Nigeria: Obasanjo - Why Atiku Is a Better Candidate

PDP presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar.
31 January 2019

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has again defended his decision to support the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, saying he has not retracted his words on the former vice president but that the PDP presidential candidate "has done three things, which are absolutely imperative for a leader to be followed and believed."

Speaking as a special guest of honour at the quarterly business lecture of the Lagos Island Club, the former president described Buhari's supposed integrity as a fake, adding that Atiku will be a president to all Nigerians and not one who will be president to only the people who voted for him.

At the event, Atiku, who was the guest lecturer, said he would create a $25 billion fund to support private sector investments in infrastructure, warning that the country is on the brink of collapse, alleging that Buhari is abusing instrument of power because of his selfish ambition.

Obasanjo said though Atiku had never claimed to be a saint, he too never described him as such.

He posited that the division the country is now experiencing stemmed from the moment President Buhari said that only those who voted for him would enjoy government patronage.

Speaking on the capacity of Atiku to lead the country, Obasanjo said the PDP presidential candidate "has done three things which are absolutely imperative for a leader to be followed and believed."

"First, know who you are and present yourself as you are - a human being in blood and flesh and susceptible to human mistakes and human frailties. Don't cover up with sanctimonious veneer of bogus integrity, incorruptibility, uprightness, goodness and false figures and statistics, all of which are contrived to deceive, to cheat, to plunder and to destroy.

"Atiku never claimed to be a saint and I never described him as such. I will never so describe any human being alive let alone calling him a Messiah. On an occasion in the past when I said that someone was not a Messiah, some Nigerians out of bad belle were up in arms. For me, as a Christian, the only Messiah I know and have is Jesus Christ and even then, the man aspect of Him was imperfect while the divine aspect of Him was perfectly messianic.

"Secondly, a leader must be honest to himself and to the people he serves or he wants to serve. He must identify and acknowledge his situation, mistakes, shortcomings and inadequacy; show remorse where and when he has erred, seek forgiveness and repent; and not passing the bulk or keep blaming others and fail to accept responsibility.

Atiku accepts responsibility for his mistakes, shows remorse and seeks forgiveness from his political party and subsequently from Nigerians.

"He asks for forgiveness from me and as a believer, a Christian as such, I forgave him in accordance with the teaching and instruction of my Saviour.

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matt 6:14-15 NIV). If anybody blames me for forgiving Atiku, I leave such a person with God Almighty, especially as both Christian and Islamic clerics joined Atiku to visit me to seek forgiveness. Anybody who does not forgive when forgiveness is sought with contrite heart cannot be a true believer and should not expect the forgiveness of God.

"Thirdly, as a leader, you must understand the fundamentals of the problems you have to solve and be courageous, visionary and ready to reach out sufficiently to build a credible team of experts, knowledgeable men and women, concerned and interested citizens and non-citizens to work hard and tirelessly for solutions that will benefit all Nigerians and indeed Africans and humanity. He must have ability to build a credible team, lead them, listen to them and give them enough leeway to achieve and make meaningful contribution without abdicating his responsibility. He must be accessible to them. From my personal knowledge of Atiku, he has these qualities."

The former president said both Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP 'have issues' but one is better than the other.

"I must reiterate that Atiku is not a saint and who is? But from what I know of Atiku, he will be a performer in all respects. I can say that again from my personal experience. He knows the problems and he handled some of them or similar and in the past. We now know that both Buhari and Atiku have issues and all of us as human beings have one issue or the other in different magnitude but judging both of them empirically and for the task at hand, Atiku will perform much better than Buhari and he will seek for good and able people around the country and beyond and make use of them to achieve his mission and vision for the general good of Nigerians and the country. He will be a team leader but will not allow the seizure of his mandate by a cabal. A system to prevent impunity and 'I can do what I like' attitude and action must be put in place for all concerned. It is more than check and balance, rather it is for the good of all stakeholders and equity-holders."

Also speaking at the event, Atiku who decried the unilateral suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnogen, insisted that Buhari's action was a grave attack on the nation's constitution and the people of the country.

The presidential candidate of the PDP said he would create a $25 billion fund to support private sector investments in infrastructure if he wins next month's election.

Atiku pledged to use part of the money for reforming the power sector.

In his lecture: 'My Vision to get Nigeria Working Again' the presidential candidate of the PDP lamented that "after unsuccessfully abusing the instruments of state to remove the leadership of the legislature, President Buhari has turned his sight on the judiciary," describing the unilateral suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria by the president as unconstitutional.

"The constitution provides laid down rules for the suspension or removal of the CJN and this has not been followed. As someone who has vigorously defended our constitution over a number of decades, you can be rest assured that I will do all in my power to ensure the matter is resolved in accordance with our constitution."

He said that the unity of the nation has been fatally bruised but such actions by the president, saying that "social cohesion is being eroded, democratic consolidation being undermined, and national unity and security threatened by ethno-religious tension, agitations, restiveness and disputes over titles and entitlements"

He said over the years, Nigeria has promoted, tolerated and celebrated a defective political structure.

"Our states and local governments are too weak to meet their constitutional responsibilities. Consequently, the federal government has succeeded in emasculating them and taking away those responsibilities and, along with these, the resources which belong to them."

He stressed that if the country is to develop into a united, secure and prosperous country, "we must adopt a new economic management model and a new political structure that will cure all the federating units of their addition to oil revenues. We must restructure the polity and the economy."

Atiku argued that under the APC- led government, the future prospect of the country is bleak, saying that "unemployment had unfortunately been the only booming industry with over 13 million people joining the ranks of people without a job, which now totals 21 million.

"If people do not have a job, they struggle to feed their families, and that is why over 100 million of our people cannot afford one decent meal a day."

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