2011 polls: Obasanjo wanted Buhari, Okonjo-Iweala ticket –El-Rufai

Feared Jonathan won’t be competent president

Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el- Rufai, has alleged a plot by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo to stop President Goodluck Jonathan from winning the 2011 election.

The alleged plot, according to El-Rufai in his memoirs The Accidental Public Servant, was based on the ex-President’s perception of Jonathan as a weak leader.

El-Rufai calls the scheme an “interesting move” to stop Jonathan.

Obasanjo’s preference, he says, was a joint ticket of General Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Okonjo-Iweala also served in the Obasanjo government in the same capacity.

The book, which is due for public presentation this week in Abuja, has become a hot cake.

But for security reasons, its pre-launch circulation has been restricted to a select few.

The ex-Minister, who enjoyed the confidence of the former President and was one of his trusted aides, said of the alleged plot: “The period between 15th January and the deadline for submission of nominations by political parties to INEC had its own version of intrigues. Pastor Bakare had not immediately accepted the offer to be running mate, but the media was awash with speculations that Buhari had chosen him.

“On 25th January, I was summoned by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to his hotel room at the Hilton for reasons he said were both urgent and important. On arrival, I exchanged pleasantries with Steven Oronsaye and Akin Osuntokun in the living room and we went straight into his bedroom.

“After greetings, Obasanjo asked if I was still in touch with Buhari. I replied that I was not directly but could reach him anytime I wished. He then asked that I resumed my role of emissary between the two of them and wished to know quickly if I could reach Buhari with a message. I responded that I could do so pretty quickly.

“Obasanjo then said that he concurred with my earlier belief that Jonathan would not make a competent President and that the best presidential candidate of the whole lot was Buhari.

“He expressed willingness to support Buhari and go public with it if CPC and Buhari are willing to consider his suggestions and implement them.

“Obasanjo suggested that I should convince Buhari to pick Ngozi as his running mate, enter immediately into an alliance with the ACN and ANPP, and then offer the Senate President’s position to the South-West to secure Tinubu’s support.”

The former Minister said Obasanjo offered to source for four wealthy Nigerians who could finance Buhari and CPC’s campaign.

El-Rufai added: “If Buhari agreed to these proposals, Obasanjo undertook to get three or four unnamed wealthy people to help with funding the CPC campaign, and Obasanjo would try bringing Labour Party to endorse the Buhari-Ngozi ticket.

“Obasanjo promised to resign from the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the PDP and announce his support for the ticket if it would be helpful. I took notes on the hotel notepaper and left, promising to report back the next day.

“It was fortuitous that both Buhari and Pastor Bakare were in Abuja, so along with Pastor Bakare we met Buhari and delivered Obasanjo’s message.

“Bakare, who until then was a reluctant running mate, saw the Obasanjo offer as good for CPC and Buhari and hoped it would free him from the burden that Buhari had imposed on him.

“He added that since Buhari had not yet officially announced his name as running mate, he would be happy to step aside for Ngozi. I was simply an emissary so I was silent, hoping that Buhari would accept so I would be free of my commitment to be at Bakare’s side!

“Buhari smiled and asked for my opinion as someone that knew Obasanjo pretty well. I told both of them that I thought Obasanjo was being honest in his recommendations as I would urge Buhari to take similar steps of merger with other parties and so on

“I doubted if Obasanjo would deliver on the monies promised and the resignation from the PDP Board of Trustees and did not even think the latter would help the CPC and GMB in anyway.

“I also added that Obasanjo’s faction of Ogun PDP had just lost all their tickets to contest the next elections and should this situation change, Obasanjo would renege on everything he had committed to. Obasanjo may also be making another strategic move of removing Bakare’s name from the ticket, in addition to responding to Jonathan’s failure to ensure that his faction got the ticket by hook or crook- something Jonathan simply refused to do, preferring to support the state governor, Gbenga Daniel and his faction.

“Buhari restated that he thought long and hard before deciding on Bakare and would not change his mind. However, we all agreed to continue to engage Obasanjo and encourage contacts with Ngozi while pushing to see real movement towards the financial and other political commitments made.

“The same evening I returned to Obasanjo to brief him. He was excited and promised to contact Ngozi, Labour Party, the ANPP leadership and a few wealthy benefactors.”

The ex-Minister also revealed how Obasanjo made a U-turn on Jonathan and threw his weight behind him regardless of his ‘weaknesses’.

He said: “Some days later on 1st February, I got a call from Prof. Julius Ihonvbere requesting a meeting to follow up on my discussions with Obasanjo and Buhari. We met in the 3G offices on 2nd February with Julius and Festus Odimegwu on the same subject.

“We exchanged information and updates on the political situation and ended with the question posed by Obasanjo to me and then to Julius and Festus- “How do we stop Jonathan from getting elected, and thereby saving the country from state failure?

“We discussed various steps but unanimously recognised that Obasanjo would abandon the plan as soon as his temporary disagreement with the Jonathan administration was resolved. Since we believed in what we were doing, we agreed to soldier on under whatever scenario.

“On 7th February, we all travelled to Abeokuta to meet with Obasanjo. Odimegwu and Julius had developed a clear roadmap about remedying the weaknesses in Buhari’s organization and campaign for Obasanjo to play his lead role in the anti-Jonathan effort.

“By then, a weird Federal High Court ruling had restored the tickets of Iyabo Obasanjo and other members of their faction in Ogun State. So true to form, Obasanjo simply back-tracked, rejected the roadmap he had asked us to prepare, and said we should now explore ways of “remedying Jonathan’s weaknesses” and supporting his candidature.

“His commitments to Buhari vanished that day, just as we all predicted on 25th January. It was a very depressing drive late at night to Lagos for the five of us-Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Festus Odimegwu, and Prof. George Obiozor with Otunba Akingboye driving.

“We lamented Obasanjo’s consistency in putting his personal interest before that of the nation and agreed that never again will he get another opportunity to waste our time the way he just did.”