L-R: Governors Isa Yuguda (Bauchi State),Godswil Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Muazu Babangida (Niger State); Sule Lamido (Jigawa State); and Liyel Imoke (Cross Rivers), after a meeting with the former president in Abeokuta…yesterday.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has renewed its appeal to former President Olusegun Obasanjo to return to the mainstream of the ruling party.
Five governors, led by PDP Governors’ Forum Chairman Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, met yesterday with the former President at his Hiltop residence in Abeokuta. The meeting lasted for more than three hours.
Obasanjo, who has been stridently critical of the Jonathan administration is seen by many in the ruling party as angry over the state of affairs. He is also believed to be romancing the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), whose leaders have been meeting with him.
Akpabio said they were in Abeokuta “to consult” with Obasanjo.
Sources said the meeting dwelt on how the party would bring the former president on board its 2015 train. Obasanjo’s grouse with the party was believed to have been discussed at the meeting.
The other governors who visited the ex-president yesterday are: Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Babangida Aliu (Niger).
They arrived at Obasanjo’s expansive compound at about 12:30pm and went into the meeting after which Obasanjo described his guests as “colleagues and brothers” who decided to pay him a special visit.
He said his pronouncements on the state of the nation and the economy were not meant to “bad mouth or pull down anybody”, but steps taken out of genuine concern for the country.
According to him, he discussed with the governors security and state of the nation.
The former President said the parlous state of the economy, especially the drop in the price of oil and the likely adverse effects, is not new but a phenomenon he tackled while in office.
Obasanjo also said the situation of the country’s economy though bad, does not require an “oracle” or being a “World Bank expert” to establish the truth. Obasanjo said if the “political will and courage” are demonstrated, the gloomy picture could be salvaged.
The situation is “not irretrievably bad if there is the will and courage to do the right thing at the right time”.
He recalled that during his time in office, oil price dropped and the government’s appropriation (budget) for the year could not be financed.
He noted that the government weathered the storm because practical measures were taken.
Obasanjo said: “They (the governors) were concerned about what you may call the situation of the nation, security, economy. We have discussed most of them. I have raised in my own public pronouncement 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 and I want to thank them.
“When we look at these issues closely, very objectively and we came to the conclusion that yes we have a bad situation but not irretrievably bad. Something can still be done and what now is required is the will and the courage to do something when and how it needs to be done.
“We agreed on that and we also agreed that I appreciate their coming to me because of the respect and honour they have for me, this task is not for one man and it is not even a task for one group; it is a task that requires all hands on deck and as they have said and as they have assured me that this type of consultation, they would have with other leaders so that this country, which is ours and for which we have no alternatives…
“The other day, somebody told me he knows NADECO route. I do not want to follow NADECO (route). It is incumbent on us to do what is right.
“They (governors) are colleagues with whom I have worked together; they will like to call themselves my sons, when you have a son like Sule Lamido, who is almost a foot taller than yourself, you must watch what you would say and do.”
Asked if he was not scared about the situation of the nation’s economy with the fallen oil price, Obasanjo said: “I am never scared by anything, but I am concerned that firstly, when we had surplus, we did not remember the rainy day. Now that the rainy day is staring us in the face, we must be honest and courageous enough to do what is right, to let the nation know and then to take the steps that will put it right as quick as possible.
”You do not need to be an oracle or a World Bank expert or an International Monetary Fund expert to know that our economy is not what it should be and this is not the first time we would hear it.
“We have heard it in the past when of course I came in 1999, the price of oil was about $9 and we realised that we have a problem, we even made budget that we could not fund but we realised that we are in a serious situation and we took steps, within two to three years, we were able to sail through, the price of oil started moving up.
“Do not forget that there was a time during the Iraqi war, price of oil rose to $42 and then it came down to $9. The one that we have now, we do not know when it would bottom and at what price it would bottom but we can weather the storm if we take measures that we should take and when to take it.”
Akpabio, who agreed with Obasanjo that the Nigerian situation is redeemable, said the former President had been playing national and international roles, hence the need for the PDP governors to consult him.
Akpabio said: “Our dear leader and former president and a man that all Nigerians love and respect, if you notice, we are from the PDP extraction and we have decided that as the party in power and the party that the country has a lot of confidence in right from 1999, he played a key role in the emergence of the current democracy.
”He is still playing both nationally and internationally, so, we decided that it is important for us to come and consult with him as he said, pay our respects, discuss the affairs of the nation and then to tap from his wealth of wisdom.
“The intention here is that all Nigerians are determined to re-position the country. We have no other country than Nigeria and so, no matter the challenges we may face today, we must work together as a team to redeem the situation.
The situation is redeemable and that we must also consult other leaders and work to ensure that the country is redeemed.”
Aliyu said salvaging the country and its economy is a collective responsibility of all Nigerians.
“We have come to consult with the oracle of leadership and politics of this country and we have benefited tremendously with our coming. You have heard him say we need also to consult with other people because all of us must come together.
“The issue of Nigeria is beyond partisanship. We must tell all Nigerians to rally together and let us put our nation in the right place.”