Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Sunday revealed how late South African President, Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu, a retired Anglican Bishop and South African rights activist, influenced him to contest the 1999 presidential race, after he (Obasanjo) was released from prison.
Mr. Obasanjo made the revelation at a church service for his 80th birthday organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ogun State Chapter, held at the Treasure House of God, Agbeloba, Abeokuta .
He said the advice of the duo, among others, prompted him to go into the presidential race in 1999 when he contested for the seat to emerge Nigeria’s president.
“When I came out from prison for the offence I didn’t commit and people started putting pressure on me to be Nigeria’s President, I was confused,” Mr. Obasanjo, who led Nigeria both as a military and a civilian leader, said.
“But in that confusion I seek advice, not from here. I went first to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Mandela said ‘Olu (Olusegun) whatever your instinct tells you, follow it'”, Mr. Obasanjo said.
“Tutu, after listening to me, said ‘are you tired of serving God and your people.’ He now said ‘my advice to you is that go and do what your people asked you to do.'”
Mr. Obasanjo said a biblical passage helped him finally agree to run in 1999.
“When I now came back, one day I was reading the book of Esther and I saw where Modekiah said you are here for your people and I started changing my mind from there,” he said .
In his speech at the church service, the Olowu of Owu, Mr. Obasanjo’ hometown, Adegboyega Dosumu, said the former president has a purpose in life, and he has executed the purpose to the best of his ability.
“He has always followed his heart and he has good intention for Nigeria,” the monarch said.
The monarch appealed to Mr. Obasanjo to help stop the importation of Indian ‘garri’ into Nigeria.
The food and drug regulator, NAFDAC, recently confirmed the existence of imported garri but said it never approved it and was clamping down on its sale.
The Olowu said the importation of Indian garri would have a negative implication on the country’s economy .
Also, the Alake of Egbaland, Adedotun Gbadebo, while attesting to the former president’s good performance, described Mr. Obasanjo as God’s sent for the emancipation of humans, especially in Nigeria.
The monarch said Mr. Obasanjo saved him from being killed during the military rule; adding that his advice was a saving grace.
The church programme was attended by some dignitaries including the Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Yetunde Onanuga; Speaker of the House of Assembly , Suraj Adekunbi; and House of Representative member representing Remo constituency, Ladi Adebutu.
At the end of the event, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Ogun State Chapter, decorated the former president as the ‘Asiwaju Onigbago (leader of the believers)’ of Christians in Ogun State.