Coronavirus forced me to adjust my 83rd birthday programmes ― Obasanjo

Nigeria’s former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on Thursday, declared that the spread of the Coronavirus disease forced him to adjust programmes outlined for his 83rd birthday.

He told the gathering which included the former High Commissioner of Nigeria to the United Kingdom, Dr Christopher Kolade, his wife; Chief Akin Mabogunje; former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; Senator Florence Ita-Giwa; Chief (Mrs) Nike Akande among other guests, that the programmes organised by the Centre for Human Security, Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), were suspended because of the disease.

The CHS had scheduled a policy round-table to hold from March 3 to 5 where three former African leaders were expected to deliver keynote addresses in celebration of Obasanjo’s birthday.

The leaders include former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her Sierra Leonian counterpart, Ernest Bai Koroma and former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalgn.

The policy roundtable would have also witnessed the formal presentation of a book entitled “The Asian Aspiration” authored by Greg Mills, Olusegun Obasanjo and others.

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While Koroma was expected to have delivered a birthday keynote lecture titled “The Place of Pan Africanism in an Emerging Works of Besieged Liberal Democracy”.

However, a symposium was organised on the D-day with a panel of discussants which include Professor David Aworawo; Dr Jumoke Yacob-Haliso; Professor Denola Ayanlaja and Fisky Larr from Germany discussing the topic.

He said: “When we were thinking of this celebration, two programmes came to mind. One was to consider what Asian countries have done to make their continent become what they have become.

“We had planned a Round-Table discussion which was meant to share lessons from Asia’s development for strengthening Africa’s integration and cooperation in the area of socio-economic development.

“We had wanted to consider countries like Malaysia, which was worse than us when we got our independence in 1960, South Korea, which was below us and Vietnam which was plunged into series of wars.

“We would have spent day before yesterday and yesterday to really consider how the Asians have risen to greatness and also learnt lessons we could learn from them.

“However, because of Coronavirus, that programme was shelved because some of the intended participants would not have been able to attend.

“I do hope that sometime in the future, we will be able to bring back such a programme.

“The second programme was the subject of Pan Africanism for which we have invited a former Prime Minister of Jamaica, James Patterson to open discussions.

“When we learnt that Patterson would not be available due to accident, we chose a former President of Serialeone, Bai Koroma, but then, with coronavirus, we had to shelve that plan and reach out to a different set of discussants that we have today,” he said.

Speaking on the theme, Obasanjo, submitted that the idea about Pan-Africanism did not originate from Africa, calling on African nations to redefine their own democracy.

He recalled how African leaders used the instrument of the creation of the African Union (AU) to extend the frontiers of the concept of Pan Africanism to embrace the Africans in the diaspora.

“Can we not have our own democracy that satisfies our needs? I think we can define our own democracy in our own way to satisfy ourselves.

“When we define our democracy to satisfy our needs, we should elect hues and cry and name callings. We can, however, learn from the experience of a former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yeuu, whom they called different names when he embarked on a transformation of his country in the mid-70s.

“When Singapore moved from the third world to the first world, they all shared and bask in the success of Singapore. If we are able to do something not too far away from that but radical enough to meet our needs and we succeed, they will grudgingly accept us but if we do and we fail, we are on our own. We must realise that the world will not wait for us and they will not want us to succeed.

“If we succeed, we would have taken something away, but if we fail, we will be on our own,” he said.

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