Sequel to the resignation of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), there have been so many backlashes on the rumoured presidential ambition of the former number two citizen.
But of all the criticisms trailing his ambition, the most striking is that of his former boss, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, whom many see as a major obstacle to Atiku’s ambition. Some highly influential Nigerians, including former President Goodluck Jonathan have advised the ex-VP to close ranks with Obasanjo in order to achieve his aim.
Though Atiku has not announced his presidential plans or the platform he will use, Jonathan had recently warned him not to ignore Obasanjo, even if he gets the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket. “If Atiku gets our party ticket, he would compete well. But he would have to reach out to our boss, Baba OBJ, the boss of all bosses.
We’ve all learnt at different times that you ignore OBJ at your peril. OBJ has the magic wand, he is respected at home and abroad”, Jonathan was quoted as saying. As if some Atiku’s traducers were waiting for his exit from the APC, they had immediately put to use an old video of Obasanjo’s interview where he gave reasons for not supporting his former ally.
The video, which had recently gone viral showed the retired General saying he couldn’t have allowed Atiku to succeed him, apparently because of the magnitude of the information at his disposal. “With what I know about Atiku, if I had put Atiku forward, God would not have forgiven me”, Obasanjo claimed in the video, said to have been recorded in 2015.
The insinuations from the video have portrayed Atiku as corrupt in the public view but the ex-VP had on Thursday in Lagos put paid to all the insinuations surrounding his source of wealth where he narrated how he established his business as far back as 1971. With this, it appears that the Atiku camp seems not to be deterred by Obasanjo’s outburst, as the team is also determined to fight back and call the bluff of the ex-president; this, Saturday Telegraph gathered, from sources close to both camps.
Atiku shunned meetings –OBJ camp
An impeccable source within the Obasanjo camp told Saturday Telegraph that with the stance taken by Atiku, it’s going to be a fight to the finish, just as he revealed how Atiku had refused to take advantage of two meetings meant to reconcile the old friends.
The source claimed that though Atiku had been to Obasanjo’s home in Abeokuta, he said that was just a publicity stunt, revealing that there were two meetings called specifically for reconciliatory purposes that had been thwarted. “Some people tried to put all these crises to an end, they called two meetings for them within and outside the country but their efforts were frustrated.
It is a pity things are going this way. “But for the steps taken by Atiku and his die-hard supporters, the matter would have been settled long ago. Baba only wanted him to confess the allegations against him and apologise. He could just have done that but he botched it twice. “There had been two meetings called to settle this matter.
On the first occasion, he refused to apologise and he shunned the second one that was to be held outside Nigeria. “He attended the one in Nigeria but was adamant, he didn’t apologise. On the second meeting, baba was actually waiting for him in an East African country but Atiku did not show up. That was a great opportunity he missed. He would have been president if he hadn’t fought his benefactor. “Unknown to many people, baba actually brought him on board in 1999 to succeed him in 2007. If you remember, Atiku was already elected a governor in Adamawa but baba picked him as his running mate for the presidency”, the source said.
OBJ is not God –Atiku’s camp
But in response from the other camp, a source linked with Atiku faulted the claim, saying that Obasanjo was becoming too overbearing for his former deputy, hence the need for Atiku to check his excesses. The Atiku’s ally was also of the opinion that the apology demanded by Obasanjo would not have changed anything because the former president had made up his mind and had publicly said he wont back Atiku. “Don’t believe everything they are saying, it is even people in Obasanjo’s camp that are scuttling all the reconciliation moves. They are not sincere.
What else do they want? If we call a meeting, they will make it public. Ask them why? “The last time Atiku was in Abeokuta, it was supposed to be a closed-door meeting, it wasn’t meant to be for the press, but when we got there, they had already briefed the media. “Whatever we do, they have a way of turning it around.
That’s why we went with our team for the Abuja meeting, in case they wanted to play pranks. The one they told you we didn’t attend was supposed to be in Ethiopia. “They didn’t tell you the country but I am telling you now that it was supposed to be in Ethiopia. They told Atiku late and he already had another engagement within the country.
“They can’t blame anybody for that. More so, why are they playing God? Is Obasanjo God? Let nobody play God, whatever would be, would be. 2019 is not a do-or-die matter, if God decrees that Atiku will rule, millions of Obasanjo cant stop it. We shall leave beyond 2019 by God’s grace.”
Atiku must beg OBJ, says NYLF
In the same vein, the National Youth Leaders Forum, has aligned itself with Jonathan, asking Atiku to seek reconciliation with his former boss. The group, in a statement signed by its National President, Comrade Elliot Afiyo, explained that its position is to clear the air, being a group that had been a party to the reconciliatory efforts so far made.
Accusing some supporters of the former VP, the group alleged that some of the ex-VP’s aides were the cause of the unending crisis. “We make bold to say that aides of the former Vice President are responsible for the botch attempts to reconcile them, because Atiku, rather than listen to wisdom with no vested interest chose to listen to these aides. “Twice we had made moves to reconcile him with Baba, but, twice he had failed. Atiku is not that hard to bend, but his so-called loyal aides were responsible for those failed times we agreed.
“For the records, we make bold to say that those two times were in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, yet at the last minute, Atiku would bow to his aides and will not come. We want to appreciate Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for hitting the nail on the head.
“It is not too late, we are going to build on the suggestion of Jonathan to reach out to Atiku again for the reconciliation. Baba Obasanjo is the most forgiving person for those who are close to him. When you are wrong or make mistakes he will naturally chide you. “And it is for you to go back to him to apologise and promise not to repeat the mistake. He will surely forgive, that is Baba Obasanjo for you.
But, when your aides are telling you to do without him, then according to Jonathan, you are doing so at your own peril. “NLYF is using this opportunity to call again on Atiku, irrespective of his aspiration or ambition to do away with his aides’ hard stance and seek the reconciliation with Obasanjo and our doors are wide opened to be the channel for such”, the statement reads.
Atiku will work with everybody –Media aide
In response to our enquiries, Atiku’s Atiku’s Media Adviser, Mazi Paul Ibe, who spoke with our correspondent on the phone, denied knowledge of any botched meeting or any group that is linked with such reconciliatory efforts. Ibe however assured Nigerians that his principal would work with everybody that matters for the betterment of the nation and towards achieving a united country.
“Atiku’s strength is his ability to gather people together and work with all shades of opinion from all sides. Be it Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo, Atiku will work with everybody and he has that ability to carry everybody along.
That is his strength. When probed further on the botched meeting with Obasanjo, he denied knowledge of such, saying, “I am not aware of any meeting and I don’t even know the group you are talking about. “Like I told you, I have said this in a recent interview and I am repeating it. Atiku will not discountenance the importance of carrying everybody along in order to build a consensus. Atiku is opened to all”, Ibe said.
How I started my business in 1971 – Atiku
In what seems like a denial to all the allegations of corruption against him, the former VP, while speaking in Lagos on Thursday explained how he made his money, revealing that he took his first business decision as far back as 1971. Atiku, who urged Nigerian youths to have more drive towards entrepreneurship, spoke after receiving the Honourary Achiever Award, at the Africa’s Youth Entrepreneurs Conference and Award. “I came to Lagos on June 29, 1969, and after my twoyear training with the Nigeria Customs Service; I was posted to the border station of Idi-Iroko.
At that time, the Badagry Road had not been constructed and the only means of transportation to the rest of the West African corridor was through the Idi-Iroko border to what used to be called Dahomey and what is now known as Benin Republic.
“On getting to Idi-Iroko, my first posting, I was not married and what I discovered was that the most promising business was transportation. Many pickup vans were transporting women traders from Ajase (Port Novo) to Lagos every morning, and every evening from Lagos back to Port Novo. “So I asked myself; how can I seize the opportunity of this moving business?
I came over to Lagos and in those days, SCOA was the sole distributor of Peugeot, so I went to SCOA and I signed a hire-purchase agreement and bought four of those pickups and gave them to four different drivers and every day they will bring their returns to me and at the end of the month, I will go to SCOA and pay them.
“I wasn’t married, so my salary was intact, and in addition I was saving from what I was getting from my transport business. So, sometime, to be an entrepreneur you must have the ingenuity to be an entrepreneur”, Atiku said, noting that the country’s education system in the early 1960s provided the Nigerian youths the opportunities to make diverse carrier choice.
According to the former Vice President, “the educational system we operated in the First Republic provided our students then the opportunity to either go to universities or go to technical colleges or to go to crafts schools. There was never a dropout in that kind of educational system.
The dullest was trained on a skill and given the capital to start a business.” Atiku however regrets that “suddenly, Nigeria moved away from that to a system of education where you train only job seekers.” He pointed out that the products of this educational system didn’t know how to do anything else other than to seek for jobs, adding that they could not self-employ themselves.
“So, what I am trying to say is that my Nigeria is possible and your own Nigeria is possible”, he said. The former Vice President urged the youth to take advantage of the rebound in railway infrastructure that was built by the last administration to start a business initiative of transportation of goods across the country and reduce the reliance on heavy-duty trucks to convey those goods.