A former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has told leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that although he remains a party member, his commitment to Nigeria’s unity and success supersedes that of the party.
Mr. Obasanjo stated this on Sunday in a statement made available to journalists in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
“My interest and commitment to Nigeria go beyond partisan politics,” he said. “’Under no condition will my commitment to Nigeria be diminished.”
“For me, it is commitment to Nigeria first and any other commitment can only follow in second or third place. Where any other commitment is in tandem with what I see and understand as commitment to Nigeria, such other commitment will share a pride of place with Nigeria.”
The former PDP Board of Trustees chairman said Nigeria was at a crossroads and needed everyone to join hands to salvage it.
“Today, Nigeria needs all hands on deck to deal with our pressing problems of security including the issue of Chibok girls, widening inequality, infrastructure, impunity, corruption, poverty and youth education, skill-acquisition, empowerment and employment.
“These are issues of concern to most Nigerians. We all need to join hands to move Nigeria forward. I don’t need to be begged for that,” he said in a reaction to repeated pleas by PDP leaders for him to return to the party.
Mr. Obasanjo, who explained that he had no grudge with anyone within the party, narrated how the pleas for him to return fully to the party had been sustained.
“During last week when I was in South Africa as the Chairman of AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan and while with my fellow Commissioners, we were deliberating on how to help that new country out of its problem of security and violence, I received avalanche of news and cacophony of appeals and pleadings from some quarters of PDP leadership,” he said.
The former Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees said it was wrong for anyone to ask him to return to the PDP as he had never left the party.
“Talking of inviting me back to PDP is wrong and it is a great misrepresentation as I have never left PDP and I will never leave PDP,” he said. “I have said it before and I will say it again, I rose to become the President of Nigeria on the platform of PDP and for that reason alone, I will remain a card-carrying and ward-active member of PDP for as long as I have to be a political party member.”
He added that “nobody has personally offended me as a result of my membership of PDP. If, however, anybody or group feels offended by my continued membership, I will offer an unreserved apology but continue to remain in the party.
“I have had occasions to say to the President, the Senate President and the Party Chairman separately that I have no quarrel with any individual or group in the Party.”
The former Nigerian leader restated one of his reasons for refusing to play an active role in the PDP, saying it was an issue of principle and morality.
“For instance, as a former President of Nigeria, the Chairman of West Africa Commission on Drug and a member of Global Commission on Drug, I cannot accept that the Zonal leader of my political Party and, worse still in my zone, will be an indicted drug baron wanted in America. How do I explain that to friends outside Nigeria?” he said in reference to Buruji Kashamu, a PDP South West leader and ally of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“This is only one of the many issues that I have pointed and still pointing out,” he said.
Mr. Obasanjo said he would, however, remain active at the PDP ward level. He explained that he had raised his concerns with leaders of the party such as President Jonathan, Senate President David Mark, and PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu.
Although Mr. Obasanjo did not specifically mention Mr. Jonathan’s presidential ambition for 2015 in his statement, the former leader had in the past queried Mr. Jonathan’s decision to contest.
In a letter published earlier by PREMIUM TIMES, the former leader had said by deciding to seek re-election, Mr. Jonathan was going against all the agreements they had in 2011 when Mr. Obasanjo was the president’s chief campaigner across the country.
The former president believes that by their agreements in 2011, the PDP presidential ticket for 2015 should go to a northerner.
He has since been courted by the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, and some of his loyalists in the PDP already joined the APC.
In what appears a restatement of where his support would lie in the 2015 presidential election, Mr. Obasanjo advised those begging him to rejoin the PDP fully to “realize that we must put Nigeria’s interest above politics – party or personal – otherwise, we will all be judged at the bar of history if not the bar of current affairs. In addition, we must preserve, sustain and deepen democracy and democratic practices.”