2023: How Obasanjo dropped non-partisan elder statesman status
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo appears to have dropped his status as a non-partisan elder statesman to begin campaigns for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi.
The former president had until now said he had turned an elder statesman who should now be seen as a father and mentor to all, regardless of their political affiliations.
Truly, Obasanjo, at his Penthouse residence within the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, has played host to almost all the prominent presidential candidates in Nigeria.
recalls that scores of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu supporters rolled out the drums when he visited Obasanjo in August. In what many thought would be an end to the rivalry between the two political leaders, they were seen in photographs as they entered a private room for personal discussions.
After the visit, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, was quoted to have said Obasanjo had assured Tinubu of victory. It was also in the news that the former President described Tinubu as a super politician.
But, in a swift reaction, Obasanjo denied endorsing Tinubu or making a statement hyping him as a super politician.
He said: “Those claiming to be insiders at the meeting issuing statements on the discussion and those crediting to me statements I had not made are enemies of the visitor and are not doing the visit any good.”
While saying his meeting with Tinubu was “more brotherly than political,” Obasanjo added that, at the request of Tinubu, he “agreed to no statement from either side.”
Last year, the Balogun Owu also hosted his former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and others. As all meetings were held behind closed-doors, no one was privy to whatever transpired between the Ogun-born farmer and his guests. It is not clear whether or not Obasanjo had declared to Atiku, Tinubu and others that he would ignore them for Peter Obi.
It would be recalled that in the buildup to the 2015 elections, Obasanjo tore his membership card of the PDP to announce that he would no longer participate in politics, but would remain a statesman.
However, Obasanjo at the time, endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari as his preferred candidate for the 2015 election. He hosted Buhari and other leaders of the APC in his residence, while he also went to some markets in Abeokuta to subtly campaign for Buhari, abandoning the then President Goodluck Jonathan of his party.
The relationship between Obasanjo and Buhari hit the rock in less than two years of his first term in office. Obasanjo could not hide his displeasure about the Buhari administration and he resorted to letter writing. In different open letters, Obasanjo called out the Buhari administration and withdrew his support.
In an attempt to remove Buhari, the octogenarian, in 2019, threw his weight behind Atiku of the PDP, but his support for Atiku was not enough to unseat Buhari.
As the 2023 presidential election approaches, the non-partisan elder statesman has taken the lead in promoting Obi. Obasanjo seems to be leaving no stone unturned in ensuring Peter Obi becomes Buhari’s successor.
At first, Obasanjo was seen during the 2022 Ibogun Day distributing Peter Obi souvenirs to the people. After this, the Balogun Owu came out clear in an open letter, in which he said the former Anambra State governor had an edge over the likes of Atiku and Tinubu.
He was blunt about his disapproval of Tinubu’s ‘emilokan’ ambition, urging Nigerian youths not to be gullible this time around or they would have themselves to blame.
The latest letter by Obasanjo raised a lot of dust and it almost heated up the polity as many criticised the former Nigerian leader; probably they have forgotten that he has the right to endorse whoever he likes.
It is left to be seen where the non-partisan elder statesman’s endorsement will take Obi and his Labour Party.