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Obasanjo insists he won’t return to PDP despite party pressure

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A FORMER Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, on January 22, informed a delegation of leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that he would not return to the party.

Obasanjo, a former military head of state from 1976 to 1979, was a democratically elected President of Nigeria for eight years – 1999 to 2007 – on the platform of the PDP but he renounced his membership of the party after falling out with then President Goodluck Jonathan in the build-up to the 2015 presidential election.

In a widely publicised incident, Obasanjo tore his PDP membership card.

Obasanjo openly opposed Jonathan’s quest for a second term in office and instead supported Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

* PDP leaders visit Obasanjo

With the 2023 presidential election approaching, a delegation of leaders of the PDP visited Obasanjo at his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on January 22.

The PDP delegation was led by National Chairman Iyorchia Ayu, and included the party’s vice presidential candidate in 2019 electio  Peter Obi, and four former governors – Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Liyel Imoke (Cross River) and Donald Duke (Cross River).

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PDP Deputy National Chairman (South) Taofeek Arapaja and some other members of the National Working Committee (NWC) were also in the delegation.

The PDP leaders held a closed-door meeting with Obasanjo but addressing the PDP delegation and a larger gathering of stakeholders afterwards, the former president said he was now a statesman and would not return to the party.

He equally said he would not join any other political party.

Obasanjo stressed that he ceased to be a member of the PDP the day he tore his membership card.

“I am no longer in partisan politics and there is nothing that can bring me back. Anybody who wants my advice, I will always be there in the best interest of Nigeria.

“Whatever I do in my own life, because I became president on the platform of PDP, PDP will continue to be part of my life.

“Since the day I tore my PDP card, that was the day I ceased to be a member of PDP. That day I vowed not to be a member of any political party.

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“I will continue to be a statesman.”

The development is coming about seven years after Obasanjo publicly tore his PDP membership card at his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on February 16, 2015.

* Why Obasanjo left PDP, tore party membership card

In February 2015, Obasanjo was openly campaigning against the reelection of the President Jonathan, who he accused of massive corruption.

Obasanjo equally clashed with the late Buruji Kashamu, who was at the time regarded as the leader of the PDP in Ogun State.

Explaining his decision to tear the PDP membership card, Obasanjo, in a series of tweets, said, “I’d rather sacrifice my political party for the interest of Nigeria than sacrifice my country for a political party led by a drug baron.

“I’d rather tear the PDP membership card than sit down and let Jonathan use PDP and corruption to tear my beloved country apart.

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“I have national and international standard to maintain. For this reason I’d rather stand alone than be in the same political party with Kashamu.”

“My first preoccupation is what is best for Nigeria: Nigeria first, party second and anything third,” Obasanjo added, while explaining the decision to tear the party membership card.

Obasanjo had supported Jonathan’s emergence as president after the death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua. Obasanjo had chosen Jonathan as his successor.

At the time Obasanjo tore the party membership card, there were reports that the leadership of the PDP was planning to expel him from the party over alleged anti-party activities, particularly his opposition to Jonathan’s reelection.

Obasanjo tore the card at a meeting with members of the PDP at his ward – Ward 11, Abeokuta North Local Government Area of Ogun State, on February 16, 2015.

Obasanjo instructed his ward chairman to tear his PDP membership card
Obasanjo instructed his ward chairman to tear his PDP membership card

The PDP members had visited Obasanjo to show solidarity with the former president over his clash with Jonathan.

“Help me tear into pieces my membership card,” Obasanjo instructed the ward chairman Usman Oladunjoye, who dutifully carried out the instruction.

The ward members jubilated as the card was torn to pieces, but the Ogun State chapter of the PDP reacted to the development by announcing that Obasanjo has been expelled from the party.

Ogun State PDP Chairman Adebayo Dayo said Obasanjo was expelled over “unabated anti-party activities unbecoming of a highly celebrated party man.”

The development drew mixed reactions from the leadership of the PDP at the national level. The then National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh, in a statement, said the party received the news of Obasanjo’s action with shock but would remain focused.

On the other hand, then Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees Tony Anenih, now late, dismissed Obasanjo’s action. Anenih said Obasanjo would not be missed.

While announcing his decision to tear his membership card, Obasanjo had declared that he would not be joining any other party.

“Once I leave PDP, I will not join any party. I will only be a Nigerian. I’m ready to work with anybody regardless of political affiliation.”

APC candidate Buhari, who had Obasanjo’s support, went on to win the 2015 presidential election, denying Johnathan a second term in office.

Obasanjo has insisted that Buhari would not have won the election without his support.

“In 2015, if I didn’t support Buhari, he wouldn’t have won the election,” Obasanjo said at the 2018 Ibogun Day celebration, in Ogun State.

But Obasanjo also fell out with Buhari and campaigned against his (Buhari’s) reelection in 2019.

In a statement issued by his spokesman Kehinde Akinyemi in the build-up to the 2019 election, Obasanjo warned that if Nigerians did not vote out the Buhari administration, “what is coming will be much worse” than what Nigerians suffered during Buhari’s first term.

Buhari was, however, reelected for a second term and Obasanjo has continued to play an active role in national politics.

Recently, Obasanjo, alongside former military head of state Abdulsalami Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto Saad Abubakar and Archbishop of Abuja John Onaiyekan, convened a new political pressure group known as Committee for the Goodness of Nigeria (CGN), which has a goal of ‘fixing’ the country.

The CGN on December 15, 2021 asked Buhari to implement urgent constitutional reforms that would address current national challenges before the 2023 elections.

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