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Obasanjo has messed up his opponents

By Vision Reporter

Added 18th January 2007 03:00 AM

THE December nomination of the little known Alhaji Umar Musa Yar Adua as the presidential candidate of the ruling party of Nigeria, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has surprised most political observers and analysts.

THE December nomination of the little known Alhaji Umar Musa Yar Adua as the presidential candidate of the ruling party of Nigeria, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has surprised most political observers and analysts.



THE December nomination of the little known Alhaji Umar Musa Yar Adua as the presidential candidate of the ruling party of Nigeria, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has surprised most political observers and analysts.

Yar Adua was a candidate most pundits never really focused on until the last two weeks of the PDP convention.

Before then the battle was seen as one of prominenttitans. For a very long time Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Vice President, was seen as the leading contender given his vast wealth and political infrastructure across the country and control of the PDP machinery.

His supporters believed the nomination a forgone conclusion and behaved like the next government in all but name.

They did not reckon with the fury of a President never known to forget or forgive those he considered ‘disloyal’.

Atiku teamed up with the democratic forces that thwarted Obasanjo’s third term
bid and we all felt triumphant when that bid was defeated.

We thought Obasanjo was cornered. But Obasanjo has fought back doggedly reclaiming the party machinery, isolating Atiku, and getting him suspended from the party thereby knocking him out of contention.

The second candidate was the former military dictator, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.

His image-makers sold him as Nigeria’s Maradona, a man who could dribble anybody and score political goals with
reckless abandon or clinical finesse.

The common wisdom was that Obasanjo had
struck a deal with Babangida to serve for one term and in
gratitude take the baton back to Babangida.

Of course things
do not always turn out as planned. When people arrive
in state house a new reality descends on them. There
is nothing specifically Nigerian or African about political u-turns.

But neither Atiku nor Babangida reckoned with a scourned President’s fury and ignored the enormous powers to change and shape political facts that being the tenant of Aso Rock confers, no matter how weak the occupant
may seem.

Obasanjo took direct control of the party machinery
that he was never part of building, and reshaped
things by successively sacking party officials he did
not like including even dissolving the party and
recruiting members afresh.

Among his Yoruba people Obasanjo is probably more unpopular with the broad masses or the elitist political and professional classes. His lack of ethnic base was what recommended him to other Nigerians.

So in 1999 the generals presented the nation with a presidential candidate who was of Yoruba extraction but not a Yoruba president.

The special circumstances were such that consequent to the nullification of the June 12, 1992 elections won by
Chief M. K. O. Abiola the Yoruba country basically became ungovernable. Even Babangida was forced to ‘step aside’ by other generals as a consequence.

His attempt to placate the Yoruba and the country by instituting a
transitional government headed by a spineless businessman, a fellow Yoruba from the same town (Abeokuta) as Abiola, Chief Ernest Sonekan, did not reduce political tension and led to Abacha who misruled the country with reckless abandon for the next five and a half years.

Abacha ruled through gross
indifference until he died. But
Abiola was still held in jail. He could not have been released without him claiming his mandate.

He had to be eliminated. Exactly one month after Abacha’s death
Abiola choked on his last cup of tea in the presence
of a visiting high level US delegation led by Ms Susan
Rice, President Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State for

That gave international observers a new twist. In days gone by people would have suspected the US government but as this is a unilateralist world the fact that the Americans were there when the chief choked was even seen as evidence of lack of foul play!
With Abiola was out of the way the military was able to
snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by regrouping
to reshape the politics of the country under the taciturn General Abdul-Salaam.

That was how Obasanjo’s re-entry to State house was ensured. Obasanjo seems to be playing the same card in his support for Governor Musa Yar Adua.

There has been a lot of heat generated by the claims of the North that after eight years of a southern presidency it was time for
power to shift back to the North. By supporting Yar Adua he is attempting to kill several political birds with one stone.

One, he has disorganised his chief rivals Babangida and Atiku but the latter more than the former. Two, by deliberately encouraging so many presidential candidates, Obasanjo nullified babangida’s threat since he is the most overrated political coward in the country.

He was just hoping that Obasanjo would honour whatever deals they had in 1999 and clear the stables for him. Babangida could never have contested and be defeated.

If he was outwitted it would have meant that he was no Maradona after all.

Three, just like the generals decided to give the Yoruba a president from their area but not a Yoruba President Obasanjo is also giving the North a presidential candidate who is from there but not necessarily a Hausa-Fulani president.

Four, the general perception is that Umar Yar Adua is little known but this is not necessarily a disadvantage.

Five, in the same way Obasanjo was rewarded for the pain the Yoruba were believed to have suffered due to the June 12 annulment and his personal suffering under Abacha, Umar may also be claiming some posthumous reward for his late brother’s tribulations.

Another way in which history is repeating itself is the fact that the major presidential candidates will all come from the Hausa-Fulani Muslim north.

In 1999 the two leading candidates were both Yoruba Christians from the Southwest.

The three to watch are Umar Musa, Yar Adua of the ruling PDP, retired General Muhammadu Buhari of the ANPP and Atiku Abubakar of the Advanced Congress of Democrats.

As the lineup stand now between the three candidates in front, the little known man, who will be better
known in the next few weeks, seems to be standing
taller politically than his better known rivals who
are even physically taller than him.

Obasanjo has messed up his opponents

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