Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Jonathan, on Monday played host to another former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, at his country home in Otuoke, Bayelsa State.
Mr Obasanjo was in Bayelsa for medical check-up as a guest of the Bayelsa government which launched a new health programme. He made a stop-over at Mr Jonathan’s home.
Mr Jonathan, apparently delighted with the visit, later wrote on Facebook, “I am firmly of the view that Nigeria will progress faster when great leaders, like President Obasanjo and other statesmen, plant trees whose shade they know they may never enjoy.”
He posted on the social media site photos of himself and his guest, Mr Obasanjo, beaming with smiles.
The governor of Bayelsa, Seriake Dickson, was present when the two former leaders met.
Mr Obasanjo, once a military ruler, was elected president in 1999 under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), during a return to civilian rule in Nigeria. He led the country for eight years and was succeeded in May 2007 by Umaru Yar’Adua, who later died while still serving as president.
Mr Jonathan, who was vice president under Mr Yar’Adua, succeeded the late president in 2010.
The Obasanjo-Jonathan meeting is largely seen as part of the ongoing political alignment in the country, which is targeted at defeating President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 elections.
Apart from members of the APC decamping in droves to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the PDP has been holding talks with Mr Obasanjo’s African Democratic Congress (ADC) and other parties on forming a grand alliance that could help them dislodge the APC in the forthcoming elections.
The Obasanjo-Jonathan meeting highlights the popular notion of ‘no permanent friend, but permanent interest’ in the country’s politics.
Mr Obasanjo has played a big role in Mr Jonathan’s rise and fall in politics; first, it was during the Obasanjo administration that the then governor of Bayelsa, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was impeached, paving the way for Mr Jonathan, then a deputy governor, to become governor.
Mr Jonathan’s election as president had the backing of Mr Obasanjo, who later threw his weight behind Mr Buhari, an opposition candidate, to defeat Mr Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election.
Mr Obasanjo had ‘tore’ his PDP card and said he had quit partisan politics.
Today, Mr Obasanjo has parted ways with President Buhari’s government. He is working hard to stop the president’s re-election, and interestingly, both Mr Obasanjo and Mr Jonathan are now political allies who see Mr Buhari as their common political enemy.
Mr Obasanjo issued a public statement January this year in which he asked the president not to seek re-election.
“President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse.”
“He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the sideline for the good of the country,” the former president said in the 13-page statement.
Mr Obasanjo blamed the president for not doing much to tackle hunger, poverty, and insecurity in the country,
He said, “Wherever I go, I hear Nigerians complaining, murmuring in anguish and anger. But our anger should not be like the anger of the cripple.
“We can collectively save ourselves from the position we find ourselves. It will not come through self-pity, fruitless complaint or protest but through constructive and positive engagement and collective action for the good of our nation and ourselves and our children and their children.”
In his characteristic bluntness, the former president said in the same statement that he didn’t regret stopping Mr Jonathan’s re-election in 2015.
“As it has been revealed in the last three years or so, that decision and the subsequent collective decision of Nigerians to vote for a change was the right decision for the nation.
“For me, there was nothing personal, it was all in the best interest of Nigeria and, indeed, in the best interest of Africa and humanity at large. Even the horse rider then, with whom I maintain very cordial, happy and social relationship today has come to realise his mistakes and regretted it publicly and I admire his courage and forthrightness in this regard.
“He has a role to play on the sideline for the good of Nigeria, Africa and humanity and I will see him as a partner in playing such a role nationally and internationally, but not as a horse rider in Nigeria again,” Mr Obasanjo said.
President Buhari has since declared his re-election plan and has accused Mr Obasanjo of corruption.