Former President Olusegun Obasanjo knelt down for then Vice President Atiku Abubakar in his desperate bid to secure the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2003 poll, according to Professor Wole Soyinka.
The revelation came yesterday as the Nobel laureate gave a rare insight into the high-stake lobbying and negotiations that preceded the PDP’s presidential primaries in which Atiku was highly favoured to win at the expense of his then boss Obasanjo.
Besides, Soyinka spoke on how genuine efforts by Chief Bola Ige to reposition the energy sector as Power Minister between 1999 and 2000 were sabotaged by Obasanjo.
Soyinka was replying a question at a special reading session to mark the presentation of his latest book, “Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?: Gani’s Unfinished Business”, at the Freedom Park, Lagos.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Louis Odion, one-time Edo State Information Commissioner and The Nation columnist, asked the literary giant whether he believed a sensational claim last year by Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose of witnessing Obasanjo going down on his knees in Tripoli before the late President Muamar Ghaddafi in his desperate bid to secure the Libyan strongman’s support for an extension of his chairmanship of the African Union (AU), since the former Nigerian President has neither denied nor confirmed the account.
Fayose’s account was published by an Abuja-based monthly magazine, The Interview.
Ghaddafi was younger than Obasanjo. Libya is smaller in size and population compared to Nigeria.
Responding, Soyinka said he had no cause to doubt Fayose, given his knowledge of how Obasanjo did the “unthinkable” when his aspiration for a second term in office was similarly threatened in 2003.
“Before the PDP primaries in January 2003, Obasanjo got everyone he knew could reach me on the surface on the earth including Yemi Ogunbiyi and my son, to get me to help him intercede when it was clear that (Abubakar) Atiku was in a position to take his job. He knew Atiku had a lot of regard for me and calls me ‘Uncle’.”
In the now famous BBC interview few days to PDP’s 2003 primaries, Atiku had declared that he was under tremendous pressure from his supporters to contest the ticket against Obasanjo but was yet to make up his mind in what triggered panic in Obasanjo’s camp.
“The pressure was intense,” the literary giant recounted. “Of course, I could not have knelt before Atiku not to embark on a course of action that would lead to his boss’ disgrace. But I can confirm to you that Obasanjo as President knelt down before Atiku so that he would not lose his job.
“But I warned Atiku that for making Obasanjo to kneel down for you, be sure you would have to pay heavily for that. I guess my warning came to pass if you remember Atiku’s dramatic change of fortune once Obasanjo was sworn in for a second term of office.”