Sheriff Balogun in Abeokuta and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
In reaction to reports in some sections of the media that he had recently attended a meeting of his former party, Peoples Democratic Party, in Abuja, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday that he was never part of any such gathering. Obasanjo dismissed the report as a lie, saying his decision to leave PDP is final.
The former president, who was chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, had resigned from the post owing to irreconcilable differences with some leaders of the party. He later left PDP without joining another political party and went on to announce his retirement from partisan politics. In February last year, he publicly tore his PDP membership card in Abeokuta, in apparent fit of anger following alleged attempts by some PDP leaders in his native Ogun State to humiliate him prior to the last general election.
So the reports alleging Obasanjo’s presence at a PDP meeting was surprising to many.
He denied the report, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Kehinde Akinyemi, stating, “Those who know me, know that I have publicly announced quitting partisan politics.” He said anyone “who will believe the purported story will believe anybody who tells him that his or her mother is not a woman.”
Insinuating that recent happenings in PDP had sounded the death knell for the party, Obasanjo said, “If I quit a party when it was alive and seemingly united, how could I go back to a now divided, factionalised party grasping for breath?”
The former president said he was surprised when his attention was drawn to the photonews story, allegedly spotting him at a PDP event at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre, Abuja. The news had gone viral on the social media on Friday. He said those behind it only wanted to annoy and embarrass him.
Obasanjo added that anybody hoping to drag him back will fail like any man feeding mice to a dead cat.
However, to set the record straight on what transpired at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre, Akinyemi explained in the statement, “On the invitation of the Commodities Association Stakeholders, His Excellency was invited to the ‘Zero Hunger Nigeria’ event at the Centre.
“He arrived about 10am and immediately moved to the meeting. The meeting commenced but few minutes into the session, his attention was drawn to the presence of some people walking up to where he was seated.
“At closer glance, he recognised them to be politicians and they exchanged pleasantries, saying they came to greet him and they walked out again from the meeting.
“The former president cracked jokes with them, calling them ‘invaders and gate crashers’.
“The programme ended and immediately he and his entourage headed back to Lagos. He was barely hours in Lagos when he started receiving calls from both far and near, wanting to find out about his presence at a political party programme in Abuja.
“The photo news in circulation, which claimed that he was spotted at a political party event is therefore mischievous, as a responsible journalist ought to have gone further to ascertain his actual destination among the number of venues at the centre and not taking photograph of his alighting from his vehicle to read another meaning.
“it is shocking also to note that the picture was actually taken while on his way out of the Centre after the programme he had attended had finished.
“This is the height of irresponsible journalism.”
He said the former president was calling for investigation on the publication and sanctioning of anyone involved “to serve as deterrent to others who may want to be used either by omission or commission to misinform the public on such sensitive issue.”
But reacting to the insinuations about the state of PDP, the secretary of the National Caretaker Committee of the party, Senator Ben Obi, told THISDAY that he would vehemently disagree with anyone who describes PDP as a dying party. “Can’t you see the attention the party is getting and the growing interest shown by party members and Nigerians in the repositioning of the party, certainly that cannot be a party that is dying,” Obi said.
In a similar vein, the PDP apokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said by telephone that there was nothing to indicate that PDP was going under. Adeyeye said, “I did not hear former President Obasanjo describe the PDP as a dying party. I listened to the news where his statement was being relayed and I did not see where he said such a thing. However, I do not think that it is right of anyone to say PDP as a dying party.
“If the PDP is a dying party there will not be all the struggles by people to identify with it. Don’t you see how many leaders of the party that attend its functions and how the party has been making steady progress in its rebranding and repositioning efforts? With all the attention and interest it has so far generated from stakeholders, PDP certainly cannot be described as dying.”
Adeyeye had while answering questions from journalists covering the inauguration of the party’s national convention committees on Friday in Abuja also said that PDP had become an enigma in the sense that despite all the leadership crisis threatening to tear it apart, none of its key leaders and members had dumped the party.