Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Saturday, said he made two mistakes, which included the choice of his ‘number two’ ahead of the 1999 presidential election, the second being his refusal to accept an asylum when he was told that the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, wanted to arrest him, the action, he said, could have led to his death.
Obasanjo became democratically elected President in 1999 while the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 elections, Atiku Abubakar, was his vice president.
Obasanjo, who did not mention Atiku in his statement, said it was a mistake he made in good faith but was saved by God.
The former president spoke about his life and achievements both as a military Head of State and as a civilian President.
Obasanjo stated this while answering questions posed by students from selected secondary schools that participated in the finals of the National Exhibition and Awards organised by Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship.
The event, held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, Ogun State, featured presentations and exhibitions of some products made by students of the participating schools.
The former president, while interacting with the students during a questions and answers session, said he had many mistakes, which he could describe as genuine mistakes in his life but God made him overcome them.
He said, “One of the mistakes I made was picking my number two 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 he wanted to arrest me, I was told by the American ambassador that they would arrest me and that America had asked that I should be given asylum. I said ‘No’. It could have been a 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.”
While speaking on opportunities for the youths to take over the mantle of leadership in the country, Obasanjo said youths can never come into power, if the current trend continues.
He said with the “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?”
He added, “Another thing inhibiting youth 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.”
The former president also tutored the students that they should imbibe religious tolerance.
He advised them not to see their own religion as superior to that of another person.
Obasanjo said, “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 make it so, no person should attempt to make it so.
“Young people should learn at a very early stage 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 wants it. All religions originate from the same source.
“If you are a Muslim and you did not live the way God wants you to live, you cannot enter Aljannah. If 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, it is doing the right thing for the benefit of mankind, you don’t have to condemn any person because of what he believes.
“I do not believe that any religion is superior to mine and I don’t believe that mine is superior to another person’s beliefs. I will not allow any person to cast aspersions on my religion and will not do the same for another person. Practise your religion the way God wants you to do it and don’t condemn another person.”
Welcoming participants at the event, the Chairman of SAGE Nigeria, Agwu Amogu, said the programme was to celebrate the creative energies and commitments of teen entrepreneurs who see the challenges in the communities as their responsibilities.
He said, “SAGE is an acronym for Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship. It is an international programme initiated at the California State University-Chico USA in 2002 and currently operates in over 32 countries across all the continents of the world.
“It offers secondary school-age young people a hands-on learning process on how to create wealth, help others and their communities.”
Amigu said since the introduction of the program in Nigeria in 2006, it has shown that it is a potent strategy and model for educational reform, youth re-orientation, job creation and poverty alleviation and multi-cultural integration
According to him, Nigeria urgently needs a new paradigm for education.
“The new paradigm must provide students with a chance to learn while solving community problems and immediately applying what they have learnt in the classroom by actually doing something great.
“We now live in a world where any country can compete effectively with others based on the creative imagination of its human capital. There is no better place to stoke the fire of imagination than in the young people. And that is where SAGE comes in.
“SAGE is about creating value. Students are encouraged to create something of value in their communities by applying what they learn in the classroom and testing it in the ultimate laboratory – the free market,” he said.
Amogu added, “We firmly believe that Nigeria can be a world leader in providing potent human capital to the rest of the world; setting a benchmark for other countries to follow.
“Having won the SAGE World Competition 8 times in the last 12 years, I have no doubt in my mind that Nigerian young people are one of the most energetic and enterprising in the world and they can quicken our rise to a global super power status.”
The SAGE chairman said winners of this year’s competition will represent Nigeria in the SAGE World Competition holding in Netherlands in August, 2022.