In what maybe considered as a major step towards mending the fence of their broken relationship, Information Nigeria has learnt that President Goodluck Jonathan has telephoned former President Olusegun Obasanjo to dissuade him from going ahead with his decision to quit the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), just as he reportedly denied responsibility for elevating a controversial member of the party and subject of Obasanjo’s latest grouse, Prince Buruji Kashamu, as an influential party leader in the south-west geo-political zone.
According to sources close to the former president, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday, Mr. Obasanjo was travelling in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, at the time of the conversation with Mr. Jonathan.
It was gathered from usually reliable presidency sources that Mr. Jonathan hurriedly called the former president on Thursday shortly after he received the former president’s latest letter informing him and the PDP National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, that he was suspending participation in party activities for as long as the ruling party continued to treat Mr. Kashamu, who he described as a “known habitual criminal” and fugitive of the law abroad, with reverence.
The sources said during the telephone conversation, President Jonathan pleaded with Mr. Obasanjo to reconsider his decision to suspend himself from the party, assuring him that he would personally prevail on Tukur to stop fraternizing with Mr. Kashamu and foisting him on the South-West PDP as a rallying point.
The president, the sources further adds, told the former president that he had never met Mr. Kashamu in person and had never instructed anyone to accord the controversial politician, considered to be the sole-financier of PDP in Ogun State, a special or preferential treatment in the party.
According to the sources, Jonathan was quoted as saying, “Baba, believe me, I don’t know Kashamu… I think it is the chairman (Tukur) that knows him. Personally, I have nothing with him. But I will ask chairman.
“Kindly consider your decision again. The PDP belongs to us all and we need to correct whatever is wrong together”.
The president then promised to “hear from” Mr Tukur, and to “do something” about the matter, those in the known of the discussion said.
In his response, Mr. Obasanjo is said to have explained to the president his pain at explaining to world leaders how an alleged criminal, wanted by the United States authorities, ended up as a leader of Nigeria’s ruling party.
He reportedly also told the president that his assurance of action might not count much as he believed not much could be done as of now.
As at the time of compiling this report, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati could not be reached for comment as calls put through to his phone was not connecting.
But three separate presidential aides, who pleaded anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, however, confirmed details of the conversation between both leaders.
When contacted to get his reaction to the story, the spokesperson for the former president, Tunde Oladunjoye, said he had no permission from his boss to speak on details of his conversation with anyone.
An aide of the former president however confirmed the exchanges.
It would be recalled that in a letter dated January 7 and addressed to the PDP national chairman with a copy sent to the president, Mr. Obasanjo said he found “unsavoury”, the elevation of Kashamu as a political leader in what he called “a respectable and wholesome nation-building political party” as the PDP and informed them of his decision to withdraw his activity with the party at all levels “until the anomalous and shameful situation is corrected”.