By Ehichioya Ezomon
Have former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan respectively endorsed the presidential candidates of the Labour Party and Peoples Democratic Party for the February-March 2023 general election?
The reported endorsements are trending on social media, with videos of two separate events – but with similar political undertones – showing Dr Obasanjo and Dr Jonathan in attendance at different venues.
The gist is that while Obsanjo’s endorsed former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi of the LP, Jonathan’s backed former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP.
This is the interpretation supporters of the two candidates have given to the outcomes of the events in which Obasanjo and Jonathan acted as chaperons.
Let’s weigh the video, entitled, “OBJ Stole The Show, Lol,” – at an occasion and venue not identified – in which Obasanjo allegedly endorsed Obi. The copy on the video says: “As the Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Mr Peter Obi, walked in, everywhere erupted in excitement.
“The former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR), stopped his speech half-way and walked up to the incoming President, held him by hand and took him to a seat, and then concluded: ‘My job is done.’
“As OBJ dropped the mic, applause enveloped the hall.”
The video shows Obasanjo stopping his speech – maybe as he’d decided to leave – and walked to where Obi sat, took his hand and walked him to a front seat.
Amid laughter, Obasanjo then walked up the aisle of the packed hall – and in his characteristic manner – cleared his throat and proclaimed, “My job is done.”
In the ensuing applause, Obasanjo turned, handed over the microphone to the MC, and began to clap, as he walked briskly, shook hands, and exited the hall.
But a caption of the video posted by another eye-witness says: “See the moment former president Olusegun Obasanjo gave up his seat for Labour Party Presidential candidate, Peter Obi.”
There’re four scenarios to interrogate. One, the video doesn’t show when Obi “walked in,” and “everywhere erupted in excitement,” as the first eye-witness reported.
Two, nowhere in the video that Obasanjo – at least by words – endorsed Obi. Apparently, Obi’s supporters read the “endorsement” from Obasanjo’s body language: for walking Obi to a seat, and declaring, “My job is done.”
If, indeed, Obasanjo had endorsed Obi, he’d show it – if not in words, but in action – by either shaking Obi’s hand or embracing him when he walked him to another seat.
Three, the video shows Obasanjo ignoring Obi’s extended hand as he’s going out of the hall, even as he shook hands with other attendees. Did Obasanjo see Obi’s extended hand? Sure, he did, as Obi’s close to his exit path!
Four, Obasanjo couldn’t be said to have “given up his seat” for Obi, as that implies that Obasanjo deferred to, and gave up his seat for Obi, and took another seat.
The video shows Obasanjo paused his speech, walked towards Obi, took him by the hand and led him to a vacant seat he (Obasanjo) must’ve sat on before his remarks.
Next is Jonathan’s reported endorsement of Atiku. Unlike the first video, the venue and circumstance is known. It’s a visit by chieftains of the PDP to Jonathan in his home at Otuoke in Bayelsa State on October 13.
Dissimilar to Obasanjo’s reported approval of the Obi-Datti ticket, Jonathan’s “okaying” of Atiku and PDP’s vice presidential candidate, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s ticket was audio-visual, with no room for doubt.
A brief on the video captioned, “2023 Presidential Elections,” says: “The moment former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR prayed on kola nut and addressed Governor Ifeanyi Okowa CON as incoming Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The gods are wise! Alhaji Atiku Abubakar GCON is coming! As one we can get it done!”
In the video, Jonathan’s heard praying. He turned left, pulled up Okowa and called him “our incoming Vice President.” Then he turned right, patted Bauchi Governor Bala Mohammed’s back, and called him, “my son.”
Jonathan’s words: “We pray that this kola nut being presented to all of us will give us more energy, more acceptability, and more success in all our endeavours, especially for those who want to represent us from next year. This is for our incoming vice president, who has spent his two terms as governor and needs to move up.”
Not surprising, supporters of the Obi and Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed ticket and the Atiku-Okowa ticket are celebrating the “endorsement” of their candidates.
But does Obasanjo leading Obi to the seat he’d vacated, and declaring that, “My job is done,” an affirmation of the candidate? Definitely not, unless it’s a pre-arranged ploy!
Obasanjo can rebut the claim, just as he did to an alleged validation of presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, after Tinubu’s aides breached a “media lid” on the outcome of a visit by the former Lagos governor to Obasanjo mid August 2022.
An endorsement shouldn’t be ambiguous. It must be free from inference or interpretation, such as the “seal of approval” Jonathan’s given to the Atiku-Okowa ticket.
Though he didn’t say he’d rubber-stamped the joint ticket, Jonathan left no one guessing, as he “pulled Okowa up” by the hand, and declared him as “our incoming Vice President,” and of course, Atiku as incoming President.
For now, supporters of the Obi-Datti ticket in the “ObIdients Movement” should temper their enthusiasm, as the supposed Obasanjo backing is tenuous and suspect.
As for followers of the Atiku-Okowa campaign, they’ve cause to rejoice for landing Jonathan’s patronage, even as they, too, should pray that the exigencies of the 2023 elections won’t prompt a Jonathan change-of-heart.
Already, the National Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators (NCNDE-A), led by the Mayor of Urhoboland, Eshanakpe Israel, a.k.a. Akpodoro, has asked Jonathan to withdraw his “inadvertent and unwitting endorsement of Okowa,” the body vows “will never be Vice President in Nigeria.”
So, it’s not yet “Uhuru” for supporters of the Atiku-Okowa ticket, as a day – not even a week or a month – is a long time in politics for the unexpected to happen!
Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.