Nigeria: 15 Years After, Obasanjo, Atiku Rekindle Old Rivalry

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday said he made a mistake picking his number two when he wanted to become the country’s democratically elected president in 1999, saying God saved him because it was a ‘genuine mistake’.

Obasanjo who stated this while fielding questions posed to him by students from selected secondary schools that participated in the final of the National Exhibition and Awards, organized by Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) also took a cursory look at the current political system in the country and declared that the much touted “Not Too Young To Run” campaign cannot work in favour of the Nigerian youths.

Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party for the 2023 election served as Obasanjo’s Vice President between 1999 and 2007.

Both Obasanjo and Atiku have had a turbulent relationship over the years with the former president vowing to never support the candidacy of his former vice, once saying God wouldn’t forgive him if he did so.

He however did support Atiku in the 2019 election. It is that support and the glowing tribute that the former president paid to his former deputy that the Atiku campaign is latching onto in defense of the recent comment.

Atiku said his former boss has no regrets about working with him, adding that he had recommended him to become president of Nigeria.

The PDP candidate said his former boss had paid glowing tribute on how he, as vice president served meritoriously and that he has the experience and exposure to take over from president Muhammadu Buhari.

Atiku who reacted to the comments by Obasanjo through his media aide, Paul Ibe, sent LEADERSHIP Sunday a video clip of Obasanjo paying tribute to him.

Ibe did not however mention the many occasions where Obasanjo used harsh words, particularly in his autobiography criticizing Atiku and his suitability to lead Nigeria.

Obasanjo, in the said video culled from Channels TV, decked in a white agbada with grey embroidery, a traditional cap with same blend of colours, referred to Atiku as having the experience, exposure and as having learnt lessons to occupy the presidential office.

The event was when Atiku met with the Lagos Island Club in the build up to 2019 presidential election.

Obasanjo, in the video said, “Vice president Atiku, now candidate Atiku and soon to become President Atiku. As a leader you must understand the fundamentals of the problems you have to solve and be courageous, visionary and be able to reach out sufficiently to build a credible team of experts, knowledgeable men and women, concerned and interested citizens, and non citizens to work hard and tirelessly for solutions that will benefit all Nigerians and indeed all Africans and all humanity.

“Mr. Chairman, my dear senior brother, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, you have a man who has what it takes in experience, in exposure in lessons that he has learnt and he has learnt his lessons.

“I tried to teach him a few of them. You have a man who has what it takes at this time for us to have a change and we need a change for the better,” the former president said.

Ibe said, “What he said in the video was and is still valid. What he said in the video is our response. It does not sound like a regret. He was paying eulogies to his then Vice President for a meritorious service to him and the nation, and urging that he be elevated to higher responsibilities on account of his sterling service.”

In his latest commentary, the former president, spoke on Saturday on the opportunities for the youths to take over the mantle of leadership in the country at the event held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.

He said youths can never come into power should the current trend in the political architecture of Nigeria continue.

He said with the,” Not Too Young to Run campaign and you can see that those that are contesting now are between 70 and 80 years old, how can the youth run.

“Another thing inhibiting youths from running is the amount of money involved in going into politics. I hope that things should not continue like this.

“I was 39 years old when I became the Military Head of State. Twenty years later, I came back as civilian president, but those there now do not want to allow the youth. If things continue like this, I do not know how you can come in.”

Speaking in retrospect on his journey of life during the question and answer interactive session with the students, Obasanjo disclosed that he made many mistakes, which he could describe as genuine mistakes in his life, but God made him to overcome them.

“One of the mistakes I made was picking my Number Two when I wanted to become the president. But because it was a genuine mistake God saved me.

“The second one was when Abacha wanted to arrest me. When Abacha wanted to arrest me, I was told by the American ambassador that they will arrest me and that America has asked that I should be given asylum. I said no. It could have been a mistake because I could have lost my life.

“I will say there are many things that could have been a mistake but God saved me from them all”.

While tutoring the students to imbibe the spirit of religious tolerance, Obasanjo also advised them not to see their own religion as being superior to that of another person.

“I have no right to say what another man believes in is inferior to mine. If God had wanted all of us to be of the same religion, he would have made it so and since He did not make it so, no person should attempt to make it so.

“Young people should learn at a very early age that if there are five religions in the world, that is how God wants it to be. If there are ten, that is how God wants it. All religions originate from the same source.

“If you are a Muslim and you did not live the way the God wants you to live, you cannot enter Aljannah. If you are a Christian and you did not live the way God wants you to live, the same thing, you will not enter paradise.

“If this is the basis of religion, doing the right thing for the benefit of mankind, you don’t have to condemn any person because of what he believes.

“I do not believe that any religion is superior to mine and I do not believe that mine is superior to another person’s beliefs. I will not allow any person to cast aspersions on my religion and will not do the same for another person. Practice your religion the way God wants you to do it and don’t condemn another person”.

Welcoming participants at the event, the Chairman of SAGE Nigeria, Agwu Amogu, said the programme was to celebrate the creative energies and commitments of teen entrepreneurs who see the challenges in the communities as their responsibilities.

He explained that “SAGE” is an acronym for Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship. It is an international program initiated at the California State University Chico USA in 2002 and currently operational in over 32 countries across all the continents of the world.

“It offers secondary school aged young people a hands-on learning process on how to create wealth, help others and their communities.”

Amigu said since the introduction of the program in Nigeria in 2006, it had shown that it is a potent strategy and model for educational reform, youth re-orientation, job creation and poverty alleviation and multi-cultural integration

According to him, Nigeria urgently needs a new paradigm for education.

“The new paradigm must provide students with a chance to learn while solving community problems and immediately applying what they have learnt in the classroom by actually doing something great.

“We now live in a world where any country can compete effectively with others based on the creative imagination of its human capital.

There is no better place to stoke the fire of imagination than in the young people. And that is where SAGE comes in.

“SAGE is about CREATING value. Students are encouraged to create something of value in their communities by applying what they learn in the classroom and testing it in the ultimate laboratory… . the free market,” he said.

Amogu, who commended the feat of Nigerian students since the commencement of the programme in the country, the country’s representatives , had been fantastic in the competition.

He said, “We firmly believe that Nigeria can be a world leader in providing potent human capital to the rest of the world; setting a benchmark for other countries to follow.

“Having won the SAGE World cup 8 times in the last 12 years, I have no doubt in my mind that Nigerian young people are one of the most energetic and enterprising in the world and they can quicken our rise to a global superpower status.”

The SAGE chairman said winners of this year’s competition would represent Nigeria in the SAGE World Competition held in the Netherlands in August, 2022.

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