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2019: When unlike forces coalesce

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Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar Atiku (left); former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; former Military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) and former Minister of Defense, Mrs. Modudupe Adelaja at the event.

Was it all about the crucial 2019 Presidential poll or in the spirit of old times sake? It could be because he led the way in Nigeria’s return to multi-party democracy that he wants to be the one to chart a new direction in presidential selection 20 years after.

However you chose to look at it, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his estranged Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, set tongues wagging for the congenial coupling they put up recently in Lagos.

The occasion was the 10th memorial symposium of the late Afenifere and Alliance for Democracy (AD) leader Abraham Adesanya. It was a political event that attracted the veterans of pro-democracy activism, particularly of the stock of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).

Like the chairman of the occasion, General Abdulsallami Abubakar (retd), who handed over power to the civilian democratic regime in 1999, former President Obasanjo was eminently qualified to be there. Obasanjo had in 1978 surprised Nigerians when as the military head of state, he steered the nation towards a democratic regime and presidential system.

In 1999 the former military head of state was returned to Nigeria’s leadership apogee as a democratically elected President of the fourth republic. Having washed away his military epaulets with those string of pro-democracy associations, Chief Obasanjo was the centre of attraction at the event, as he mingled freely among the civilian harbingers of democracy.

One other political breakthrough that seemed to have recommended Obasanjo highly on the red carpet at the event was his new fangled project of third force political mobilization centred on youth access to political power. Of course, there was no discounting his declared intention to rally action towards the removal of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari from office on account of lacklustre performance.

Then, add all that to the presence of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, with whom he had a celebrated public animus. It became understandable why all eyes and camera lenses were trained on the two former buddies turned foes.
United By Common Interest

It seemed the two former combatants found common ground in their common interest to dislocate President Buhari from the ‘high horse’ of Nigeria’s Presidency. So they had no option than to jell and bond in an exhilarating fashion that livened the occasion. Moreover, they came with their signature messages.

But, while Atiku was standing on familiar ground, because the theme of the memorial symposium: ‘Leadership and the future of Nigeria,’ resonated with the main issue of his ongoing quest to be President, which is restructuring, Obasanjo used the occasion to bask in the euphoria of his public statement denouncing claims that he has made an about face in his opposition to Buhari’s second term ambition.

In the statement released on his behalf by Mr. Kehinde Adeyemi, Obasanjo noted the “desperation” of Buhari and his “dumb supporters” for a second term, stressing that in their “desperation, everything is fair, including telling libelous lies against persons and institutions, instead of addressing the fundamental issues of statecraft and economic management.”

Speaking with aplomb, the former President declared that Nigerians are in need of a “brand new leadership,” adding: “No lies, fake news dished out by these desperate and unintelligent supporters is worth believing and these misinformation cartel and social media tigers will do more damage to the flint reputation of their principal.”

Although some close observers said Obasanjo avoided eye contact with his former Vice President, a veteran political analyst disclosed that the amity shown by the two leaders in the picture spoke of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

It is not known whether Obasanjo’s crusading for leadership transition to the younger generation and campaign for a third force are calculated attempts to stop his former Vice President from accessing the Presidency, but his softness towards Alhaji Atiku Abubakar suggested that he would not mind an Atiku as President if that is all it takes for his vision of a botched second term for Buhari to come to fruition.

Demonstrating his clarity of thought and surefootedness about his restructuring message to Nigeria, Atiku attacked the second schedule of the Nigeria constitution, saying that it was not development driven.

Driving home his point with jarring allusion to the incumbent as he interacted with journalists at the occasion, Atiku declared: “A serious minded government that knows how to listen and build consensus can restructure Nigeria for the benefit of all and this I undertake to do, when I become the president.

“Some politicians will tell you it is a daunting task but the reality is that they are not really sincere and committed to ensuring its actualization. They play lots of politics with it and when agitations box them to a corner, they setup smokescreen committees.”

Sounding as if urging Nigerians to challenge him with their mandate to see how faithful he would be in implementing the restructuring he has been advocating, the former Vice President said the major task lies in recomposing the second schedule.

Atiku explained that the federal government could voluntarily withdraw from most of the items listed in the exclusive legislative list in the constitution, noting that a cordial relationship with the National Assembly can help achieve such great things.

What the 2019 presidential poll would settle between Obasanjo and Atiku is the superiority of the issues they are championing individually: new breed leadership and restructuring.

But no matter whose message receives the greater endorsement of the voting majority, both leaders would feel relieved if Buhari is stopped. Should Atiku triumph, it would be interesting to know what posture Obasanjo would adopt in a photo opportunity or how long it would take for the Presidential letter writer to remember his pen and paper.


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