar'Adua administration and the privatization of Transcorp Hilton Hotel was revoked and handed back to the Federal Government.
Unfortunately, Yar'adua's presidency was aborted due to his failing health and eventual death. Though Obasanjo had denied it, Yar'Adua's demise put paid to the initial fears and speculations in the North that he was fully aware of the latter's failing health, but went ahead to make him president, knowing that he may not survive to complete his tenure, and power will eventually shift to Goodlick Jonathan who many believe will end up doing Obasanjo's bidding.
And Jonathan emerges
With the emergence of Jonathan who many see as a beneficiary of Obasanjo's 'benevolence', the feeling of apprehension that the latter may have indirectly achieved his Third Term ambition is palapble in the polity, going by the recent developments. First was the influence of the former president in the nomination of the ministers in Jonathan's administration. He was reported to have influenced the nomination of Dora Akunyili, Jubril Martins-Kuye, Abdul-Muttalab Yar'Adua and Josehpine Tapgun as ministers.
Recently, the Federal Government withdrew its charges against Ribadu, who was standing trial and the President ordered that his rank as AIG of police be restored.
This development sent shockwaves across the nation, as political observers believed that the former President may have been responsible for the sudden change. The return of El-Rufai, and the appointment of Soyebi as the acting Chairman of INEC is also perceived to have been influenced by Obasanjo.
There has been a public outcry against the seeming 'lovey-dovey' affair between the former President and Jonathan. Chief among those who has criticised that former's closeness to the later is the former governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa.
In a telephone chat with The Sun, he stated categorically that many people were not comfortable with the sudden closeness of the duo, and expressed concern that Jonathan may be influenced adversely.
His words: 'If he wants to succeed, there are people he should distance himself from and one of such people is the former president because he will only end up causing problems for Jonathan and that is our fear.
We have observed that not only is he aligning himself with such people, some self exiled fugitives who did this country no good have also started getting too close to him, and that is very worrisome. We fear that the country may be plunged back into what it used to be, and my advice to him is to be wary of such people. There are men of intergrity that he should rather align with, instead.'
But a former Attorney-General of the Federation believes that Obasanjo's closeness to Jonathan was because of his understanding of the unique nature of Nigeria's politics. He reiterated this in an interview with Daily Sun. 'All prejudice and bias apart, there is no living Nigerian who is better informed, more equipped or more knowledgeable about Nigerian affairs today than Olusegun Obasanjo.
If there's any other person, I challenge anybody to stand up and name him. You see, whenever there is crisis in the United States, they go and call former President Jimmy Carter or George Bush. They call those great men who have seen it all. Obasanjo has seen Nigeria. On the international plane, he is well respected. He took the surrender of Biafra.'
' There are certain roles, which Obasanjo has played in the affairs of this country, which no other Nigerian has played and which no other Nigerian will every play. I think we should count ourselves lucky that Obasanjo is still alive and we should banish all prejudice and bias and listen to him and learn from his experiences. It's for the benefit of the country and the public's interest.'