A former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, on Thursday admitted former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, re-shaped his life positively.
Mr. Tinubu, who is a national leader of the All Progressives Congress, stated this at Mr. Obasanjo’s 78th birthday lecture held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Mr. Obasanjo caught Mr. Tinubu unawares at the occasion, when he called on the former governor to address the guests.
“You trapped me innocently with a great wisdom of a 78-year-old,” Mr. Tinubu said. “I’m honoured to be here and many of you will see this as a rare occasion but this is an opportunity to pay tribute to a nationalist, a teacher, a disciplinarian and a tutor in dignity and boldness.
Mr. Tinubu, however, acknowledged past altercations between both leaders while they were in power.
“Yes, it is true, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics,” he said. “What is common is common interest. Once upon a time, some nine years ago, I went to the (Aso Rock) Villa, the President, Olusegun Obasanjo, asked me to walk out and was just abusing me in the papers and I said, “Baba, you are a tenant here. This house belongs to Nigeria. If I get to Ota, you can send me out. I brought file about Nigeria.”
And he said, “That is true, sit down.”
He said despite their less-than friendly past, Mr. Obasanjo was still worthy of celebration.
“If I could 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,” Mr. Tinubu said. “But how do you celebrate truly and honour a man who has kept you on your toes? Between Baba Olusegun Obasanjo and myself, what I can say is gratitude from me because you kept me on my toes.
“Each time we disagree on things of principle, I took him to court. One time, as the President, 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 the Nigeria President to court.” And he said, “Get out of my way” and I told him, I wouldn’t get out of the way until I get what I want.”
Mr. Tinubu also disclosed a recent attempt at an alliance with Mr. Obasanjo, who was formerly of the Peoples Democratic Party but now an elder statesman without any party affiliation.
“…When we started this present regime of merger and alliances and we visited him, we told him we wanted him to be a navigator,” Mr. Tinubu narrated. “He said, “Navigator? I am still in my party. I will try to avoid partisanship because of Nigeria. If you people put up a good team for the sake of this country, 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 committed to the Nigerian nation.
“As we were talking few minutes ago, I said Nigeria is the giant of Africa and he said, “I hope you will remove the k-leg.” I said, “The elephantiasis would be killed.” He said by what and I said by the APC.”
Mr. Tinubu praised Mr. Obasanjo for quitting the PDP by publicly tearing up his membership card.
“It wasn’t about anything else, it was about the love of our country, patriotism, putting the country first before self,” he said. “There’s nothing Obasanjo would have wanted in terms of material wealth, oil well, oil lifting – whatever from (President Goodluck Jonathan) that he wouldn’t have gotten or what from PDP that he wouldn’t have gotten as a retention service.
“He put all of that aside, believed in the unity, cohesion, and progress of this country in order to free himself from that bondage of commitment to partisan politics that is probably drifting in the middle of the storm of a political change. He would rather be afloat and chart a new course.”
Speaking at the event, Mr. Obasanjo warned against toying with loyalty to the country in the interest of its developmental growth.
“Loyalty and relationship must be guided and controlled by what is true, what is right and what is in the best interest of the majority,” he said.
He said loyalty to Nigeria should not be undermined by anything except the truth.
He noted that the two of the event’s speakers in their presentations did not suggest magic as solutions to Nigeria’s problems. He said there was nothing they told the gathering that was impossible.
“But all they have said boils down to one thing – leadership, and until we get it right, anytime we do not get it right, we cannot get any other thing right; don’t let us deceive ourselves,” Mr. Obasanjo said. “Whether it is security, science and technology or innovation or the development of the economy or education, they all boil down to leadership and at all levels. May God give us the leadership that occasions like this deserve in Nigeria.”
Mr. Obasanjo expressed optimism that Nigeria would get it right. He said the citizens have no choice than to do well.
“I am an incurable optimist about this country, and maybe because I have seen, 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 an incurable optimist and I believe that all will be well in this country,” he said. “We have no choice anyway; all has to be well.”
He said there was no reason why any Nigerian child, at this point in time, should not have basic education and good food and the youth, employment.
“And if all those things that all these young ones are expecting are not there, in 15 years time, they would be good recruits for Boko Haram or its equivalent,” Mr. Obasanjo said.