The Lord didn’t directly say it but apostle Paul said it:
“Followers of me become ye, as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 – literal translation)
“I call upon you, therefore, become ye followers of me; because of this I sent to you Timotheus, who is my child, beloved and faithful in the Lord, who shall remind you of my ways in Christ, according as everywhere in every assembly I teach.” (1 Corinthians 4:16 – 17; a literal translation again)
“become followers together of me, brethren, and observe those thus walking, according as ye have us — a pattern;” (Philippians 3:17)
Thus, the “follow after me” of apostle Paul is “dependent on the way he follows Christ” and NOT an independent one.
Hence, by doing so, we’re actually learning how apostle Paul understood & followed Christ and “not” his own opinions both in his teachings & lifestyle.
In conclusion, we may “follow Christ” (directly & through “correct” teachings & lifestyles as demonstrated by godly men such as apostle Paul who learnt it from Christ the Lord directly) under the light shed by these set of verses.
The only important question which remains when we follow after other Christians is this: “are they following Christ in accordance to the verses in the Bible’s New Testament, which takes precedence?”