Obasanjo’s Proxy War against JonathanIt had all the hallmarks of a well-orchestrated ambush and few saw it coming; yet it was a master stroke that caught presidential handlers napping and left the President stunned and humiliated. In the full view of the world; and with President Goodluck Jonathan watching helplessly, a splinter group led by former vice president, Atiku Abubakar and seven governors, plus the former acting PDP national chairman, Kawu Baraje, and former PDP national secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola – all hardcore loyalists of former President Olusegun Obasanjo – staged a walkout at the PDP mini-convention. No President in the history of Nigeria has been this embarrassed, publicly. The walkout by the group, which calls itself the “New PDP” brought into focus the animosity between Obasanjo and Jonathan. It also underscored the lack of a rapid response mechanism within the administration; a failure which held the office of the president and Jonathan himself in contempt and public ridicule. Nigerians deserve full accountability.
As the unfolding saga of suits and counter-suits continue, amid frantic efforts to reconcile the warring PDP factions; Jonathan must read the riot act and tell Obasanjo that enough is enough! The president can no longer tolerate the insidious machinations of Obasanjo by continuously turning the proverbial other cheek while Obasanjo is having a field day undermining his authority and the presidency as an institution. Few will disagree that Jonathan’s refusal to waive his right to contest the 2015 Presidential election is at the heart of the crisis rocking the PDP. Even fewer will argue that Obasanjo has been the brain behind the crisis that has divided the ruling party into two groups: those supporting Jonathan’s re-election and those opposed to it. Obasanjo’s mischief literarily flew over the Eagle Square venue of the mini convention. Unavoidably absent, again, he surfaced the next day in Church, at the Presidential Villa; muttered some hypocritical platitudes on the need for a peaceful resolution of the crisis and called a meeting of PDP elders to resolve the issue. No one was impressed, let alone fooled. Obasanjo’s meeting failed and will continue to fail because he cannot be Esau’s hand and Jacob’s voice at the same time. Peace will continue to elude Obasanjo because his activities are the very antithesis of peace.
The impetuous, abrasive and talkative former president has missed no opportunity to publicly embarrass or humiliate Jonathan; who has remained graceful under fire; as he confronts crisis after another; all manufactured by Obasanjo – from pitting the PDP National Working Committee against the President’s choice of party chairman (Tukur) to encouraging insubordination and disrespect for the president by Governors; something he himself never tolerated as president. Having personally hand-picked the Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket, which he foisted on Nigerians after one of the most grotesque and shameless electoral heist in modern history, Obasanjo cannot help but see Jonathan as a political client, whose abiding mantra in politics is to remain servile, self-abasing and loyal to him, under the hegemonic oligarchy perfected and installed with his do-or-die politics.
Obasanjo has been an enigma, in and out of office, and he seems to cherish that role. Nobody, dead or alive, has had more impact on the course of post-independence Nigeria than the scion of Ota. Baba evokes different memories for different people. To his admirers, OBJ is the “Mandela” of Nigeria; having moved from prison to the presidency. To his detractors, Obasanjo had the chance in 1979 to launch Nigeria on the path of genuine democracy, but he bungled it. Twenty-eight years later, in 2007, after eight years as civilian president, he had the opportunity to make amends, but he squandered it in his characteristic devious manner. So what does Baba really want? What is his endgame?
Clearly, the revolt he orchestrated in the PDP is the final plank of the battle which started within the party in the run up to the 2011 elections when some influential Northerners, under the aegis of the Northern Peoples Leadership Forum (NPLF), tried to stop Jonathan from contesting the presidency. When that failed, they opted for a consensus Northern candidate; and drafted former Vice President Atiku, who was defeated by Jonathan; thanks in part, to a deal brokered by Obasanjo; wherein Jonathan agreed to be a one-term president. When Jonathan started taking over the structures of the PDP, the Northern PDP Governors, being Obasanjo loyalists, reached out to Baba to prevail on his “political son” Jonathan not to contest the 2015 election. Jonathan’s rejection of any such pressure forced Obasanjo to switch his allegiance in favour of a PDP presidential candidate from the North. In April, Jonathan met with some of the northern Governors, and rejected their assertion. The protagonists of the group, led by Babangida Aliyu went public, asking Jonathan to adhere to the alleged one-term agreement. At this point, the President’s spokesmen denied the existence of any such agreement. Alarmed that Jonathan could be hounded out of the 2015 race, his supporters opted for public warnings and threats. Led by Chief Edwin Clark and Asari Dokubo, they threatened violence; spewing provocative and debasing comments that offended the sensibilities of Nigerians.
The northern governors had contemplated a mass defection to the APC but Obasanjo advised against abandoning the PDP saying it was better to retain the option of joining another party until it becomes impossible to remain in the PDP. Having decided to confront Jonathan with all the political heavy weights outside the government, the governors recruited Atiku to carry out the convention coup. It was to execute the plan that Atiku denied any link with his political group, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) when it was registered. The walkout was to prove to Jonathan that they can still dismantle the structures for his planned 2015 ambition.
In Abuja; the city of rumors and intrigues, clearly, Jonathan was the only one taken unawares when the walkout began at the Eagle Square. Obasanjo’s invitation to Sokoto where he was given red carpet reception just days before the mini-convention ought to have raised a red flag to all the president’s men. The fact that there was no prior intelligence on the move and no immediate counter measures against the rebellious group speaks volumes about the quality of political operatives around the president. It is indicative of how precarious Jonathan’s situation is, in the countdown to 2015. The president needs battle-hardened political operatives and garrison commanders to confront Obasanjo and the opposition; not crying babies and octogenarians tottering on the borders of senile decay.
Obasanjo’s insatiable quest for political relevance speaks directly to his anti-democratic credentials. His modus operandi is to bite and blow. Through a combination of deviousness, guile and opportunism, he has managed to remain relevant to the Nigerian political equation. Obasanjo is the quintessential example that when you put a man in high office far above the capacity of his intellect and the integrity of his character, you create a vicious, power-mongering, and psychologically unstable ruler. All he knows how to do is abuse his position and power to aggrandize himself and his cronies. Fortunately for Baba, we have in Jonathan, a wimp who has redefined the meaning of poor leadership in a way which makes Obasanjo look like a messiah. It is not an irony of fate that Obasanjo has remained the greatest threat to democracy in Nigeria. The man continues to bestride the Nigerian political space like a colossus. Clearly, in tackling the PDP and Jonathan in 2015, Nigerians must contend with Obasanjo as the X-factor.
Short URL: http://www.osundefender.org/?p=120604