There has been a retreat by former President Olusegun Obasanjo after his anointed candidate in the just held election for the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Dr Ahmadu Ali lost to the candidate of President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Tony Anenih.
However, allies of the former President told this correspondent that the Jonathan camp should not start singing victory songs yet, as the former President has only retreated to re-strategize for the 2015 polls and would hit the incumbent president at the appropriate time.
Last Monday, Chief Anenih, known as ‘Mr Fix-It’ in political circles, emerged as the consensus candidate for the chairmanship of the BoT after the other candidates were pressured by the Presidency to step down for him.
His emergence is seen by political analysts as one of the steps being taken by President Jonathan preparatory to his 2015 re-election.
An insider at the last meeting of the BoT said the trump card used by the presidency was that Anenih was unjustly removed from the office. “So we were told to let him (Anenih) return to his post in the interest of the party and of the man himself.”
The party’s South-West caucus, which is loyal to Obasanjo, has described the incident as a “slap on the former president who against all odds ensured the emergence of President Jonathan as the candidate of the party in the 2011 presidential poll”.
An Obasanjo ally reacted to the emergence of Anenih, who is also the board chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority as an admission of interest in the 2015 presidential race by Jonathan and “a challenge to Obasanjo to do his worst”.
“The emergence of Anenih is a total declaration of war against the PDP in the south-west, especially those that are loyal to former president Obasanjo. Jonathan is aware that with Ahmadu Ali as the chairman, Obasanjo would still be relevant; now he has Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as the chairman of the party, Governor Godswill Akpabio as the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and now Anenih; Jonathan has asked the Yoruba to do their worse. In fact, 1,000 Obasanjos cannot stop him. Whether he would succeed or not is another thing,” the aggrieved PDP chieftain said.
The associates of the former president lamented how the speakership of the House of Representatives which was zoned to the South-West by the party was snatched by ‘rebels’ in the house and today, the South-West had nothing to show for supporting Jonathan, as even the BoT chairmanship position they were expecting after Obasanjo was not given to them.
Another Obasanjo associate said: “The general knows when to fight and when to retreat, and now that Jonathan is barring his fangs, the man who literally imposed him on the nation has retreated, watching the unfolding scenario with a view to fighting back at the appropriate time.
“Baba is a good fighter and he rarely loses any battle. The Biafra soldiers surrendered to him; he was brought back to power to fix the country after the military had destroyed what made us be one. It was Obasanjo that helped both the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and President Jonathan to come to power. Unfortunately, both of them did not appreciate Obasanjo. Jonathan thinks he can humiliate Baba but we are watching him closely and at the right time we will fight back.”
But another PDP leader from the zone who also decried how Jonathan treats Obasanjo and the south-west blamed the zone’s ordeals on the internal squabbles in the party and called on the Yoruba to sink their differences.
“We are not happy with what is happening to our party especially the way the Yoruba are being treated as lepers all because they are fighting Obasanjo. We voted President Jonathan but we got nothing from his government. All the ministers from the zone are from the private sector with the exception of one or two. But are we one? We are the enemies of ourselves.
“The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) people in the House of Representatives voted for Aminu Tambuwal at our expense.
Alhaji Oyedokun who came out to contest for the chairman of BoT, how many of us rallied round him? This is the problem and, for now, nobody can predict what will happen in 2015.”
Reliable sources have put it that Obasanjo has decided to ensure that Jonathan’s era ends in 2015 in line with his promise while selling Jonathan’s candidacy to the electorate during the 2011 electioneering. He was said to have reminded Jonathan of the need to go in 2015 and “this is the root cause of their feud,” the former president’s ally said.
Some Obasanjo loyalists are allegedly meeting with a former governor of one of the south-east states, who is allegedly nursing an ambition to become the running mate of a prominent politician from the north in 2015, and if the PDP leadership imposes Jonathan on the party, they have resolved to team up with the opposition.
Among those that attend the meeting being held every Friday in Abuja at the home of the former governor are a former aviation minister, a former political adviser to Obasanjo and two senators from Kwara and Taraba states. But checks revealed that Obasanjo has not endorsed their plan as he still believes he has what it takes to stop Jonathan when the time comes.
It was learnt that some PDP governors are still loyal to Obasanjo and waiting for his directive on 2015. Notable among them are Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State who, penultimate week, reminded Jonathan of the one term pact; two governors from the north-west and south-south zones, and three others who operate behind the scenes.
The Obasanjo camp listed Jonathan’s sins against the former president as the appointment of known enemies of Obasanjo into key portfolios in the federal cabinet and PDP offices.
Before Anenih was returned as the BoT Chairman, Obasanjo’s allies had given terms for truce with Jonathan: the presidency’s support for Ahmadu Ali for the BoT seat; the return of the office of the speaker of the Lower House to the south-west; removal of Dr Doyin Okupe from office as the president’s aide and inclusion of the former leader’s supporters in the party’s hierarchy.
One of Obasanjo’s loyalists said President Jonathan’s crimes against the former president included the appointment of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as finance minister and co-ordinating minister for the economy. According to him, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala literally walked out on Obasanjo when he redeployed her to the foreign affairs ministry and later removed her as the chairman, Economic Team, and replaced her with then minister of state for finance, Mrs. Nenadi Usman (now a senator).
The president, according to Obasanjo’s ally, further alienated himself from the general when he appointed Dr Okupe as his special assistant on public affairs. Okupe, he said, belongs to the PDP faction in Ogun State that is opposed to Obasanjo’s leadership of the party.
He said that the appointment of Dr. Okupe, who is from the same state as Dr Reuben Abati, the president’s spokesman, was done to “humiliate and embarrass Obasanjo”.
Another associate of Obasanjo said that his recent appearance at the presidential villa chapel, where he not only worshipped with his estranged political godson but publicly prayed for him, had shown that “Baba” showed that he was poised for a fight with President Jonathan.
Citing Obasanjo’s antecedents, the associate recalled how the former president visited the former chairman of the PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh, ate pounded yam with him at his family house and, a few hours later, backed his removal from office. He said that Obasanjo was in church with Jonathan did not mean that “all is well”.