Yesterday, Atiku Abubakar got a much needed reprieve from his former boss, Olusegun Obasanjo. The former Vice President got the forgiveness he had long sought from the former military leader since their public spat years ago. Both actors led the country between 1999 and 2007 – a time when the country needed to be set along the route of democracy, away from many years of military rule.
Shortly after their first term in office, Obasanjo and Atiku became estranged, with the former accusing the latter of corruption and disloyalty. Their relationship got even more strained when it was rumoured that Atiku had worked assiduously to ensure that Obasanjo’s Third Term project was dead on arrival.
The wrangling between both men cost Atiku so much goodwill and credibility as Obasanjo went about telling everyone who cared to listen of Atiku’s fabled corruption and inclination to be disloyal. Just a few months ago, precisely in August this year, Obasanjo was quoted to have told Premium Times that he cannot for any reason support the former Customs boss’ presidential bid.
“How can I be on the same side with Atiku? To do what?” he said. “If I support Atiku for anything, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support.”
What did Obasanjo “know” about Atiku? To get the background on this we need to go into a chapter in Obasanjo’s book titled ‘My Watch’. There he dedicated not a few uncomplaining paragraphs to Atiku.
“What I did not know, which came out glaringly later, was his parental background which was somewhat shadowy, his propensity to corruption, his tendency to disloyalty, his inability to say and stick to the truth all the time, a propensity for poor judgment, his belief and reliance on marabouts, his lack of transparency, his trust in money to buy his way out on all issues and his readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety truth and national interest for self and selfish interest.”
These are weighty allegations against someone he worked closely with for a minimum of 4 years. Therefore in the light of Obasanjo’s about-turn yesterday, many Nigerians would like to know what changed. Has Atiku suddenly become loyal? His he now transparent? And he is now ready to sacrifice self and selfish interest for national good?
I don’t think so. What has happened is a forced shift in Obasanjo’s Influence and Access to Government Quotient (IAQ) – a term I made up to describe the factors which determine Obasanjo’s support for any individual’s bid for power.
The former president who wholeheartedly supported President Muhammadu Buhari’s bid in 2015 – after a public spat with the then president, Goodluck Jonathan – has simply noticed the brand ascendancy of Atiku. As someone who cannot bear to see his former deputy assume power without taking the glory, Obasanjo had to change course to maintain access and influence.
So you’ll ask what is his plan if Buhari won? Reading between the lines of his prepared speech in Abeokuta yesterday, it is obvious that Obasanjo’s main grouse with Buhari is not his performance (or lack of it) in office, but his inability to access and influence the president to do his bidding. We must not forget that this is the exact reason for the fallout between himself and former President Jonathan.
It is not difficult to realize that relevance is Obasanjo’s single overriding motivation, not love for country or any such intangible ideology. The Owu born chief is ready to go to any length in achieving that relevance – even if it is to seek a Third Term agenda, exit a political party he actively took part in running aground, or ‘forgiving’ and supporting an individual who supposedly has predilection to massive scale corruption.What happened yesterday says more about Obasanjo’s shifty character and waning relevance within the Nigerian socio-political enterprise, and less about his yearning for a better nation or leaving a legacy.
Considering the fact that Atiku has tried to seek peace with Obasanjo many times before, what made the difference yesterday? The answer is simple; former President Obasanjo simply did what he knows how to do best – read the mood of the nation and align himself so as to derive the best personal benefit and retain relevance. A simple background check will show a number of times when he has pretended to align with the masses just to reap from the sweat and struggle of patriots.
My immediate inclination after watching yesterday’s sham unfold was to warn Atiku not to be deceived by his former boss’ utterances and pretense, but something tells me this is unnecessary. There is hardly any living Nigerian who knows more about Obasanjo’s sinister antics than him. Yesterday was not Obasanjo forgiving Atiku, it is the former president conceding that Atiku’s political destiny is now beyond his control.