ABEOKUTA – Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed regret at choosing Atiku Abubakar as running mate and eventual Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.
He also said ignoring America’s warning not to return to face trial over coup plot during the regime of late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, was another big mistake he regretted.
Obasanjo, who reminisced his life and feats both as a military head of state and as a democratically-elected president, stated that one of the costly mistakes he made in life was when choosing his number two when vying for Nigeria’s presidential seat.
Atiku Abubakar, an elected governor of Adamawa State in 1999 was picked by Obasanjo as running mate under the umbrella of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), giving way for Boni Haruna, Atiku’s running mate to eventually become the governor.
Obasanjo’s memoir – My Watch, revealed some alleged corrupt practices and involvement of Atiku while serving as Nigeria’s Vice President
Atiku, was linked with embezzlement of $20 million earmarked for the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) and other $125 million meant to fund PTDF in 2003 fiscal year as well as Atiku’s corrupt practices with iGate, a firm and William Jefferson, a former Congress man that was later jailed for 13 years in the United States.
The former president, while answering questions from selected secondary schools that participated in the final of the National Exhibition and Awards organised by Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta at the weekend, declared that the mistakes concerning the selection of Atiku and his arrest by late Sanni Abacha, former head of state really impacted his psychology.
Obasanjo, who interacted with the students during the question and answer session, said, “One of the mistakes I made was picking my Number Two (Atiku Abubakar) when I wanted to become the president. But because it was a genuine mistake God saved me.
“The second one was when Abacha wanted to arrest me. When Abacha wanted to arrest me, I was told by the American ambassador that they will arrest me and that America has asked that I should be given an asylum. I said no. It could have been a fatal mistake because I could have lost my life.
“I will say there are many things that could have been a mistake but God saved me from them all”.
Speaking on opportunities for the youths to take over the leadership of the Country and stated that youths “can never come into power, if the current trend continues”, saying with, “Not Too Young to Run campaign, and you can see that those that are contesting now are between 70 and 80 years old, how can the youths run?
“Another thing inhibiting youths from running is the amount of money involved in going into politics. I hope that things should not continue like this.
“I was 39 years old when I became the military head of state. Twenty years later, I came back as civilian president, but those there now do not want to allow the youths. If things continue like this, I do not know how you can come in”, he said.
On religious tolerance, the former president, asked the students and Nigerians all over, to imbibe religious tolerance, just as he advised Nigerians not to see their religion as Superior to that of another person.
“I have no right to say what another man believes in is inferior to mine. If God had wanted all of us to be of the same religion, he would have made it so and since He did not made it so, no person should attempt to make it so.
“Young people should learn at a very early get in life that if there are five religions in the world, that is how God wants it to be. If there are ten, that is how God want it. All religions originate from the same source.
“If you are a Muslim and you did not live the way the God wants you to live, you cannot enter Aljannah (Paradise). Of you are a Christian and you did not live the way God wants you to live, the same thing, you will not enter Paradise.
“If this is the basis of religion is doing the right thing for the benefits of mankind, you don’t have to condemn any person because of what he believed.
“I do not believe that any religion is superior to mine and I don believe that mine is superior to another person’s beliefs. I will not allow any person to cast aspersions to my religion and will not do same for another person. Practice your religion the way God wants you to do it and dont condemn another person”, he concluded.