El-Rufai made this claim in an interview with The Point.
According to him, although Jonathan was his very close friend, he persecuted him because of what those in his close circle told him.
El-Rufai claimed this persecution started in 2006, when he was Minister of the FCT, Abuja.
“Jonathan was convinced by his own circle that I was a threat and if he was going for a second term in office, he had to take me out of the race.
“And so, Jonathan continued the persecution that Yar’adua started.
“I have been associated with running for President since 2005, 2006, about 15 years. I have suffered for this. I’ve even been exiled for it and Jonathan tried to put me in prison for it.
“My name being mentioned with regard to presidential aspiration has been on since 2006, since I was running the FCT, Abuja. People were speculating that the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, was preparing to hand over to me. It was part of the reasons I was exiled,” he said.