His military background makes it predictable and expected. But added to
these, the advantage of a sitting president, (self?) induced ambition and
power drunkenness make Obasanjo’s war machine the most formidable, the most
intimidating, seemingly invincible and yet most intriguing in the battle for
succession in 2007.
This should not be a surprise because no enemy in a war ever makes his
intention clear especially on where and when to strike. For example, even
before he was sworn in 1999, reliable information now confirmed by current
events, was that Obasanjo set in motion plans to rule rather than serve
beyond not just one term but even beyond two terms.
However, he held his card to his chest. Hence, vice president Atiku Abubakar
either innocently or to pressure Obasanjo into honouring the one-term
agreement, embarked on his election plans to succeed Obasanjo. There might
not be much to criticise Obasanjo in insisting on two terms since even if
that was in breach of an earlier agreement to run for a single term, he (Obasanjo)
could still find refuge in the right of an elected president to two terms
under the constitution.
Despite this convenient constitutional right of Obasanjo, the possible
reaction of vice-president Abubakar was sounded out the military way and
totally unknown to him. Some of the state governors with long-standing
reputation as security informants feigned commitment and loyalty to him (Abubakar)
and pushed the poor man to nearly challenging Obasanjo for the PDP
presidential ticket for the second term.
Through these state governors, Obasanjo was therefore in a good position to
realise the loyalty or disloyalty of his deputy.
What was meant to be a test of loyalty or disloyally of Vice president
Ababukar was still employed to boost his ego as having the upper hand
especially when he (Abubakar) directed some state governors to take their
feigned grievances against Obasanjo to the man face to face. Obasanjo, for
all his political mightiness, went to the vice-president’s house almost on
his knees to sue for peace.
Obasanjo? A soldier and a full General at that? Professing personal guilt
and promising reconciliation with a bloody civilian already established to
be after his job?
Ordinarily, after securing Vice President Abubakar’s support for the
presidential ticket for the second term, political tempers should have
cooled down to a comfortable temperature. On the contrary, hardly had
Obasanjo settled down in office for the second term than he commenced
“military action” against Vice-President Abubakar noticeably against normal
The first was the occasional snipings at the Vice-President’s office in the
intermittent removal of Atiku Abubakar’s personal staff including special
assistants, special advisers even without informing him or despite his (Vice
President’s) intervention/plea on behalf of the humiliated staff. To rebuff
public concern, Obasanjo responded that only he as President has the power
to appoint and remove anybody (except perhaps the Vice-President) in the
Assessing his progress, Obasanjo became more confident to raise the level of
military operations to the level of artillery shelling of Vice-President
Atiku Abubakar’s position. Even if the Vice-president still felt safe in his
bunker, his foot soldiers would have none of Obasanjo’s aggression. Atiku
Abubakar’s staff, so well quoted but usually unidentified in the media
planted information that Obasanjo, as in 1999, was politically baseless and
non-existent but for Atiku Abubakar’s Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM)
whose structures solely, according to them, delivered the presidency to
Therefore, according to Vice-President Abubakar’s men, Obasanjo is an
ingrate which, by the way, the man himself occasionally behaves to type. It
was a direct hit but not surprisingly intensified the shellings from
Obasanjo’s sector. Obasanjo’s reaction thereafter and till now is natural.
Without ever saying so publicly, it is something like “I see. The Vice
president’s PDM made me the president in 1999? Then he should make it easier
to use the same PDM to make himself (Atiku Abubakar) the next president.”
In fact, the vice president’s henchmen’s derisory portrait of Obasanjo as
politically baseless in 1999 was the major reason he (Obasanjo) massacred
Alliance for Democracy out of power virtually throughout South Western
states in 2003. Reports of the claim of a President without political home
base had been reaching Obasanjo before the 2003 elections.
The major thrust of the present battle against Atiku Abubakar is to expose
him (not entirely rightly) that as was in 1999, so it is now – the PDM was
already a collapsed structure not well placed to deliver the Presidency even
to Atiku Abubakar himself.
Another grouse of Obasanjo was that Atiku Abubakar was already an elected
state governor of Adamawa in 1999 but was invited to be Obasanjo’s running
mate. In doing so, Obasanjo broke a seeming religious faith with ex-Kano
State governor, Abubakar Rimi. Whatever his political modesty,
vice-president Atiku Abubakar soon realised the enormity of the powers of
the president especially on the much trumpeted agreement.
Also, the conventional arrangement of state governors reporting to the
vice-president also gave Atiku Abubakar the false sense of political
strength in the states through the governors. All those governors have since
rendered him derelict by dancing round Obasanjo on the third term intention.
Atiku Abubakar must be wondering about the nature of fellow Nigerians.
Whether Obasanjo carries out his ill-advised third term intention, whether
he is stopped by Atiku Abubakar in that bid or another person entirely
benefits from the irreconcilable political differences of the president and
vice-president, there is bound to be a change in the idea of governors
reporting to a vice-president as both will not take the chance again.
In 1991, the political difference between the Jakande and Yar’Ardua groups
which respectively nominated Professor Femi Agbalajobi (now deceased) and
Yomi Edu on the platform of Social Democratic Party created the lucky
opportunity for Sir Michael Otedola to win the governorship race in Lagos
State, on the platform of rival National Republican Convention.
Throughout the military era, state military governors were reporting to the
Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters or the Chief of General Staff as the
The abandonment of Atiku Abubakar by the state governors despite their
erstwhile support for the poor man to confront Obasanjo raises a fundamental
question. What has happened to or changed in Obasanjo to suddenly transform
him into their “Lord”? Obasanjo has dealt with some state governors by
unleashing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and
instigating state houses of assembly men to impeach deviant governors or
face jail for theft of constituency project fund of at least N100 million
(One hundred million each) throughout the 36 states houses of assembly.
The only exception so far is Plateau State House of Assembly where forced
revelations of expenditure of the alleged stolen money implicated and
embarrassed the PDP hierarchy from top to bottom. Even the EFCC in a subtle
move has rested investigations into N1.6 billion (one billion six hundred
million naira) ecology fund for a fresh charge of laundering N700 million
(seven hundred million naira).
Secondly, even out-going governors would rather tag along with Obasanjo to
benefit from a third term instead of crashing with vice-president Atiku
Eventually aware of the duplicitous role of the state governors as disguised
agents of the presidency, Atiku Abubakar fought off a bait for treason when
approached by a military officer who offered an ethnic card for a military
coup. As revealed in the current treason trial in Lagos High Court
(El-Mustapha, Major, and others), Atiku Abubakar instantly informed
In so doing, the vice president must have incurred the wrath of the alleged
coup plotters who were instantly arrested. But the credit for Abubakar was
that he displayed loyalty, given the fact that since 1966, military coups in
the country had always been along ethnic lines. But Atiku Abubakar’s risk on
that occasion, even till now, does not seem to assuage his political enemies
led by Obasanjo over the 2003 failed presidential nomination bid of the vice
Ironically, Atiku Abubakar seems to be in a no-win situation.
When and if he failed the loyalty test in 2003, he was considered
treacherous and when on the second occasion, he reported the offer of
military coup plot he discovered to Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar’s gesture is
being treated as no big deal and self-serving to save his neck. In fact, the
vice president had to alarm the nation few months ago of plot to hang a
treason trial round his neck. Thank God, he spoke out.
Meanwhile, those in charge of Obasanjo’s (political) war operations have
embarked on a two-pronged attack. The first is to stop Atiku Abubakar and
get him out of the party, none of which Obasanjo and his men are finding
easy. When the PDP embarked on re-registration of members last time, Atiku
Abubakar and his supporters especially in his home base Adamawa State, were
contemptuously left out.
The vice president rebuffed the development and obviously embarrassed by the
reports in the media and undoubtedly worried that the incident might attract
public sympathy for Atiku Abubakar, the PDP leadership had to suffer the
humiliation of meeting the vice president in his official residence in Abuja
not only to apologise but also to register him. For now, Abubakar stays put
in the PDP.
The vice president is facing the self-realisation that the die is cast.
Neither does he deceive himself that the PDP genuinely still reckons with
him as a top member or heir apparent.
In fact, he remains in the party only by the day. Accordingly, the vice
president has prepared a fall-back position not unknown to his political
enemies. But he was more tactful. Pushing out his well-known associates, he
stayed out of the move to register a new political association – Movement
for Reform and Restoration of Democracy. It was a decoy for which the vice
president’s PDP enemies fell.
Rather clandestinely, the real party for Atiku Abubakar was busy processing
its application for registration, without any prominent member identified
with the vice president. By the time Advanced Congress of Democrats was
registered by the electoral commission, the real party hierarchy came out in
their true colours, much to the chagrin of Obasanjo, the PDP and perhaps the
Electoral Commission which could never have intended to be seen to have
offered Atiku Abubakar a safe political landing.
Membership of Advanced Congress of Democrats, all erstwhile members of PDP,
except a few from the AD, openly embraced their new party. A whole state
branch of the PDP – Plateau– has crossed over. Former Ambassador Kwande,
former Federal Minister of State Funke Adedoyin, former PDP Deputy National
President Iro Dan Musa Senator Adefulu, Layi Mohammed, a former Chief of
Staff to Governor Bola Tinubu, etc. In the next few months, the membership
For how long can vice president Atiku Abubakar leave his supporters
leaderless? He will pick his time, obviously because he does not want to
make it easy for the PDP. He may no longer be able to function or influence
in the PDP but will rather subject the party to such strains and attrition
to such point of being possibly expelled all with the hope of removing him
as vice president. The constitution makes that option futile.
All a public office holder – president, vice president, governor or minister
needs to qualify for the post under the constitution is to belong to a
political party whether new or old. If expelled, Atiku Abubakar can join his
party and retain his post.
What is more, under the same 1999 constitution, if there is a dispute in any
party, any faction(al member) is free to join another party without losing
his post. Ironically, the same PDP pioneered the test for that
constitutional provision with the admission of Senator Nzeribe (from ANPP)
Senator Wahab Dosunmu, Senator Seye Ogunlewe, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro,
Senator Ogunniya, all from Alliance for Democracy. So, whatever happens in
the next twelve months, Atiku Abubakar is safe as vice president.
Can Atiku Abubakar be impeached? Such attempt may be an option for the PDP
but more as an act of desperation which in any case, carries the risk of
ethnic inclination to determine the outcome. The survival of Ghali Na’Abba,
ex-speaker House of Representatives, against prolonged impeachment move
remains a vivid example.
However, this does not make it an omnibus smooth-sailing for Atiku Abubakar
in the next twelve months. In fact, Nigerians must get set for what the late
Fela Anikulapo Kuti prophetically assessed as “Roforofo” fight, which is a
very, very dirty if not suicidal contest.
In Nigeria’s political history, it had never been successful to force a
showdown with national party hierarchy. The first time was in 1956 when the
erstwhile west regional minister of education, Stephen Awokoya, a very
decent and principled man, had reasons to disagree with the Action Group
government and leadership.
The situation seemed to be even easier to form a new party and win some
seats either to a regional house of assembly, house of representatives or
even a local government council. Chief Awokoya formed the Nigerian Peoples
Party but failed to win a single seat in the 1956 elections to the western
house of assembly. But Chief Awokoya still meritoriously served Nigeria as
the pioneer principal of the Federal Government – owned Federal School of
The next was Alhaji Ibrahim Imam, hitherto a leading member of Northern
Peoples Congress under the leadership of Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto.
Ibrahim Iman broke with the NPC and formed Bornu Youth Movement. The
political impact was hardly felt until he died without any strong opposition
to his former colleagues.
In 1958, after unsuccessfully leading a “ZIK MUST GO” mutiny in the NCNC,
the late K.O. Mbadiwe formed the Democratic Party of Nigeria and the
Cameroons (DPNC) and signed an emergency alliance with the Action Group for
the 1959 federal elections.
Also in 1981, the then Kano State Governor Abubakar Rimi broke with the
Peoples Redemption Party under the leadership of the late Aminu Kano. He
later formed an alliance with NPP, and GNPP. Still, it was a fruitless
Can Atiku Abubakar make a difference either within the PDP or on the
platform of a new party? It is an uphill task and will be historic.
President Olusegun Obasanjo has two noticeable peculiarities. The first is
certainly a gift or blessing from God while the second is more like
self-curse or retributive justice.
That blessing from God enables Obasanjo to be at the correct place at the
correct time to inherit other people’s glory especially at decisive moments
of Nigeria’s political history. Both in Nigeria and abroad, the best known
and most successful commander during the civil war was Brigadier-General
Benjamin Adekunle. His military feats were regular features in British,
European and American print and electronic media.
How such exposure endeared him to his colleagues was not clear but with only
months if not weeks to the end of the civil war, Adekunle was replaced. And
who succeeded him? The then Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, who as the new
commander of the Third Marine Commando Division almost effortlessly received
Biafra’s surrender at Owerri to bring the war to an end.
The deposition of General Yakubu Gowon in 1975 brought Brigadier Murtala
Mohammed to office as new head of state and Brigadier Obasanjo next to him
as Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. Within six months, Murtala Mohammed
was assassinated in the failed Dimka coup. God’s gift once again fell on
Obasanjo as the surviving members of Murtala Mohammed’s administration
elevated him as the new head of state.
Following the assassination of General Aguiyi-Ironsi in July 1966, his next
in rank, Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe was not that lucky as the mutineers
refused him as the new head of state and he (Ogundipe) had to resume in
London as Nigeria’s High Commissioner.
Following the annulment of Bashorun MKO Abiola’s victory in the June 12,
1993 presidential elections, Nigeria knew no peace even after the death of
General Sani Abacha in June 1998. And when Bashorun Abiola died a month
later, civil war and indeed disintegration loomed in Nigeria. To avoid any
or both of these potential disasters, northern establishment accepted the
reality that the South must be conceded the presidency.
Once again, whose luck emerged to inherit Abiola’s glory? Olusegun Obasanjo
against strong contenders like former civilian vice president Alex Ekwueme,
and former federal minister Olu Falae.
On the opposite side of this special God’s blessing on Obasanjo is the man’s
penchant for dismissing every other person except himself. Unfortunately for
him, in more like a self curse, it was always a question of time for
whatever critical or derisory words (Obasanjo expressed against others) to
rebound on him.
Following his release from prison by General Abdulsalami Abubakar after
General Abacha’s death, General Obasanjo was asked in an interview with
Kayode Soyinka, publisher of AFRICA TODAY, for his views on Abacha’s plan to
perpetuate himself or prolong his stay in office, Obasanjo could not
restrain his bitterness against Abacha who, admittedly imprisoned him, yet
was already in his grave.
The only assessment Obasanjo, in that interview, could find for the late
General Abacha was a Yoruba adage, “Eni ti o ba se ohun ti enikan ko se ri,
oju re a ri ohun ti enikan ko ri ri.” Yoruba will best appreciate the import
of this adage, which today rebounds on Obasanjo on the third term bid which
is neither confirmed nor denied especially amidst this prevailing political
tension inherent in a seeming peace or cemetery silence.
By the way, the simple translation of Obasanjo’s adage on a deceased General
Abacha is “any unprecedented misadventure is logically sequential to
unprecedented disastrous consequences.
There is much to say for and against Obasanjo’s third term bid. The most
fundamental is that he has not confirmed it publicly. Given the chance to
say something last time, he dodged the question. Worse still, if there was
no interest at all, Obasanjo would not even have mentioned anything about
being pressured for a third term. Certainly not by the average Nigerian
Indeed, Obasanjo’s personality is such that if he is not interested, nobody
(born by a woman) around him will dare mention it in private or public.
Obasanjo would have fired him.
On the credit side, the most authoritative, the most credible, most
respected, self comporting and self-respecting voice in the presidency, Remi
Oyo, Obasanjo’s Senior Special Assistant on Media Affairs, has denied any
third term bid and left it at that. That is the only promising note.
Otherwise, every other person including Obasanjo with his silence and
ambiguous utterances, has been fanning nuances of the imminence, necessity
and indeed inevitability of a third term and even beyond.
Then there are the surrogates. Last time, they assembled at Enugu and
gloated about a new found Southern solidarity. Before and after the meeting,
critics exposed the so-called Southern forum as a platform intended to
garner endorsement for Obasanjo’s third term bid. Did South-Southerners and
South- Easterners know this and still went ahead in their communique that it
was their turn for the presidency in 2007? If they did not know, they
allowed themselves to be deceived and used.
Chief Matthew Mbu staked his age and political reputation to vouch that the
Enugu gathering or even South-South People’s Assembly was not to drum up
support for Obasanjo’s third term. Perhaps so.
Then suddenly, South Westerners led by the component state governors
publicly endorsed Obasanjo’s third term. Were South-Easterners and
South-Southerners (co-members of the new Southern Solidarity Forum)
consulted by South-West governors before endorsing Obasanjo?
Chief Mbu must be embarrassed today as the South-South and South-East have
followed South-West to endorse Obasanjo’s third term. The same cannot be
said of Joe Irukwu, Presidential General of Ohanaeze cultural group who,
when he extended the tenure of his leadership, was accused by rival Igbo
leaders that the plan was to use the platform to endorse Obasanjo’s third
term. Joe Irukwu denied any such plan. Today, the same Ohanaeze under Joe
Irukwu’s leadership has endorsed Obasanjo’s third term.
In effect, both South-East and South-South have surrendered their claim to
the presidency in 2007, which was predicted in this column only weeks ago
when fellow Nigerians from those parts of the country were alerted on the
insincerity of Nigerian politicians.
What matters on the third term bid is Obasanjo’s intention. He worships two
Gods – the Almighty up there and the God of Lagos-Sagamu Expressway, Enoch
Adeboye. Anytime Obasanjo runs into trouble, he always rushes to Enoch
Adeboye’s Redemption Camp on Lagos-Sagamu Expressway for supplication.
About three months ago, Redeemed leader and Obasanjo’s most trusted pastor
Enoch Adeboye was asked (on a television station in Lagos) for his view on
Obasanjo’s proposed third term. Adeboye replied: “democracy is alien to us
in Nigeria and Africa. In those days, we were ruled by kings. And once a
king was enthroned, he always ruled for life.” Pastor Adeboye has now
endorsed Obasanjo to rule not just for third term but for life.
If Wole Soyinka does not believe in God, especially the God of Lagos-Sagamu
Expressway, Pastor Adeboye has his followers in hundreds of thousands all
over Nigeria including Obasanjo.
At last December’s PDP convention in Abuja, Obasanjo raised the hope of
South- South and the North. First he conceded that in 1998/1999, we
addressed the principle of power shift and rotation. It was discussed
extensively, debated rigorously and agreed to even without it being included
in the party constitution or nation’s constitution.
He then assured the South-South: “I have read with some understanding the
document issued by the South-South Assembly. What I will say to PDP members
of that assembly is that while nobody will turn deaf ears to their well-made
case, and well marshaled points, they should allow the spirit of dialogue,
debate, tolerance, negotiation and give and take to prevail.”
While still raising the hopes of South-South, Obasanjo equally raised the
hope of the North when he said “when the time comes, they (i.e. South-South)
should accord me as leader of the PDP, the opportunity to interpret our
policy and principle of power shift to suit the occasion which will
definitely consider the seeming agitation from the North of the country.”
Remarkably, Obasanjo had no promise for the South-East. Would that account
for the zone’s endorsement of Obasanjo’s third term? Perhaps so, but why has
the South South dashed its hopes by also endorsing Obasanjo’s third term?
Neither must the Northern zones deceive themselves on power shift. Perhaps
the South-South and South-East afterall refused to be taken in on a
fruitless journey, judging by Obasanjo’s contempt for the competing zones.
Read him earlier in his speech at the same party’s convention in Abuja last
December while conceding that the party agreed on rotation/power shift in
According to Obasanjo, “that spirit of discussion and dialogue which stood
us in good stead then must now not be appropriated, manipulated,
compromised, contaminated or corrupted by any individual or group no matter
how highly placed. As a party, we must resist efforts by some individuals or
groups to use their pedestrian understanding of power shift and power
rotation to hold the country to ransom. In any case, in engaging in any
political discourse or positionings we must not use it as a cover to
distort, mangle, deny, rewrite or redirect history in very dangerous
When Obasanjo eventually interprets the agreed power rotation in his decree
above, it is most unlikely that Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s supporters
will give in. Whether the man is expelled or frustrated out of the party,
his supporters in the PDP will surely follow him thereby shattering the PDP
down the middle, making any necessary repair work very demanding.
Whatever happens in the future, Obasanjo has forfeited his credibility and
reputation. If he goes for the third term, he has joined the ranks of
African leaders who perpetuate themselves in office. If on the other hand he
quits at the end of his second term tenure, he would have joined the ranks
of African leaders driven out of office by people’s stiff opposition.
If Obasanjo quits because of the present tension, he would in a way also
have positively contributed to Nigeria’s political development because if
Obasanjo could fail in a third term bid, nobody, yes, nobody will dare it in
This is for the record. Every Yoruba of repute, human or organisation –
Canon Alayande, General Adebayo, Senator Abraham Adesanya, Bisi Akande, Wole
Soyinka, Olu Falae, Gani Fawehinmi, Segun Osoba, Yoruba Council of Elders,
Egbe Afenifere, Kola Animashaun, Segun Adeniyi, Dele Sobowale, Reuben Abati
– is against Obasanjo’s third term bid. The emphasis here is Yoruba (person
or organisation) of repute.
South-South, South-East, North-West, North-Central and North-East should