By Ademola Oni:
For the second time in 32 days this year, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has made comments whose political implications set the nation talking for weeks.
The last time on January 21, at the Seventh Annual Daily Trust Dialogue held in Abuja, Obasanjo told his ailing successor, President Umaru Yar‘Adua, to toe the path of honour and resign from office because of his seeming incapacitation.
Again, on Friday in Abeokuta, at his 73rd birthday ceremony, which featured a book presentation and an annual lecture of the Centre for Human Security of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, the former President said no section or group had the right to appropriate the nation.
Responding to the speeches made in his honour, Obasanjo added that some people were playing with the destiny of Nigeria for selfish interest.
He said, ”No group or section of the country has the right to appropriate Nigeria; every group has a stake in running this country.
”People will say I‘m always talking. At this age, what else will I do if I cannot say the truth? Whatever needs to be done or said must be said and done in order to move the country forward.
”I cannot say I want to go to the Senate otherwise, people like David Mark will be afraid. Iyabo (his Senator daughter) is here. If I die now, she will call everybody to eat and kill cow. So, why should I be afraid to say what I have to say at this time? So, no one group or section, whether ministers or section have the right to appropriate Nigeria. We must say what we have to say in order to move the nation forward.‘‘
Obasanjo was apparently referring to the succession crisis that is raging since February 9 when the National Assembly in two separate resolutions made the Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Acting President of the nation because of the prolonged illness of Yar‘Adua.
Before he spoke, the president of the Senate, David Mark, had charged Jonathan to take the driver‘s seat and move forward effectively, saying that the Acting President had no excuse not to begin to move the ship of governance forward.
Mark, who was the guest of honour at the birthday anniversary, book presentation and annual lecture, said the nation was passing through a critical phase and as such, the politicisation of sensitive national issues was unnecessary.
Deviating from his prepared address, the senate president, who described Obasanjo‘s passion and patriotism as unparalleled in the country, said the upper legislative house would not be swayed by politics, but would be committed to doing what the Constitution of the country dictated in charting a great path for the country.
Mark said, ”We now have an Acting President, who has been empowered by the country to function as the head of government. The issue is now resolved. So, the Acting President now has no excuses not to perform, but begin to move forward.”
He nevertheless believed that the prevailing political situation was a harbinger of goodness for the country.
”We are going through a critical season in our history as a nation. We are at the threshold of an emerging era. The unfolding events are for our good and they provide good lessons that will make us stronger. They will provide the catalyst for us to re-organise ourselves for the challenges that will crystalise us into a virile nation.
”At the moment, we have an Acting President and he can move the nation forward; he needs our support. We should, therefore, not dissipate too much energy talking about Mr. President‘s health,” Mark added.
Mark, who said that Obasanjo had usually plunged into trouble because of his love for the country, noted that he sometimes ”says the truth at the wrong time.”
He added, ”More than anything else, his roadmap for the country is anchored on the pillars of integrity, truth and service. Sometimes, it is the truth said at the wrong time. However, he believes the truth must be the truth and must be said not minding whose ox is gored.”
The Senate president, who said the National Assembly, especially the upper house would not shy away from the responsibility of providing legislation on what concerned Nigerians, especially the man on the streets, added that the NASS was about deliberating on the Electoral Reform Bill.
Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, stated that the OOPL could not have been sited in another part of the country but Abeokuta, noting that the state represented the nation‘s gateway to western education.
Daniel, who extolled Obasanjo‘s virtues and his love for the country, lamented that the youths had abandoned reading culture for computer games.
Daniel said, ”Reading culture is germane to rapid socio-economic development and a ready avenue to overcome ignorance. These days our youths are always busty slugging it our with computer games when they should be in the library.”
Some of the dignitaries at the event included the Governor Murtala Nyako of Adawawa State, Deputy Governors of Osun and Oyo States, Senator Folasade Grace-Bent, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, Chairman, Organising Committee, OOPL, Prof. Akin Mabogunje; and the Chairman, Bicourtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin, who was the Chairman of the
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