A mixture of relief and raging indignation swept through the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, after former President Olusegun Obasanjo publicly tore his membership card of the ruling party.
Obasanjo’s theatrical renunciation of the party on whose platform he was twice elected president, was laced with another drama hours later when the state chapter of the party announced his expulsion from the party.
In three tweets, last night, Obasanjo gave as his reasons, his uneasiness in abiding in the same party with a president who he said was determined to use corruption to destroy the country. He also said he would not abide in a party that is led by a ‘drug baron’, saying his action had freed him to comment on national issues as he felt.
The subdued relief in the Presidency which has been the butt of Obasanjo’s stinging criticism in recent times was manifest, yesterday, when senior Presidency officials calmly referred responses to the development to party officials. Chief Tony Anenih, Chairman of the Board of Trustees and once Obasanjo’s trusted aide, led the reactions with his dismissal of the action, saying the party would not miss him.
A number of other party officials including members of the board of trustees, state officials in Ogun State, Governor Ayo Fayose, Chief Buruji Kashamu among others reacted to the development yesterday.
Why I tore myPDP membership card— Obasanjo
In three tweets, yesterday night, explaining his decision, Obasanjo 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.
“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.”
Obasanjo said that the party card he tore was one of the considerations to him in the bid to project Nigeria, pointing out that there was nothing he could not sacrifice for the interest of the nation.
He boasted that despite the destruction of his party card, 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 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 is known to have spearheaded the emergence of the Jonathan Presidency, 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,” Obasanjo said.
On the Military
He also accused the Presidency under Jonathan of politicising every public institution in Nigeria, including the Nigerian military.
“It’s no longer news that the Presidency has politicised every institution in Nigeria. Even the military has chosen to be another arm of PDP,” he alleged.
Vanguard learnt that Obasanjo might have taken his decision to tear his membership card and voluntarily quit the party before the leadership, apparently upset by his tantrums against Jonathan moves against him.
The move to suspend OBJ
It was reliably gathered that the party had mooted the idea of formally suspending him from its fold but was restrained by the leadership which had hoped he would soft-pedal over time, only for Obasanjo to unleash more caustic assaults last week, alleging a determination of the president to win the forthcoming presidential election by hook or crook.
Obasanjo early yesterday, announced his exit from the party while hosting members of the PDP from his Ward 11, Abeokuta North Local Government Area of Ogun State, who called on him to enquire on his continued membership of the party following what they claimed as the no love lost relationship with the president.
The members were led by the ward chairman, Alhaji Usman Oladunjoye who asked him to explain where he belongs.
In his response, Obasanjo said he had his ears close to the ground and said that he, too, had heard of the plan by the PDP leadership to sanction him.
He said: “You asked me two questions and I will answer them comprehensively. This Nigeria belongs to all of us and it must not be destroyed. This is my PDP’s membership card, where I am standing is that Nigeria belongs to everybody including babies. We must not allow anybody to destroy it wherever they come from, whatever they have and if they destroy it, it becomes our burden to our children and incoming generation.
“The question asked is that which party am I? I belong to the group that believes that Nigeria must not be destroyed. Those of you that are marketers you observed that there’s inflation in the market. The bureaux de change operators exchanged dollars with N150 then and is (now) going to be N250 to a dollar.
“What it 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, employment. Some people have started destroying Nigeria and I will never be in a party that will destroy Nigeria. Perhaps, you don’t understand that it is because there’s Nigeria that is why PDP exists. Without Nigeria, there will be no PDP anymore.
“What some of us should be concerned about now is how to make Nigeria stronger and our economy would witness economic growth.
I won’t join another party
“They said they want to expel me from PDP, although I have not been told but I have my ears on ground. We’ve been trying to run away from a man but he pleads 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. 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,” Obasanjo said as he handed over the card to the ward chairman.
“From today on, in the presence of all of us 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. Once you people are with me what other people am I looking for?
“And on the day of election, whatever it takes”, the PVC must be obtained, you don’t need to be a politician before you get your PVC. On the day of election, you can vote for your choice, but I will vote for those who will repair Nigeria and not those who will destroy it.
Tears the card
“What is important is that we should hold Ward 11 community together, what we are going to do now is that I don’t have the burden of PDP again. Help me tear into pieces my membership card”, he said as the ward chairman dutifully carried out the directive.
Obasanjo also dismissed claims by the Jonathan campaign organisation that he was planning the installation of an interim national government.
“How can anybody in his right senses talk of ING in a democratic setting? Some of them are working for it (but) God will not allow it. In my ward, we’ll be meeting from time to time to discuss and interact on whatever you want and what I want.
“I don’t want to be carrying membership card around but you can do that but when election comes, we’ll pray God would direct us to vote rightly. Nigeria will be okay, Ogun will be alright,” Obasanjo said.
Ward members jubilate
Immediately after Obasanjo’s card was torn, his ward members rose in jubilation and started praising him for the action.
Before now, scores of Obasanjo’s loyalists, including the sacked PDP National Auditor, Chief Bode Mustapha; the sacked National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; former governor Segun Oni, Dr. Femi Majekodunmi, Chief Jide Awosedo and others had defected from the PDP to the APC, on the orders of the former president.
The former Board of Trustees chairman had also, about a year ago, written an open letter to President Jonathan, expressing his displeasure about the state of the nation and the need for him not to continue to associate with the likes of the Chairman of the Organization and Mobilization Committee of the party in the South West, Prince Buruji Kashamu.
Shortly after the development, there was a mild drama when the chairman of the state chapter of the party, Adebayo Dayo said the chapter had expelled the former president from the party over alleged “unabated anti-party activities unbecoming of a highly celebrated party man”.
Dayo at a news conference yesterday, said his Ward 11 Abeokuta North LG had earlier sent in a letter dated February 12, 2015, expressing serious concerns at his numerous anti-party activities and uncomplimentary utterances targeted at the leader of the party, President Jonathan.
Obasanjo’s exit: We remain focused— PDP
Reacting to the development last night, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh in a statement said the party received the news with shock but would remain focused.
“While we concede to the inalienable rights of every citizen to hold 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 flagbearer, 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 regards 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 stabilizing 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 co-existence 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 flagbearer, President Goodluck Jonathan, we are sure that we will emerge victorious come March 28 and April 11, 2015 general elections.”
We will not miss him — Anenih
The chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, yesterday, dismissed Obasanjo’s decision to dump the PDP, saying that “leaders will not miss” his departure.
In a brief interview with State House correspondents after meeting with President Jonathan, Chief Anenih said it is within Obasanjo’s right to dump the party.
“He (Obasanjo) has the right to leave any party, and he has the right to join any party, he is a Nigerian” Anenih said.
When he was queried by reporters whether PDP would not miss Obasanjo, Anenih replied: “Why should we miss him?”
Asked if the former president was not a big loss to the party, the BoT chairman said “to us leaders it is not a loss.”
Senator Walid Jubril, Secretary BoT
The secretary of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, Senator Walid Jubril said that as a former Chairman of BoT, who knows the procedure of resigning, the former president should have a re-think and resign properly.
“If I were him, I will not behave the way he did, there are procedures of leaving the party. He was Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT of the party and with his position, he would have followed the procedure.
“There is nothing to celebrate there, 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 left before now. We are facing our Transformation Agenda for the people of Nigeria. Obasanjo should have a re-think and do the right thing by following the procedure of the party which gave him the platform to become the country’s president for eight years.”