Two eminent jurists, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) and Prof. Akin Oyebode yesterday expressed divergent views on former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s endorsement of his one-time deputy, Atiku Abubakar, for president.
In separate telephone interviews, Sagay, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) chairman, said Obasanjo’s endorsement of Atiku was of no electoral value.
Obasanjo and Atiku, he claimed, performed woefully while in power.
But Oyebode, a retired professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, said President Muhammadu Buhari, who is Atiku’s main rival in next year’s election, was overrated, having “underperformed”.
He said Obasanjo’s endorsement of Atiku was a welcome development, adding that it would increase the former vice president’s chances of winning the election.
Sagay said: “The endorsement will make absolutely no impact, absolutely no impact on the election. The value is not more than the announcement. It won’t add one extra vote to Atiku. It’s just a waste of time. Obasanjo has no following whatsoever, so I don’t know what all the talk is about.
“He can say anything. When he was there for eight years, the economy was grounded all along and he left it grounded. So if they knew the difference between handling the economy well and not handling it well, why didn’t they demonstrate it?
“So, the man just talks, and because he is a former head of state, people listen to him. He does not add a single value to Atiku’s election prospects. It’s just rhetoric.”
But Oyebode said Obasanjo’s endorsement of Atiku was not unexpected, adding: “This is a man who was his vice president and he knows him inside-out. Obasanjo had said that Buhari was a non-starter. So, if Buhari is a non-starter, then Atiku might get the edge, because they’re the frontrunners.
“Obasanjo’s endorsement of Atiku by necessary implication negates the prospects of Buhari. Buhari has been a big disappointment. He has underperformed. He’s overrated. People have seen through him that he would face a very hard task to get re-elected.
“I think Obasanjo, in supporting Atiku, is saying: ‘Better the devil you know than the angel you’re yet to meet’. That is what happened.”
National Chairman of United Progressive Party (UPP) Chekwas Okorie said the endorsement had no electoral value.
He said: “It is good to forgive people who have offended you. So, it is a good thing to forgive. I have also forgiven so many people who have offended me. Obasanjo’s endorsement of Atiku as far as I am concerned is merely symbolic. I don’t think the former president can influence many votes anyway. He has not been able to show that he is in charge of the place; the Southwest in terms of votes. When the PDP won several times, Nigerians know what happened.
“Don’t forget that the military tactically foisted Obasanjo on Nigeria and thereafter, the PDP continued to rig elections, until God decided that their time was up.
“His endorsement of Atiku has no electoral value and this is what I call political somersault which does no credit to him.
“Obasanjo did not only point out all the weaknesses of Atiku but went ahead to put them in his book. To now turn around to start saying a different thing means those he accused in his book may not have been done in good faith. This does not portray the former president in good light.
“In fact, this is what I call political somersault and it does a lot of discredit to the person of Obasanjo”.
All Progressives Congress (APC) National Vice Chairman Southsouth, Utufam Hilliard Eta said Obasanjo’s endorsement of Atiku would not affect the party’s fortunes in the 2019 election.
He told reporters that “Obasanjo will be dimistified.”
Eta said: “His (Obasanjo) endorsement has nothing to do with our (APC) victory in 2015. I know that politics is more of deception but I tell you that Obasanjo’s electoral value is little to nothing.
“Remember that Obasanjo in all the elections lost from his ward level to everywhere. Obasanjo is more loved away than at home and like I said earlier, Obasanjo will be demystified.”
On the presence of some religious leaders in Obasanjo’s home during the endorsement, he said: “One of the political wings of the PDP is one organisation called Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), so one is not surprised that CAN can do all they can do.”