Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday that Nigeria would only be on the right track only when good leadership holds the reins of the nation.
At a summit as part of his 78th birthday celebrations in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, Obasanjo said all the recommendations given by all the lecturers were plausible things but only achievable under a strong and focused leadership with visions for the development of the nation.
“We have listened to two beautiful lectures, addresses, presentations or what you will call them. For me, it has been very instructive and I have not been disappointed by either of the presenters; it has met the expectations.
“But you have seen that they haven’t presented us with magic as solutions to our problems and there’s nothing they have told us that is impossible. All they have said boils down to one thing and one thing only: leadership, and until we get it right, any time we do not get it right, we cannot get any other thing right.
“Don’t let us deceive ourselves, whether it is security, science and technology or innovation or the development of the economy, of education, they all boil down to leadership at all levels. May God give us the leadership that occasions like this deserve in Nigeria; because when we have that, we will get there,” he said.
The former president added that, “I am an incurable optimist about this country, and maybe because I have seen in a little bit in my short span of life, a little bit of what is possible and a little bit of what can go wrong and what can be made to go wrong. Then, maybe that is why I am incurable optimist and I believe that all will be well in this country. We have no choice anyway, all has to be well.
“We are about 180 million now, our brothers and sisters in West Africa are worried, and when they talk to me and I said why we’re they worried, they said, ‘if half a million Nigerians go to Republic of Benin, we will overwhelm them; if two million go to Ghana; even Britain is worried, they are worried, they said there is a problem if one million Nigerians go to Britain, they said in 10 years, there will be 10 million Nigerians in Britain and they will rather keep us here.”
He further explained that, “My concern is that we have too many think tanks, we need more of ‘do tanks.’ The point is we can do and we have no reason why we can’t do and we have also seen that one individual can make a difference.
“There is no reason why any Nigerian child, at this point in time, should not have basic education, food and nutrition; not only Nigerian child, any Nigerian should not go to bed without food, we have the resources to achieve all that. That we are not achieving it does not mean we don’t have the resources. It is because we haven’t managed our resources well.
‘Employment, if all other things are right, there should be no reason for any Nigerian who wants to be employed not to have the opportunity for employment. And if all those things that all these young ones are expecting are not there, in 15 years’ time, they will be good recruits for Boko Haram or its equivalent; do not let us deceive ourselves.
“You can suppress, but if other things that are supposed to be there are not there, you will only suppress, sooner than later, it will rear its ugly head again, and what should be done, it should be removed root, stem and branches and I believe that too can be done.”
And also in a hilarious moment at the event, the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, revealed how Obasanjo attempted to walk him out of the Aso Villa and at other occasions during the crisis between them.
Tinubu, who came in attendance without the foreknowledge of the celebrant, stated that Obasanjo accused him that he was busy abusing him on the pages of newspapers and, therefore, said he didn’t want to see him.
Tinubu, who was also then governor of Lagos State, said he had to draw the attention of the former president to the fact that he was a tenant in the State House and that the House was Nigerians’, among who he is.
He revealed his response calmed Obasanjo, and he said (in Yoruba) ‘ Gbere,o ri yen so’(You’re right in that aspect.)
Tinubu said, “If I would tell you several events that occurred between the two of us in the interest of the nation, I would write an epistle. But today is not for that. But how do you celebrate, truly and honour a man who has kept you on your toes? What I can say is a gratitude for me because you kept me on my toes.
“Each time we disagreed on things, principles, I took him to court one time as the President and he saw me and said, ‘you took me to court, we can’t be friends after the court’ and I told him, ‘I didn’t take you to court, I took Nigerian President to court’ and he said, ‘get off my way’ and I told him, ‘I wouldn’t get off the way until I get what I want.’
“And one morning, very early, Professor Mabogunje was there and we were discussing and it was about the development of the country, there’s no doubt about that, it was about rail line and urban development, very serious matters, and I disagreed with him and Professor Mabogunje was asking me to keep quiet, and Baba said, ‘get out of here’, and I said, ‘Baba, I am not going out, you asked me to come and we are talking, you love Nigeria, I love Nigeria, you brought a professor of great reputation and he said, ‘sit down, if you want me to do that thing, I am the President, you must also listen to me.’ And I saw that it wasn’t just an emotional thing, it was a passion for perfection at that particular time.”
On Obasanjo’s involvement in what he called the new wind of change blowing through the nation, Tinubu said: “When we started this present regime of merger and alliances and we visited him and we told him we wanted him to be a navigator, he said, ‘navigator? I will, my party, I am still in there, partisanship, I will try to avoid it because of Nigeria but if you people put a good team for the sake of this country together, I will give you wisdom.
“And if you look at what has been happening since then, Obasanjo is an open book, you read a line, you pick a paragraph, you learn, you comply, if you drink from that fountain of wisdom, you will see value in it, he is very, very committed to the Nigerian nation.”
Also, the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who worked with Obasanjo as a permanent secretary during his years as military leader in the 70s, said the day Obasanjo tore his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) membership card was the day he assumed another status of statesmanship no one had ever attained in the nation.
“A few weeks ago, we saw somebody tearing a party card on his behalf and we all went ecstatic, fantastic. So, leaders of the party quickly conveyed a get-together and authorised me if we should issue him a fresh card, but we sat down soberly and discussed the issue and at the end of the day, wise counsel prevailed and we said this event is more significant than we think. This man has crossed a threshold; he has now become truly father of the Nigerian nation.
“We will be demeaning him if we go to him now and said ‘Baba this is APC party card;’ we thought we would be demeaning him and we said finally, what Nigeria never had; an icon, a father, a non-partisan person, the very first in the history of this nation, finally has arrived, somebody we can now all go to, everybody, he will just be open to all of us.”