Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said last week that God must be “a Nigerian” given the evidence that Nigeria would have disintegrated after what the nation has gone through.
The former Nigerian President, who served from 1976 to 1979 as a military head of state who was then elected as a civilian president from 1999 to 2007, was speaking in Oxford last month in a seminar on ‘Leadership for the Transofrmation of African Societies’.
“Before independence in the 1950s our politicians were negotiating with the colonial power. It got to a stage that some of the delegates were walking out among themselves because with our three regions, the west, the east and the north. The east and the west wanted independence now. They wanted to walk out on the north. The east and the west got internal autonomy in 1957. The north got it in 1959 which delayed our independence till 1960,” Obasanjo said.
But the marriage, presided by the British colonial power soon had it first major crisis.
“Then we had a census in 1963. The census was so controversial that it was not accepted. In 1964 we had elections which led to the burning of houses. In 1966, we had a one sided coup and then a counter coup which led to the civil war. Many countries with civil war broke up. We did not break up. It was all the hands of God.”
President Obasanjo was the army officer that received the sword of surrender at Owerri to end
the Biafran civil war in 1970.
To demonstrate the divine intervention in the country, Obasanjo said, “When I became president in 1999, many people said I would be the last president of Nigeria. By the time I finished after two terms, Nigeria was buoyant, united and going strong. It was not done by any of us. It was the act of God. President Abacha in the name of democratization set up five parties, who all nominated him. Then God took President Abacha and he died. With all that can you not see the hand of God?” he said.
The former head of state, who was imprisoned by President Abacha from 1995-1998, and spent three years three months and three days in jail, said this helped provided the opportunity for him to read, think, and prayed as he reflected on God and humanity.
“Silence has its place for leadership preparation. My prison experience sad but beneficial.” This he said prepared him for leadership. He declared: “Make the best use of a position you may not want.
“Leaders should also be proactive and not wait for disaster to strike before seeking solutions.” Governance should be led by discerning and quick-thinking leadership Obasanjo added.