By Samuel Ogundipe
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo turned 78 this week. At 78, the Balogun of Owu is still very sound and his body equally strong. The other day, he participated in a soccer match that saw his team of mostly octogenarians defeat the much younger Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s team. And many believe that he’ll still be with us for many years to come. Nigeria has been deeply privileged to have have Obasanjo as her citizen. One can hardly do justice to all that Obasanjo has done for the country in a short piece like this. But let’s mention just a few.
Obasanjo is a patriot. Love him or hate him, and its obvious he has many who loathe him, Obasanjo participated in the Civil War as a military commander and his resolve must be credited for the liberation of Port-Harcourt and subsequent conclusion of the war. He also engineered the country’s return to democracy in 1979. And became the only Nigerian leader to have handed over power to a democratically-elected government twice when he gave Umar Yar’Adua the mantle of power in May 2007.
Baba is a man of great wisdom. With only a high school education; he went into the military and then began working for the top military hierarchy after being commissioned. He later worked his way up to top military position over time. Yet the man is well-read on a variety of subjects, and a very intelligent man. Beyond this, though, he is a man not merely with a good mind, but a man who believes in continuous learning, enrolling into university shortly after his two-term presidency. He has since furthered his education acquiring degrees at the Open University, which he introduced in the country while in power as president (he is said to be pursuing a doctorate degree at the Open University at present). Nigerians have benefited time and again from his sage words, delivered humbly from a heart of love and genuine concern. Although he sometimes forces his thoughts on others, but when he considers something important, he will gently ask if he can share “a nugget of wisdom” with Nigerians.
Third, and this is related to the second, OBJ is a truth-teller. His mind has always been keen and analytical; Baba thinks things through and reaches his own decision. Many try to find that truth-in-love balance, but they don’t have much reticence to speak the truth, at least as they see it. But Obasanjo always finds it very easy to articulate his position no matter where he stands on the subject-matter. For instance, even when he was an ardent member of the PDP, he always criticised his party whenever necessary.
The intention is not to demystify this great Nigerian but to appreciate him on his birthday and wish him good luck in his future endeavours. Here is wishing Baba Obasanjo a wonderful 78th Birthday!