- Cont’d from last week Wednesday
The Senate presided by Chief Ken Ugwu Nnamani(73) rejected the bill. The rejection of the bill was conveyed to President Obasanjo through a telephone call by the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette( 1939-2019) from Ikot Edor in Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. President Obasanjo was attending a UNESCO event in Paris, France.
Chief Ekaette’s secretary then, Chief Mrs Abiodun Akinola from Fiditi in Oyo state, had to go through Mrs Remi Oyo, President Obasanjo’s spokesperson in other to get President Obasanjo on phone. President Obasanjo flew that night back to Abuja. Having realized that he had to go following the defeat of the third term bid, he settled down to pick his successor.
He reached his conclusion on Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua(16 August 1951 – 5 May 2010) long before the PDP convention held at Eagle Square on December 17, 2006. Alhaji Yar’adua who was the Governor of Katsina state at that time was not too close to PDP Northern governors. The aspirants at that time General were General (rtd.) Aliyu Gusau(79) from Zamfara state, who was then the National Security Adviser, Governor Ahmed Muhammed Makarfi (65) who was then Governor of Kaduna state and then Dr. Peter Otunaya Odili (73) from Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Governor of Rivers State Governor Odili had the backing of South-South Peoples Assembly jointly led by Chief Edwin Clarke (95) and Dr Joseph Wayas(21 May 1941- November 30, 2021) . The Secretary of the Assembly was Chief Raymond Dokpesi. The leaders of the Assembly toured almost all the various parts of the country.
During this period the friendship between President Obasanjo and his Vice, Atiku Abubakar GCON, had broken down completely. It was beyond repairs. With the selection of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua as the PDP Presidential candidate, President Obasanjo’s imperial Presidency ended and thus began the lame duck era of his presidency.
Dr. Odili in his book titled “CONSCIENCE AND HISTORY: MY STORY” narrated what happened at the Peoples Democratic Party’s convention. Odili said in the book: “On 12th December, a spurious and anonymous petition was posted on the internet from a questionable ‘source’ alleging CORRUPT practices against the Rivers State Government under me. These allegations were contrived into a petition by the EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu’s hand, to the President (Obasanjo) the same day.
“On the 13th of December 2006, Mr. President directed EFCC to investigate. On the 14th day of December, 2006, EFCC submitted a so-called ‘interim’ report to the then president who promptly minuted for my response on the same 14th December, 2006, but forwarded to me on 15/12/06, a day to the convention vide ref. PRES/44. I assembled what was left of my cabinet team, a few having been arrested and kept at the EFCC office in Lagos within these few days of urgent dramatic action.
“We submitted our response on the 15th day of December, 2006 by which time it had become clear what the whole exercise was about— ‘get Odili out of the race for the presidency at all cost’.”
He said: “Till date the innocent uninformed still make reference to that judicially nullified and voided report. This became lucidly clear with the instant release of my staff who were being detained in Lagos by the EFCC as soon as I voluntarily and wisely withdrew from the contest.
There was jubilation at the EFCC office immediately news of my withdrawal broke and all my staff were asked to go home immediately. This was on the 15th of December.
“Then came the ‘D’ Day- 16th December, 2006-the date of the convention. I was invited for morning prayers with the president at the presidential villa and after the prayers I had a brief chat with the then president in his private study at the residence. He acknowledged my letter of withdrawal from the race and informed me of his intention to get Umaru Yar’Adua-the now expected winner of the upcoming primaries at the convention- to make me his running mate.”
The former governor spoke of the late President Yar’Adua’s readiness to work with him.
According to him: “I was persuaded to go and accompany Umaru to the convention venue. I had been informed earlier in the day that the news of my pairing with Umaru was in the air and that ‘some people’ were already ganging up to oppose the proposed pairing.
“It was, however, noteworthy that when I got to the Katsina State Lodge to join Umaru to proceed to the Eagle Square I met him downstairs in the company of some party leaders-Chief James Ibori, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, Dr Bukola Saraki, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Malam Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir el-Rufai.
“Their conversation stopped when I walked in but I read nothing sinister to the gathering or reaction to my entry. Umaru quickly took me upstairs and thanked me for coming and assured me of his happiness at the prospect of our working together.
“He called his wife Turai into the room and introduced us. We later proceeded to the Eagle Square together and were joined by other colleagues in waking round the square”.
He continued: “In the course of the night, I was invited to the VIP Guest Room at Eagle Square and was privileged to sight the typed copy of Umaru’s prepared acceptance speech. It was clearly stated that he had nominated Dr. Peter Odili as his running mate for the presidential race.
“This was at about midnight or so. In the course of the next few hours, information started reaching me that there was a strong pressure to drop me from the ticket.
“At about 3.30am or so, I was again invited to the VIP Guest room at Eagle Square and informed that there was a strong challenge to my being the running mate based on ‘some fresh information’ just received from Nuhu Ribadu, that would need to be sorted out later in the day.
“By the close of convention at dawn only 2 State Delegate Stands were still full-Katsina and Rivers- all others were empty or had one or two people left.
The result was announced—Umaru was the winner and he promptly read a handwritten acceptance speech that excluded my name. He announced that further consultations were being made on the matter of his running mate.”
He said, however, that “By 4pm on Sunday 17th December, 2006 Dr. Jonathan was announced as the running mate to Umaru Yar’Adua. By Monday 18th December I congratulated Umaru and Jonathan and urged all my supporters nationwide and Rivers people to support the ticket.
Odili was out of the race and the ticket.” To me if President Obasanjo had allowed a free and fair election, I guess that Alhaji Yar’adua would not have emerged as the PDP Candidate and the course of history would have changed today.
With the selection of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua, the Obasanjo imperial Presidency ended.
Four days later he summoned his Chief of Staff, Major General Abdullahi Mohammed(83) and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ekaette and told them in clear terms that he would spend more time campaigning for Yar’adua and that the two of them would be in charge of the day to day running of the government.
These two gentlemen were one of the finest, loyal public servants anyone could wish for. Chief Ekaette summoned his own staff too that they will have to spend more time working in the office. He told his inner working staff made up of Dr. Goke Adegoroye, Dr J.N. Obiegbu, Yinka Olanipekun, Tony Ekwere, John Tom, Jonathan Soja, Mamman Audu, Saleh Ahidjo, Danjuma Gambo, Tiamiyu Kasali, Chief Mrs Abiodun Akinola, myself, Prince Kola Adeyemi from Ikirun, Mr. Tunde Kamilu Kasali, of the hard days that lies ahead.
To be continued next edition
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