Abeokuta and Abuja — Former President Olusegun Obasanjo made a volte-face yesterday and endorsed the presidential bid of his erstwhile deputy Atiku Abubakar on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Obasanjo had in the past repeatedly declared that he would not back Atiku's presidential ambition. "If I support Atiku for anything, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support," he had said in one instance.
The former president had also warned Nigerians against supporting the APC or PDP saying "I have publicly said and I mean it, that as a party, neither PDP nor APC can get us there as they have been; never mind about reforms and apology and all that."
But Obasanjo made a U-turn yesterday while hosting Atiku in Abeokuta. Atiku, who defeated 11 others to clinch the PDP ticket, was Obasanjo's vice president between 1999 and 2007, but they had been torn apart until yesterday.
Those present at the event included PDP National Chairman Prince Uche Secondus, PDP chieftain Bode George, Founder of Living Faith Church Bishop David Oyedepo, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Matthew Hassan Kukah and Kaduna-based Islamic preacher, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi.
Others include former Governor of Osun Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the Director- General of Atiku Campaign Organization and former governor Of Ogun State Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former governor of Cross River State Liyel Imoke, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, and Afenifere Leader Ayo Adebanjo.
Atiku has rediscovered himself - Obasanjo
Chief Obasanjo said Atiku had rediscovered and re-positioned himself and therefore fit to take over mantle of leadership from President Muhammadu Buhari who would run for a second term on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC).
"Let me start by congratulating President-to-be, 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.
"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," Obasanjo said.
We must work together - Atiku
Speaking earlier, Atiku said it was time they worked together so that the country could be repositioned on the path of unity, truth and prosperity.
"This visit is an historic one for both 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 am today without his wise counsel, without his picking me as his Vice-President for eight years and without the training I got from his tutelage and his leadership.
"I believe the time has come for all of us to work together, to unite and work together, so that this country can be repositioned on the path of unity, truth and prosperity.
"Mr President sir, today is one of the happiest days of my life. As I 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."
God will not forgive Obasanjo - APC
Responding to the development, the acting National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Yekini Nabena, said the endorsement of Atiku by Obasanjo has no importance to the ruling party.
Nabena, in a phone interview with Daily Trust, said the development had shown that both Atiku and Obasanjo were "unserious personalities with no integrity and sincerity of purpose."
According to him, "The development has shown that they are unserious people who have no integrity or sincerity in them. Today, you come out to say this. Tomorrow, you say that. Today, you are saying a different thing. You have already said that God will not forgive you if you forgive Atiku. Both Atiku and Obasanjo don't even know what they are doing.
"Is it not the same Obasanjo that said that if he forgives Atiku, God will not forgive him? Truly, God will not forgive him now.
"The truth there is that Obasanjo has no political relevance. Even today, he cannot win in his polling unit. So, let's leave it at that point. It's not important."