Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar Thursday spoke for the first time on why he declined to heed the plea to run against former President Olusegun Obasanjo during the 2003 presidential, the Oyo State Capital, election.
Atiku, who was responding to remarks from one of the participants in Ibadan during the South-west zonal consultative meeting with his political associates on the offer by All Progressives Congress (APC) to join the party, said he refused to contest against Obasanjo, to whom he was deputy then, on moral ground.
He faulted claims that his best chance to have emerged as the president was in 2003 when stakeholders in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) egged him on to contest against his former principal.
Doing so then, he added, would be going against the position the PDP had earlier taken at a caucus meeting to retain the presidency in the South.
He said his ambition, and indeed that of any politician, could not be realised in negation and commitment to party decisions.
“Yes, I may nurse legitimate ambition but I am not the kind of person who will want to climb the political ladder because an opportunity cheaply presents itself. You don’t have to stand in the way of commitment to party decisions because you stand to benefit from an infraction,” Atiku said.
A snap vote taken at the end of the South-west leg of the consultative meeting showed that 60 per cent of his supporters voted for him to dump PDP for APC; 29 per cent wants him to defect to Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), while 11 per cent wants him to remain in PDP.
Before the commencement of the consultative meeting, which continues with the North-east stanza, billed for Bauchi today, Atiku on arrival in Ibadan, had headed straight to pay a courtesy visit to the Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, in his office.
He said his visit to Ibadan was in continuation of his consultation with associates in response to the invitation extended to him by the APC in December, last year.
He also recalled his link with Ibadan, a city that he said held fond memories for him.
“My most memorable days in my civil service career were in Ibadan. So, I say this is a kind of a home-coming.
“Anytime I come to Ibadan - either for politics or personal reasons - I come back with a lot of memories. But much more than the memories, I am more fascinated by the new things and developments that I see in Ibadan. I want to say that since the Ajimobi administration took off, there have been positive changes in the city of Ibadan in terms of infrastructure development,” he added.
Responding, Ajimobi said not many politicians in Nigeria could match the democratic credentials of Atiku.
The governor extolled the former vice-president, whom he described as a “broad-based, principled and consummate politician.”
He said: “He has a personal touch to his relationship and sometimes you wonder if he has ever been the vice-president of this country.”