The Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress have begun what can be described as the last battle to woo former President Olusegun Obasanjo ahead of the presidential primaries.
Investigations by our correspondents on Sunday showed that separate meetings the former president held with Senate President, David Mark, and an APC leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, marked the beginning of the last attempt to get Obasanjo’s support ahead of party primaries.
Although the PDP has endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan as its sole presidential candidate, it presidential primary would hold on December 6, 2014
On its part, the APC will choose between former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and an ex-Head of State, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) at its national convention on December 2, 2014.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, party primaries will hold between October 2 and December 11, 2014.
Our correspondents gathered that the meeting with Tinubu, which was also attended by the APC National Vice-Chairman, Segun Oni, centred on what should constitute the interest of the South-West in the forthcoming presidential election.
It was gathered the APC leaders specifically solicited the support of the former president for the party.
Obasanjo was said to have advised the opposition party to choose a presidential candidate with a clean record.
A top APC chieftain in the South-West, who confided in one of our correspondents, said, “The two former governors said that the interest of the South-West should determine the candidate our people should support.
“You will agree that our people have not been fairly treated by the present government at the centre, but Baba in his characteristic frankness advised the APC to choose a candidate with an untainted record.”
It was learnt that the PDP and Jonathan chose Mark to head the reconciliation team because of his closeness to Obasanjo.
The former president had on several occasions expressed his opposition to Jonathan’s second term ambition on the grounds that the President in 2011 promised not to re-contest.
But a top PDP chieftain, who confided in one of correspondents, said, “The President has not lost hope. He still respects Obasanjo and believes the former president can still support him.”
A source, who was part of the team that visited Obasanjo, confided in one of our correspondents, in Abuja on Sunday that Mark’s team arrived Obasanjo’s residence when the retired general was seeing off Tinubu and his team.
The source, who pleaded for anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the meeting between Mark and Obasanjo lasted for about four hours.
According to him, the meeting centred principally on the need for the former President to lend his support to efforts being made by the party to fully re-integrate all aggrieved members back into its fold.
He said, “The Senate President is playing a crucial rule in the current integration efforts by the leadership of the PDP to bring back the aggrieved leaders of our party into the mainstream again and Obasanjo is very key to the success of the team’s assignment. So, that is why we went to him.
“The 2015 elections is around the corner and the leadership of the PDP is determined to ensure success in all the geo-political zones. This will be a little bit difficult if the aggrieved leaders and members are not integrated back to the system.”
“Apart from the Senate President being the chairman of the South-West PDP reconciliation committee, he enjoys a father son relationship with Chief Obasanjo. He went to the see former President Obasanjo as part of his assignment.”
It will be recalled that a day before meeting with former President Obasanjo, Mark had met with stakeholders of the party from the South-West.
“Since the issue is reconciling aggrieved party members, you cannot be talking about reconciling members of the PDP in the South-West without the former President,” he explained
It was gathered that the former president had not changed his position on Jonathan’s 2015 ambition.
When contacted, an aide to the former President, who pleaded anonymity, said, “Baba Obasanjo did not disclose what he discussed with David Mark and Tinubu at separate meetings he held with them.”
But the APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, justified Tinubu’s visit to Obasanjo.
He stated, “In politics, you cannot ignore anybody that can help you. The leader must have his reasons for visiting the former President; he is doing it for Nigeria.
“What is at hand in 2015 is about Nigeria, it is not about the APC alone. Whoever we can talk to and can assist us to change this clueless government we will meet.”
The APC leaders, including Tinubu; the interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, had in December, 2013, visited Obasanjo as part of moves to solicit the former president support for the party.
At the APC leaders’ meeting with the former president held at Obasanjo’s Hilltop residence in Abeokuta, were Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), and Abdul-Fatah Ahmed (Kwara) and former Adamawa State Governor, Alhaji Murtala Nyako.
But the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, said the adoption of Jonathan as sole presidential candidate of the PDP had rattled the PDP.
Maku said this in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja on Sunday.
He described the APC as a party ridden with internal crisis and an accident waiting to happen.
The minister said, “Since the PDP gave President Jonathan the go-ahead to contest the 2015 presidential election, the APC has been adopting vicious lies and propaganda to hide its chronic internal crisis and division over who becomes its presidential candidate in the coming elections.
“They keep attacking the PDP for uniting behind the President. They are afraid of the new unity of purpose in the PDP and the President’s leadership and achievements!
“Since 1999 which incumbent president or governor was ever replaced by the ruling party in mid-term elections? When a party changes a sitting governor or president in mid-term polls, it’s an admission that the party in power has not performed and doesn’t deserve re-election.”
The minister said in most presidential democracies, particularly the United States, sitting presidents normally adopted if they had not exhausted their terms, adding that “mid-term primaries are often a waste of resources and worthless internal distraction.”
Maku explained that it was standard practice that when a ruling party had “confidence in its sitting president or governor especially when they are performing it gives him/her a second chance.”
He observed that even the APC had always fielded incumbents in all mid-term governorship elections and wondered why the fuss about President Jonathan’s endorsement.
“This has been the reality so far across all parties. So why attack the PDP for following a widely accepted and well tested democratic practice? The APC propaganda will not save them from the simmering volcanic eruption that is about to tear the party apart over who becomes its presidential candidate,” he said.
Maku predicted a resounding defeat for the opposition party in the forthcoming 2015 general elections.
In response, the South East Zonal Publicity Secretary of the APC, Osita Okechukwu , said Maku was simply amplifying the lame excuse of a non-performing party.