Say It Loud


2011-07-12 14:12:42

My little edge over Mandela, Nkrumah -Obasanjo

Francis Falola, Abeokuta

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday described the former South African president, Nelson Mandela, as an illustrious son of Africa, whose achievements would be difficult to match.

The former president, however, added that there was an area where he had an edge over Mandela and the former Ghanaian President and late Pan-Africanist, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Obasanjo spoke at his Hill Top residence in Abeokuta, during his conferment with the award of the Grand Peace Legend by the African Peace Foundation.

Before Obasanjo's comment, the president-general of the APF, Prof. Ola Makinwa, during the conferment of the award, had commended the former president for his contribution to peace in the country and in Africa, adding that the award was given to Obasanjo in appreciation of his role in ensuring peace on the continent.

He said that Mandela was the grand patron of the foundation, but urged Obasanjo "to stand for us in Africa as our hero and grandfather as Dr. Mandela is now aged and retired from public glare."

Obasanjo, however, eulogised Mandela and commended his contributions to the African continent, saying, "I look at my feet and I have found them too small to fit into the shoe of a man like Mandela. He is a man of giant status with giant achievements. I am nowhere to be compared to him. He spent 27 years in prison, and I spent only three years, which is nothing to compare to him.

"The former Ghanaian president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, once referred to himself as 'prison graduate,' because he went to prison before becoming head of state.

"Sometimes ago, when I, together with former President Kenneth Kaunda, was with Mandela, I told the ex-South African president that there was an area where I had seniority over him and he thought I was talking of being a head of state before him, but I told him no.

"I said the same seniority Kaunda and I and Kaunda had over Mandela, we also had over Nkrumah; he was wondering what I meant and I now explained that the late Nkrumah referred to himself as 'prison graduate' when he was released from prison before becoming the president.

"Mandela and Nkrumah were in the same category of prison graduates as they went to prison before becoming president. But Kaunda and I went to prison after we were president; so, we are seniors to the two of them as 'prison postgraduates.' Madiba laughed and said 'Olu, you and your jokes again.'"

Obasanjo emphasised the need for peace in the country, Africa and in the world, adding that there could not be meaningful development without peace. According to him, peace is an important element in the life of an individual, family, community, nation and the world.

The former president, who canvassed dialogue in resolving crises, went down memory lane on how he had a private meeting with the leaders of the Niger Delta militant groups when he was the president.

He said, "When I invited all the leaders of the Niger Delta militant groups to a meeting, I assured all of them that none would be arrested no matter the offence they might have committed before and I allowed them to speak freely.

"At the meeting, I heard somebody telling the other, 'I killed your father, because you killed my brother.' The situation was so bad. One of my staff members came to me at the meeting and said, 'Sir, do you realise you, are sitting among murderers? and I said, (Yes). And he went further by asking me that did I realise what the world will think watching me as the president sitting in the midst of murderers?' and I told him, 'Tell the world the President is having a problem and he is seeking solutions and if the solutions can be got through the interaction with the murderers, why not'"

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