Amid political consultations, alignment and realignment, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, visited residences of two former Heads of State, retired Generals Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Obasanjo arrived Minna, the Niger State capital, at midday and spent about an hour in Abdulsalami’s house before going to the hilltop residence of Babangida.
Speaking with newsmen after the visit, Obasanjo stated that he has no preferred candidate among those contesting the 2023 presidential election, explaining further that he only had a national agenda. “I don’t have a special candidate, I have a national agenda.”
He, however, promised to unveil his agenda for the 2023 elections ‘soon.’ Obasanjo did not give details of the agenda to be released, but insisted that it will be made public very soon.
The former president also said he was in Minna to visit the former Head of State who had been indisposed.
“I came to see my brother who has been a little indisposed. I had plans to visit him when he was still in London, but the day I arrived London was the day he returned home. So, that is why I decided to come and see him at home. He is very special, so, I had to come.”
He added that “if there is anyone who is indisposed, I will visit as I am still strong.”
The former president arrived at Abdulsalami’s residence around 12:30p.m. and after greetings with members of the family entered into a closed-door meeting with his host. From Abdulsalami’s residence, Obasanjo went to Babangida’s mansion, where he also held another closed-door meeting.
He left Babangida’s residence around 2:30p.m. for the Minna airport from where he flew to Abuja. Obasanjo had in the last couple of days met with prominent presidential candidates. Earlier in the month, Obasanjo hosted the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu at his Abeokuta, Ogun State residence, a meeting he described as “more brotherly than political.”
Days after that, he led the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, to meet Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State in London. Details of the meeting were not disclosed but reports suggest that discussions were centred on next year’s poll.
Following the meeting, Wike re-echoed Obasanjo’s comment, saying his consultations – including a meeting with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential flag-bearer, Atiku Abubakar – were in Nigeria’s interest.
“What we are talking about is for the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. It is not a parochial thing, being centred on a person or group of persons. We believe that what is going on will be in the interest of Nigerians at the end of the day. Consultation is still ongoing. Nothing we have said now has been concretised,” Wike said on Friday following his arrival in the country.
MEANWHILE, Atiku, yesterday, arrived Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano State, in anticipation of the formal defection of Kano Central Senator and former governor of the state, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau and his supporters to the PDP from the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) on Monday.
Among those at the airport were former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido; former Foreign Affairs Minister, Aminu Wali and national chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu.
The development followed the decision of Shekarau to dump NNPP through which he was collaborating with a former governor of the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso, to prosecute the 2023 elections.
However, Shekarau fell out with Kwankwaso over the sharing of political offices ahead of the polls. Shekarau had earlier quit APC, the ruling party in Kano, after falling out with the governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.
Chairman of the PDP in Kano, Shehu Wada Sagagi said: “Alhamdulillah, finally, we now have a leader in Kano and I am delighted. Shekarau, being the highest political office holder as provided by the Constitution, has been accepted and we have welcomed him back to our dear party.
“All arrangements are in top gear to receive him formally today. We have accepted to follow him and we shall succeed, God willing.”
A former Deputy National chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George, yesterday, tasked the leadership to stop the ongoing blame game between Northern stakeholders in the party and Wike.
George, while reacting to the London meetings among Wike, Governors Seyi Makinde and Samuel Ortom with some personalities, said rather than some people twisting the intent of the meeting or give it unprintable interpretation, the leadership of PDP should address the present injustice against the South within the party “if Atiku must win the election.”
George who spoke with The Guardian on phone, said it behoves Atiku, Ayu, the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, Chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum and other stakeholders who are all from the North, to look at the danger inherent in the concentration of all these sensitive positions in one particular zone.
“I think the focus on Wike and his outburst is nothing compared to the issue of disunity, lop-sidedness and concentration of hierarchical positions in the party in one part of the country. The South cannot be an onlooker in this game for God’s sake.”
He said the South cannot fold its arms and allow this lopsided structure to continue. According to him, “if Atiku wins the presidential election, I can bet you that they will do worse than what the present administration is doing in terms of marginalisation of the South.”
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Secretary General, Hakeem Baba Ahmed, has berated the country’s political class for discussing Nigeria’s woes in foreign countries. The NEF scribe made the assertion on the heels of the series of meetings held by some politicians in London last week.
Ahmed wondered what Tinubu, Atiku, Ortom, Obi, Wike and others were doing in Europe. “We that they plan to govern, are we now distractions? The deals they struck will be about how to handle us; carve us out like carcass and allocate powers and positions and resources to each other.
“Then they will come back and set us to fight each other. It is all about them. They will come back to Nigeria where we live with traffic and insecurity to ask us to trust them with power.”
He queried: “What is it in London, Paris and Dubai that make them so attractive to our politicians when they want to discuss deals or untangle difficult matters. Just think of how much it costs to go out of Nigeria to discuss Nigeria’s matter.”
But a Southwest socio-political group, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, has backed Wike’s explanation that the London meetings were in national interest. President of the forum, Akin Malaolu, said: “We can say that our leaders, for the first time in our political history are coming strongly out of ethnicism and religion to address issues as citizens. By being citizens, they are standing for all tribes regardless of creed and against discrimination and marginalisation.
“We hope therefore that such meetings will resolve the following issues as well that the North cannot appropriate power again, having done eight years in office under President Muhammadu Buhari. Such an intention is inimical to national interest.
“Also, any party fielding same faith tickets at the presidential level must not only be ignored but must be rejected at the polls and any candidate or candidates using tribe or religion to campaign must equally be ignored.
“Nigeria is in need of peace to heal the wounds in our diversity and we must all put hands together to save her. Our leadership forum will continue keeping the watch to help stabilise the country.”
THE NNPP presidential candidate, Kwankwaso, has said the party would shock Nigerians with its popularity when the campaign starts next month, while speaking with journalists in Maiduguri, Borno State. He said people across Nigeria were buying into NNPP, which he adopted few months ago. He was in Maidugri to open the Borno office of the party.
Kwankwaso said he was excited with the large crowd that received him in Maiduguri, who defied the heavy downpour, showing how eager the people of Borno wanted change from status quo and reinforcing the hope of his party in 2023.
“Look at how people came out; I was so excited, I was so happy that the people of Borno are now very ripe for a change. If only the people I saw on arrival yesterday will vote for us I can assure you we will win Borno,” Kwankwaso said.
“The more you know Kwankwaso the more you like him. The more you know kwankwasiyya the more the love. We will take that goodwill to the south as we have offices from ward to state levels all over Nigeria and we are fielding candidates for all positions across Nigeria,” he said.
He commended President Buhari for signing the Electoral Act and called for his commitment to free and fair election. While condemning those speculating that he would step down for some candidates, Kwankwaso described such speculations as mischievous and needed to be stopped for real contenders to face issue based campaign.
“Let us start the campaigns, we will separate between the chaff and grains.
“Some people are saying that there may be no winner in the first round of voting but from our camp we believed that we are going to win in the first ballot by the grace of God.”