Former chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih, has revealed how he made former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, the running mate to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1999 election.
Anenih, in his 257-page book: “My Life and Nigerian Politics,” released on November 26, said he suggested Atiku’s name to Obasanjo as someone who would guarantee that he “sleeps with two eyes closed” as president.
According to Anenih, a former national chairman of the PDP, the late Solomon Lar, had nominated three prospective running mates to Obasanjo, a day after the party’s primary.
Lar, according to him, had handed an envelope to Obasanjo at a meeting in which he had the three names including Alhaji Abubakar Rimi; Adamu Ciroma and Professor Jerry Gana.
He stated, however, that Obasanjo was not comfortable with Solomon Lar’s tone, which he said, attempted to restrict the former president to the choice of Rimi as the only one who could guarantee victory for the PDP in the North.
Anenih stated that he suggested the name of Atiku to Obasanjo when they left the venue of the meeting with Solomon Lar as the choice of running mate who could guarantee that he “sleeps with two eyes closed.”
He said Obasanjo accepted the choice after they had sought legal opinion on the possible legal encumbrance as Atiku had just won election as governor of Adamawa State.
Anenih wrote: “ As Solomon Lar arrived to meet us, he handed over an envelope to Chief Obasanjo who read it and passed it on to me to read also. In that document, Chief Lar had recommended three persons for consideration as running mate to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. The first on the list was Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, the second was Adamu Ciroma and the third was Professor Jerry Gana in that order. I gave the letter back to Chief Obasanjo who then told Chief Lar: I have finished reading your letter.”
He said Chief Lar told Obasanjo repeatedly that Rimi was the main candidate and that the other two were just additions and that Rimi was the candidate who could guarantee PDP’s victory in the North.
He said Obasanjo felt he was being restricted to only one choice and that he intervened by asking the parties sleep over the choice of candidates, after which he took Obasanjo back to his accommodation in Jos.
“On reaching there, I asked Obasanjo whether he would want a vice-president that would give him absolute confidence and allow him to sleep with his two eyes closed, or whether he would want a vice-president he does not trust to the extent of keeping one eye open while asleep.
“He answered that he would like to sleep with his two eyes closed. It was at this point that I asked him: “what of Atiku?” Chief Obasanjo’s answer was that Atiku had just won his governorship election, and that the law might not allow him to come on board as his running mate.”
He said they agreed to seek legal opinion and that the lawyer they asked agreed that nothing in the Constitution stopped Atiku from being Obasanjo’s running mate, especially as he had not been sworn-in as governor.
He added that the lawyer advised that Atiku would only need to resign his position as governor-elect of Adamawa State.
On the battle for 2003 presidency, Anenih said he frustrated Atiku’s plans to succeed Obasanjo all the way and that the former vice-president fought back by getting him sacked as Minister of Works.
Anenih wrote: “There was no other way I could have offended former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar other than that I prevented him from being the PDP presidential candidate in the 2003 election. He erroneously believed that he was the politician at the Villa, and that he was better qualified than the president. I was well ahead of him in all his plans to prevent Chief Obasanjo from running. The only thing that could be done as punishment for my firm support for Obasanjo’s second tenure was to demand for my removal as Minister of Works and Housing.”
He, however, said his removal only gave him ample time to perfect his plans for Obasanjo’s re-election.