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Obasanjo: As President I Didn’t Pursue Personal Interests

Obasanjo: As President I Didn't Pursue Personal Interests

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said everything he did while in office was in the best interest of the country rather than for his personal gains.

He also said those who claimed that he did nothing for the South-West or the Yoruba were wrong.

The ex-President said he remained worried that despite Nigeria’s enormous potential for greatness, steps were not being taken to translate that potential into reality.

Obasanjo said these in an interview with The Point Newspaper, published in the tabloid’s Monday edition.

Obasanjo said, “People who worked with me, it doesn’t matter where they come from, they remember what we did together. There is no question of favouritism, there is no question of, yes, this is my kith and kin. There is no question of this is my personal interest. I never say that we didn’t make mistake or we are perfect, but whatever mistake we made was a genuine mistake. It wasn’t a mistake we made as a result of selfishness.”

Reacting to the claim that he neglected the Yoruba while in office, Obasanjo said, “Some Yoruba have come to me and said you didn’t do enough for the Yoruba. I said, ‘Yes, did I do for Nigeria?’ They said, ‘You did?’ I asked, is Yoruba not part of Nigeria? If I did as I could for Nigeria and Yoruba are part of Nigeria, then I have done for the Yoruba as well as I have done for Igbo, Hausa and so on. I think that must guide us.

“The point you must bear in mind is that this country can be a great country. We have everything to make this country great. And that is what always worries me. When you see what we can do, how to do it, and we are not doing it. That is really unfortunate.

Police deny killing of Ibadan One Million Boys’ leader
“Can we get there? I believe we can. All we need is one generation of consistency in leadership, we will be there. That is what we need. We need one generation of right leadership consistently.”

Obasanjo advised the current leadership of the country to be inquisitive about what is going on around them, instead of shutting their doors.

Mistakes we made in govt were genuine – Obasanjo

Why I won’t beg your leaders to listen to me

President Olusegun Obasanjo is a man of many parts. His place in the history of Nigeria, Africa and the world cannot be overeemphasised. He says it as it is when there is a need to, not minding where the mud splashes. In this special exclusive with The Point Newspaper, Baba, as he is fondly called, takes us back to the making of the Ebora Owu that we all know today. He speaks about his love life, passion for Nigeria and interestingly shares good memories of late MKO Abiola. He spoke with a team of The Point’s editors, led by the Editor-in-Chief, Yemi Kolapo, at his Penthouse residence, Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, Ogun State. The team, including Ayo Esan, and the CEO of The Point’s partner Flip TV, Biodun Kupoluyi, will not forget the experience in a hurry.

Your achievements in life are a reference point for aspiring leaders all over the point for aspiring leaders all over the world. Did you at any point in time, while growing up, think that you would one day become a leader of note?

Thank you very much and let me start by welcoming you to the Penthouse of Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, where I live.

My beginning in life is what I would call a hard beginning. Hard beginning because I was born in a village. There was no school in my village. My father was a total illiterate, my mother was a total illiterate, and when I was born, nobody would think that I would be anything other than a farmer because that was what was known in my village. You were either a farmer or at best, you would be learning to make implements for farming – cutlass and hoes. And that would be even a step higher than just being a farmer. But my father and my mother were very industrious. My father particularly would not condone any indolence. My father believed that any man, who woke up in the morning and was not found on his farm in our village or the villages around us, should not be regarded as a man.

I was born, not with a silver spoon, not even with a wooden spoon. But I was born by a father and a mother who were very industrious, very respected within the community that we were. They were people of integrity. I was going to farm with my father. In those days, we weeded our farms, row by row. My father would take a row and I would take a row by his side. And one day, we were coming back from the farm into the village, and my father asked, young man, would you want to do something else other than going to farm with me? I didn’t know where that question came from, and why that question should come at all. But I said well, I would continue to be going to the farm with you.

I had an older cousin who had just left the village for Abeokuta to learn to become a vehicle mechanic. So what I could think of other than being a farmer or going to the farm with my father was to be a vehicle mechanic.  So, I said Baba, if you would send me to where my cousin, called Taiye, had gone, I wouldn’t mind. And he said vehicle mechanic? You won’t like to go to school? I said, Baba, if you send me to school, I will go. And that question and the answer was a turning point.

It was the end of the year and, of course, living in the village, we didn’t get the right information about when schools would open in Abeokuta. So I was brought to Abeokuta, but I was brought late. I should have been in Abeokuta the weekend before schools resumed. But we arrived on a Wednesday, two days after schools had resumed and we went to five schools that were close enough to our compound. The schools were: African Church School, Ita Iyalode; Baptist Day School, Totoro; Ogbe Methodist School and Igbore Anglican School. I was turned down in all the five schools, and my father said, okay, you stay with your aunt, that was my father’s half-sister. So I stayed with my aunt. My uncle-in-law, the husband of my aunt, was a fisherman. Every morning, we would go to Ogun River to catch fish and those who would buy the fish would come and buy. We would eat breakfast and after that, we would drag our nets and go home. One day, my father came and said, “Sobo would turn my son to a lazy man like himself (Sobo was the name of my uncle-in-law). In anger, he brought me back to the village. So my dream of staying in Abeokuta and becoming civilised got terminated and I went back to the village. I didn’t have the urge of going to school, but there was that urge in my father.

So what moulded you into the leader of leaders that we now know?

My father was a disciplinarian. My mother too was a disciplinarian. And you know, when we were growing up, there were these taboos that were used to mentor you on what you could do and what you could not do. They always came up with threats that if you do this, Egungun (masquerade) would appear to you. If you do this, Oro would appear to you, and all that. Things that I found very useful when we were growing up in the village were the riddles and stories, particularly the moonlight stories with the tortoise. Those were full of morals. There were moral lessons that you must be truthful. For not being truthful, this landed the tortoise in this problem. They were always around tortoise. And then you must be honest; the tortoise not being honest, see the outcome. That I found very useful because it was not just the moral lesson of the stories but also the choruses that went with these stories. They were very useful.

Then, we had a Baptist Church; it was a young church when I was born. The church predated my birth. I was very young and for the Baptist, in those days, and even till today, anything not Biblical is not Baptist. It had to be Biblical and you had to learn the Bible almost from Genesis to Revelation and know it. And that was very good for bringing up a decent human being. You have stories that encourage you to be obedient, passages in the Bible that you memorise; different passages for different occasions. I found that extremely useful.

Another thing that I found useful has to do with the Yoruba adage that says four eyes bring a child to the world and 200 eyes bring the child up. I think in English, it is four eyes bring a child to the world and a village brings the child up. So you are not just the ward of your parents, you are also the ward of your community.

The community takes interest in you as a child of the community, not only as the child of your mother and father. And you know in Yoruba, my father’s cousin, who is of my father’s age, cannot introduce me as his nephew because we have no word like nephew in Yoruba, we have no word like cousin in Yoruba. They would introduce me as their son, and of course, you have to behave. You could be caned. It is not I would report you to your father or I would report you to your mother. And if your father’s brothers cane you, you get home and get another cane. So of necessity, you have to behave. You have to behave to avoid being caned by a family member and you have to behave to avoid being re-caned when you get home.

I think I found all these very very useful in my own early life. And I believe it is still something that we should cherish today, especially that idea of four eyes bring a child to the world and 200 eyes bring the child up. In those days, the villages were very close communities, very close, everybody knew everybody else and even they knew the ones that were of bad behaviour in the village. They won’t tell you not to go to the next house; they might tell you, when you go there, you have to behave yourself. You know once they say that, that is a bit of question mark. You know that it is not a place that they want you to be visiting frequently.

So it is what I would call our culture, our ways of living. Those proverbs we have in Yoruba, which are very very rich in interpreting things, they give meaning to things. And when I was growing up, sitting by the feet of the elders and listening to them for either moonlight stories or just stories about things in life, their own experience of life; what should be the dos and don’ts of life, they were very useful.

So, if you say what prepared me for leadership? I would say first of all, God Almighty, who made me to be born where I was born, when I was born, and by those who gave birth to me. First, God, then my parents, who were simple and were illiterates, but unassuming. They wanted the best for me even though I didn’t know beyond the village level. There was nothing I could say was my ambition. What prepared me for leadership? My father, who was insistent on me not just remaining on the farm with him; my mother who insisted I fetched water early in the morning even when I was going to school. The stream was about two kilometres. I had to go and fetch water in the morning. I would go out at 5 o’clock in the morning and by 6 o’clock, I would have gone and come back. Then, I would quickly go to school.

The school was about two to two and half kilometres away. On the day that we were not going to school, if it was a market day, I would probably go with my mother, carrying kolanuts and whatever, that we had to sell at the market, or I would follow my father to the farm. All those chores, working with my father or working with my mother, I found them extremely useful in life. This is because I am not afraid of undertaking anything, no matter how menial it is or how difficult. I remember when I started my farm, after I became military Head of State. When vehicles, trailers came carrying maize, I would turn my back, I would just carry the maize and offload the trailers.  They would say, sir, you can’t do this, and I would say, you can’t do what? If you can do it, I can do it.

So, I believe that as you talk of leadership, apart from my early life, my life in the Army was also very contributory. The Army teaches you to be nothing other than a leader. A leader in time of plenty, a leader in time of scarcity; a leader in peace and a leader in war. And that is something that people need to know. I was lucky I went to a mission school from primary school. I moved from one mission school to the other. I went to a mission school for secondary education and I even taught in a mission school when I left secondary school. Then I joined the Army, which was part of leadership preparation, if you like. But I believe the most important aspect of leadership is the leadership that has the fear of God.

What actually informed your joining the Army?

I think it was necessity and curiousity. Let me tell you the story of how I left school. In my days, we spent six years in secondary school, but in those days too, in the 1950s, initially, we used to take Cambridge School Certificate, then it became West African School Certificate. But alongside Cambridge or West African School Certificate, you could take the London exam, GCE. Whereas with Cambridge School Certificate, you get A, C and all that, in the GCE, you either get credit or you get F. But for you to take GCE, you must have passed what they called qualifying examination. Qualifying exam was only English and you must pass that, then after you have passed the qualifying exam, you could take GCE in any subjects that you liked at Ordinary Level. And once you have the Ordinary Level, you can take GCE Advanced Level.  So when I was in Form 4, I took GCE Qualifying Exam and I passed.  So, when I passed, I was then to decide whether to continue until I got to Form 6 and do School Certificate; or to do GCE in Form 5.  I decided to do GCE in Form 5. So I put in and I passed all the subjects in Form 5. Then I had to again take another decision: should I leave school because the only thing I could add to that was wait and do the School Certificate and the school was expecting that I would have 8As or 9As and all that. But I was really managing myself in school. I was working in the school as a school librarian at that time to pay part of my school fees, and on Saturday, I would fetch firewood.  So I decided to leave school.

Leaving school in Form 5 when I should have left in Form 6 meant that I left the school with a certificate, the GCE certificate. But I could not go to the school for a testimonial. One of my friends used to joke with me that ‘you have Certificate, but you don’t have Testimonial’, which is true. But in those days, if you left school and you had your certificate, you would get a job. I had the result of my GCE by August and those who were even a year my senior would not take their school certificate examination until November. I had the result of my GCE in Form 5. So I decided to stay in school till November and then left. Then I got a job in UAC, I got a job in Government Printer, in Medical Store in Ikeja. I went to UAC because UAC was paying 10 shillings, a month, more than the Government Printer. Then I found out, when I got to the UAC that it was becoming a cul-de-sac for me because I wanted to read.

I was going to UAC, Monday to Saturday, and then even on Monday, you would work till 5.00pm. There was no time for reading or doing anything. So, after three months, I said this is not for me if I want to make real progress in life. In UAC, I was doing very well, they would send me to courses and I would become a Manager. Then I took the exam to the University of Ibadan, I passed but no sponsorship. I said that was alright. I was reading for GCE A Level when I saw an advertisement in Daily Times for Officer Cadet. It was not the Officer Cadet that interested me, it was that there would be an exam and I wanted to test myself. So I applied and the application was successful.

They said I should take a warrant from Ibadan and go to Lagos by train, free transport to Lagos. I said good.  Then I went again, they said I passed, I should come for interview. Take another warrant from the provincial office and travel to Lagos. Wonderful. Then I went for the interview. By then, I had applied for a UN scholarship for Non–Self Government Territories. It wasn’t popularly known then. But some countries gave scholarships to students from Non-Self Government Territories. I had applied and I wanted to do Geology, and I got the admission. Then I got the Military, what do I do? I got to a road junction. I then decided, could they defer my scholarship by one year, let me try this military thing. I had a senior person then, he said you are a stupid boy, why don’t you give me that scholarship? And then I went to Ghana, I passed; after six months, we had to go to the UK for further training. So, I just left the scholarship, otherwise probably I would have been a Geologist. Then my ambition to continue to read, I was able to get that going in the military. Then my ambition continued. I transferred to the Corps of Engineers and continued my training in Engineering in the military.

Like I said I went into the Army due to necessity and curiousity but it has come out to be not too bad for me.

You went to BBHS in Abeokuta. Can you name some of your contemporaries and your relationship with them?

Let me mention some of them that you will know: Dr Soleye was two years my senior, the present Olowu and Bola Ajibola, who was the Attorney General and the Judge of the World Court in Hague, he was a year my senior.  M.K.O. Abiola, Ola Yusuf, Omowumi George, they were a year my senior, but they were the ones that I left in school, because they were in Form 6 when I was in Form 5. So they never accepted me as their mates. And I used to pull their legs, I would say you were my senior but I left school before you. We had this tradition in our school that if somebody was senior to you even by one month in the school, you would regard him as senior. I regarded them as my seniors, they welcomed me. The present Olubara was my classmate. He is now an Oba. The Olubara was rascally in school.  I wrote in my book ‘My Watch’, what Olubara did to me. He hasn’t barely been any taller than he was then but he was a bully. He would look at you and say ‘raise up your hands there.’ I was eating my groundnut and he saw me eating groundnut and said Segun where is the groundnut you are eating? I said it had finished. He said, okay, raise up your hands there. He searched inside my pockets and the back pockets, he didn’t find anything, so he left me and I was going. But I was stupid, I didn’t allow him to go far. I took out some groundnuts and was eating. He looked back, and said Segun you are still eating groundnut, stop there. Then he found that I kept my groundnut in my inner pocket. When he put his hands in my pocket, I said don’t take it all o. With all these, we were friendly.

 

Do you still remember all these experiences with some of these schoolmates?

Of course yes. Even now, Olubara and I, we remember all those things. Olubara’s father was our carpentry master. And he had those who were his favourites, no matter what they did. Like the present Olowu, he was a favourite of our carpentry master, Olubara’s father. Olubara himself was not his favourite, I was not. I would do well in other subjects but when it came to carpentry, I would get something like 55, people like Olowu would get 68 and it would not matter whether he took his carpentry work home to do, he would still get 68, 69 and I would labour to do my own there, and if I got 55 or 54, I was lucky. And we still talk about it till today.

When you look at the educational system then and what we have now, what key difference can you point out?

I think one difference is that we were not more than 30 in a class. We entered when an American was in charge of the school. Within a year or two, the school was taken over by an acting Principal, E.L. Akinsaya. E.L. Akinsaya knew the names of everyone of us, about 270 of us. And that also put the fear of God in you. Anywhere he saw you, in town, in church, anywhere, he would call your name – Segun Obasanjo. The Principal of your school? Nowhere you could hide. And how did he do it? In your first year, he would either come and teach one subject or the other, and by doing that, he would know all of you. We had devotion everyday, we had Religious Knowledge everyday in all classes. It was boring in those days, but it was good. I think on Fridays, we sang hymns and choruses. We were very strict about discipline, what you could do, what you could not do. If we are talking of rascals, M.K.O. Abiola, may his soul rest in peace, was a bit of a rascal. But we all enjoyed it. He had fun because he was playing Agidigbo. But he was also bright enough that, in addition to playing Agidigbo, he wasn’t lagging behind too far. He would be among the first six in the class and he could go all night or weekend playing Agidigbo. But these were the things we enjoyed then and we remember them – what we learned, what we did, what prank we played. I didn’t play much but it was interesting.

Abeokuta has really transformed. In the ancient days, when you were in secondary school, where was your favourite spot?

Let me tell you two things: there were two schools in Abeokuta, Abeokuta Grammar School and BBHS. And we were great rivals. Beko and Fela (The Kutis) were in school at a time that I was in the school, and of course, their father was the principal of their school. There was great competition between us. We believed that they were not well behaved, so we called them ‘Abeokuta Garawa School’ and they believed that we were not good enough also, so they turned our BBHS, which is Baptist Boys High School, to ‘Buy, Borrow, Hire or Steal.’ But it was healthy competition. When we were in school, the Oyewole brothers came and we were envious of them; both of them with degrees. One of them had a degree in Chemistry, the other one had a degree in Physics, and we didn’t have the luxury of graduate teachers.  I think it was Otunla who came from Manchester University who was teaching us Chemistry. We didn’t really have somebody teaching us Physics. An American was teaching us Biology. But they were at the time better placed in terms of quality of teachers. Most of our teachers were elementary, products of Baptist College, but what they lacked in higher education, they made for in their commitment to duty.   

Some of them joined politics but some of them did not join politics and continued with teaching.

The first lady, Akinlawon, that stole your heart and you asked her to join you in London; what did you see in her?

My first wife is Akinlawon. Don’t worry, I didn’t know you had done your research. What happened was that I don’t like to join the Joneses; I always want to be different. So, when we were in school, most of the students of BBHS went to Idi Aba. The Girls Teacher Training College was at Idi Aba and most of them went there for girlfriends. That was the normal thing, and I decided that I wasn’t going to go to Idi Aba. I wanted to be different. So Remi Akinlawon was going to Abeokuta Girls Grammar School, they just opened the school. And she was in Form 1 when I was in Form 4. We were in the church together and in the choir. By the time I left school in Form 5, she was in Form 2. And when I was in Form 5, she had a brother who had just come to the school, Yomi, may his soul rest in peace. Yomi has died now.  And I, as the Librarian, and also with a little bit of interest in Yomi’s senior sister, I paid a little bit of attention to Yomi so that he could deliver my messages to his sister. That was where it started and we continued. Remi has a senior brother, Tunde. Tunde actually was M.K.O’s classmate. They were a year my senior; then Biodun, who went to Government College Ibadan. And their father was a wonderful man. Her father was working in the Railway. And I remember, when I went to introduce myself, and Baba said ‘I don’t mind what you do, but just make sure that she has good education’ and I assured him, I said Baba, leave that one, she would have the best education.

In London, you got married without her parent’s consent, how would you describe your relationship with her in London before you got to India?

We were married. The relationship was wonderful and when I was coming from India, we were married. How can you be talking about my relationship with my wife?

You are a man of steel, we want to see your soft side, how romantic you were…

Well, I am typically a village boy. If you take me out of the village, you can’t take the village out of me. I think that is the truth. So in the village, where I was brought up, affection is not to be openly dramatised. That was not the way we were brought up. I love you, and my affection for you is a personal and private thing. The first time I went to the UK, and I saw boys and girls kissing in the public, I felt somehow. I know that my father loved my mother but I never saw them kissing openly. I am not saying it is not right or it is wrong but that is not our culture. If it is your culture, I wrote in “My watch”, the first time I went to UK and I was a Cadet and I had a nurse as a girlfriend and I was not used to going to the Cinema. And you either went on Saturday to dance or you went to the Cinema. So we went to the Cinema and I was not a Cinema man, when we got to cinema, I was sleeping, and that was the end of the Cinema.

You have said a lot about your contemporaries back in school, Excellency. And that brings us to this important issue. What do you think is responsible for the fact that everyone who has ruled Nigeria from the South West has been from Abeokuta, or Ogun State? Is there a hidden reason?

Let me take a light view of this and say that Ogun River has something to do with it. Once you drink Ogun River or you step into Abeokuta, our ancestors have a way of making sure that you get along. Of course, that is a joke.

I think there are certain things that you should not overlook. Even for my own family, where I am a first generation of the educated, the influence of the missionaries in Abeokuta must not be written off.  And there are families in Abeokuta today where you have sixth, fifth generations of educated, and that should not go unnoticed. It helped. The religious training, Christian doctrines’ establishment in Abeokuta should not be treated with lightheartedness. It has influence. The other thing that I saw when I was growing up was that I found that, in Abeokuta, there was a communality of some sorts. I have mentioned it, when I was growing up in the village, I knew my father and my mother, but my uncles, my cousins could discipline me just as my father would discipline me. So this also helped and there was a little bit of healthy competition.

The early families of the educated – the Majekodunmis, the Oguns, the Ademolas – they had that healthy competition among them.  It was not oh, it serves you right, if you have any problem, it was how do you help? And you know, I always say, jokingly, that the Ijebus and the Egbas are brothers of the same mother when Ijebu wants to cheat Egba. But on a serious note, there is always cooperation and collaboration between the Ijebus and Egbas because of our proximity. I think another thing is our proximity to Lagos and that should not be thrown away. I went to Lagos in 1944 for the first time. The life I saw in Lagos was an experience for me. I think all these put together, then of course we had the Railway. Don’t forget Lafenwa used to be the entry point to anywhere in Nigeria. If you were going to the North by train, you had to go through Lafenwa; going to the East by train, you had to go through Lafenwa. If you were going to the North by vehicles, because the Lagos-Ibadan road was not in existence, you had to go through Lafenwa. I think all these things, taken together, made it possible. And we were tolerant.

I grew up in a village where we had the Igalas, the Nupes, and the Eguns. In a small village, we had at least half a dozen different tribes from Nigeria. Our churches and our mosques were always side by side. I was born into Christianity but during the Ramadan, we would join people who were fasting; and that, I have taken in till now. I was even going to Koranic school. It was the koboko that drove me out. I think the communality, working together, those ideas of seeing yourself, not as different, but as part of the community, helped. I also liked something we were doing then in the village, Aaro. Four of us would go to your farm on a particular day. You don’t need to give us anything except that you would feed us. The next day, we would go to his own farm; next day, we would go to the third person’s farm;  and the fourth day, my own farm. What the four of us could do together on a farm in one day, you cannot do it alone in four days. There is no doubt about that.

The same goes for Osusu, which was one of the things that helped some of our people to build their businesses in the country. I think those things were traditional, they were cultural, but unfortunately, they are dying.

So, all these helped to build the leaders we have today. What do we do now to change the narrative?

I think we haven’t lost it all. We have lost a bit of it. We must make sure that we do not lose it all.  And what should we do? I did something in my village. When I became the Head of State, in 1977, I decided to go to my village. I left the village in 1952, I didn’t go there until 1977. So between 1952 and 1977, I didn’t go there, about 25 years. That is a quarter of a century. So I went to my village, and what did I see? I saw the eclipse of a community; the village was dying. I spent a night there as the Military Head of State. Ayo Balogun was the Governor here in Ogun, and Ayo said he couldn’t stay with me. I said don’t worry. Then I said what could we do? I had a cousin who had just retired from the Army. He joined the Army; he went to the warfront and retired as a Corporal.  He was living in Lagos, so I called him, I said ‘I want you to return to the village’, he said me? I said yes. I said if you return, may be we stand the chance of reviving the village? His wife said he could go but she would not go with him. My cousin said since you have asked me to go, I will go. I pleaded with his wife, but she said she won’t go.

A year later, I had another cousin, and asked him to go, and that was the beginning of the revival of our village.  In the village today, we have a secondary school. We started the secondary school in October last year. And in the first year, they had 157 students in Forms 1 and 2. What I am saying is that, I think we need to have a moral and cultural rearmament. There are so many good things in our culture that we shouldn’t just throw away. Even our language is so rich. Our Muslim brothers would say 99 names of God; the Christians will say 50 names of God. The Yorubas have over a thousand names of God. Beautiful language, ‘Olowogbogboro ti nyo omo e lofin’, you cannot even translate it into English. These are so beautiful, so nice. I have a daughter married to an English man and what delights me is that both my daughter and her husband want their two sons to learn Yoruba and it is really good.

There was a time when I was growing up, in the early fifties and sixties, when they say you are punished for speaking vernacular. A friend of mine, a distinguished university professor, said to me that when his son got to the UK, he wrote to him and said the people there did not want to know how well he spoke English, that he might speak English like the queen. He told him, ‘that is not what they want to know about me; what they want to know about me is what is authentically Yoruba. You can quote Shakespeare, but what they want to learn is what is authentically Yoruba.’

Is there any hope for the Yoruba race in the current setting as regards the Nigerian polity?

Yoruba, as a language, there is hope. Yoruba as a people? Look, when you talk of Yorubas in Nigeria, in our neighbouring countries of Benin and Togo; those that are in the Diaspora of old, in Brazil; those that are in Cuba, and those that are what I would call latest or young ones in the Diaspora; you are talking of people who are well over 50million. Fifty million people, and you say there is no hope for them. For whom then is there hope?

We cannot write the history of Nigeria, in fact, Africa, without your name. In the polity today also, the names that are on the lips of everyone in terms of the power bloc, from the South West, are still names of men from Abeokuta, or Ogun State. Would you say your achievements have continued to influence the direction of things in the South West?

I will not say yes and I will not say no. Let me bring a joke here.   ery well. So there is this joke about a school in Lagos. They had an exam and they said complete these proverbs – Esin iwaju (The lead horse); Enito jin si koto (A person who falls into a pit)  The Lagos boy said Esin iwaju lo gbe first. (The lead horse came first) (Laughter).

The point really is that there may be a little bit of bandwagon effect, there may be. And Esin Iwaju as the Yoruba say, paves the way. Esin iwaju ni teyin nwo sare (The lead horse determines the pace of its followers).  Like I said before, when you are in a position of leadership, don’t think only of today. Think of tomorrow, because, look, you would be a reference point. How did he perform? How did he do? What did he do? In future, people would refer to it.  For one thing, I have no mind for malice. I cannot even think of malice. And when I have a job to do, I sink myself into it. People who worked with me, it doesn’t matter where they come from; they remember what we did together. There is no question of favouritism, there is no question of, yes, this is my kith and kin. There is no question of this is my personal interest. I never say that we didn’t make mistake or we are perfect, but whatever mistake we made was a genuine mistake. It wasn’t a mistake we made as a result of selfishness.

 

Some Yoruba have come to me and said you didn’t do enough for the Yoruba. I said yes, did I do for Nigeria? They said, you did. I asked, is Yoruba not part of Nigeria? If I did as I could for Nigeria and Yoruba are part of Nigeria, then I have done for the Yoruba as well as I have done for Igbo, Hausa and so on. I think that must guide us.

Yes the question is what is my guiding principle? Nigeria. You know it is true I became the President on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. Now I am not a PDP man, I am not an APC (All Progressives Congress) man, even I am not an ADC (African Democratic Congress) man. But if you ask for my party, I will say Nigeria is my party. The point you must bear in mind is that this country can be a great country. We have everything to make this country great. And that is what always worries me. When you see what we can do, how to do it, and we are not doing it. That is really unfortunate.  Can we get there? I believe we can.  All we need is one generation of consistency in leadership, we will be there.  That is what we need. We need one generation of right leadership consistently.

If we are going at the rate of two digits, which we can do; what that means is that every seven years, you are double. So if we are 100 this year, in seven years, we are 200, in our growth, economically. In 14 years, we are 400, in 21 years, we are 800; we are there.

Excellency, have you shared these thoughts with our current leaders?

Do your leaders want to share anything? Do they want to share anything? A good leader will be a good reader, that is number one. You must be inquisitive. Here is Kehinde, he is one of the boys who works with me. At times, I would say what do you think of this? Because he may have his ears where I cannot have my ears. So listening to him may be an advantage also. But if you close your ears and you close your doors, I will not go about and say come and listen to me. That is not my job. If you are a leader, you must be inquisitive.

On a final note sir, I want you to share with us two secrets that have enabled you to attain this position?   

I told you, I don’t keep malice. There is no need. If anybody has done you the worst, leave him to God. God said, I am a jealous God, don’t revenge, leave revenge and God can do it better than you can do it. If you do anything to me, if it is something that I should reply, I would reply, if it is something I should ignore, I will ignore. If it is something I should sleep over, I will sleep over it, but I don’t keep malice. That is number one.

Number two, whatever may be your problem, you won’t be the first to have it and you won’t be the last. Whatever it may be, you won’t be the first to have it and you won’t be the last. So why must you go and do what you shouldn’t do. God has his hands in your affairs and in my affairs. God has his hands in the affairs of man.  And as I said recently, we should stop tempting God. God’s patience has a limit of elasticity. God has given us everything we need.  God has given you everything. God has given you all you need.  God has given us all that we need in Nigeria to be a great country. What God has not given us is that He has not given us all we need for our greed. Our greed cannot be satisfied, but our need can easily be satisfied.

What is success? I ask you? To me, success is; I get there, I find this place not good enough, and I say what can I do to make it well? That is success for me; not the money you have, not the houses you build; not the children you have, because those children, some of them may not even greet you. The people you think you have helped may not even appreciate the fact that you have helped them. But keep on doing good. I like the way Jesus Christ was described. He went about doing good. How much good can you claim to have been going about doing? How much good can I claim I have been going about doing? Some years ago, I went to Singapore to see Lee Kuan Yew, who was my good friend. I went with about 40 African young leaders and they were anxious for Kuan Yew to tell them this is the magic. At the end of the day, Kuan Yew said there was no magic, we did a few things right, and we continued to do them right.  And I said to them, that is a take-away.

What has your country done right? Even start with yourself, what have you done right? And whatever you have done right, do you continue to do them right? What has your country done right? Then I said we did our bit, but did we continue to do them right? Today, we have over 14 million Nigerians, the children who should be in school who are not in school, those are the Boko Haram of 15 years from now. There is no gainsaying, we know it.  But is anybody looking at that?  We don’t need to build any more schools, we just say in those places, there will be morning session and afternoon session. Morning session, from 7.30am to 12.30 pm – five hours; and afternoon session, from 1.00pm to 6.00pm – five hours. Teachers, you will get 50 per cent more on your salaries. You have six years to do that, and then within those six years, you work out the transition from primary to secondary. Then put that behind you. Somebody said when will we have good education? President Kagame, President of Rwanda, told me that when he was going to school, he had no slate, he was writing on his lap. So poor education at that level is better than no education at all. I thank you very much.   

Some Yoruba have come to me and said you didn’t do enough for the Yoruba. I said yes, did I do for Nigeria? They said, you did. I asked, is Yoruba not part of Nigeria? If I did as I could for Nigeria and Yoruba are part of Nigeria, then I have done for the Yoruba as well as I have done for Igbo, Hausa and so on. I think that must guide us.

Yes the question is what is my guiding principle? Nigeria. You know it is true I became the President on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. Now I am not a PDP man, I am not an APC (All Progressives Congress) man, even I am not an ADC (African Democratic Congress) man. But if you ask for my party, I will say Nigeria is my party. The point you must bear in mind is that this country can be a great country. We have everything to make this country great. And that is what always worries me. When you see what we can do, how to do it, and we are not doing it. That is really unfortunate.  Can we get there? I believe we can.  All we need is one generation of consistency in leadership, we will be there.  That is what we need. We need one generation of right leadership consistently.

If we are going at the rate of two digits, which we can do; what that means is that every seven years, you are double. So if we are 100 this year, in seven years, we are 200, in our growth, economically. In 14 years, we are 400, in 21 years, we are 800; we are there.

Excellency, have you shared these thoughts with our current leaders?

Do your leaders want to share anything? Do they want to share anything? A good leader will be a good reader, that is number one. You must be inquisitive. Here is Kehinde, he is one of the boys who works with me. At times, I would say what do you think of this? Because he may have his ears where I cannot have my ears. So listening to him may be an advantage also. But if you close your ears and you close your doors, I will not go about and say come and listen to me. That is not my job. If you are a leader, you must be inquisitive.

On a final note sir, I want you to share with us two secrets that have enabled you to attain this position?   

I told you, I don’t keep malice. There is no need. If anybody has done you the worst, leave him to God. God said, I am a jealous God, don’t revenge, leave revenge and God can do it better than you can do it. If you do anything to me, if it is something that I should reply, I would reply, if it is something I should ignore, I will ignore. If it is something I should sleep over, I will sleep over it, but I don’t keep malice. That is number one.

Number two, whatever may be your problem, you won’t be the first to have it and you won’t be the last. Whatever it may be, you won’t be the first to have it and you won’t be the last. So why must you go and do what you shouldn’t do. God has his hands in your affairs and in my affairs. God has his hands in the affairs of man.  And as I said recently, we should stop tempting God. God’s patience has a limit of elasticity. God has given us everything we need.  God has given you everything. God has given you all you need.  God has given us all that we need in Nigeria to be a great country. What God has not given us is that He has not given us all we need for our greed. Our greed cannot be satisfied, but our need can easily be satisfied.

What is success? I ask you? To me, success is; I get there, I find this place not good enough, and I say what can I do to make it well? That is success for me; not the money you have, not the houses you build; not the children you have, because those children, some of them may not even greet you. The people you think you have helped may not even appreciate the fact that you have helped them. But keep on doing good. I like the way Jesus Christ was described. He went about doing good. How much good can you claim to have been going about doing? How much good can I claim I have been going about doing? Some years ago, I went to Singapore to see Lee Kuan Yew, who was my good friend. I went with about 40 African young leaders and they were anxious for Kuan Yew to tell them this is the magic. At the end of the day, Kuan Yew said there was no magic, we did a few things right, and we continued to do them right.  And I said to them, that is a take-away.

What has your country done right? Even start with yourself, what have you done right? And whatever you have done right, do you continue to do them right? What has your country done right? Then I said we did our bit, but did we continue to do them right? Today, we have over 14 million Nigerians, the children who should be in school who are not in school, those are the Boko Haram of 15 years from now. There is no gainsaying, we know it.  But is anybody looking at that?  We don’t need to build any more schools, we just say in those places, there will be morning session and afternoon session. Morning session, from 7.30am to 12.30 pm – five hours; and afternoon session, from 1.00pm to 6.00pm – five hours. Teachers, you will get 50 per cent more on your salaries. You have six years to do that, and then within those six years, you work out the transition from primary to secondary. Then put that behind you. Somebody said when will we have good education? President Kagame, President of Rwanda, told me that when he was going to school, he had no slate, he was writing on his lap. So poor education at that level is better than no education at all. I thank you very much.   

Culled From Point NewsPaper


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