Of late, President Goodluck Jonathan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, governors, individuals, and groups have been visiting former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s residence in Abeokuta. The visits are, apparently, for political reasons ahead of next month’s general election.
Obasanjo’s Hiltop residence in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, had always been a place that many prominent local and foreign personalities like to visit, especially for consultation on political issues, on account of the former president’s wealth of experience. But ahead of the next general election, such visits have intensified. Candidates vying for various state and national positions have recently made frequent stopovers at Obasanjo’s house to seek advice or try to seek his support for the political ambitions.
Penultimate Thursday, the presidential candidate of National Conscience Party, Mr. Martins Onovo, visited Obasanjo. It was during the visit that the ex-president declared that he was ready to sacrifice everything, including his life, for the interest of Nigeria. But Obasanjo added that he could not make such sacrifice for any political party.
The former president said he was still a card carrying member of Peoples Democratic Party.
Obasanjo has been expressing a lot of concern about the current socio-economic and political situation of the country, emphasising that he would do all within his powers to help in salvaging the poor state of things. He says he will not place his political party’s interest above the national interest.
Another major visit to the former president’s house was that by the market women (called Iyalojas in the Yoruba language). The Iyalojas in the South-west, who visited the ex-president penultimate week, said their visit was to consult with him on issues bordering on the country’s economy and politics.
The delegation of women was led by Iyalode of Yoruba land, Chief Alaba Lawson, and Iyaloja-general, Chief Folashade Tinubu-Ojo.
While responding to the women’s call on him to speak up for genuine efforts to revamp the country’s economy, the former president criticised the Jonathan administration for depleting the foreign reserve. Obasanjo, who left office in May 2007, recalled, “When I was leaving office about eight years ago, we left a very huge reserve after we had paid all our debts.”
He said his government left about $25 billion in the Excess Crude account and explained that the fund was the money the country saved as reserve for the rainy day.
“The reserve we left when we finished paying all our debts, our debts that was about $40 billion, that is including debt forgiveness, the remaining debt was not more than $3 billion,” he said. “Our reserve after we had paid off this debt was about $45 billion. As I said, they continued till the end of 2007, I heard that the reserve increased to almost $67 billion before the end of the year.”
Obasanjo said the depleted reserve was behind the falling value of the Naira.
“Is there any remedy?” he asked. “There is, but it does not come overnight because it means we have to give up all the bad things we have been doing.”
Jonathan’s relationship with Obasanjo had become frosty following the latter’s alleged unfavourable disposition to Jonathan’s second term ambition.
Jonathan himself has also visited the former president’s residence. Shortly after Jonathan’s closed-door meeting with Obasanjo, he said he remained the ex-president’s son.
Similarly, Obasanjo had hosted some four northern governors last year. The state governors included Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), and Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto).
Five PDP governors also visited him. They were Liyel Imoke of Cross River State, Lamido, Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, and Isa Yiguda of Bauchi State.
The former president said the governor had come to discuss national issues that require all hands on deck. According to him, they assured that this type of consultation would be held with other PDP leaders so that the country can be better.
Obasanjo said the visit of the PDP governors, “We have discussed most of the challenges which I have raised in my own public pronouncements in recent times, not to castigate anybody, not to bad-mouth anybody, not to run anybody down, but out of genuine concern for the situation of this country and that is the same thing that has brought them.”
The former president appreciated the visit of the five governors and said he respected the honour done to him.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Governor of Lagos, Senator Bola Tinubu, have also paid separate visits to Obasanjo.
Explaining his visit to Obasanjo’s place, Atiku had said he came as a mark of respect to his former boss, stressing, “We discussed the state of the nation, generally, and thirdly, our relationship is extremely cordial. That’s what I can say.”
The women wing of Nigeria Union of Journalists, Abeokuta, was among groups that visited Obasanjo at his residence last year. He had declared during that visit that women in politics were more reliable than their men counterparts. He also stressed that women had a unique place in national development.
According to the former president, “In politics, women are more reliable than men. When a woman says she’s with you, you can really take it that she is with you. But if a man tells you he is with you and you catch him in another meeting, he will tell you it is politics, it should not be so.”
Obasanjo frowned on the situation where African women were often not given the chance to exhibit their potentials because of cultural and religious issues, saying this should not be so, as men alone cannot make a society.
The former president likened the economy of the country at present to what obtained during the era of the military junta, the late Sanni Abacha.
Addressing a group of traders who paid him a visit, Obasanjo said Nigerians should be vigilant and collectively watch over the country.
According to him, “We have to be at alert. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. If we will get ourselves out of the morass we find ourselves in, it has to be done by each and every one of us.
“We all have contribution to make and should not leave our responsibilities on others. If we fail to participate in things that are meaningfully positive for this country, you will be a victim and we all will become victims.”
“As for me, we don’t know where we are going yet, may God show us the way. The way that will take this country and make it a great country, and when, for me o, I understand and I see the way, I will tell you, I pray that God will show me the way. May God show you the way.”
Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, was among the visitors to Obasanjo’s house last year. Tambuwal said had come to “consult” Obasanjo on crucial national issues.
The speaker had said, “I am visiting the national leader of the PDP. Baba and myself are in the PDP. Baba is a leader not only in Nigeria but in Africa and it is only appropriate for those of us in positions of authority and leadership to occasionally come and consult him on matters of national interest.”
The visit of prominent politicians to Obasanjo has seemed to intensify as the elections near. What this seems to indicate is that, though, Obasanjo has announced his resignation from active participation in the affairs of PDP, he remains a major influence on national politics.