Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s well publicized and colourful endorsement of PDP flagbearer Atiku Abubakar last Thursday, won’t leave a dent on the outcome of the presidential race in February 2019.

Atiku must have been grateful for the endorsement and he has every right to be, make no mistake. Obasanjo has spent the better part of a decade calling Atiku all sorts of names in public and haranguing the man at every opportunity. Even Atiku needs a breather from relentless name calling.

In August of 2018, Premium Times quoted Obasanjo as saying: “How can I be on the same side with Atiku? To do what?

“If I support Atiku for anything, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support”.

Obasanjo practically invoked God’s fury on himself because of Atiku.

Two months later, the same Obasanjo now regards Atiku as the best thing since sliced bread.

From L-R Bishop Mathew Kukah, Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar and Sheikh Gumi

“From what I personally know of you, you have capacity to perform better than the incumbent. You surely understand the economy better; you have business experience, which can make your administration business-friendly and boost the economy and provide jobs”, Obasanjo said of Atiku in October.

It is okay to change one's mind in the light of new developments. But the question remains: what will make Obasanjo change his mind about Atiku in just 8 weeks? The answer isn’t far-fetched. Obasanjo, who spent all of January calling Buhari incompetent and a failure, is now in a position where he has to choose between Atiku and Buhari.

Ibrahim Bababngida, Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari

Obasanjo knows that one of Atiku or Buhari will be sworn in as Nigeria’s president in May of 2019, at least going by the resources, strength, network and structure available to the PDP and APC at the time of writing this piece. What Obasanjo has just done is hedge his bet with a perennial enemy as opposed to a fresh enemy. The man can’t see himself backing Buhari who he keeps insulting at every opportunity lately. This is Obasanjo being typically vindictive. This is Obasanjo mocking Buhari. This is Obasanjo basically looking out for himself like he’s done for most of his adult life.

Obasanjo’s endorsement of Atiku is neither altruistic nor patriotic. It is a self-serving piece of political showmanship that shouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone who understands the politics of this great country called Nigeria. This is about Obasanjo still fancying himself a kingmaker in the nation’s political landscape even though he’s lost his mojo a long time ago. This is Obasanjo doing the bidding of his fellow kingmakers--those privileged old men who have arrogated to themselves the power to decide Nigeria's leaders.

Has anyone asked Obasanjo exactly why he fell out with Atiku? Does this fallout that has lasted two decades, have anything to do with Obasanjo’s failed third term bid which Atiku claimed he frustrated?

Atiku arrives the Obasanjo presidential library with his entourage

In 2013, Atiku spoke of one particular heated meeting with Obasanjo during their time in office. His words were:  “In fact we had the same kind of altercation when he was gunning for third term, he informed me that “I left power twenty years ago, I left Mubarak in office, I left Mugabe in office, I left Eyadema in office, I left Umar Bongo, and even Paul Biya and I came back and they are still in power; and I just did 8 years and you are asking me to go; why?” And I responded to him by telling him that Nigeria is not Libya, not Egypt, not Cameroun, and not Togo; I said you must leave; even if it means both of us lose out, but you cannot stay”.

By most parameters, Buhari has impressed only but a few and deserves no endorsement from Obasanjo in the grand scheme of things. Nigeria still ranks as one of the most corrupt nations on earth, economic growth has been sluggish if not static, poverty and jobless numbers make for depressing reading, herdsmen and Boko Haram are still on a rampage and not a lot has been done to fix Nigeria’s decrepit infrastructure on Buhari’s watch.

President Muhammadu Buhari shakes hands with former president, Olusegun Obasanjo

However, every other presidential candidate in this race—including Madam Obiageli Ezekwesili, Mr. Donald Duke, Prof Kingsley Moghalu and Fela Durotoye—should be seen as credible alternatives by Nigerians at this point. No one kingmaker should feel like he has a hold on Nigeria and can decide which way the pendulum swings from the comfort of his hilltop mansion. Not this time.

Nigerians should therefore look beyond Obasanjo’s endorsement and make this race about what’s best for them, given the array of other credible alternatives on the ballot. Obasanjo has long lost his political clout and value. His word on politics ceased being law back when he made a habit of surrendering his polling unit as a PDP chieftain.

Atiku’s supporters and camp should be grateful for ‘Baba Iyabo’s’ support. But that support won’t sway the race one way or the other. Obasanjo has only but one vote after all.