Nigeria Loses Influence In Africa — Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says Nigeria’s influence in the world, particularly in Africa, is waning.
Obasanjo said this in Abuja on Thursday during the launch of a book about him by PREMIUM TIMES editor-in-chief Musikilu Mojeed.
The book titled, “The Letterman: Inside the ‘secret’ Letters of former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo”, discusses the role of letter writing in leadership, governance and politics.
The 492-page publication focuses on the former president and his fondness for letters to address issues.
Obasanjo was military head of state from 1976 to 1979 and civilian president from 1999 to 2007.
The former Nigerian leader, who made a surprise appearance at the event, recalled how he used letters in various diplomatic interventions around the world, including his intervention in then-apartheid South Africa.
He said Nigeria ceded leadership to other countries outside the continent. He cited the example of Qatar’s involvement in the composition of the government of Chad, Nigeria’s neighbor, after the death of President Idris Deby.
He also told how Nigeria resolved the crisis between Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, during the fight against the white government of Ian Smith in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
“Writing letters is also an art. You must be very careful in the choice of your words. It depends on what you want to put on it. Your letter should be such that it is relevant and useful.
“Almost all cards stand the test of time. Whether it’s the letter about apartheid in South Africa or Ian Smith in Rhodesia. Or between (Joshua) Nkomo and (Robert) Mugabe. These cards stand the test of time.
“Then, when I read some of the lyrics in the book as Musikilu put them, I said to myself: some of you have said: what gives me courage? So I look at this book, if I had been asked to give it a title, and not the title ‘Letterman’, I would have called it “Audacity of an Optimist”.
“The thing about a letter is that it goes beyond you. There is nothing personal to me in the cards: the interest of the community, the society, the organization I belong to, the armed forces, the war front, how the war should be fought so that we minimize casualties, so that we can deal with her and finish it,” he said.
Mr. Obasanjo also spoke about the state of Nigeria in the 1970s and 1980s, when the US government receives information from Nigeria before taking action in Africa.
“How did we lose that? Just this morning, I heard something that shocked me. When Idris Deby was shot in the back, and it was Doha (Qatar) who decided to put the different elements together, not Nigeria, and Chad is in our backyard, we did nothing about it,” he said.
No plans to attend the launch
The former president also claimed that he had no intention of attending the launch because the author did not get his permission to write the book.
He said he changed his mind after reading the book. He revealed that she had to reschedule her activities in Ethiopia to attend the launch.
“I did not intend to be here for various reasons. One, as you have heard from Musikilu, did not take my permission and until Monday of last week, I did not know that I was writing a book, when he brought me two copies and I read the book. I was completely flabbergasted by the amount of work he put into writing the book, I was torn between what to do and what not to do. He didn’t tell me he was writing a book, but he’s done an excellent job,” he said.
Previously, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Mathew Kukahwho reviewed the book, praised Mr. Obasanjo for his record-keeping skills.
The cleric said the letters written by the former president over the years showed his courage and commitment to what was right.
“Obasanjo is assured of a place in the history of Nigeria and the world. We can agree that they don’t make them like that anymore,” he added.
Mr. Kukah praised the author for writing the book, which he said would give Nigerians a glimpse into the mind of the former president.