Obasanjo said this just as the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, likened the current crisis rocking the ruling party as a “surgery” which must bring some pain to members.
Obasanjo who was responding to guests who spoke during the grand finale of a civic reception organised in his honour by the South West Zone of the PDP said there was no way he could associate with Okorocha who had jokingly referred to the former President as his “colleague.”
Okorocha, a governor on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance had defected from the PDP to the All Nigeria Peoples Party where he contested for the presidential ticket of the party in 2003 but failed to secure it.
The Imo governor had earlier in his speech talked about his days as Special Adviser on Inter-Party Affairs to Obasanjo, saying he gave the ex-President advice that resulted in the good decisions that Obasanjo took while in office.
The Imo governor said, “Obasanjo is indeed PDP. But in the actual sense, he’s a national leader. He does not belong to the PDP alone but a national leader of Nigeria. If I have another opportunity to advise him, I will tell him to be the national leader of the country and not the national leader of the party.
“We are here to give honour to whom honour is due. Obasanjo will remain immovable and unshakable. He is a man that is very difficult to describe. He represents different things to different people. But for me, he represents a former colleague. We both ran for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And later when he appointed me as his adviser, I gave him all the good advice.
“All the good things he did for those eight years, I advised him but all the bad ones he did, I travelled out of the country. I want to join Nigerians to celebrate this icon — this great and steadfast Nigerian, who is not afraid of fighting any battle. But when he starts fighting he doesn’t stop until he finishes fighting. He’s a general’s general and a soldier’s soldier.”
But the Governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio, in his message immediately came to Obasanjo’s defence and told Okorocha that, “I was not as lucky as Governor Okorocha to work with him Obasanjo. So I did not give him advice. I’m very sure that even the few things that he did were actually taken out of the bad advice of APGA where Rochas Okorocha must have represented. Baba, I say the good ones are from you, not from him (Okorocha).”
In his reaction, the former president said he could not be a colleague to Okorocha.
He said, “I met Okorocha a long ago by virtue of the fact that he was brought up in Jos — one of the few cities that I found in the fifties and seventies as a genuine melting pot in Nigeria. He is a true Nigerian and when he wants to pull me down, he will say we are colleagues. How can I be a colleague of a failure? You are a failure in contesting the presidency of Nigeria!”
Tukur in his speech said the crisis-ridden PDP was undergoing a surgery in which pains must be felt for the ruling party to get over its current unhealthy state.
He said, “Let us fight and win unity, peace, development for our dear nation. The surgery we have started in our party, the PDP is in line with our vision for a better society and the aspiration of all Nigerians. In this surgery we are aware we must lose some blood, undergo some pains and challenges but surely the result will eventually be one sacrifice that we made for ourselves.”
Vice-President Namadi Sambo who used the occasion to talk about the achievements of the Jonathan-led administration, described Obasanjo as a true nationalist.