FEAR GRIPS OBASANJO…As Yar’Adua courts IBB Sat urday, May 26, 2007 There is palpable fear in the inner camp of President Olusegun Obasanjo as president-elect, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, increasingly asserts himself over certain issues and key appointments, including his believed refusal to accept Gen. David Mark as the next Senate President. However, the most discomforting for the president appears to be what is now seen as the increased effort on the part of the incoming president to not only court and fraternise with former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, but also sound out the retired General on key decisions and major policy directions. The incoming president is believed to have visited the Minna residence of the Babangidas at least once since his election and continues to have unrestrained telephone conversations with the former head of state. Indications that the president was beginning to question his choice of Yar’Adua as successor emerged, last Friday at the PDP retreat where Obasanjo alluded to the fact that it was virtually impossible to deconstruct Yar’Adua and find out what is on his mind. He said the president-elect was more of a listener than a talker and could not be dragged into conversation or discussing any issue. He said that unlike him who was always quick to react, Yar’Adua was more calculating. Sources close to the presidency told Saturday Sun that the belief in the Presidency is that the Katsina State governor may indeed have visited IBB more than once under the cover of night. It is also believed that the decision of Yar’Adua not to announce some key appointments into his cabinet before his inauguration, as demanded by President Obasanjo, may have been influenced by Minna. “We do not only speak Hausa, we are also muslims and we can go to mosque, worship and discuss the polity thereafter”, the source said of the relationship between IBB and Yar’Adua. “It was not for nothing that IBB stepped down for Yar’Adua in the race for the PDP ticket. Irrespective of whatever relationship Obasanjo might have had with the late elder brother of the president-elect, when the chips are down, Babangida is an adopted son of Yar’Adua’s father and has had an even longer relationship with the family than Obasanjo”, the source said, adding: “despite how much the president tried to villify IBB, you know that Umaru Yar’Adua always maintained a very healthy relationship with Minna (IBB)”. According to the source, Obasanjo is increasingly becoming convinced that rather than he, IBB might emerge the godfather of the incoming administration. Although the prospect had initially sent cold shivers than the president’s spine, he is said to have consoled himself with the conviction that he was sure Ibrahim (IBB) would not want to send him (OBJ) to jail. However, the president is said to be fearing for his legacy and what would become the fate of the new club of billionaires his regime has created, given the unhidden determination of the clique now massing around Yar’Adua to revisit the ongoing privatisation exercise as well as the questionable sale of public property to a select few. Although Yar’Adua has pledged to continue with the reform programme of the Obasanjo administration, he is believed to have resolved to have a second look at some of the details, particularly the privatisation exercise. He is also determined not to inherit certain persons from the Obasanjo years whom he considers to be more of liability than assets. Among these is a former military administrator who the president had, at various times, allegedly nominated for Minister of Works and Chief of Staff. Yar’Adua had also expressed unwillingness to work with certain chieftains of the party and members of the present federal executive council whom Obasanjo had asked him to try and accommodate in whatever capacity possible. This is even as the new president has continued to surround himself with only his own trusted lieutenants. Meanwhile, Obasanjo’s determination to impose Senator David Mark on the in-coming National Assembly as Senate President may also lead to a major face-off between the outgoing president and the president-elect. Saturday Sun gathered in Abuja, at the weekend, that while Obasanjo is hell bent on imposing his fellow retired military officer on the upper chamber, Yar’Adua wants the matter to be left to the lawmakers to decide, a mild way of saying he is not comfortable with Mark. Impeccable sources at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, venue of the just concluded special retreat for those who have been elected on the party’s platform confided that the choice of the next president of Senate may be the first acid test for the incoming administration. This is even coming on the heels of the disruption of the party’s zoning formula which already favoured the South-west for the plum job before Obasanjo single-handedly altered the calculation. Obasanjo’s decision to seal the fate of his kinsmen, according to informed sources was predicated on the shrewd calculation that it would not be politically expedient to have another national leader emerging from the South West as the out-going president prepares to take over as the PDP national leader and life patron. “It is unfortunate that the South West might have lost out as a result of alteration of the original zoning formula adopted by the party… For political expediency, it would not be advisable to have another politically powerful national figure who may be a major threat to Baba’s (Obasanjo) pre-eminence in the party’s structure,” the source confided. According to the source, the decision of the out-going president to anoint Mark was informed by the need to have a trusted person, especially, of military background to checkmate Yar’Adua in events he may want to be unduly assertive. “Let me tell you, people are beginning to be afraid of Yar’Adua. Not even Baba is comfortable with the man. Here is a man you can’t deduce when he is angry from when he is happy… The choice of Mark by the President is to provide an effective check on the presidency. It is the view of the president that it is only a strong personality like Mark who has a military background that could effectively check the in-coming presidency. “While the view of Yar’Adua that the matter should be left in the hands of the in-coming lawmakers appears democratic and sound, the truth is that politics is not just about openness and transparency, it is also about preservation of aggregate interests. And that is usually, the overriding factor,” the source stated. Investigation at the PDP retreat however revealed that it would not be smooth sailing for Mark as some of the new Senators are determined to ease him out if he is eventually imposed on them.