Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Friday, condemned the recent heroic welcome organised for a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olabode George.
George was, last Saturday, released from the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons after he completed a two-year jail term.
The lavish reception that was organised for him by the PDP and which was attended by Obasanjo had attracted criticisms from Nigerians.
But Obasanjo, in an interview with journalists in Abeokuta on Friday, shortly after a public lecture to mark his 74th anniversary, said that he was tricked to attend the reception organised for the ex-convict.
The former President, who had earlier in the interview denied his alleged “do-or-die” comment on the April polls, said, “You got it wrong again. I was not part of the celebration of (Bode) George’s release.
“And let us get a few things right. When (Bode) George went to prison, the first thing that I did was to find out from his lawyer what really went wrong. What the lawyer said was not what I found out eventually.
“Then, he (Bode George) sent a passionate message to me from prison, urging me to attend a family church thanksgiving and I believe that for whatever reason, if any family is giving thanks in the church or in the mosque and they invite me and I am able to go there, I will go, whether it is for marriage, for burial, house warming or christening a child. But when I got to the church, the atmosphere I found was more than a family affair.
“And I even took the opportunity to ask the state PDP chairman, ‘Is this a PDP affair?’
“And he told me it was not a PDP affair because I don’t see why the PDP, as a national party, as a party that is trying to form a government in Lagos State, as a party that formed the government at the national level and in at least 27 states in the country, should be celebrating criminality because whatever we may say, the reason Bode went to prison should be condemned by everybody and I have condemned it. He did not go to prison for a political offence.
“If he had been sent to prison for a political offence, then, he comes back and all his political associates may get round him and the PDP must do something noble and wholesome; but in this case, the PDP as a party must dissociate itself from celebrating criminality.
Obasanjo added, “When I asked the state chairman, he said, ‘You know Area Boys, they do hijack things lie this.’ But I believe if it is Area Boys, you leave it to the Area Boys and not to the PDP.
He denied the recent statement of “do-or-die” politics credited to him at President Goodluck Jonathan’s political rally in Lagos.
He said, “You see, people in the press, it must be either you are deliberately ignorant or misinformed or uneducated or mischievous. Whichever one, I think it is not good. I went to a campaign and I sang, ‘Lau erebe’…. (a Yoruba lyrical song).
“How can I vote and you steal my vote and you expect me to accept that? And you said that that is “do-or-die.” If you want to do it, go and do it; if you want to die, go and die. I stand by what I meant and what I said, that if I vote, my vote, my party’s votes must not be stolen.
“We had suffered it before. In 2003, the PDP won in Lagos and that was stolen. Now, PDP will not stand for a stolen election. They have moved from direct stealing to stealing through the judiciary and you said that I should accept that, aren’t you part of that, don’t you know that?”
He lamented the lingering political crisis in the PDP in Ogun State and expressed the hope that soon, the conflict would be resolved and all parties in the disputes would unite and work for PDP’s victory at the April polls.
In facilitating the rebuilding process in the party in Ogun, Obasanjo said that he had mandated the governorship candidate of the party in the state to institute a reconciliatory committee to unite all the members.
“I am the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP. As the chairman, I am supposed to be the conscience of the party.
“Whatever is the rift, I am supposed to find an amicable settlement. I have done it in other states, why not in my state?
“I have told (Chief Tunji) Olurin to extend his hand of fellowship to other people. I have told him to set up a reconciliation committee even before the court ruled,” he stated.
On why he kept quiet in spite of the criticisms against him, especially from the political actors in the state, on the situation in Ogun, Obasanjo said he kept quiet or reacted according to biblical injunction.
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