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U-TURN: Obasanjo backs Atiku for president two months after tagging him politically unfit

OLUSEGUN Obasanjo, two-time Nigerian president and former military ruler, has pitched his tent with Atiku Abubakar, flag bearer of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)  in the presidential race.

He openly declared his support for the opposition party’s candidate on Thursday when the latter, alongside prominent political and religious figures, paid him a visit at his Abeokuta residence.

The former chairman of PDP’s Board of Trustees referred to Atiku as the “president-to-be” and admitted he had bones to pick with him following his anti-party and anti-state conduct years ago.

He, however, said he has decided in line with his Christian faith to forgive his former deputy, seeing that he has shown remorse, asked for forgiveness, and has “learnt some good lessons”.

He said: “Let me start by congratulating president-to-be, Atiku Abubakar, for his success at the recent PDP primary and I took note of his gracious remarks in his acceptance speech that it all started here.

“Yes, when it started, it was meant for Atiku to succeed Obasanjo. In the presence of these distinguished leaders of goodwill today, let me say it openly that we have reviewed what went wrong on the side of Atiku.

“And in all honesty, my former Vice-President has re-discovered and re-positioned himself. As I have repeatedly said, it is not so much what you did against me that was the issue but what you did against the party, the government and the country.

“From what transpired in the last couple of hours or so, you have shown remorse; you have asked for forgiveness and you have indicated that you have learnt some good lessons and you will mend fences and make amends as necessary and as desirable.

“Whenever or wherever you might have offended me, as a Christian who asks for God’s forgiveness of my sins and inadequacies on daily basis, I forgive and I sincerely advise you to learn from the past and do what is right and it will be well with you. Obviously, you have mended fences with the party and fully reconciled with the party. That’s why today, you are the presidential candidate of the party.”

Obasanjo also praised Atiku as the PDP presidential aspirant with most exposure, experience, level of preparation, and understanding of the economy. He added that Atiku has the capacity to outperform Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent president.

“You have better outreach nationally and internationally and that can translate to better management of foreign affairs,” he said.

“You are more accessible and less inflexible and more open to all parts of the country in many ways. As Pastor Bakare, one-time running mate of the incumbent President said, ‘You are a wazobia man.’ And that should help you in confronting the confrontable and shunning nepotism.”

The former president was, however, not this generous with compliments for Atiku in August when he told the press he would never forgive him or be on the same side with him.

“How can I be on the same side with Atiku? To do what?” he had asked.

He added: “If I support Atiku for anything, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support.”

“I do not have personal grudges with anyone. If you do not do well for Nigeria, you do not do well for all of us. It is not a question of working with or not working with an individual,” he said. “If you are working for the good of Nigeria, I am working with you. If you are not working for the good of Nigeria it does not matter who you are I am not working with you.”

Also, in 2014, Obasanjo had called Atiku “a blatant and shameless liar who was behind the whole episode of turning wholesome constitutional amendment efforts of the National Assembly to a futile exercise and as a means of riding on its ashes to be Nigerian President”.

Obasanjo’s endorsement is often sought by politicians eyeing the country’s top political seat. Former president Goodluck Jonathan advised Atiku, last year, to find a way to reconcile with him if he is to realise his ambition.

“He [Atiku] can’t get the APC ticket. If Atiku gets our party (PDP) ticket, he would compete well,” Jonathan said.

“He’s always a passionate politician. But he would have to reach out to our boss, Baba OBJ, the boss of all bosses. We’ve all learnt at different times that you ignore OBJ at your own peril. OBJ has the magic wand, respected at home and abroad.”

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