By Chesa Chesa (Abuja) and Segun Adeleye (Abeokuta)
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who turned 76 on Tuesday, told his admirers at a birthday function in Abeokuta that on two occasions in the past, opponents of either his person or projects had apologised to him.
He, therefore, gave assurance that he would continue to triumph despite all odds.
Responding to toasts and speeches after a three and a half hour programme at the launch of a book, ‘Olusegun Obasanjo – the Presidential Legacy – 1999-2003’, at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in the Ogun State capital, he vowed to use the last drop of his blood to preserve the unity and progress of Nigeria, first and foremost, and then Africa and the world in general.
Activities marking his birthday programme climaxed with the presentation of prizes to winners of competition and debate on human security in Africa by colleges and universities across the continent.
The book on the former President was co-edited by Emeritus Professor of Medicine, Oladipo Akinkugbe, and Ahmed Joda.
It was written by former Commonwealth Secretary General, Emeka Anyaoku, and 199 other scholars.
Obasajo spoke with an anecdote of a popular Christian song, saying, “In our early days we used to sing: Bo keyin kan lenu mi, maa sin Jesu dandan (if it remains only one tooth in my mouth, I will worship and praise the Lord Jesus’.”
He modified the song: ‘Even if it remains the last breadth in me, I will work, preserve and promote the unity and progress of Nigeria, work for Africa’s development and indeed promote humanity.’
Obasanjo recalled how one of those opposed to the OOPL apologised to him.
He added that “the man who was to hang me also came to apologise to me.”
Corporate Nigeria, represented by businessmen, Femi Otedola and Jim Ovia, technocrats, academics, members of the diplomatic corps as well as the art community and traditional institutions paid respect to Obasanjo at the launch.
Former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, reviewed the book for Ovia to launch and present.
Anyaoku said he obliged to write on the Obasanjo years from the perspective of foreign policy “because I was there when he was an actor on the global platform,” recalling how he chaired the 70th birthday of the celebrant in Abeokuta six years ago.
In a toast, former judge of the World Court, Bola Ajibola, said the image of Obasanjo he saw when the latter came to him, when they were both young, to say he was going to the army was that of someone on a suicide mission and “I took pity on him.”
Ajibola recalled also how the Ota farmer was a flagship at the Baptist Boys High School, by virtue of being the librarian.
Ajibola’s toast was corroborated by the Olubara of Ibara, Oba Jacob Omolade, another classmate of Obasanjo, who hinted that “poverty bound us together even though we were mates and friends.”
Steve Oronsaye, Dora Akunyili, Bucknor Akerele and a host of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members, among them Olagunsoye Oyinlola, graced the launch together with the Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland among others.
President Goodluck Jonathan, while congratulating Obasanjo, said Nigeria owes him an enduring debt of gratitude for his sacrifices to national peace and stability.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State also described him as “an outstanding statesman who has dedicated himself to the ideals of national unity, peace and progress of Nigeria.”
Jonathan, in his letter of congratulations, commended the former President for ever being ready to offer his services for the growth and development of the country.
“On behalf of my family, the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and on my own behalf, I write to express warm felicitations to you on the occasion of your 76th birthday anniversary which comes up on Tuesday, March 5, 2013.
“Over the years, you have always readily given of yourself to the cause of the peace, stability, growth, and development of our country, Nigeria. For this, we owe you an enduring debt of gratitude.
“As you celebrate with family, friends and well-wishers, I pray that Almighty God continues to guide, guard, and prosper you, even as He blesses you with many more years of robust health and abiding fulfillment,” Jonathan wrote.
Also in a congratulatory message to the former President, Oshiomhole said: “I am pleased to felicitate with Your Excellency and convey the good wishes of the government and people of Edo State on this auspicious occasion of the celebration of your 76th birthday.
“I join your family, relations, friends, associates and admirers across all generations in Nigeria to thank the Almighty God for preserving you thus far and wish you a happy memorable birthday, excellent health and peace of mind.”