The letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Goodluck Jonathan which became public knowledge during the week has sparked a lot of controversies, particularly on the relationship between the two leaders, which many thought was cordial. IDOWU SAMUEL looks into their relationship asking if this was enough to show that there is a rift between the duo.
Keen watchers of political scenarios around the presidential villa and Abeokuta, Ogun State, would not be consternated by the frosty relationship between President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The undercurrents in the political networking by the two leaders have for long clearly indicated an unavoidable war which the two leaders must fight just to make impressions. All along, there have been mutual distrusts between the President and the former president, touching on core political interests. It was imperative for the duo to protect such
The larger than life posturing by Obasanjo over Jonathan had roots in the role he had played in bringing the latter to the corridors of power. The process began when Obasanjo, at the twilight of his government in 2007, ensured the pairing of Jonathan with late President Umaru Yar’Adua, as a running mate. Obasanjo also spearheaded the agitation for Jonathan to be president in 2010 having doused all intrigues against such possibility. The following year, Jonathan had a smooth run in the presidential election with the strong backing from relevant quarters in Nigeria, Obasanjo’s support being key.
Jonathan had hardly settled down in government when signs of crack between him and Obasanjo began to show. It got more apparent when the hitherto free access by the former President to Jonathan was curtailed. Following strident complaints that the President had been caged, it took little time for the former President to realise that he was no longer on top the list of special guests the President would ever be willing to accommodate.
The only decision Obasanjo took to pass a message to the President on the new development was to ease himself out of the post of PDP as the Board of Trustees Chairman. Since then, most activities by the ruling party had seen less of Obasanjo who also ensured the curtailing of his visits to the Presidential Villa. It was apparent that the former President had drawn the battle line with Jonathan. Events which unfolded thereafter
suddenly began to pitch Obasanjo in the camp of the opposition.
Worst still, the PDP, which has been a unifying, factor between Jonathan and Obasanjo, suddenly became a divided house. Some aggrieved governors led by Alhaji Sule Lamido of Jigawa State found in the former President a good confidant. The seeming closeness by the governors with Obasanjo in some ways rattled the presidency which also mapped out strategies for
re-courting the former President.
The plan to have Jonathan and Obasanjo back on podium of friendship some months ago necessitated a private visit by Jonathan to the former President at his Abeokuta home. Both reportedly had a meeting where they were believed to have reconciled their differences. That reconciliation was meant to distract Obasanjo’s attention from his perceived romance with the aggrieved PDP governors. It was also meant to draw him closer enough to possibly embrace the second term bid of the President.
However, the celebrated reconciliation by the two leaders was short-lived. According to reports, President Jonathan’s closest aides and others who have his ears were responsible.
Jonathan’s aides became hostile towards Obasanjo on the strength of his recommendations that most of them should be sacked. The general fear within the Presidency that Obasanjo, being close to Jonathan, has the tendency to take full control of him was also the main reason many of them prevailed on the president to be wary of drawing the former President too close.
For the core aides of the president, it was not difficult to spread anti-Obasanjo sentiment within the Presidential Villa. His relationship with the G7 governors and members of the new faction of the PDP became a tool for blackmailing the former president. In that regard, efforts by Obasanjo at a time to mediate in the standoff between Jonathan and the angry governors were generally perceived as insincere. The image of Obasanjo painted in the villa was that of a mediator who was out to make the G7 gain upper hand over Jonathan amid on-going reconciliation. The suspicion against Obasanjo marked the beginning of fresh strain in their relationship.
In his outburst as contained in his letter to the President, Obasanjo lamented the treatment of ignominy being meted to him by Jonathan stating, “If I stuck out my neck and God used me and others as instrument to work hard for you to reach where you are today in what I considered the best political interest of Nigeria, tagging me as your enemy or the enemy of your administration by you, your kin or your aides can only be regarded as ridiculous to extreme. If I see any danger to your life, I will point it out to you or ward it off as I have done in the past.”
Obasanjo affirmed the roles by the president’s aides in the omissions so far reflected by his government and personal relationships with well-meaning Nigerians, stating, “Please, Mr. President, be very wary of assistants, aides and collaborators who look for enemies for you. I have seen them with you and some were around me when I was in your position. I knew how not to allow them create enemies for me. If you allow them, everybody except them will be your enemy.’’
He added: “They are more dangerous than identified adversaries. May God save leaders from sycophants. They know what you want to hear and they feed you with it essentially for their own selfish interest. As far as you and Nigeria are concerned, they are wreckers. Where were they when God used others to achieve His will in your life. They possess you now for their interest. No interest should be higher or more important than the Nigerian interest to you. You have already made history and please, do nothing to mar
Commenting on his alleged romance with the aggrieved PDP governors, Obasanjo said, “I have heard it said particularly within the presidency circle that the disaffected governors and members of PDP are my children. I begin to wonder if, from top to bottom, any PDP member in elective office today is not directly or indirectly a beneficiary and, so to say, my political child. Anyone who may claim otherwise will be like a river that has forgotten its source.”
President Jonathan has been circumspect in engaging Obasanjo in a full-scale verbal war having advised his spokespersons to hold their peace in the interim. He seemed to be aware that the former president was attempting to draw him into a war which he should not begin to fight, given his attention on plans to return as President in 2015.
From indications, Obasanjo has two alternatives to contend with as the march to 2015 gathers momentum. The first option for him was to fully identify with the opposition to dislodge the president from power ahead of the next election. He already has leaders of All Progressives Congress (APC) as his ally, if that consideration sticks. The other alternative is to sit on the fence and watch political events unfold as dramatic as they could be. Whichever decision he makes now, the former president had stirred the hornets’ nest.