Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has denied media reports that he deliberately arrived late at the birthday celebration of former President Shehu Shagari, after the departure of other past leaders and President Goodluck Jonathan.
President Shagari’s 90th birthday was marked with an unusual fanfare Wednesday with President Jonathan and all former Nigerian leaders, except Muhammadu Buhari, in attendance.
Mr. Obasanjo arrived only after his colleagues had left after the cutting of the birthday cake, fuelling media speculation he deliberately delayed the trip to avoid a meeting with Mr. Jonathan, who has faced a barrage of criticisms from him ahead of elections in March.
But the former president denied snubbing the president and other past leaders, saying he had no cause to backtrack on what they all agreed to do together in Mr. Shagari’s honour.
Mr. Obasanjo said it was “unfortunate” he arrived President Shagari’s home Sokoto late, and blamed a traffic gridlock in Lagos for the delay.
“I have read with dismay the imputation of some section of the media to the unfortunate incident of my not being able to be with my colleagues at the birthday celebration of President Shehu Shagari on Monday 25 February,” Mr. Obasanjo said in a statement Friday.
“Leaving Abeokuta at 6:45am and hoping to fly out of Lagos airport at 8:30am, to Sokoto, we ran into a very bad traffic hold-up that made me get to Lagos airport at 10:45am.”
Mr. Obasanjo accused the media of failing to report his apologies to Mr. Shagari during the visit.
“I did not arrive at Shagari’s house until about mid-day by which time the team of my colleagues had left. It is a pity that the media did not report my profuse apologies to both Shagari and other colleagues when I spoke at Shagari’s house.
“I had no cause to dodge, avoid or snub my colleagues for what we all agreed to do together,” he said.