By Charles Onunaiju
Shortly after his landslide victory at the Port Harcourt convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar headed to the Hill top residence and “Presidential library,” of his former boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The epic reconciliation of the two formerly estranged duo was overseen by high profile clerics, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi and the Catholic bishop of Sokoto, Mathew Kukah among several other notables, especially politicians.
But even as the reconciliation was meant essentially to end almost a decades-old toxic darts that former President Obasanjo habitually throws at his erstwhile deputy in other to pave way for the Presidential candidate of the PDP to pursue his campaign without insider’s distractions, the orchestrated political house cleaning actually threw up more dirt and raised more serious issues that should concern every Nigerian.
At the meeting, former President Obasanjo was reported to have said that “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… 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.”
On this score, while it may be discretion and prerogative of only the members of the PDP to ask what their Presidential candidate did to their party, all Nigerians are certainly and must know, what Alhaji Atiku Abubakar did against the “government and country.” No “distinguished leaders of goodwill no matter how highly placed have the prerogative to exclusively gather and listen to “what was done “against the government and country,” and then sweep it under the carpet and ask Nigerians to move on, and even ask Nigerians to return such a man at the center of the murky past to a position of the highest authority in the land, without the knowledge of the truth of what actually happened.
Even Bishop Mathew Kukah, a high ranking cleric and intellectual on public affairs who helped broker the re-conciliation know that in the established tradition of Catholic Church, forgiveness and repentance comes only after confession. He should encourage former President Obasanjo and his erstwhile deputy to make full disclosure of what was done “against the government and country,” follow up with commensurate restitution and then expect forgiveness and even electoral support.
It is not enough as former President Obasanjo was reported to have said that “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 lessons and you will mend fences and make amends as necessary and as desirable.”
While Messers Obasanjo and Atiku have rights to bury the ancient hatchets that ached them for too long, what was done wrong “against the government and country,” cannot be forgotten or ignored just from “what transpired in the last couple hour or so according to the former President.
Former vice President Atiku has in his pilgrimage and previous constant pestering and fawning at former President Obasanjo demonstrated that there is something he hides from Nigerians, which only former President Obasanjo and other few notables are exclusively privy to.
With Obasanjo recent outburst that God will not forgive him, if he supports Atiku Abubakar Presidential ambition, given what he knows about his erstwhile deputy., nothing short of full disclosure is neccesary.
When former vice President Atiku won the PDP primaries handsomely and convincingly despite all odds, the expectations of many Nigerians, including yours sincerely, is that he would publicly call out the former President, who viciously persecuted him, while serving on their joint ticket to come forth and disclose his alleged treachery that makes him unworthy aspirant to the country’s highest political authority. Former Vice President, who basks as the most persecuted but un-convicted politician in Nigeria, instead of seizing the moment to haul his detractor-in-chief to the public glare to speak up of his alleged infractions or forever shut up his mouth, rather tip-toed to the hill top residence of former President Obasanjo to issue platitudes about how his Presidency would be “a continuation of your own presidency and legacy.” Even the former governor of Anambra State and now Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP, should worry about his principal’s commitment to continue former President Obasanjo’s legacy, because the legacy include de-registration of your own deputy from the ruling party, viciously persecuting him and mocking him publicly as unfit for high public office.
Former vice President Atiku and now a high profile Presidential candidate of the main opposition party might argue that his rapprochement with his former tormentor is a tactical maneuver to broaden his political base, enlist the support of critical stakeholders for the purpose of achieving electoral victory. But that leaves the former Vice President as mere power monger without principles or even modest red-line, he cannot cross despite the cost, and the real danger for this, especially for leadership, is that those who stands for nothing falls for everything.
However, while the former President is entitled to savour his reconciliation, and the pledged political support of his erstwhile principal, his electoral bid and even prospects would be better enhanced, especially among many enlightened Nigerians, if he offers a full disclosure to what wrongs he allegedly did against “the government and country.” No amount of white-wash and political pilgrimages can sweep away, the stench of the unanswered and burning question of what was done “against the government and country,”.
Except the duo of Obasanjo and Atiku takes the immediate steps of clarifying what terrible infractions were committed against “the government and country,” during their political tenure, the show of reconciliation would be a mere charade and desperate conspiracy to further take down the country to the path of perdition, in continuation of “what was done against the government and the country behind the close doors”
But when the Presidential candidate of the PDP is done with clarifying “what you did against the party, the government and the country,” it will be more easy to interrogate him on aspects of Obasanjo legacy, he wish to perpetuate whether it was the illegal and desperate quest for a third time, a massive asset-stripping of the country enforced through a bungled privatization programmes, the notorious waste of 16 billion US dollars of public funds in the excessively over-bundled power sector, that made returns only in more darkness, with firms fleeing the country in droves or when the henchmen of the helmsman abducted a sitting governor in a bid to force his resignation.
Why the ordinarily cerebral former vice President Atiku want to stand on such controversial legacy of our just recent past is best known to him and his handlers except that they appear to be betting on the famed amnesia of Nigerians.
Mr. Onunaiju is a journalist based in Abuja.