2019: Influential Nigerians who aided Atiku, Obasanjo’s reconciliation

Rev Matthew Kukah, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi during the meeting at Obasanjo's residence in Abeokuta
Rev Matthew Kukah, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi during the meeting at Obasanjo's residence in Abeokuta

A former vice president and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, met with former president Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday in Abeokuta after which they announced they had reconciled their differences.

Mr Obasanjo had in August said he would not support the presidential ambition of Mr Abubakar.

“How can I be on the same side with Atiku?” he told PREMIUM TIMES. “To do what?”

“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.”

Mr Obasanjo, however, made a U-turn on Thursday as he endorsed Mr Abubakar for president after the meeting.

Mr Obasanjo, who supported Mr Buhari in 2015, has since turned against the president, accusing him of poor management of the economy.

Some influential Nigerians are believed to have facilitated the reconciliation of Messrs Obasanjo and Abubakar.

Present at the meeting in Abeokuta were two Christian clerics, Matthew Kukah and David Oyedepo; an Islamic cleric, Ahmad Gumi, and Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere.

Although these men had not publicly supported Mr Abubakar before, they have one thing in common – they openly criticised President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration.

Mr Oyedepo, the president of Living Faith Church, had opposed the president before, during and after the 2015 general election.

The influential cleric had admonished members of his church and Nigerians in general to pray for the the past president, Goodluck Jonathan, to win the 2015 general election.

Sometime in 2015 when Mr Jonathan visited the Living Faith Church in Ota, Mr Oyedepo vowed“to open the gates of hell on anyone that opposes” Mr Jonathan.

Mr Gumi, an influential Islamic cleric based in Kaduna, has also never hidden his aversion to the Buhari-led administration.

He had several times called for the resignation of the president.

Although he often said he had no sympathy for any political party, he however stated that Mr Buharin has failed as president. He also said his criticism of the government was based on his quest for justice in Nigeria.

Mr Gumi was also present at the meeting on Thursday between Messrs Obasanjo and Atiku.

Another cleric who was present at the meeting was Mr Kukah, the Catholic Archbishop in Sokoto.

Like the others, Mr Kukah from Southern Kaduna has repeatedly criticised Mr Buhari’s performance in office.

In April, he accused the president of being too distant from his people. He had cautioned the president to adjust his ways of leadership.

The cleric was also quoted saying “the country is so split” – and he blamed the president for it.

“You rode into town like a knight in shining armour…the bogeyman of religion, region and ethnicity, which we thought we had overcome by the sheer nature of your support base, have come back with a vengeance to haunt and threaten the very foundation of our existence,” he said.

“You have a date with history and divine judgment,” he said in his Easter message.

Mr Kukah was also present at the reconciliation meeting.

For the Yoruba leader, Mr Adebanjo, he like his group, Afenifere, have repeatedly demanded restructuring of Nigeria and accused Mr Buhari of not willing to restructure the country.

He has faulted many moves of the president and was also against the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day, describing it as a gimmick by the president to lure Nigerians into voting for him in 2019.

“Yorubas are not fools,” he told Punch Newspapers.

Days ago, Mr Adebanjo also met with Mr Obasanjo behind closed doors – a meeting which lasted for about two hours.

Although Afenifere claimed the discussion was to strengthen harmony in Yorubaland in preparation for 2019, it is believed that Mr Abubakar’s ambition was a major topic of discussion.

With the joint effort of these leaders to reconcile the ex-president and Mr Abubakar, political watchers are eager to see how much the reconciliation will help Mr Abubakar achieve his ambition; especially as Mr Obasanjo described him as “President-to-be” after the meeting.

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