“How Obasanjo Knelt Down For Atiku In 2003” – Professor Soyinka Exposes Ex President

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo knelt down
for then Vice President Atiku Abubakar in his
desperate bid to secure the ticket of the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2003
poll, according to Professor Wole Soyinka.
The revelation came yesterday as the Nobel
laureate gave a rare insight into the high-stake
lobbying and negotiations that preceded the
PDP’s presidential primaries in which Atiku was
highly favoured to win at the expense of his
then boss Obasanjo.
Besides, Soyinka spoke on how genuine efforts
by Chief Bola Ige to reposition the energy sector
as Power Minister between 1999 and 2000 were
sabotaged by Obasanjo.
Soyinka was replying a question at a special
reading session to mark the presentation of his
latest book, “Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?:
Gani’s Unfinished Business”, at the Freedom
Park, Lagos.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Louis Odion, one-
time Edo State Information Commissioner and
The Nation columnist, asked the literary giant
whether he believed a sensational claim last
year by Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose of
witnessing Obasanjo going down on his knees in
Tripoli before the late President Muamar
Ghaddafi in his desperate bid to secure the
Libyan strongman’s support for an extension of
his chairmanship of the African Union (AU),
since the former Nigerian President has neither
denied nor confirmed the account.
Fayose’s account was published by an Abuja-
based monthly magazine, The Interview.
Ghaddafi was younger than Obasanjo. Libya is
smaller in size and population compared to
Responding, Soyinka said he had no cause to
doubt Fayose, given his knowledge of how
Obasanjo did the “unthinkable” when his
aspiration for a second term in office was
similarly threatened in 2003.
Said he: “Before the PDP primaries in January
2003, Obasanjo got everyone he knew could
reach me on the surface on the earth including
Yemi Ogunbiyi and my son, to get me to help
him intercede when it was clear that
(Abubakar) Atiku was in a position to take his
job. He knew Atiku had a lot of regard for me
and calls me ‘Uncle’.”
In the now famous BBC interview few days to
PDP’s 2003 primaries, Atiku had declared that
he was under tremendous pressure from his
supporters to contest the ticket against
Obasanjo but was yet to make up his mind in
what triggered panic in Obasanjo’s camp.
“The pressure was intense,” the literary giant
recounted. “Of course, I could not have knelt
before Atiku not to embark on a course of
action that would lead to his boss’ disgrace. But
I can confirm to you that Obasanjo as
President knelt down before Atiku so that he
would not lose his job.
“But I warned Atiku that for making Obasanjo
to kneel down for you, be sure you would have
to pay heavily for that. I guess my warning
came to pass if you remember Atiku’s dramatic
change of fortune once Obasanjo was sworn in
for a second term of office.”
As expected, yesterday’s book reading turned
out a day of reminiscences of many bizarre
dramas and unsavory episodes that
characterised Obasanjo’s reign as two-term
president betweeen 1999 and 2007. The panel
of disscussants included frontline rights
activist-lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) and Mr. Sam
Omatseye, author and Chairman of “The
Nation” Editorial Board, and was moderated by
Mr. Kunle Ajibade, award-winning author and
Executive Director of “TheNews/Tempo”.
The roll-call at the event included literary
colossus Prof. J. P. Clark, Colonel Tony Nyiam
(retd) and Mr. Jahman Anikulapo.
Dispelling the notion that the long-running
disagreement he has with Obasanjo is personal,
Soyinka said his motivation is the desire that
those he described as cause of the nation’s
problems do not continue to recycle themselves
as the solution.
He also dismissed Obasanjo as a hypocrite for
denying that he did not have a hand in the
third term agenda in 2006.
Said the playwright: “I remember I was invited
to a conference in Germany around the time
the third term game was unfolding in Nigeria.
Then, I received this frantic call from officials
at the Nigerian embassy who confided in me
that they had been told to prepare for
Obasanjo’s third term in office. They expressed
fears that should it succeed, the country might
be plunged into a serious crisis. They were of
the view that I could use my leverage to talk to
him or help mobilise public opinions to dissuade
“At the conference proper, I made sure I
continually made poignant innuendos in the
direction Obasanjo sat that day. But, typically,
he kept shrugging his shoulders and looking the
other way.
“But when the opportunity came for a closer
interaction at the dinner, I pointedly told him
that ‘Obasanjo, you know you cannot try third
term’. Suddenly, he charged back at me,
saying, ‘Wole, you only have one vote!’ I
remember the Nigerian envoy then to Germany,
Prof. Tunde Adeniran, jovially remarked that,
‘Ah, Mr. President, Wole Soyinka has more than
one vote o. You know when he says anything,
people listen across the world.’
“As soon as Obasanjo left the venue, I told
Adeniran that ‘with what you’ve just said, be
sure you’ve lost your job’. True, soon
afterwards, Adeniran lost his job.”
Corroborating Soyinka, Falana said contrary to
Obasanjo’s continued denial, the former US
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice alluded in
her book to how the former Nigerian leader
prevailed on George Bush to support his third
term bid. This, Falana said, Obasanjo never
On the parlous energy situation in the country,
Soyinka recalled that Obasanjo did not only
frustrate Ige but also humiliated him.
He said: “This was a man who said after Bola
Ige died that we put somebody there, Bola Ige
who did not know his left from right. He owes
Bola Ige for maligning him, after humiliating
him after sabotaging his genuine efforts to
transform the power sector. It was sabotage
and nothing less than a terrorist act against
the electricity supply of the country.

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“Bola Ige was frustrated and his works
sabotaged. In fact, he had done his homework
before he took office. He summoned a group of
experts and mapped out the transformation of
the sector. But, he was sabotaged from the
inside. Bola Ige asked Obasanjo to remove one
Suleman Bello, who was the managing director
of the corporation then. The consequences we
are suffering today. Obasanjo collaborated and
protected the system headed by Mr. Suleman
Bello. I dare Obasanjo to meet me one on one
on any podium to debate the power project.”

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