Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday said his failure to secure the endorsement of the late Afenifere leader, Senator Abraham Adesanya, cost him Yoruba votes in the 1999 election.
Obasanjo said thrice he tried and thrice he failed to get the Southwest approval through Adesanya.
The National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and Alliance for Democracy (AD) chieftain, Obasanjo said, was forthright in turning him down.
The former military ruler, who beat Chief Olu Falae of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in that election, spoke in Lagos at the 10th memorial anniversary lecture in Adesanya’s honour.
Obasanjo said: “I did not know Pa Adesanya in my early days or in his early days in politics. I came to know him when I was going into politics myself. So, of course, of necessity, the paths of politicians do cross.
“I persuaded myself, as I was persuaded, to vie for the post of president. And I decided to consult leaders all over the country, and one of the leaders I had to meet was Pa Abraham Adesanya.
I remember I got his home address and phoned him. I think the first day I called on him, that would be about 10pm. But he was waiting for me and he received me very, very warmly. That was also the first occassion where I met his daughter, Mrs. Modupe Adelaja, who went on to become one of my ministers.
“When I met Pa Adesanya, he did not mince words at all and went straight to ask why I came as I am not with the ‘Afenifere and NADECO’ group.
“I told him, ‘I don’t know who is the ‘us’ you are talking about. But, you’re a politician and I am going into politics, and as a well-born and bred Yoruba boy, I have to pay homage to you, I have to consult you.’
“Pa Adesanya said, ‘Hmm… but, I will not support you.’
“I said, ‘well, alright, but all the same, it must be my duty and responsibility to inform you, to let you know that I have been persuaded and I’m going into this. So, we parted.”
“As I went on in the consultation, I met him a second time and the same thing happened. I told him I came to give him progress report and he said again, ‘we will not support you’ and I said alright.
“Again, he asked me why I was not in their group and I told him their group was alright but it was limited, and I believe that we should not be limited. He told me again that they will not support me.
“I visited him a third time; this was just before the election. I told him I came to give him update and the third time Baba said ‘we will not support you’.
Adesanya, according to Obasanjo, was “consistent and to the point”.
“And of course, as the results of the election turned out, I was not supported by the Yoruba in the Southwest for the 1999 election,” Obasanjo said.
He praised Adesanya as a man of integrity who did not seek political favours for himself, family or allies.
Obasanjo said he appointed Mrs Adelaja a minister without her father’s knowledge.
Obasanjo said he did not regret appointing the late Chief Bola Ige and Mrs. Adelaja, who were AD members, ministers during his administration.
“But then, Pa Adesanya did not know how his daughter, Dupe, became a minister in my government because I did not consult him. On two occasions when I visited Baba, Dupe was the one who served drinks and refreshments.
“When after the election I decided that I was going to bring people from parties other than PDP, I decided to take Bola Ige and Dupe Adelaja to represent AD in my government and Baba never talked to me about it and I never talked to him about it.
“Dupe played her role — a dutiful and diligent minister — and I have no regret for taking Dupe and Bola Ige as ministers in the administration that set up the present democratic dispensation,” he said.
Obasanjo hailed the family and friends of the late Adesanya for organising the event. He described him as a man who deserved to be honoured.
“My prayer is that the legacy of Pa Adesanya will continue to influence the way things move in this country. People like them are not many; we need to create more of Adesanyas,” he said.
Everyone watched when on arrival at the symposium’s venue at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos, Obasanjo was ushered to the front row to sit in between the event’s chairman, former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
There is no love lost between Obasanjo and Atiku, who were elected on PDP platform, but fell out with each other while in office.
They exchanged pleasantries before Obasanjo took his seat. The former president left shortly after his speech.