Leaders pay tributes to former president at 80

Sheriff Balogun in Abeokuta

The sterling qualities of former President Olusegun Obasanjo were extolled yesterday as leaders from across Africa converged on Abeokuta for his 80th birthday celebration, with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo describing him as a gift intricately tied to Nigerian history.

Speaking at the inauguration of Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) and the library’s Central Mosque as part of activities marking the former President’s 80th birthday celebration, Osinbajo noted his strategic roles in the nation’s history and concluded that “Obasanjo is therefore a gift in various ways being so intricately tied to the history of Nigeria.”

He noted that few years after independence, he played a crucial role in the civil war and later became military head of state during which he midwifed a transition programme that culminated in the election of the first executive president.

He said in retirement, Obasanjo embraced farming before he returned back to public service as elected president in two elections, and later handed over to another elected president.
He, therefore, said Obasanjo’s enduring legacy would be his belief in one strong, detribalised Nigeria, and in an Africa united in vision and thoughts.

Describing him as an authentic African icon, Osinbajo said Obasanjo’s Pan-Africanist vision could be gleaned from the large presence of Africa’s serving and former heads of governments at the event.
“But we diminish his vision if we do not recognize his place as a world – stateman even that is evident from the representatives of the world that are present here today”, he added.

He noted that at every turn, “the former president recorded his views and perspectives especially in various books, articles, seminars and now in this amazing monument to add credible life of service to our continent and to our world.”
According to him, “Very few human beings have a chance of making history and fewer still have a good fortune of making history, writing it as you go along and living longer to even establish a library and write history in your own words.”

He added: “Baba Olusegun Obasanjo is certainly one of those rare human beings.”
“But we diminish his vision if we do not recognize his place as a world statesman, even that is evident from the representatives of the world that are present here today”, he added.
The acting president said: “History is the most compassionate teacher. At some point in time we were told in an adage that experience is the best teacher but now we know it is only half of a wise saying. The full statement of that adage is that experience is the best teacher for a fool, a wise man doesn’t need the pain of experience, history is a kinder and a more compassionate teacher.”

Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, in her remarks, said, “the lessons herein are more than academic or events from the past, when history and technology meet as eloquently displayed in Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, history becomes alive as a dynamic reality and development of human kind for our people”.

Speaking further, she said, “our children will read events of history, will live, interact, feel and challenge the interpretation of past events.”
Describing the library as a project to be emulated by others, the Liberian President advised African children, adults, scholars everywhere and friends of Africa worldwide to visit the Presidential library to feel the exhibits from the life and times of a great son of Nigeria and Africa.

Obasanjo in his comment at the event said the Library was the fulfillment of the vision and mission he had in 1988 to collect vital materials on the civil war.
The former president, who described the library as a centre of knowledge, said the it would also sustain culture and encourage tourism.

Leaders who graced the event were former President Goodluck Jonathan, President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia; President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, President Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone, former President Boni Yayi of Benin Republic, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya, former President Joyce Banda of Malawi; former President William Mkapa of Tanzania, former President Nicephore Soglo of Benin Republic, former president John Kuffor of Ghana and former United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Koffi Annan.

Also at the event were House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun; Minister of Mines, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; former Governor Olusegun Osoba, former Governor Gbenga Daniels, former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan; former Governor Donald Duke; former Governor Liyel Imoke; former Governor Alao Akala; Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; Mr. Femi Otedola; Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Senator Ali Modu Sherif, Senate Minority Whip, Goodswill Akpabio; Mr. Andrew Young, and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, among others.