As criticisms and commendations continue to trail his dramatic exit from the Peoples Democratic Party, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has explained how he arrived at the decision to dump the party to which he belonged for 16 years.
The former president had Monday announced his resignation as a member of the party on whose platform he ruled the country between 1999 and 2007.
Mr. Obasanjo renounced his membership of the PDP when some leaders of the party led by Surajudeen Oladunjoye, the chairman of the ward around his former residence in Ita Eko, visited him at his Presidential Hilltop mansion in Abeokuta home.
The former president directed Mr. Oladunjoye to tear his membership card at a press conference organised during the visit.
About two hours later, the PDP leadership in Ogun State announced the expulsion of the former president from the party.
However, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday, Mr. Obasanjo explained that the PDP members visited him to express their genuine concern about his refusal to be active in the party.
“They were concerned that I had only one leg in the party, and worried that since I’m their leader in the ward, they need to hear from me,” the former President said.
According to him, when the party members arrived his residence, they were singing a song in Yoruba language – “Nigeria yi ti gbobgo wa ni, Ko ma gbodo ba je. Eje ka sowopo kajo gbega (Meaning – Nigeria belongs to all of us, we must not allow it to be destroyed and we must join hands to make it great).
Mr. Obasanjo said when they settled down he sought to know why they came and that it was at that point that Mr. Oladunjoye told him that since he (Obasanjo) as their leader became angry with the PDP and remained inactive in the party, they had not only lost sense of direction but also worried about their political future.
He also said the party members informed him that the leadership in the state was planning to expel him and that they wondered what would happen to them if he was expelled because they would become rudderless.
“You are our leader and it is you we are following. You have remained a card-carrying member of the the party. But since you became angry with the party we have lost sense of direction and now we are hearing that they want to expel you. If they expel you, where do we go? What do we do?” Mr. Obasanjo quoted the ward chairman as saying.
The former president explained that it was at that point that he gave them his PDP membership card and told them that they could do whatever they want with it.
He said, “In my response, I said when you people came you were singing a song and I agreed that Nigeria is our own. If the issue is the party, I will not choose the party at the detriment of Nigeria and I will fight for Nigeria even at the detriment of the party. I will rather surrender my membership of the party so you people can move on politically,” Mr. Obasanjo explained to PREMIUM TIMES.
“If you people’s worry is that I’m a card-carrying member of the party and I’m not showing you people direction and you are worried that I’m neither here nor there, this is the card; you can keep it, you can burn it or you can tear it, do whatever you want to do with it.”
The former president said he then handed over his membership card to Mr. Oladunjoye, who immediately decided on his own to shred it.
Mr. Obasanjo said he had no regrets for his action despite the criticisms that have greeted it.
Festus Owete,PREMIUM TIMES