NewsCampaign Watch: Season Of Endorsements

Campaign Watch: Season Of Endorsements

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As Nigerians entered the new year, and with less than 60 days to the much awaited Presidential election, a new development that caught the attention of the three leading presidential candidates, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, (APC); Peter Obi of the Labour Party, (LP) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP); their parties as well as their supporters came to the fore.

It came from no other person than the former military Head of State and the first democratically elected president of Nigeria in the current Republic, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Obasanjo in his New Year letter to Nigerians on New Year day said he had endorsed Mr. Peter Obi for President and urged Nigerians to vote for him, as according to him, Obi is the best candidate among the 18 people vying for Nigerian President’s position in the February 25, 2023 election.

Nigerians are aware that Obasanjo has never stay on the fence whenever there is a matter of national importance. He has always been a frank person and he dished out his opinion not minding the reactions that may trail it.

Nigerians are also used to his method of using letter writing as a means of conveying his opinion on national issue and even at a stage he was styled, “A Letter Writer”.

The letter that Obasanjo issued on Sunday January 1, 2023 has therefore joined a long list of letters by the Ebora Owu as Obasanjo is fondly called by the Yoruba people and like previous letters, this has also generated mixed reactions.

In the letter titled, “My Appeal To All Nigerians Particularly Young Nigerians” which was made available to the newsmen by his aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo described the last seven years of the Buhari regime as horrible and hell on earth for most Nigerians.

The letter partly read, “The last seven and a half years have no doubt been eventful and stressful years for many Nigerians. We have moved from frying pan to fire and from the mountain top to the valley. Our leaders have done their best, but their best had turned out to be not the best for Nigeria and Nigerians at home and abroad. For most Nigerians, it was hell on earth.

“Those of us who are alive should thank God for His mercies, brace ourselves for the remaining few months of this administration and pray and work very hard for an immediate better future – a future of liberation, restoration and great hope and expectation.’’

While appraising the suitability of the presidential candidates, Obasanjo accused them of deceit, saying some of them had been trumpeting what was not realistic in a desperate bid to win the election.

He expressed sadness over the terrible state of the nation, stressing that the presidential candidates did not realise that Nigeria had been dragged down well below the level it was when he assumed office in 1999.

He said Nigeria was in very bad shape and was tottering on the verge of collapse and break-up when he took office, but the nation, he added, was not faced with the current level of pervasive and mind-numbing insecurity, rudderless leadership, mismanagement of diversity and pervasive corruption and bad economic policies, which he said had resulted in extremes of poverty and massive unemployment and galloping inflation.

He said “We have had campaigners going up and down the country feeding us with what they mean and what they do not mean, what they understand and what they do not fully understand, what is possible and what is not possible, what is realistic and what is unrealistic, what is true and what is untrue. I believe that we need not be confused or be gullible. Let us be cautious, not to be fooled again,’’ he advised the electorate.

Obasanjo took cursory look at the presidential candidates, and came to the conclusion that the former governor of Anambra State who is the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) Peter Obi is the best among the lot vying to serve as president of Nigeria.

By his action Obasanjo has endorsed Peter Obi as his preferred candidate and urged all Nigerians, particularly the youth to support Obi in the drive for a new Nigeria.

In the letter, Obasanjo why explaining his choice of Obi among the 18 candidates vying for election said:

“None of the contestants is a saint but when one compares their character, antecedent, their understanding, knowledge, discipline, and vitality, efforts required to stay focused on the job, particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that I personally had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge. “One other important point to make about Peter is that he is a needle with thread attached to it from North and South and he may not get lost. “In other words, he has people who can pull his ears, if and when necessary. He has a young and able running mate with a clean track record of achievement both in public and private life.”

Immediately and as expected, the other two leading political parties, APC, PDP, and their candidates reacted angrily to Obi’s endorsement by Obasanjo.

The Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation dismissed the endorsement of Obi as the ‘subjective support for the LP presidential candidate’, by Obasanjo which does not reflect the position of an overwhelming majority of Nigerians across the country.

In a statement signed by the spokesperson of the Atiku-Okowa Campaign Organisation, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the campaign council said, “While former President Obasanjo is entitled to his personal opinion; as remarkable as it may appear, it remains individualistic and cannot redirect Nigerians from their determination to rally with the more experienced, more proficient and more accepted presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, to rescue and rebuild our nation from the APC misrule.”

In the same vein, the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of the APC described the endorsement of Peter Obi by Obasanjo as worthless.

The Director of Media and Publicity of APC/ PCC, Bayo Onanuga in a statement said the ruling party respected the democratic right of the former President to support and endorse any candidate of his choice in any election. Onanuga stated that “The endorsement is actually worthless because the former President does not possess any political goodwill or leverage anywhere in Nigeria to make anyone win a Councillorship election let alone win a Presidential election. He continued, “Obasanjo is a political paperweight.”

The presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu also, last Thursday said that the January 1, 2023 endorsement of the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, by the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, amounted to poison for Nigerians.

“Can that man recommend a leader for you in Nigeria? Is that not sending an agent to pick your pocket? A blind leading the blind”, Tinubu said.

Besides, Tinubu further added that Obasanjo took that decision out of hatred for his person (Tinubu) and sheer wickedness, stressing that despite the endorsement; he would still beat all the candidates for the February 25, 2023 presidential election.

Tinubu who stated this in Benin during his campaign at the University of Benin Sports Centre, disclosed that he and his team while he held sway as the governor of Lagos State were challenged intellectually, when Obasanjo, as the president then, withheld the allocations of Lagos State over the issue of creation of Local Council Development Authority (LCDA), in the state.

The seizure of the state allocations, Tinubu said, made him to think outside the box and made him and his team to turn Lagos State to a mega state it is today.

“Obasanjo seized our salaries, local government monies. Do you call that person a good or a wicked man? So, if he says he endorsed somebody, is it not poison that he is giving to you? One who doesn’t know the way cannot show the way. He is endorsing Obi but he doesn’t know the road,” Tinubu said.

Tinubu also said “Can that man recommend a leader for you in Nigeria? Is that not sending an agent to pick your pocket? A blind leading the blind”.

Political analysts and watchers of political developments in the country have faulted the Director of Media and Publicity of APC/ PCC, Bayo Onanuga over his statement that Obasanjo endorsement is ‘worthless’ and ‘paperweight’ .

They have equally disagreed with Tinubu that Obasanjo’s endorsement is like a blind man leading another blind man. They believe that Obasanjo with his experience as a former military head of state and two term civilian president cannot be described as blind to how to govern the country and to recommend who he thinks can serve the nation better as president.

They are of the view that if actually Obasanjo’s endorsement is worthless, why did the Tinubu presidential campaign went to him in August last year to seek his blessings and support?

Nigerians could recall the drama that followed Tinubu’s visit to Obasanjo in his Abeokuta home where they leaked the news that Tinubu had been endorsed by Obasanjo.

Media report had it that House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila who was on Tinubu’s entourage had told journalists in Lagos that Obasanjo made encouraging statements about Tinubu’s aspiration and even prayed for the APC presidential candidate.

The situation was put to rest when Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo’s aide on Media said the discussion during the visit was “more brotherly than political.”

Obasanjo’s aide further said the former President has neither agreed nor disapproved of Tinubu’s ‘request’. “Those crediting to me statement I had not made are enemies of the visitor and are not doing the visit any good.”

From the statement, Obasanjo revealed that he neither agreed nor disapproved of Tinubu’s ‘request.’ What ‘request’ could Tinubu and his entourage have made from Obasanjo whose endorsement is ‘worthless?’

Speaking with THEWILL, Comrade Sola Olawale, a member of the Campaign for Democracy in Abeokuta, Ogun State said the drama that followed Tinubu’s visit to Obasanjo alone goes to show that Obasanjo’s endorsement is worth something,

‘Why were they craving for it, if they feel his endorsement is worthless”, Olawale asked.

Olawale further said that the PDP that dismissed Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi celebrated and is still celebrating Obasanjo’s endorsement of their presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in 2019.

“Onanuga and the APC were wrong to say that no candidate backed by Obasanjo had won any election. Nigerians could recall that in 2015, the APC leadership including Bola Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande, and Ibikunle Amosun among others followed Muhammadu Buhari to Obasanjo’s Abeokuta home where Buhari was endorsed by Obasanjo. Buhari later won the election in that year.

“Also, Obasanjo as a democratically elected president of Nigeria for two terms? The first person since 1999, talking from experience, is more than qualified to assess presidential candidates and pick who he thinks is the best for the job.

“However, I agreed with others that Obasanjo’s choice is not binding on the generality of Nigerians. The final decision is that of Nigerian voters. And Obasanjo rightly directed his letter to them”, Olawale said.

Clark, Ortom’s Endorsement of Obi

Coming two days after former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi, former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, said with the former Anambra State governor as president, the country would be more united.

Clark said he was throwing his weight behind Obi because the next president of Nigeria must be educated and experienced.

According to him, an Obi Presidency would also give sense of equity that would pull the South-East as an equal partner in the polity.

He said that the time had come for someone from the South-East geo- political zone to lead the country because the zone has resourceful and educated people to govern Nigeria.

Clark, who doubles as the leader of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, (PANDEF), also urged the youths not to allow anyone bribe them, saying Nigerians needed a transparent president, who is strong, healthy and had every leadership quality Nigerians want.

Clark said: “They want to use you (youths). Don’t allow anybody to bribe you. We want a transparent president, a president, who is strong, a president, who is educated, a president who is one body, a president, who has every leadership quality that we want. We don’t want a president we have to beg to sit down, to find out whether he will fall or stand. “We want a president we should not doubt his age. We don’t want a president who will be changing every year how old he is.”

The elder statesman and Ijaw leader also called on all Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic, religious and even political backgrounds, to vote for Peter Obi without hesitation, as he is the nation’s best hope of a new Nigeria of peace, stability and progress.

According to him, he is also backing Obi because of his vision for more equity and justice as it pertains to the South-South, which in the past 60 years has produced much of the revenue for the national economy but has been neglected with little impact in terms of infrastructure and social development.

In his speech, titled: “Peter Obi, my Choice for the 2023 Presidential election,” Clark, disclosed that on his directive, the national leadership of PANDEF met with Obi in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Friday December 23, 2022, where after discussions, Obi met the expectations of the group and Niger-Delta.

“That the vision statement shared by Peter Obi on the occasion, as it relates to making Nigeria more productive, using the rich resource endowment in every part of the country; curbing waste and fighting corruption and creating jobs for our teeming youths through innovative initiatives is very commendable.

Also, one of the five aggrieved PDP Governors (G5 – Governors ) , Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who is contesting for a senatorial seat on the platform of the PDP, threw his weight behind Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi as the right candidate to provide the leadership they earnestly yearn for.

He maintained that if he was not a member of the PDP, he would have personally led Obi’s campaign across the country.

The governor in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Terver Akase, also recommended Obi to Nigerians “as the man, who has the capacity to effectively tackle the economic, security and other challenges facing the country.”

According to Akase, “the governor (Ortom) is convinced that Obi possesses the qualities of a leader, who will be a true president of this country by guaranteeing justice, equity and fairness for all Nigerians.

“The governor stresses that for some years, the country has been tottering on the verge of collapse, owing to leadership failure and its attendant consequences of poverty, heightened insecurity with banditry, kidnappings and other acts of terrorism threatening the very foundations of the nation.

“He says the president that Nigeria needs at this challenging time in the country’s history is one who understands the urgent need to unite the people and speedily initiate policies and actions to redirect the ship of the nation on the path of growth and development and emphasizes that Peter Obi has all such qualities.

“Governor Ortom lauds Chief Obasanjo for once again demonstrating objectivity, truth and patriotism as a statesman whose views on national issues must be taken seriously.”

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