Former Presidential Candidate in 2019 election and former National Deputy Publicity Secretary of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Gbenga Olawepo Hashim has explained how former President Olusegun Obasanjo emerged president of Nigeria in 1999 ahead of his opponent, Chief Olu Falae.
Olawepo Hashim gave a detailed explanation of how premature decision by Olu Falae cost him the support of the northern region.
In an exclusive interview published by Punch Newspapers over the weekend, Olawepo Hashim explained that, northern region were not really routing for Obasanjo in 1999, but the former military head of State became the natural choice, after Chief Olu Falae and Afenifere group walked out of the PDP prematurelly.
According to Hashim northern region were not really routing for Obasanjo then. I was in all those meetings. I was one of the youngest among those old men in those days. The prevalent sentiment was to go for Olu Falae. But Olu Falae and the Afenifere team took a premature position of withdrawing from the PDP. Because they didn’t want to have a contest, they just wanted the party to say it has been zoned to them and they left the PDP prematurely.
“In fact, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Prof Jerry Gana were sent to go and talk to Chief Olu Falae that he should not leave the PDP. But, he said, ‘no, I will go with my Afenifere people’ and he went with them. And they had a smaller platform, because the PDP was a big party, so there was no way Afenifere would have won with AD. But I am not saying what they did was wrong. They still controlled the South West in that election and they still remained relevant as a voice. They have the rights as a political organisation to determine their strategy and tactics of engagement and what was important for them at any particular point. This is by no means judging what they did. I am only trying to enumerate what happened” he said.
Olawepo Hashim further explained that, “what I am saying is that people can take such a decision, but you don’t come blackmailing other ethnic groups and say ‘it is our turn, you people have had your fair share.’ You need to cultivate understanding and even then, when people were saying that, I was not for that. I was for Alhaji Abubakar Rimi who contested until our group, the Social Progressives Platform, then, met and it was decided that we should support Obasanjo”.
“In that contest, there were many people from the North and everywhere that contested against Obasanjo, even though there was a preponderance of opinion. So, it was that opinion that swayed in his favour, it was not as if the party said nobody from any other zone could contest”.
“The division of the Presidency on an ethnic basis always causes its own division. The last time I checked, the only country that tried that at the executive level is no more; that was Yugoslavia. It has broken into pieces. This is because once you start that thing, there is no end to it. Because in Nigeria, we don’t just have Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas and Fulanis. Nigeria is made up of 350 ethnic groups. About 250 of them are in Northern Nigeria. So when you start this rotational presidency, the assumption is usually ‘Oh, once a Yoruba man has gotten it, the Fulani, Hausa and Ibo have gotten it, everybody is fine.’ That is not it. Under that your arithmetic, when will an Okun man in Kogi become President? When will a Nupe man become President? When will a Jukun become President?” He asked.