ABUJA – Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said Nigeria, not God, is responsible for current woes, saying the nation should blame itself for failing to use the resources given to it by God.
He, however, lamented that Nigeria has got away with a lot of “stupid things” because of the love of God.
Obasanjo stated this yesterday during the official launch of The Letterman, a book authored by the Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times, Musikilu Mojeed in Abuja.
The 492-page narrative non-fiction titled: The Letterman: Inside the ‘Secret’ Letters of former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, x-rayed the role of letter writing in leadership, governance, and politics.
It focused on the former president and his fondness for speaking bluntly to subordinates, superiors, associates, and foreign personalities – through letters – not minding the reactions the letters might generate.
At the event, Obasanjo said: “I believe that God is a Nigerian. Bishop Kukah may not agree with me. Because God loves us so much that we have done so many stupid things and he allowed us to get away with these stupid things.
“I sincerely hope that God’s patience has no limit of elasticity because if he does, there will soon be a day that God will say: ‘No, I have heard enough.’ And if God says he has heard enough it doesn’t matter, Musikilu can write 20 books on Lettermen and Letter women, but it won’t help us.
“I believe the right lessons must be learnt. We have all that we need to have. God has given us all that we need to have; that we are not doing what we should do. It is not God; we should blame ourselves.”
He lamented that the country had not lived up to expectations.
According to him, global leaders consulted with Nigeria before decisions were taken in Africa, wondering how the country fell from such a lofty height.
He said, “We probably don’t appreciate what we have as a country and I believe if we do appreciate it, make good use of it, we will do better than we are now.
“I have sent for an interview with the only remaining member of what they call the 12 disciples in the foreign service; that’s the 12 Nigerians who first joined the foreign service before our independence, Amb Adefuye is the only remaining one.
“In that interview, he said that when Nigeria became independent it was a giant in the sun. That was the expectation; not a giant even in Africa. A giant in the sun. That was the expectation of the world about Nigeria.
“Have we lived up to it? No. If we have not, why haven’t we? And it is not so far to seek.
“Somebody talked about Jimmy Carter visiting Nigeria; of course, he did visit Nigeria but before he visited Nigeria we were struggling with America, something they call constructive engagement with South Africa. What can be constructive with apartheid? We said no we don’t accept that. Kessinger said he was coming to Nigeria three times and three times I said I will not receive him. You may say that’s madness. Yes, there is a touch of madness but you have to do what is right.
“There was this election coming. It was Ford and Jimmy Carter. If Ford won the election I would have to do acrobatics. I would not be able to say America cannot come to Nigeria for four years. Before the election, we started looking for who was in the camp of Jimmy Carter and we found Andy Young before the election and when the election took place, Cater won.
“Within two weeks of him being sworn in, Ady Young came to us. We became very close with Andy Young to the extent that the Carter administration will not do anything in Africa without informing us. People ask me: how did we lose that? How did we lose it?”
Former President Goodluck Jonathan said Obasanjo will be remembered for debt forgiveness, the creation of anti-corruption agencies, and international interventions across Africa.
Jonathan described the former president as a father-like figure.
Jonathan, who was represented by former minister of aviation, Osita Chidoka, said history will remember the former president for the great things he did, not the quarrels and the fights.
“Obasanjo is not as stupid as he looks,” Jonathan said.
He stated that there have been ample letters that have changed history.
He said Obasanjo’s letters created engagements within the political arena, diplomatic world and other sectors.
Jonathan commended the author for the work he has done in bringing the letters together in a single book.
The book reviewer, Bishop Matthew Kukah, said Obasanjo has made it hard for writers to write about him.
According to Kukah, Obasanjo developed an obsession with writing his own story.
He said the former president wrote everything about himself.
Kukah said it was hard to write about the former president because he has written about every part of his life.
The cleric said the former president elevated the act of letter writing to an art form.
He said the book covered 25 letters covering different issues.
According to him, most of the letters came from Obasanjo’s head, not his heart.
He cited a letter the former president wrote to Brigadier Eyo Ekpo during the Nigeria civil war, to stress the ability of the former president to write from his head and not his heart.
“There is evidence that Obasanjo was clear in his mind on what needs to be done during the war,” he said.
He added that Obasanjo’s ability to speak even as a mid-level officer showed in his ability to speak up through his letters.
“How did Obasanjo get away with the bravado even in the military?” Mr Kukah stated.
The book launch had former minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, former governor of Bayelsa State, Sen Seriake Dickson, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria and chairman of the Governing Council of Osun State University, Yusuf Ali.
All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, was represented by Fani-Kayode; chairman of Premium Times, Nasir Abdullahi; Alexandra Gomez, the EU representative; Ukrainian Charge d’Affaires, former inspector-general of police Sunday Ehindero, Kole Shettima of the MacArthur Foundation.