Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Thursday, endorsed the candidacy of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and declared that the former vice president has the capacity to perform better than the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, if elected president in 2019.
Obasanjo equally disclosed that he had forgiven Atiku and expressed his readiness to support his ambition, to return Nigeria to path of unity, good governance and security.
He said he took note of Atiku’s gracious remark in his acceptance speech after he secured PDP presidential ticket on Sunday, which according the him was a strong indication of his preparedness to rescue Nigeria.
Obasanjo further pointed out that Atiku remained the only candidate among other PDP presidential aspirants, well equipped in terms of experience, exposure, outreach and capacity to espouse good governance, particularly in the areas of economy, job creation, security and international relations.
The former vice president, in company with the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, Senator Ben Bruce, the Director General of Atiku Campaign Organisation, Gbenga Daniel and the former governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke, paid a visit to Obasanjo at his Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta residence.
The PDP presidential candidate was immediately ushered into a closed door meeting with Obasanjo. The meeting was also attended by notable Nigerians such as the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rt. Rev. Matthew Kukah, the Presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church, Bishop Oyedepo, Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmed Gumi, Bode George, Oyewole Fasawe, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, among others.
Addressing newsmen after the meeting which lasted over an hour, Obasanjo said Atiku’s visit to him was historic and fence-mending, declaring he was ready to work and support “a remorseful and contrite Atiku” for a better Nigeria.
Obasanjo, who intermittently referred to his former second in command as “President-to-be”, disclosed that Atiku was meant to succeed him in 2007, said they had both reviewed what happened and decided to put the past behind them.
He also said Atiku had shown remorse, offered apology and sought for forgiveness.
He recalled how himself and Atiku ran what he termed as “Nigerian administration for Nigerians”, maintaining Atiku’s flexibility and openness to all sections of Nigeria would help him to deliver good governance as Nigerian president.
Obasanjo said: “Yes, it was 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.
“There are still areas, nationally and internationally, where you have to mend fences and make amends.
“You will know how to handle what is already out and what may yet be put out by the opposition.
“But, 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.
“I am sure with the right attitude for change where necessary, and by putting lessons learned by you to work, you will get the understanding, cooperation, support and mandate – all at the national level.
“With Nigerians voting for you, it will mean that you secure their forgiveness and regain their confidence.
“It will be with the hope or assurance of a Paul on the road to Damascus Conversion. After all, change and conversion are of man. I believe that with a contrite heart, change is possible in everybody’s life and situation.
“For me, relatively and of all the aspirants in the PDP, you have the widest and greatest exposure, experience, outreach and possibly the best machinery and preparation for seeing the tough and likely dirty campaign ahead through.
“From what I personally know of you, you have capacity to perform better than the incumbent. You surely understand the economy better; you have business experience, which can make your administration business-friendly and boost the economy and provide jobs.
“You have better outreach nationally and internationally and that can translate to better management of foreign affairs.
“You are more accessible and less inflexible and more open to all parts of the country in many ways.
“As Pastor Bakare, one-time running mate of the incumbent President said, “You are a wazobia man.” And that should help you in confronting the comfortable and shunning nepotism.
“And when you become Nigerian President which, Insha-Allah, you will be, remember what we did together in government – we ran an administration by Nigerians for all Nigerians where merit and performance count more than blood relationship, friendship or kith and kin.
“Although some time and ground have been lost, you should endeavour to start from where we stopped and recover some lost ground, if not time.
“Please uphold truth, integrity, principles, morality and fight corruption, crimes and insurgency.
“The fundamental law of the land, our constitution must be scrupulously defended.
“I make one demand and one demand on you today, I need you to say before God and man that you will always remain irrevocably committed to upholding ALL the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the whole country will remain your single indivisible constituency.
“Constitutionalism, popular participation and inclusiveness are pre-conditions for reversing the deficits of the past three and half years.
“They will ensure abiding faith in our indivisibility, oneness and faith in the survival of all against none.
“The fundamentals for our development, economic growth and progress are hard and soft infrastructure.
“Remember to always give adequate places in your administration to our youth and women”.
Earlier in his remark, Atiku, thanked the former president for agreeing to receive him and his entourage. He said as Obasanjo’s deputy, he learnt a lot under his tutelage and training.
Atiku, who disclosed the visit marked the happiest moment of his life, noted that it was high time Nigerians to work together in unity and return the country to the path of progress, growth and development.