• Former president: It’s better to leave than allow Jonathan tear Nigeria apart
• Ruling party excommunicates him, expresses ‘deep sadness’
• Fayose: Good riddance to bad rubbish
After months of haranguing President Goodluck Jonathan and openly romancing with the leadership of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a melodramatic fashion characteristic of the retired army general, tore up his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) membership card and parted ways with the party on whose platform he ruled Nigeria for eight years.
However, his exit from the PDP which was done to preempt possible sanctions by the ruling party for anti-party activities and the dirt which would have been dished out on him by the presidency, was celebrated by the governorship candidate of the APC in Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai.
Obasanjo Shreds Membership Card
Obasanjo monday morning had dumped his party while welcoming PDP members from Ward 11 to his residence in Abeokuta, stating that he was now a statesman and no longer interested in the party.
The party members led by Mr. Sunmonu Oladunjoye, had gone to his residence to clear the air on rumours that the former president had been expelled from the party following his recent harsh criticism of Jonathan and his administration.
In his response, the former president, who has been drumming up support for Buhari and Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s re-election bid in Ogun State, said Nigeria belonged to everyone and must not be destroyed.
“Nigeria belongs to all and must not be allowed to collapse,” he said, adding that his stands on that would strengthen the nation at all times.
Thereafter, the former president brought out his PDP membership card and handed it over to Oladunjoye who tore up the card to the delight of Obasanjo’s guests.
He said: “Where I stand on this is that Nigeria belongs to everybody including babies. We must not allow anybody to destroy it, because if they destroy it, it becomes our burden, to our children and the incoming generation.”
Speaking on whether he would be joining another political party, Obasanjo said he belonged to the group that believes that Nigeria must not be destroyed.
Justifying his departure, Obasanjo added: “Those of you that are marketers you would have observed that there’s inflation in the market. The bureau de change operators exchanged one dollar to N150 sometime ago, but today it is exchanging for N250 to a dollar.
“What this means is that what you’ve been buying for N150 will be bought for N250, this is not the kind of country we dream of. There’s no job, no employment and some people have started destroying Nigeria and I will never be in a party that will destroy Nigeria.”
He stressed that without Nigeria, PDP would not exist, adding: “So what some of us should be concerned with is how to make Nigeria stronger and make our economy witness growth.”
Continuing Obasanjo said: “They said they want to expel me from PDP, although I have not been (formally) told, but I have my ears on ground. We’ve been trying to run away from a mad man but he pleads that we wait for him at the other side of the river.
“I have told you before that I became president on the platform of PDP and 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.
“Why would some people say they want to send me away, they don’t need to bother themselves, here’s your membership card, take it.
“From today, in the presence of all of you, and with your support I am not going to be in any political party in Nigeria. I am no more a politician but a statesman both internally and externally.
“And on the day of election, you can vote for your choice. But I will vote for those who are ready to repair Nigeria and not those who will destroy it.”
Giving further reasons for leaving the PDP, Obasanjo last night said he took the action in order to preserve his image locally and on the global stage.
In a series of tweets posted by the former president, he reiterated that he could not remain in the same party with a president who uses his party and corruption to tear down the country.
He also explained that it was better for him to quit the PDP than remain in it with a drug baron.
“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.
“I have national and international standards to maintain. For this reason I’d rather stand alone than be in the same political party with Kashamu,” he wrote in the tweets.
Obasanjo said the party card he tore was unimportant, pointing out that there was nothing he could not sacrifice for the interest of the nation.
He stressed that he would not be cowed by anyone, as he was still ready to comment on any matter that required his comment or view.
He said: “If there is anything that requires my own comment, position or views. I will say it. It is only when you kill me that I will stop doing so.”
The former leader, who was instrumental to the emergence of Jonathan as president, explained that being patriotic demanded the will to sacrifice anything, including his life for the interest of Nigeria, but not his life for a political party.
“My first preoccupation is what is best for Nigeria: Nigeria first, party second and anything third,” Obsanjo said.â€¨
He Stands Excommunicated
In a swift reaction, the state chapter of the party stated that the former president remained expelled and excommunicated from the party.
Addressing journalists in Abeokuta on Monday, the party chairman, Mr. Bayo Dayo, said: “The totality of the executives, leaders and members of PDP family in the Ogun hereby state categorically as from today, Monday, 16 February, 2015, Obasanjo Aremu Olusegun stands expelled and excommunicated from the party, thereby losing all rights, privileges and the respect of our teeming party members.”
Dayo added that Obasanjo’s ward had in a letter dated February 12, expressed concern at the former president’s anti-party activities and uncomplimentary utterances targeted at the leader of the party, thereby necessitating the action taken by the party to expel him.
PDP Expresses Sadness
Also, at the national level, the PDP said it had received the news of the decision of the former president to withdraw his membership of the party, adding that it was “deeply saddened” that Obasanjo had decided to abandon the ruling party at “this critical point in time”.
In a statement by the party, it said: “We have carefully examined the circumstances and the reasons adduced for this unfortunate decision.
“While we concede to the inalienable rights of every citizen to hold an opinion and to decide who to associate with, we are however deeply saddened that Chief Obasanjo, a revered leader of our party, our first presidential flag bearer whom the PDP offered the platform to rule our nation for eight years, could decide to abandon this party at this critical point in time.
“This is especially as Chief Obasanjo, who was also the chairman of the highest advisory organ of the PDP, the Board of Trustees (BoT), discountenanced all pleas by elders and leaders of our great party with regard to his reservations on certain issues within our fold.
“Many Nigerians are still bewildered as to disregard what manner of provocation that could have led a former president to lose his composure and go to the extent of tearing the membership card of the party that he once led.
“Indeed, the PDP is hugely at a loss as to how the decision and action of the former president who had enjoyed the benefits of being elected to the highest position of leadership will assist in deepening our democracy and stabilising the polity.
“It is our considered opinion that no matter the provocation, a statesmanly disposition from a person of Chief Obasanjo’s status could have encouraged our citizens and progress stability in the system.
“We believe however, that what this country needs now is patriotic actions that engender national unity, tolerance and peaceful coexistence of our people irrespective of political, ethnic and religious persuasions. The overall interest of our nation and well being of our citizens must remain paramount and above all personal and group interests.
“Finally, we direct all our members across the country to remain focused on our campaigns and not to be distracted on this issue. With an array of credible candidates led by our presidential standard-bearer, President Goodluck Jonathan, we are sure that we will emerge victorious during the March 28 and April 11, 2015 elections.”
‘He Will Not Be Missed’
However, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, in his reaction, said the departure of the former president from the ruling party would have no negative effect on the PDP in either Ogun State or at the national level.
Okupe, who was reluctant to make further comments on the development, said: “All we know is that it will have little or no effect in Ogun State or have any national impact.”
Okupe appealed to PDP members to remain calm as the presidency would formally issue its reaction on the resignation of the former president from the party soon.
In its reaction, the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation said while Obasanjo was free to leave, there was no need to spit in the face of PDP by publicly tearing the party’s card.
In a statement issued by the organisation’s spokesman, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, the PDPPCO said: “Watching our party membership card being torn up whilst President Obasanjo was standing there and smiling was painful and tragic.
“This is a party which he helped to build and on whose platform he was elected president for eight good years. The truth is that President Obasanjo is far better and far bigger than that. Such behaviour is provocative and unacceptable.
“He is free to leave the party but does he have to spit in our faces by tearing up our party card in public and before the television cameras?
“This knee-jerk reaction is most unlike President Obasanjo and it is very insulting. It is clear that he has burnt all the bridges and that he has left us forever.
“On a personal note, I feel saddened by this but the truth is that many in our party have heaved a huge sigh of relief. Many of us love President Obasanjo and we shall continue to do so regardless of whether he is in our party or not. But tearing up that party card was too much to bear.
“It spoke volumes and it was indicative of the deep hatred and contempt that he has for us and our cause. It reminded me of the biblical passage in which King Saul rejected David and then planned to stop him from ascending to the throne by attempting to kill and destroy him. Thankfully, the Lord was with David and not only did he deliver him from Saul but he also crowned him king.”
On his part, Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, said the action of the former president was indicative that he had left the party for good, but he would not be missed.
Anenih told State House correspondents in Abuja that Obasanjo could join any party he was desirous of joining.
“He (Obasanjo) has the right to leave any party, and he has the right to join any party, he is a Nigerian,” Anenih said.
Asked if PDP would miss Obasanjo, Anenih replied: “Why should we miss him?”
Anenih’s statement was re-echoed by the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, who also declared that the party would not miss Obasanjo.
Fayose, who has been at loggerheads with the former president, in a statement by his spokeman, Idowu Adelusi, on learning of the former president’s exit from the PDP, said: “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”
Fayose said the former president had been ripping the party apart since he fell out with Jonathan, blaming him for most of the problems in the PDP.
Also, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, said the former president’s criticism of Jonathan had not portrayed Obasanjo as a statesman and that if he had a personal grudge against the incumbent president, he should have approached him to sort it out.
“The dancing naked in public approach adopted by Chief Obasanjo was not the best. Nigeria is bigger than Obasanjo and President Jonathan. Obasanjo should play his role as a statesman that he is,” Opara said.
Another member of the PDP BoT, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said the exit of Obasanjo from the party had lifted a big yoke from the PDP.
Babatope, a former Minister of Transport, said: “Obasanjo’s leaving the PDP has come as a happy and welcome development. With Obasanjo’s exit, a huge yoke has been lifted off the neck of PDP.
“I congratulate the PDP for being patient in dealing with former President Obasanjo’s offensives against the party without embarking on wild and unproductive conclusions.
“Though Obasanjo is a hard fighter, his exit will have no effect of any kind on the PDP. The PDP will by God’s grace win the March elections.”
However, the Secretary of the PDP BoT Jibril Wall faulted the manner in which the former president left the party.
“If I were him, I will not behave the way he did. There are procedures for leaving the party. He was Chairman, Board of Trustees of the party and with his position, he should have followed procedures.
“There is nothing to celebrate, it is not worth it. That is his palaver, not our own. As he left, millions have come to the party, many people like former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar have left before now,” he said.
In his remarks, former Abia State Governor Orji Kalu said Obasanjo, by his actions, had desecrated statesmanship.
He said as one of the founding pillars of the PDP, Obasanjo lately had displayed acts that are contradictory to his status as a statesman of international repute and ex-leader of this country.
“His utterances are very antithetical to the dignity, respect and candour of the office he once occupied. Obasanjo’s hypercritical attitude towards President Goodluck Jonathan in recent times contradicts the clout and influence that a person of his standing should wield.
“It speaks volumes of personal animosity and hatred for the person of Nigeria’s current leader. His grouse with President Jonathan remains a mystery as nobody can forthrightly tell the world what his ‘victim’ must have done to him,” Kalu said.
He pointed out that there are channels for addressing sore issues, especially when they involve a former and sitting president.
According to him, “Right now, the impression being created, unwittingly, by Chief Obasanjo is that President Jonathan may have embarrassingly turned down some of his copious requests, hence the interminable bickering and bad belle! Just perhaps!”
But as the PDP and its leadership expressed disappointment over Obasanjo’s departure from their fold, the campaign council of the governorship candidate of the APC in Kaduna State yesterday celebrated the partying of ways.
At a news conference in Kaduna at the campaign secretariat, the state chairman of the council, Alhaji Suleiman Hunkuyi, said Obasanjo’s decision to leave the PDP would boost the fortunes of the APC during the elections.
Hunkuyi said whatever reasons might have compelled Obasanjo who was president for eight years on the platform of the PDP, should be of concern to Nigerians.
According to him, “For Obasanjo, a highly respected figure not only in Nigeria but
the world over to dump his party, it is a plus for the APC.”
Hunkuyi added that would be highly welcome to the APC, saying: “If the party can receive him, it will be a plus for the APC.”
However, the former Governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki, described the departure of Obasanjo from PDP as a great disaster for the PDP and evidence that the ruling party was in ruins.
“I think for sure it is a big blow to the PDP. Look at somebody who has been a president for eight years, a chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the party and it was through him that the incumbent president emerged and he was his chief campaigner in 2011. And you say that it will have no effect?
“No way, Obasanjo has followers and they were all waiting for him to take this action. Definitely, it will have a spiral effect on PDP. Many of his followers will soon join him.
“What happened has shown that some of us that left PDP have been vindicated. It has shown that the PDP of today is not the PDP we formed. It further confirms that PDP is just a shadow of its former self,” he said.
• Former president: It’s better to leave than allow Jonathan tear Nigeria apart