Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is expected to hold a press conference in a few days to announce the party his coalition will adopt ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The decision, it was learnt, was taken after a highly-guarded meeting with members of the Nigerian Intervention Movement, the Coalition for Nigeria Movement and other concerned groups in Abeokuta on Friday.
Some persons at the meeting included the former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who is the Chairman of the CNM; as well as the two Co-chairmen of the NIM, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and Dr. Abdujalil Tafawa-Balewa; and a former Director-General of the National Orientation Agency, Idi Faruk.
We learnt that the talks between Obasanjo and the Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Chief Olu Falae, last week, failed as both parties could not agree on the modalities and strategies for the 2019 polls.
A suggestion, to employ the platform of the Accord Party for the next general elections also failed to sail through.
It was learnt that Obasanjo, NIM and CNM therefore reached an agreement that they would adopt a new party and rebrand it ahead of 2019.
A reliable source, who also wished not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the meeting, said, “We are adopting an existing party which we will rebrand. Other parties would be allowed to form an alliance with us.
“Initially, we presented the idea of adopting the Peoples Democratic Party but Baba (Obasanjo) blatantly refused, insisting that the PDP is a dead party.
“So, we decided to adopt a fresh political party. It will be a new party that we can build. We are looking at a merger with six other political parties which will be a grand alliance of sorts.
“We were thinking of adopting Accord Party but we found out that the party is loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari. You will recall that it was Accord Party that took the Senate to court when the National Assembly wanted to change the sequence of elections.”
Meanwhile, it was learnt that Obasanjo is expected to meet with four northern governors and over 15 senators who are interested in joining the coalition.
The source explained that the National Assembly, especially those loyal to Senate President Bukola Saraki, felt insulted by the Buhari administration and were waiting for Obasanjo to chart a direction.
He added, “Senator Dino Melaye’s ordeal has put fear in the minds of many lawmakers including those in the All Progressives Congress. They feel if a President, who is seeking a second term, can behave this way, then, he may become a tyrant in his second term.
“The lawmakers feel Buhari has encouraged his appointees to be disrespectful to the National Assembly. This disenchantment will be good for our cause.”
The source added that the congresses the APC was holding would further expose the friction within the party which would make the centre almost impossible to hold.
He noted that in more than half of the states being controlled by the APC, the senators and the governors were at loggerheads.
“This month of May will be the turning point. Just watch as things will unfold. There will be mass defections very soon,” the source stated.
Another prominent member of the coalition, who attended the Friday meeting in Abeokuta, told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Saturday that Falae’s attempt to persuade Obasanjo to adopt the SDP as the platform for the group failed.
The source explained that Obasanjo, after listening to Falae’s explanations, simply told the former minister of finance that the idea might not work because the choice of a platform for the group was a decision he could not take unilaterally.
He said, “The Abeokuta meeting was basically an attempt by Chief Falae to convince Baba to use the SDP as the platform for the coalition and Chief Obasanjo said he could not give him that assurance.
“The coalition is actually relying on the leaders in the North to pick their preferred candidate, who will be embraced and adopted by the coalition.
“Baba’s opinion is that it will be wrong for the coalition to adopt a party on which ticket the northern candidate will run.”
The source also denied talks between Obasanjo and a former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, on the possibility of adopting the latter as the coalition’s presidential candidate.
“I know Baba has soft spot for Kwankwaso but I am not sure there is a final talk on his adoption as the presidential candidate of the coalition.”
There’s still room for negotiations, says SDP
In his reaction, the National Publicity Secretary of the SDP, Alfa Mohammed, said he was not aware of the details of what transpired at the Abeokuta meeting, acknowledging that there was still room for future negotiations.
Mohammed said the CNM, led by Obasanjo, was not a political party but a group, and as such, could not change the fortunes of the SDP.
He, however, stated that there was still room for negotiations in future since both parties shared the same goal, which is to unseat Buhari in 2019.
The SDP spokesman added, “We heard he (Obasanjo) is about to make an announcement, but no one can really say the direction he is taking.
“Our position is that even if his group fuses into any other political party, hope is not lost that we may still work together when the time comes. Everyone will still come together under the umbrella of the leading opposition party in Nigeria, which is the SDP.
“There is a consensus among all opposition forces that Buhari must go in 2019. So, this (collapse in talks) is not new in politics but we know that when the chips are down, everyone will come under the SDP because even the PDP is now empty.”
But Saraki’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, who stated that the Senate President was participating in the ward congress of the APC in Kwara State on Saturday, said he could not reach his boss for any detail on the rumoured alliance.
Speaking in his personal capacity, Olaniyonu added, “They are all speculations. He does not hide his decisions and actions. He will always let the public know about his political plans.”
Efforts to talk to the National Coordinator of the CNM, Oyinlola, were unsuccessful when one of our correspondents called his mobile and sent a text message to seek clarifications from him about the Abeokuta meeting.
One of the former governor’s aides, who received the call, claimed that his principal was busy at the time.
Some former chieftains of the PDP, who recently left the party for the SDP, had, on Tuesday, visited Oyinlola in his house in Okuku, Odo Otin Local Government Area of Osun State, where they held a closed-door meeting with the former governor.
A former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Senator Iyiola Omisore, whose political allies appear to have all defected to the SDP, was said to be part of those who met with Oyinlola at his residence on Tuesday.
A former Nigerian Ambassador to Philippines, Yemi Farounbi, and a former Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan, were said to be among notable politicians at the Okuku meeting.
Obasanjo coalition’s candidate will defeat Buhari – Okupe
Meanwhile, a former presidential spokesperson, Dr. Doyin Okupe, has said the CNM will present a candidate who will defeat President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.
He, however, said the group was not formed to either attack the Buhari government or to discredit the APC.
Okupe, in a statement on Saturday, said since it would be difficult to defeat an incumbent, the CNM was created as a broad platform with a view to presenting a candidate who would contest against Buhari with the hope of defeating the incumbent President.
Okupe stated, “It is absolutely impossible to oppose the incumbent especially a towering figure like President Muhammadu Buhari and hope to defeat him.
“To defeat Buhari will require an exact repeat of what Bola Tinubu and others were able to do with the APC in 2014 by creating a broad platform encompassing the political majority in the country.
“This strong coalition will present a candidate to contest against Buhari with the hope of being able to win.”
The former aide to Obasanjo explained that the CNM believed that the APC government, led by Buhari, had not done well since it took over power about three years ago.
“We recognise the fact that the APC has not done well. We are convinced that the decision by Buhari to contest again will not augur well for the country. To allow the APC to win means Buhari will continue and that would not be in the interest of Nigerians,” he added.