Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has disclosed the behind-the-scene details of how former Rivers Governor Peter Odili lost out in the race to emerge late President Musa Yar’Adua’s running mate in 2007.
Odili was a leading contender for the vice presidential slot but lost out in dramatic manners at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national convention in Abuja.
Obasanjo, who was handing over after a two-term rule, said Odili was favoured for the slot but was dropped because of corruption cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Speaking on Sunday in a virtual interview with historian and academic Toyin Falola, Obasanjo said: “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 to 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.”
On his choice for Umaru Yar’ adua despite his failing health, Obasanjo explained “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’.
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“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.”