The 2019 presidential aspiration of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar received a major boost yesterday as a former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, publicly endorsed him for the Presidency.
Obasanjo declared that Atiku, who is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, has the capacity to perform better than President Muhammadu Buhari.
While describing Atiku as “the president-to-be,” Obasanjo said the PDP presidential candidate was the best man for the nation’s Presidency given the current circumstances.
According to him, the former VP has the widest and greatest exposure, experience, outreach as well as the best machinery and preparation for the 2019 campaign.
His words: “From what I personally know of you, you have capacity to perform better than the incumbent. You surely understand the economy better; you have business experience, which can make your administration business-friendly and boost the economy and provide jobs.
“You have better outreach nationally and internationally and that can translate to better management of foreign affairs.
You are more accessible and less inflexible and more open to all parts of the country in many ways. “As Pastor Tunde Bakare, one-time running mate of the incumbent President said, ‘You are a wazobia man.’ And that should help you in confronting the confrontable and shunning nepotism.”
He spoke at a press conference in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, shortly after the former vice president met him behind closed doors.
Atiku was accompanied by the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, and Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, among others.
The PDP presidential candidate’s meeting with his former boss was ostensibly historic and significant as notable religious leaders were also on hand to ‘bless’ the reconciliation.
The clerics included a prominent Kaduna-based Islamic scholar, Sheik Ahwrong mad Gumi; Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, and the founder of Living Faith Church Worldwide (Winners Chapel), Bishop David Oyedepo.
Apart from the clerics, an Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former PDP Deputy National Chairman (South), Chief Bode George; former Osun State Governor and African Democratic Congress (ADC) leader, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and Otunba Oyewole Fasawe were also present.
The gathering appeared to be the climax of series of political events arising from the presidential primaries of both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and opposition PDP held at the weekend.
Atiku, who won the PDP presidential primary election in Port Harcourt last Sunday, arrived the expansive Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta at about 1:05p.m. yesterday.
At 2:35p.m., he emerged with his host, Obasanjo, to address a press conference where both announced that they have put the past behind them. In giving his endorsement, Obasanjo urged Atiku to work with other aspirants that contested the presidential ticket with him in the interest of the country.
The former president said: “As you know, along the road to where you are today, many leaders and ordinary people cooperated and overtly and covertly worked hard. On your behalf, I thank them all. May their coast continue to be expanded.
“And when you become Nigerian President which, insha-Allah, you will be, remember what we did together in government – we ran an administration by Nigerians for all Nigerians where merit and performance count more than blood relationship, friendship or kith and kin.
Although some time and ground have been lost, you should endeavour to start from where we stopped and recover some lost ground, if not time.”
Obasanjo noted that Atiku could have succeeded him in 2007, but for the latter’s action then against the PDP, the government and the country. He, however, observed that since the ex-VP had rediscovered and repositioned himself, he is on the way to clinching the presidency.
Obasanjo also said he has already forgiven Atiku, after the latter sincerely apologized and showed remorse.
He said: “Let me start by congratulating President-tobe, Atiku Abubakar, for his success at the recent PDP primary and I took note of his gracious remarks in his acceptance speech that it all started here.
“Yes, when it started, it was meant for Atiku to succeed Obasanjo. In the presence of these distinguished leaders of goodwill today, let me say it openly that we have reviewed what went wrong on the side of Atiku.
“And in all honesty, my former Vice-President has re-discovered and re-positioned himself. As I have repeatedly said, it is not so much what you did against me that was the issue, but what you did against the party, the government and the country.
“I took the stand I had taken based on the character and attributes you exhibited in the position you found yourself. I strongly believe that I was right. It was in the overall interest of everyone and everything to take such a position.
“From what transpired in the last couple of hours or so, you have shown remorse; you have asked for forgiveness and you have indicated that you have learnt some good lessons and you will mend fences and make amends as necessary and as desirable.
“Whenever or wherever you might have offended me, as a Christian who asks for God’s forgiveness of my sins and inadequacies on daily basis, I forgive and I sincerely advise you to learn from the past and do what is right and it will be well with you.
“Obviously, you have mended fences with the party and fully reconciled with the party. That’s why today, you are the presidential candidate of the party.
In addition to appreciating all that the party has done for you, may I advise you to work together with all those who contested for the party’s flag with you as a team for your campaign.
“There are still areas, nationally and internationally, where you have to mend fences and make amends. You will know how to handle what is already out and what may yet be put out by the opposition.
“But, I am convinced that if you continue with the attitude that brought you here with these distinguished leaders of goodwill, with remorse and contrite heart, the rest of the coast within and outside the country can be cleared. And if there is anything I can do and you want me to do in that respect, I will do.
“With Nigerians voting for you, it will mean that you secure their forgiveness and regain their confidence. It will be with the hope or assurance of a Paul on the road to Damascus Conversion. After all, change and conversion are of man. I believe that with a contrite heart, change is possible in everybody’s life and situation.”
Speaking earlier, Atiku said he was grateful to Obasanjo for entrusting him with leadership position which eventually defined his political ascendancy.
He said there was need for all Nigerians to unite and work together to reposition the country on the path of unity, growth and prosperity. The former VP, who stated that yesterday’s reconciliation with his boss, was one of his happiest days in his life, promised to commit his Presidency to the continuation of Obasanjo’s legacy.
He said: “This visit is a historic one for all of us and for this country because as I have said last Sunday, I paid tribute to him (Obasanjo) because I couldn’t have been what I’ve been today without his wise counsel, without his picking me as his vice president for eight years and without the training that I got from his tutelage and his leadership.
“I believe the time has come for all of us to unite and work together so that this country can be repositioned on the path of unity, growth and prosperity.
“Mr. President Sir, today is one of the happiest days in my life. As I have said a few moments ago up there, after your Presidency, we have had three presidents in this country, the only President you have trained is myself and I said I am going to commit my Presidency, if I become one, to the continuation of your own Presidency and legacy.