ABEOKUTA – HIDE and seek! That aptly captures the processes that led to a closed-door meeting between President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
A top supporter of Jonathan told Vanguard at about 8.30 p.m, yesterday, that “the meeting is holding now” and declined further comments.
An unconfirmed report last night stated that the General Overseer of Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye and the Founder, Winners Chapel, Bishop David Oyedepo, were part of the meeting, which began at 7 p.m, last night.
The presence of the religious leaders as witnesses, sources said, was part of the conditions Obasanjo gave to hold any talk with President Jonathan.
The media was awash with expectation and anxiety over what the outcome of the two leaders’ meeting would be. Obasanjo, recently came down hard on Jonathan accusing his administration of squandering $55 billion crude oil savings and reserves. Jonathan had in turn promised to expose what former leaders and heads of state failed to do while in office that stunted the country’s socio-economic growth. He later added that some leaders were behaving like motor park touts, a comment that was perceived to be aimed at Obasanjo.
However, Obasanjo attended President Jonathan’s niece’s wedding in Abuja, weekend, and was well received as he had warm handshakes with President Jonathan and his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan.
Thus, it was not surprising that the speculated Abeokuta meeting raised hairs. At press time, yesterday, there were different reasons the meeting could not hold during the day. One account said the meeting could not be held in the afternoon because President Jonathan snubbed Obasanjo. Another account said the former president avoided the president by leaving his house where the meeting would have been held on hearing that Jonathan had arrived in Abeokuta.
The hide and seek game
Indeed, the former President left his palatial Hilltop building in Abeokuta, immediately Jonathan arrived the state capital.
Obasanjo who was driven out in his black SUV and one security Hilux van, shunned his main entrance and made use of his private gate.
Vanguard was at Obasanjo’s house to cover the expected meeting between the two leaders and observed that some security personnel who had been detailed at the former President’s house suddenly disappeared.
A source close to Obasanjo’s Hilltop mansion in Abeokuta had earlier confided in Vanguard that President Jonathan was not in Obasanjo’s itinerary for the day.
He also hinted that Obasanjo jetted out around 2: 59 p.m few minutes after the helicopter that flew the President to the state, touched down.
Operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) who had earlier besieged Obasanjo’s Hilltop mansion as early as 6a.m in anticipation of President Jonathan’s arrival also left the place at exactly 3.10p.m when it became obvious that Jonathan was not coming.
Jonathan, however, arrived at the M.K.O Stadium in Abeokuta at exactly 3.50p.m and headed straight to the state box from where he later moved out to acknowledge cheers from the crowd who had thronged the stadium venue of the campaign as early as 7. 30a.m.
Asked why President Jonathan ‘dodged’ Obasanjo and refused to visit him despite being in Abeokua, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, said: “Dodge Obasanjo? How? The president just left the stadium now and he is in the presidential lodge in Abeokuta, resting.”
The meeting, last night, however ended at 9.53 pm without official statement from both parties.
Jonathan woos Ogun voters
At the Abeokuta rally, President Jonathan promised to create additional eight million jobs for Nigerian youths in the next four years, if re-elected.
While referring to Gen. Mohammadu’s Buhari’s assertion that if elected, he would ensure that all guilty corrupt persons are jailed, Jonathan said: “It is my prayer that a time will come in Nigeria that there will be no single prison in the country.”
He then told his audience: “You have a choice to vote for those who will build more prisons for you or my administration which will build more schools for you.”
Schools and Wealth creation
He said his administration was already working with eminent Nigerians in private sector to make the mission a reality, saying that the party was out to fight poverty through wealth and job creation.
The president said that the Federal Government had set up a technical committee to that effect which was headed by Vice-President Namadi Sambo to work the modalities for the creation of at least two million jobs every year. He explained that the Federal Government was also working with Tony Elumelu, Chairman UBA and other investors from the private sector in order to achieve the goal.
He said: “We are out to create jobs, our target is to create not less than two million jobs every year. We are working with the private sector. Tony Elumelu is part of them and when we are talking about Elumelu, you know we are talking about a serious investor.”
While explaining that PDP had changed the face of Agriculture in the country, President Jonathan declared that the PDP-led Federal Government would integrate Commercial Agriculture into the Secondary schools’ curriculum to create wealth, more jobs and to reduce the country’s balance of payment deficit on imported foods.
We’ll win war against terrorism, says Jonathan at Mapo Hall
Meanwhile, President Jonathan has said his commitment and method of tackling corruption was not dependent on the number of people his administration tries or jails.
Though, he said his government has tried many Nigerians to show that it did not support corruption, he said the number of people tried on corruption-related offences would never stem the tide of the hydra-headed problem.
He said this at the ancient Mapo Hall, Ibadan, venue of his campaign rally, yesterday.
According to him: “If I try 10 million Nigerians and jail 5 million, that does not stop corruption problem. Let me re-assure Nigerians that we will win war against terror. My commitment and method of solving corruption is not in terms of the number of people I try or jail.”
President Jonathan, who used the forum to reel out the achievements of his administration, noted that his government had empowered over one million people through its various intervention programmes.
Other achievements, he said, include ongoing reconstruction of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, power projects, Ibadan Airport renovation, Ibadan-Lagos-Kano railway line rehabilitation, among other empowerment projects cited in Oyo State.
This came just as the president urged Nigerian women to vote him in for another four years to liberate themselves or risk being restricted to the kitchen by the opposition.
Though, some aggrieved chieftains of the party who felt cheated in the way the party’s governorship candidate was finally selected were conspicuously absent at the rally, their absence did not take the shine-off the event.
Speaking one after the other, many chieftains of the party including governorship and senatorial candidates gave reasons the South-West should back Jonathan’s re-election ambition.
The Minister of State, FCT, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide buttressed the achievements of the president saying he gave $200 million to the South West to check flooding which claimed lives some years ago in the state.
The Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko said the South-West belonged to the PDP, adding that Nigerians should not vote for a president that cannot boot a computer because “the 21st century requires a president that is young, computer compliant and current .”
Mulikat Akande, the leader of the House of Representatives said the rally was to receive the president and to flag-off the party’s campaign in the state.
In attendance were the Vice President, Namadi Sambo; PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Muazu; Minister of State, FCT, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide; Senator Hosea Agboola; High Chief Lekan Balogun, PDP chieftain; Olusegun Mimiko; Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, Director of Media and Publicity, Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation and PDP senatorial candidates in Oyo South, North and Central among others.