Atiku, Obasanjo And The ‘Third Force’… By Tai Emeka Obasi

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It is no longer mere speculation that His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, GCON is interested in contesting to become Nigeria’s next president come 2019. The anxiety trailing his unofficial intentions was laid to rest about a month ago when he publicly declared for the first time to throw his hat into the ring while addressing a mammoth crowd in Port Harcourt. Nigerians, clearly in the majority, welcomed the good news as most can’t wait for this three-year old All Progressives Congress, APC government to come to an end.

However, many believe the former vice president will have his hands full in his attempt as circumventing the clog his boss, while they piloted the affairs of this big nation as president and vice, has already wedged in the wheel of the progress will be one big herculean hurdle.

Somebody referred to the former president of dear country, Olusegun Obasanjo as a letter writer. That was tongue-in-cheek but not out-of-place, regarding how popular the blunt messages the ex-commander-in-chief delivered to the former and present presidents regarding issues of governance and re-election have become.

Many believe that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP lost the last election that moment HE Obasanjo tore his PDP membership card and pitched tent with the opposition that brought in Muhammadu Buhari. Obasanjo’s public act preceded his first popular letter to President Goodluck Jonathan warning of consequences of ‘misrule’ which he(Obasanjo) believed was bedeviling Jonathan’s government.

The activities leading to and outcome of that 2015 general election is now history but our ‘letter writer’ has yet written another, and again to a sitting president just over a year to another general election. This time, the Otta farmer was equally blunt in ‘advising’ the incumbent not to dream of a second term. However, there is a marked difference between the letter leading to 2015 and that leading to 2019.

While the former head-of-state wholly pitched tent with the then opposition to deliver General Buhari in 2015, Obasanjo has now deviated from the norm, instead calling for Coalition of Nigerians Movement, CNM and which the ever crafty Nigerian press christened ‘Third Force.’ Having been at the apex of three successful presidential campaigns and one as a major contributor to a fourth successful one, the former commander-in-chief knows, to every detail, exactly what is required to win a presidential election in Nigeria.

Obasanjo should know that no coalition, however strong, can jump out of nowhere in just a year to general election and unseat an incumbent Nigerian government from power. He knows what it took the biggest two opposition parties to form an alliance while making huge sacrifices before PDP could be dislodged from power in 2015. Even at that, the evidence of huge underage voting in the core North, particularly Kano, where the winner amassed unprecedented number of votes that ultimately sealed his victory, completely put question marks on the fairness of the exercise. And of course, he knows that his Third Force stands no chance of unseating the incumbent.

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The only party, PDP that has the very reasonable chance of recovering power back from President Buhari and APC has been described by same Obasanjo as unfit to come back to power. Now, let’s critically look at Obasanjo’s verdict.

Since formation of CNM that has been quickly inherited by the Social Democratic Party, SDP, no truly notable APC member has joined the fold. Rather it’s an open veranda for those that wouldn’t have been needed by APC for their re-election bid and of course, disgruntled members of the PDP that are cross-carpeting. Therefore, it is safe to assume that Obasanjo’s clear intent is to weaken the major opposition, thereby making it far easier for the incumbent, whom he warned not to re-contest, to get back to power. Or is the former president assembling the SDP as a bargain chip, to force PDP into an alliance(in his own terms) the former ruling party could not refuse?

Whichever way one looks at it, the ultimate goal of Obasanjo’s call for Third Force can be dissected as just to stop his former second-in-command, Atiku Abubakar once again. Those close to Obasanjo whispered that the retired general swore after he won re-election in 2003 that the ex-Customs deputy director would only become a president over his(Obasanjo’s) dead body. And the octogenarian is very hale and hearty and not showing any signs of ancestral call by 2019. So if Obasanjo’s reported vow is anything to go by, the Jada-born presidential aspirant could well start looking for another vocation.

So what was Atiku’s sin that after over 15 years that this man, who could easily be referred to as the father of the nation, would not forgive his fellow human?

Political scientists said Atiku’s only sin was breaking one of the laws of power – Outshining The Master! Yes, after being sworn in as president and vice, Obasanjo handed over economic recovery of the battered economy to his deputy. Atiku was very dedicated and took the job of economy recovery like fish to matter. And made very astonishing progress. Hence, it became glaring that Nigeria’s vastly recovering economy was firmly in Atku’s hands.

So detractors went to work.

Unfortunately, they convinced then President Obasanjo that his deputy was outshining him and it portended dangerous political placing if allowed to continue. In the run in to the 2003 presidential primary, it became very clear that Atiku truly welded a lot of powers. Again whispers affirmed that the former president had to prostrate for his deputy to eventually be forgiven. After which Obasanjo circumvented the problems of 2003, won both the primary and general elections and took complete charge.

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But the seed of discord had been firmly planted and from thence it germinated, bearing very poisonous fruits. And the former president’s vindictive tendencies took over.

Despite Atiku being directly in charge of the formation and picking the boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, this organ was unleashed on the second-in-command just to stop him from becoming president in 2007. All allegations of corruption were leveled against Atiku, numbering as long as the Obasanjo letters. A ban was placed on him from ever contesting for any election based on the allegations. By the time Atiku finished battling to effectively clear himself from any wrongdoing in the courts, PDP ticket was gone and his chance of becoming president effectively blocked!

But that was only the beginning. Four years later, Obasanjo stood firmly behind President Jonathan to deny Atiku PDP ticket for 2011 general election yet again . And again in 2015, Obasajo jumped ship, quickly aligned with the coalition in name of new opposition baptized APC and denied Atiku ticket to face President Jonathan in the general election.

So how has the nation fared since all these Obasanjo denials of a man, whom destiny has refused to ignore?

While the great Nelson Mandela forgave all the apartheid whites in South Africa despite incarcerating him in prison for a whopping 27 years with hard labour and steered a peaceful co-existence that firmly rooted within his five-year term as president, our own version of the South African idol stayed four years in General Sani Abacha’s prison but has refused to forgive the man he personally chose as his deputy.

While President Mandela stepped down after just one term to give room for genuine reconciliation and lasting continuity, our own version squandered enormous resources in overt and covert moves to tweak our constitution in order to squeeze out more terms and then extend his stay in office beyond eight years. Again, close whispers say Obasanjo would have forgiven Atiku for outshining him but definitely not going to ever forgive him for being the arrow head of thwarting that sinister move to stay further in office.

To stop Atiku in 2007, Obasanjo went for the only man who could divide the former Adamawa governor-elect’s strong political structure called Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM. By choosing the direct brother of the founder, Sheuhu Musa Yar’Adua, the former president effectively divided Atiku’s backbone and then did the rest with incumbency advantage. But by that devious act, the ex-general wittingly gave us a man, who would die not much later, for president and that is the problem Nigeria is battling till date!

President Umaru Yar’Adua, a very good man, died in office after just two years!

After all the processes the former military president, Ibrahim Babangida went through in an attempt to usher in a Third Republic, Alhaji MKO Abiola eventually paid with his blood to usher in the Fourth Republic we still ‘enjoy’ today. Obasanjo inherited the outcome on a platter. He was trusted because he had handed over to Shehu Shagari in 1979. All the former head-of-state needed to do was stay eight years in office, hand over to a Northerner who would be in power for eight years and rotate to the South again.

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But by giving us Yar’Adua, who experts continuously warned was not in good enough health to last the rigours required of a Nigerian president in office, Obasanjo betrayed the trust of the caucus who put him in office. Jonathan inherited Obasanjo’s obvious scheme and a certain clique in the North swore that Jonathan’s tenure would be full of chaos and must be stopped, at all costs, from having a second term!

That we have Boko Haram today is a direct consequence. That girls were kidnapped in Chibok is a direct consequence. That many Nigerians lost their lives is a direct consequence. All these and the catastrophe that has bedeviled our polity and economy would have been avoided had Obasanjo been anything like Mandela, forgiven Atiku and handed over to the very healthy and capable man to last another eight years.

Today, Obasanjo’s vow to stop Atiku is still what the nation is suffering from! A former military head-of-state, who meant well but clearly lacks the capability to head a democratic government, is cleansing every democratic gain since 1999 while a very capable man in Atiku, who would have effectively brought Nigeria from the chaos to economic glory and peaceful co-existence, is still waiting in the wings, begging God to give him just this one chance to prove his mettle.

Today, Obasanjo is back to stop Atiku again with his Third Force. Since it has become glaring that a man of 81 years finds it impossible to forgive at an age many are already concluded in preparing ways to be wholly accepted by the creator, will Nigerians equally continue to obey the foolery?

I believe this is the perfect time to tell Obasanjo to his face that we have had enough, rally round Atiku and PDP, elect a president that has got all abilities to excel and salvage our dear country from the pitiable abyss it continues to plunge into since Obasanjo started his vendetta mission.


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