It was the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, who said that he saw nothing unusual about the former Vice President and the Action Congress (AC) presidential candidate in the 2007 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, visit to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday 19 2009 in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Ogbulafor described the visit as a symptom of politics without bitterness. While defending himself, Atiku said that his journey was informed by the superseding gusto of the nation.
But even that the persona dramatis, Atiku, has said the above statement, the ripples the journey created grow larger, even with the Action Congress national body decrying it. Atiku's Media Office in a statement signed by his Chief Media Adviser, Mallam Garba Shehu worry that "unresolved political feuds and petty elite bickering will continue to undermine Nigeria's political and economic progress unless patriots and statesmen join hands to address critical national challenges."
In furtherance, "The meeting was not about the 2011 presidential election as some people have misinterpreted it. The two leaders decided to bury the hatchet and focus their attention, redirect their energies and harness their collective experiences for the benefit of the country," the statement by Mallam Garba Shehu said. "It was not about the two of them. It is about the future of our beloved country. At a critical moment, such as this, in the life of a nation, great men and women must put aside political differences and work for the progress of the country. This is the context in which the Abeokuta meeting should be seen by all well-meaning Nigerians."
But the Guardian newspapers (Lagos) of Saturday, January 31, 2009, had it that the Action Congress (AC) chairman in Lagos State (AC), Chief Henry Ajomale ws not happy about Atiku. He said, "the party is not losing sleep that its presidential candidate in the 2007 election visited his former boss and rumours that he might be contemplating a return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)."
Harry Ajomale's anger was: "When one looks at it critically, on the surface, there was no notice that he was going to visit his former boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. But again, when one looks at it deeply, you will see that with every righteousness, such a visit is not what one expected from somebody like Atiku, as a former Vice President of the country and a political chieftain. This is because he was supposed to know that such visit would connote a different thing entirely. Although I am still not sure or clear about the visit, it is unfortunate that he (Atiku) was not able to contact any of his party leaders before taking such a decision. Obviously today, Atiku has seen it himself that Nigerians are very disappointed with him and whatever reasons that made him take such a decision, which could be damaging to his political career."
But contrary to the Lagos AC chief's belief that the Atiku's journey had affected morale of members of the party across the federation and that the party members see it as an act of betrayal, the Rivers State chapter of the Action Congress had a different view about the Atiku's journey.
The Rivers AC had directed all Nigerians by a recent statement credited to former president Ibrahim Babangida that he would not contest the 2011 elections. The Rivers State chapter of the Action Congress (AC) had urged Nigerians to see former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, as the only qualified successor to the incumbent President Umaru Yar'Adua.
In the Rivers AC forecast, President Yar'Adua would likely not seek a second term and the zoning arrangement reserves the Presidency for the North until 2015. The Rivers AC Publicity Secretary, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, in a statement, has urged Nigerians to embrace as a reality that Atiku Abubakar would be president in 2011.
The leader of the Rivers AC, Prince TJT Princewill said that the party: "With the submission of General Ibrahim Babangida that age may not allow him to contest the presidential election of 2011 and the seemingly impossible task of General Muhammadu Buhari from (sic) cutting across other sections of the country in his political calculations and the visibility of President Yar'Adua not seeking second term, the inevitability of the Presidency of Atiku Abubakar becomes a reality."
In another vein, Princewill went further, "Our position stems from the fact that with the zoning arrangement that keeps the Presidency in the North until 2015 and Atiku Abubakar being the most viable, visible and nationally accepted personality from the North for the 2011 general elections, Nigerians should braze up with the reality of President Atiku Abubakar come 2011. This is in addition to the demand of Nigerians of strong, viable, focused, rich policy content and vibrant Presidency comes 2011."
Princewill believes that, "The fact remains that Atiku has all it takes to preside over the affairs of this country considering that among the lot, he is the only serious presidential candidate with a detailed and documented blueprint on how to move this nation forward on all facet of the economy".
Princewill doesn't subscribe that Atiku, as a politician and party leader, he should be punished for the decision he took to reconcile with Obasanjo. "There is no negative impact I have seen his attitude has brought unto the party," he said. "The Atiku Media Office cited the example of Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison and went on to work as South African President with former foes without bitterness and in a spirit of forgiveness."
Reportedly, what about the "Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain sat down one-and-one in November in Chicago for a meeting with the man who defeated him in the US election, then President-elect Obama?" Princewill asked. "They talked about how they could work together to solve America's economic and social problems. They realized that the country is bigger than both of them."
It pointed out that from the meeting, it was gathered that the two leaders had decided to forgive and forget adding that this should be encouraged. "More so, Nigerians should heave a sigh of relief that a long-running political feud had finally been laid to rest. Politicians should learn from such rare show of the spirit of tolerance and forgiveness. Carrying animosity to the grave will never help the country."
While Mallam Shehu's message is clear: "Nigeria is bigger than all of us and true national leaders must be prepared to make personal sacrifices in the interest of the nation," Princewill incited.
Dr. Brian Wilfred writes from Port Harcourt.
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