Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan on Friday met at a remote village in Ogun State to hold talks aides say centred on mending their strained relationship.
The two leaders met for several hours in Ibogun-Olaogun, the ancestral hometown of Mr. Obasanjo, taking a stroll together through the community before being treated to a sumptuous meal, sources familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr. Jonathan arrived Ibogun-Olaogun in company with a former Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Turaki, and one of his childhood friend whom sources identified simply as “Turner.”
The delegation flew in a private helicopter to the village, arriving at about 11 a.m. to meet Mr. Obasanjo who earlier drove there from his home in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Ibogun-Olaogun is in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State.
Those in the know said the meeting was tactically moved to the remote town at the instance of Mr. Jonathan to avoid the prying eyes of reporters in Abeokuta, where Mr. Obasanjo usually receives guests at his Hilltop residence.
Our sources said Mr. Obasanjo took Mr. Jonathan around the village, introducing him to community leaders.
“After taking him about, they returned to Baba’s house in Ibogun-Olaogun and ate good meal together,” a source said.
Before both men went behind closed-doors for a meeting, Mr. Turaki told Mr. Obasanjo that Mr. Jonathan had visited former Nigerian leaders, including Abdulsalami Abubakar and Ibrahim Babangida in the recent past and had planned to visit Mr. Obasanjo during the Yuletide.
“He said since he was unable to make it to Baba’s place around Christmas period, he had to find time to do so before January ends,” Mr. Turaki reportedly said as Mr. Jonathan smiled. “He believes it’s better late than never.”
It is not exactly clear what both men discussed during their closed-door meeting.
The two leaders did not answer or return calls made to them.
But an aide to Mr. Jonathan said the former president sought to restore cordial relationship with Mr. Obasanjo.
“He told Baba that whatever had passed should be left in the past because the future holds even bigger promises for the two of them,” an aide said.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the meeting ended around 4:00 p.m.
Mr. Jonathan’s spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, could not be reached for comments. Mr. Obasanjo has no official spokesperson.
Once close allies, Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Obasanjo fell out shortly before the 2015 general election, with Mr. Obasanjo publicly shredding his Peoples Democratic Party membership card.
Mr. Obasanjo was elected on the platform of the PDP in 1999 as Nigeria’s first president in the Fourth Republic. He successfully ran for reelection under the party’s umbrella in 2003.
In 2007, Mr. Obasanjo is believed to have played key role in the emergence of Mr. Jonathan as running mate to former President Umar Yar’Adua on the platform of the PDP.
When Mr. Yar’Adua passed on in 2010, Mr. Jonathan took over as president.
In 2011, Mr. Jonathan, again with the support of Mr. Obasanjo, ran successfully for a full four-year term in office.
But the two leaders soon fell out after the elections that year. By 2013, the feud had turned to a full blown public spat, with Mr. Obasanjo writing a scathing letters to his hitherto political protege.
The confrontation lingered until the 2015 election which saw Mr. Jonathan lose to now President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr. Obasanjo’s attacks against Mr. Jonathan is believed to have greatly damaged the latter’s reelection chances.
Today’s development is the first time the two former leaders would be locked in a closed-door discussion since Mr. Jonathan left office in May 2015.