Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Sunday during an interview with academic and historian, Toyin Falola, said he did not leave weak successors in office when he left Aso Rock in 2007.
Obasanjo stated this while reacting to the accusations that he installed former President, Umaru Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan as his vice after eight years in government.
The former President handed over power to Yar’adua, who happens to be former governor of Katsina State, who died in office as President.
Following Yar’adua’s death in 2010, his Vice, Jonathan was sworn in as president in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Jonathan later won the presidential election in 2011 and was returned to office, he, however, lost the election to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
President Obasanjo has been condemned severally for bringing Yar’adua into office despite knowing his medical history, he was also attacked for bringing Jonathan into office whom some critics described as weak.
Obasanjo while speaking on Sunday said he distinguishes between objective and mischievous criticisms but discards negative criticisms.
The ex-president added that he did his homework very well to crosscheck Yar’adua’s medical condition before he ran for president.
He described as “absolute nonsense, total nonsense”, claims that he installed Jonathan and Yar’adua in power to weaken Nigeria’s democracy. “How should somebody in the like of me deliberately do something to weaken the country that I fought for? The country of my birth, the country that I want to be great?”
When asked whether he was aware that the late Yar’adua was sick before he supported his candidacy, Obasanjo said, “Let me tell you the story of Umaru Yar’adua. I knew he was ill and before I put him forward, I asked for his medical report which he sent to me and I sent it to one of the best doctors of our time and a good friend of mine who died only last year Professor Akinkugbe.”
“I said look at it because it is confidential and he said to me that from this report, this man has had a kidney transplant and it is successful, he is no longer under dialysis. And if you have a kidney transplant and it is successful, it is as good as if you didn’t have a kidney transplant at all. I accepted that and Umaru Yar’adua contested within the party and he contested within the country and came up.”
“In the process of the campaign, I remember that he had to go for a medical checkup abroad and he was not around for a campaign here in Abeokuta. I called him because the rumour was that he had died. I called him on my telephone and put it on speaker. I said, ‘Umaru, are you dead or alive?’ and he said, ‘I am not dead, I am alive’.”
“Within a couple of days, he came back and reported that he was checked up and he was well. That was the position of Umaru Yar’adua and if anybody in his right sense will think that what I have done in that position was not right, I leave him in the hands of God.”
Obasanjo further said the PDP needed a running mate for Yar’adua during the 2007 presidential campaign. He said the party agreed to produce a vice-president from the South-South geopolitical zone, noting that former Rivers State Governor, Peter Odili, was a stronger choice than his then Bayelsa State counterpart, Goodluck Jonathan, but Odili had a case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“Now, we needed a running mate for Yar’adua. There were two possibilities – the first possibility was Peter Odili. Peter Odili was a much stronger personality than Goodluck Jonathan but Peter Odili had an EFCC issue which made him be dropped and once he was dropped, the next man was Goodluck Jonathan and Goodluck Jonathan had all going for him. He was not a strong character as Peter Odili, I will admit that, but he was not a pushover; he had been a deputy governor, he had been a governor and his state was doing fairly well.”
“I don’t know what else anybody will say because the deputy president had to come from the South and we had agreed that it would come from the South-South.”