Former President Olus-egun Obasanjo has attributed his absence at last weekend's declaration by President Goodluck Jonathan, at the Eagle Square in Abuja, to his trip to Jamaica for the burial of the father of his friend, Carl Masters.

The conspicous absence of Obasanjo at the declaration, which was attended by leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), including members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and virtually all the PDP governors, had attracted the attention of political analysts who viewed his absence as an indication of the gradual withdrawal of his support for the president's aspiration.

But in an interview with journalists at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday, Obasanjo said: "I was not there because I was in Kingston, Jamaica. A friend of mine, very close friend of mine, Carl Masters, lost his father when he and I were together in China, and since he was with me there and he is a good friend of mine, he said look, I would want you to come to the burial of my father and pay tribute.

The former president, who is PDP's board chair, also reacted to the rising opposition against President Joanthan's aspiration by some northern political leaders describing it as normal in politics.

"Ganging up or not ganging up, factions and alliances are normal parts of politics and there is nothing wrong. what matters is that at the end of the day, whatever the result, we will all accept it, he said.

Commenting on the chances of Jonathan in the forthcoming PDP primary election, Obasanjo said: "I believe he will do his best and once he does his best and the party, PDP, does its best, we will be satisfied with the result."

Asked who he would be voting for as a delegate at the party's primaries, the former president simply said: "Well, I might as well tell you who I will be voting for in the election. I thought that is meant to be secret."

Reminded that who he would vote for may actually be an open secret having recently led the party to endorse the president at its zonal meeting in Ibadan, Oyo State Obasanjo, while noting that the zonal chapter had the rights to do that, said: Since in our party, you start being a party member from the ward level, then to the state level, to the zonal level, you must be an active party member in whatever is being done at any of these levels. So I was there at the zonal meeting and whatever my party decides at that level, I cannot say to hell."

While responding to a question on media reports that he might have withdrawn his support for Jonathan, Obasanjo, who lashed the media for such reports, said: "I am the chairman of the party (BoT), whatever my zone does, I cannot disagree with it. But when we then have to meet as BoT, I chair that and then I direct the affairs of BoT as necessary.

Expressing confidence that the next election would be conducted successfully, the former president urged Nigerians to stop judging and condemning themselves by the standards that other people draw up for them, adding, "We must decide what is the best standard for us and use that standard truly."

Below is the question-and-answer session with Obasanjo.

You conducted three successful elections as military head of state, and civilian president. Elections are around the corner, are you optimistic that it will be conducted successfully?

Of course yes, oh yes. You see, we are in a country of excitement and we believe in things happening and they do happen. But we are also a country where I say there is never a dull moment. If I come to the world again, I will tell God, bring me back to Nigeria. We have many things that we need to correct, but one thing that we need to correct is that we criticise ourselves, we look for how to improve things and we are never satisfied, we are never complacent, which is very good. We are looking for what we can do better, how we can do them better, who is wrong and what is wrong at the same time. So because of that, people tends to say, ah, these Nigerians, but one thing we must cease doing is to stop judging and condemning ourselves by the standard that other people draw up for us. We must decide what is the best standard for us and use that standard truly.

Are you optimistic that your party is going to win next year's presidential election?

My party will do the best and once my party does the best, the best will be good enough for my party.

You were absent at the declaration of President Jonathan last weekend, why was that?

I was not there because I was in Kingston, Jamaica. A friend of mine, very close friend of mine, Carl Masters, lost his father when he and I were together in China, and since he was with me there and he is a good friend of mine, he said look, I would want you to come to the burial of my father and pay tribute.

Are you optimistic that President Jonathan will win the PDP primaries?

I believe he will do his best and once he does his best and the party - PDP - does its best, we will be satisfied with the result.

You are going to be a delegate sir, who would you be voting for in the PDP primaries?

Well, I might as well tell you who I will be voting for in the election. I thought that is meant to be secret.

But you just led the South-west to endorse Jonathan?

South-west PDP chapter, one of the six zonal chapters, and it has rights to take a decision as to where, as a chapter, it believes it should go. Since in our party, you start being a party member from the ward level, then to the state level, to the zonal level, you must be an active party member in whatever is being done at any of these levels. So I was there at the zonal meeting and whatever my party decides at that level I cannot say to hell.

There are reports in the media that, may be, you will not be backing the president again?

I didn't see that because the media is a fool. The media that says that is either a fool or mischievous. I am the chairman of the party (BoT), whatever my zone does, I cannot disagree with it. But when we then have to meet as BoT, I chair that and then I direct the affairs of BoT at necessary.

God has given you the opportunity to rule Nigeria for 11 and a half years...

So you are counting the number of years?

...We will be 50 in a couple of days, how would you describe Nigeria at 50?

You will hear when we are 50.

How would you react to the fact that some politicians in the North are ganging up against Jonathan?

Ganging up or not ganging up, factions and alliances are normal parts of politics and there is nothing wrong, what matters is that at the end of the day, whatever the result, we will all accept it.