Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP), is gradually making headway in his mission to win the heart of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, SaharaReporters can report.
Obasanjo is not the biggest fan of Atiku’s, the duo having endured a fractious relationship for more than a decade, starting from the latter years of their Aso Rock reign.
Just in April, Obasanjo, when asked if he would support Atiku’s presidential aspiration, answered: “For what”?
“How can I be on the same side with Atiku? To do what?” he had asked.
“If I support Atiku for anything, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support. I do not have personal grudges with anyone. If you do not do well for Nigeria, you do not do well for all of us.
“It is not a question of working with or not working with an individual. “If you are working for the good of Nigeria, I am working with you. If you are not working for the good of Nigeria it does not matter who you are I am not working with you.”
To Atiku’s credit, he launched a charm offensive on his former boss minutes after he was declared winner of the PDP presidential primary on Sunday, telling the crowd towards the end of his acceptance speech: “Finally, on a personal note, I wouldn’t have been standing where I am today if my former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, had not made me his Vice President.
“Under his tutelage, I learnt quite a lot, and I believe the experience I have got is going to impact on how I eventually govern this country. I wish to pay my personal tribute to him.”
SaharaReporters now understands Obasanjo’s hard stance against Atiku is gradually softening, and he is poised to “eventually endorse Atiku”.
“Baba believes that Buhari is too rigid, and you know Baba said long time ago that Buhari should go and rest in 2019,” a source close to the Owu-born politician told SaharaReporters on Tuesday.
“Yes, Atiku and Baba have a history. But these days, he has been saying Atiku, despite all his foibles, will at least create more jobs and help to revive the ailing economy.”
Since leaving office in 2007, Obasanjo has publicly backed or rejected an incumbent or incoming President.
He rejected Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 while endorsing Buhari; however, in January 2018, he rejected Buhari’s re-election bid with a ‘letter bomb’.
Meanwhile Members of the Pan Yoruba Socio-cultural group, Afenifere, on Tuesday held a closed-door meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta, the Ogun State cpaital, over the 2019 polls.
At the end of the meeting, which started late in the afternoon and lasted more than two hours, Yinka Odumakin, spokesman of the group, told journalists that the meeting was about the choice of leadership for the country in 2019.
He also said the group was in no doubt about whom to back ahead of the elections, as “the most important thing to the Afenifere group is the issue of restructuring”.
Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the presidential candidate whose campaign has been built around restructuring — he notably had a newspaper exchange of opinions on the matter with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo — suggesting that Afenifere may indeed have revealed its intentions without expressly saying so.
“Few weeks back, Obasanjo came to Lagos to visit Pa Ayo Adebanjo and we are here again today to return the visit in order to further strengthen the friendship with the group,” Odumakin said.
“The meeting also aims at creating a harmonious position in Yorubaland over the leadership of the country in respect of the 2019 general election.
“The elections are around the corner and leaders across Nigeria are coming together to discuss the event, which is so crucial to the life of the nation. All hands must be on deck to get the country re-established and all grey areas must be ironed out.”
Describing the 2019 presidential race as “exciting” in terms of the candidates, he said the group would support any candidate who prioritises restructuring, because Nigeria cannot realise its dream without restructuring.
“The most important thing to the Afenifere group is the issue of restructuring,” Odumakin said, adding that the group would name its preferred presidential candidate.
“An official pronouncement would be made on the decision,” he added. “The pendulum is swinging and we will let you know where it finally settles.”
Members of the group who attended the meeting include Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former Governor of Osun State; former Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Dupe Adelaja; former Nigerian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, Sen. Femi Okurounmu, Prof. Banjo Akintoye, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Mr. Supo Sonibare, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Hon. Oladipo Olaitan.