Senator Bukola Saraki’s recent visit to the Hilltop Mansion in Ota of former President Olusegun Obasanjo has expectedly left many political followers wondering. Bola Tinubu, a later day political associate of Obasanjo had vowed never to recognize Saraki as the senate president and Obasanjo has quickly given Saraki audience even before Saraki could visit any ranking APC leader. This has left many political watchers guessing and trying to unearth what ace Obasanjo may be having up his sleep, writes EMMA ALOZIE
After publicly tearing his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP membership card, former President Olusegun Obasanjo declared that though he had exited from the PDP, but he was not joining any political party. “I have told you before that I became President on the platform of the PDP and once I leave the party, I will not join any other party. I will only be a Nigerian. I am ready to work with anybody regardless of political affiliation. Why would some people say they want to send me away. From today on, in the presence of all of us and with your support, I am not going to be in any political party in Nigeria. I am no more a politician but a statesman, both internally and externally,” Obasanjo said.
With the development, nobody can pin down the ex-president to any political party, but in the run up to the last general elections, his sympathy for the All Progressives Congress, APC was visibly effusive. His unhidden contribution to the success of the APC in the last election was not in doubt, but what is in doubt is whether he worked for the party without any strings attached.
The recent visit to Obasanjo by the newly elected senate president, Senator Bukola Saraki, still steeped in controversy has opened up many possible scenarios in the permutation of political analysts. Saraki while on the visit said he came to seek advice from Obasanjo and tap from his blessing. “I’m here with some of my colleagues. We are here to pay our homage to him, seek his advice, get his blessings and also consult (with him). We all know President Obasanjo’s value to this country and we are here to tap from his wisdom, knowledge and experience,” Senator Saraki said.
There is one significant observation in the visit; all those who accompanied Saraki to the visit had their roots in the PDP and were all Obasanjo’s men except Senator Sani Yarima, former governor of Zamfara state. Others like Senators Andy Uba, Danjuma Goje, Tayo Alasoadura, even former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and a former acting National Chairman of the PDP, Kawu Baraje are all former PDP members. Could this be a systematic way of reviving the fortunes of the PDP given the role some PDP elements played in the success of the APC?
In the campaign to oust former President Goodluck Jonathan from power, hitherto sworn enemies closed ranks and shoved their differences aside. The most prominent example is that of Tinubu and Obasanjo. Tinubu as governor of Lagos state and Obasanjo as president of Nigeria had literarily a cat and mouse relationship. They never saw eye to eye on any issue. But all that changed when they identified former President Jonathan as a common enemy. Obasanjo/Tinubu relationship became so robust that at the height of it all, Tinubu described Obasanjo as his tutor and the man who reshaped his life positively.
During Obasanjo’s 78th birthday lecture held in March, Tinubu said “I’m honoured to be here and many of you will see this as a rare occasion but this is an opportunity to pay tribute to a nationalist, a teacher, a disciplinarian and a tutor in dignity and boldness.
“Yes, it is true, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics, what is common is common interest.
“If I could tell you several events that occurred between the two of us in the interest of the nation, I would write an epistle but today is not for that. But how do you celebrate truly and honour a man who has kept you on your toes? Between Baba Olusegun Obasanjo and myself, what I can say is gratitude from me because you kept me on my toes.
“When we started this present regime of merger and alliances and we visited him, we told him we wanted him to be a navigator. He said, “Navigator? I am still in my party. I will try to avoid partisanship because of Nigeria. If you people put up a good team for the sake of this country, I will give you wisdom.”
“And if you look at what has been happening since then, Obasanjo is an open book, you read a line, you pick a paragraph, you learn, you comply. If you drink from that fountain of wisdom, you will see value in it. He is very committed to the Nigerian nation.
“It wasn’t about anything else, it was about the love of our country, patriotism, putting the country first before self,” he said. “There’s nothing Obasanjo would have wanted in terms of material wealth, oil well, oil lifting – whatever from (President Goodluck Jonathan) that he wouldn’t have gotten or what from PDP that he wouldn’t have gotten as a retention service.
“He put all of that aside, believed in the unity, cohesion, and progress of this country in order to free himself from that bondage of commitment to partisan politics that is probably drifting in the middle of the storm of a political change. He would rather be afloat and chart a new course,” Tinubu eulogized.
However, with Obasanjo receiving and having audience with somebody Tinubu has sworn not to recognise as Senate President, is it safe to conclude that the chummy relationship of convenience between Obasanjo and Tinubu has snapped?
Observers say that with Obasanjo’s new found romance with Saraki, an arch political rival of Tinubu, Obasanjo may have decided to strike Tinubu below the belt especially at his (Tinubu) time of great sorrow. It should not be lost on political followers and observers that he major root of Obasanjo and Tinubu’s faceoff before now is the leadership of the South West as a region, in fact a very strategic region in Nigeria. The battle of who assumes the leadership of this region has been at the root of all that went wrong between Obasanjo and Tinubu, with Tinubu currently controlling the sophisticated levers of the region’s politics.
Going down recent memory, Tinubu used the courts and popular resentment against Obasanjo to uproot Obasanjo’s PDP machinery in the region to assume full control. Given Obasanjo’s legendary vindictive nature, getting back at a political opponent no matter the time and circumstance is one hobby the former president enjoys with a great relish. Could Obasanjo possibly be enjoying the political travails of Tinubu so early in the day given the fact that he (Obasanjo) never let out a word of condemnation on the emergence of Saraki and Dogara as did some other prominent Nigerians?
Of remarkable significance is the chummy relationship Obasanjo struck with the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun towards the last governorship election in the state. Even before publicly making a show of his PDP card tearing, the former president had openly campaigned for the governor’s reelection and insiders have let out words that the Ogun State governor may possibly be tilting towards Ota for political direction than to Bourdillon in Ikoyi Lagos.
In order to give credence to this theory, insiders believe that some South West governors clandestinely worked for the emergence of Saraki against the directive of their godfather, Tinubu. For instance, Senator Gbolahan Dada from Ogun state, who is believed to be the closest of the three Ogun senators to the governor, was on the floor of the senate instead of being at the International Conference Centre during the election of Saraki.
This has opened another vista in the political dog fight that has ensued. There are very credible rumours that some APC South West governors who have navigated their way into second term may likely carve out a political life of their own ahead of 2019. This perhaps could lead them to begin a subtle rebellion against the Bourdillon dynasty and in order to successfully do this without disastrous political consequences; they may find accommodation in Ota. Is the visit a prelude to that?
Though it is still early in the day to predict where allegiances will be realigned in the coming days, one thing may be predicted with accuracy; Obasanjo will relish being recognized as the leader of the South West and the only person standing in his way is Bola Tinubu.