Fireworks in the Nigerian polity have heightened in the past few days following the endorsement of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, by former president Olusegun Obasanjo and the former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark.
Obasanjo had in a New Year message to Nigerians endorsed Obi ahead of other presidential candidates for the 2023 election, citing a track record of ability and performance.
The former President also said age, physical and mental disposition favour Obi more than other frontline candidates.
“We need selfless, courageous, honest, patriotic, in short, outstanding leadership with character and fear of God beyond what we have had in the recent past.
“None of the contestants is a saint, but when one compares their character, antecedent, understanding, knowledge, discipline and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job, particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that I personally had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge,” Obasanjo said.
The former Head of State did not spare the current All Progressive Congress-led federal government. He took a swipe against President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, saying that the last seven and a half years have been eventful and stressful for many Nigerians and that the country had moved from frying pan to fire and from mountain top to the valley. He added that for most Nigerians, the country was hell on earth.
Taking after Obasanjo, Chief Clark also endorsed Obi as his choice candidate for next year’s election.
According to Clark, the next President of the country must be educated and experienced, adding that the South-East part of the country should be allowed to produce the next President.
“The vision statement shared by His Excellency Peter Obi, as it relates to making Nigeria more productive, using the rich resource endowment in every part of the country, curbing waste and fighting corruption; and creating jobs for our teeming youths through innovative initiatives is very commendable,” he said.
However, the endorsements have stirred mixed reactions from Nigerians, including the candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar.
APC through the Director of Media and Publicity of its Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, described Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi as worthless.
The ruling party also accused Obasanjo of using all the coercive instruments of state available at his disposal, while he was a sitting President, to railroad people into elective offices against the will of Nigerians.
“The endorsement is actually worthless because the former President does not possess any political goodwill or leverage anywhere in Nigeria to make anyone win a Councillorship election, let alone win a Presidential election. He is a political paperweight,” he said in a statement.
The presidency also reacted through Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President.
Shehu said he (Obasanjo) would not stop attacking Buhari because he won’t stop being jealous of anyone who beats him to a new record in the nation’s development process.
He claimed President Buhari stands miles ahead of Obasanjo in all areas of national development, a feat, Shehu claimed is seen as a cardinal sin to Obasanjo, pointing to the just completed second Niger Bridge awaiting commissioning.
He also claimed that Obasanjo’s vengeful attitude towards Buhari was the height of selfishness and a little short of moral squalor and that he kept attacking the President out of frustration.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential Campaign Council described the endorsement as Obasanjo’s personal opinion.
In a statement issued by its PCC spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, it said the endorsement suggested Obasanjo is supporting a candidate that has not had any experience in governance at the national level.
Onyechi, who is also his party’s State House of Assembly candidate for the Nsukka West Constituency said Obi is on a rescue mission to salvage the country from destruction
He said, “Obasanjo has proven to be an elder statesman. It is clear to all that Nigeria has come to a stage where an elder like him (Obasanjo) would no longer be silent; at least he is a man who has reached the top of leadership in the country. He has just done the right thing, considering his age.
“I am not surprised he came out openly to endorse Obi. He had in the past written letters to successive presidents either to give a warning or express his concern about certain development, which might not be in the good interest of the country.
“Obasanjo saw that Obi is on a rescue mission unlike other candidates who either think it is their birthright or their turn. No one can deny the fact that Obi is most qualified for the job.”
“Also, Chief Edwin Clark is an elder statesman. He knows that for equity, justice and fairness, it is the turn of the South-East to produce the next president. Not only that, the South-East has presented the most viable candidate amongst all the others.”