Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said he would never keep his mouth shut on issues concerning Nigeria. The former President, who was in Bayelsa State yesterday to inaugurate projects, especially in the health sector, initiated and completed by the state Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson. Obasanjo, who commissioned the Bayelsa Specialist Hospital, the Bayelsa Drug Mart and the Bayelsa Diagnostic Centre, also declared that he had no regrets in all the leadership roles he played even at the Presidency.
The former President, in a special interactive session with pupils of the famous Ijaw National Academy (INA) in Kaiama, Kolokuma-Opokuma, said nobody would stop him from speaking if he noticed things were going wrong. But he noted that Nigeria would rise above its challenges, disclosing that in his recent trip to Rome, the Nigerian Ambassador there informed him that 1,600 Nigerians were languishing in Italian prisons.
Responding to the question of one of the pupils, he said: “If I believe that Nigeria has no hope, I will find a way of committing suicide immediately. Then what am I living for? I am an incurable optimist about Nigeria. Nigeria has hope.
“There are many things that we should have done that we have not done as we should have done them. There is no doubt about that. But that doesn’t mean that Nigeria has no hope. Hope is what drives human beings.
“If you are a person without hope, you are a person without life. How can I therefore say Nigeria has no hope? Nigeria has hope. And you are part of the hope of Nigeria. The question you have asked me is a very sensible question and that means with you asking me that type of question it heightens my own conviction that Nigeria has hope.
“My generation or the generation before me gave us independence. It doesn’t matter what you think about them. My generation fought for the unity of this country and laid the foundation of democracy.
“Then people of governor Dickson generation should be able to say they built on our foundation. That is how a nation continues to make progress. The governor is doing wonderfully well. Anybody coming after him will do something else. The person will not start building the INA from the scratch. The academy has already been established.
“In spite of our difficulties; I came back from Rome last night. Our Ambassador there, who was a kind man, he was in the Navy; he told me that his major problem is that there are 1,600 Nigerians in Italian prisons. That is a problem.
“But we shouldn’t because of that say there is no hope for Nigeria? No. I will say we have a problem that we have to address and if we don’t address it we are postponing the evil day. That doesn’t mean that Nigeria has no hope. Never lose hope.
“Nigeria has great hope because of you; great hope because of what the governor is doing and great hope because I will not keep my mouth shut when I see anything wrong in Nigeria”.
On whether he had regrets in office as the President, Obasanjo said: “With the knowledge, resources and facilities that I had, was there anything that I did not do? No.
“If I had more resources, then I think I would have done differently, but with what I had and the resources at my disposal, I would say no, I did all that is humanly possible when I was President. I was not perfect, only God is. “Also bear in mind that people you work with will make sure you don’t see certain things. Some of them will do everything. What is important is that you should not have a regret. I do not have a regret when I was in government or in any leadership position I have held. No regret”.
Obasanjo, who earlier paid a courtesy visit to the secretariat of the state Traditional Rulers Council, chaired by the King of Brass, King Alfred Diette Spiff, further said that one of the things Nigeria needed to do and do it well to be stable was the issue of security.
He expressed shock over the rapid transformation in the state under Dickson commending him for maintaining the peace in Bayelsa.
He said that Dickson had set a security model that other states in the country should emulate to ensure peace in their domains.
He said: “One of the things that struck me about your (Dickson’s) administration is the relative peace that you have maintained in the state. I do not know how you have done it, may be we should all come to learn under your tutelage.
“This is so because one of the things we need to do and do well today in this country today is the issue of security. Security is, and of course, stability.
“The point is this: If one state is peaceful, secured and safe in Nigeria, it is an example to others and it goes a long way because the aggregate peacefulness, the aggregate security and the aggregate security is what makes for peace, security and stability of our country.
“You called me a Bayelsan and I ought to be. I said to the governor that any good man must feel proud to be called a Bayelsan. Because here, you have seen real transformation. If there is a place where you can say, come and see transformation taking place, this is one place in the country.”
He, therefore, suggested that the younger generation should be accommodated in the nation’s political leadership because “although they are future leaders, tomorrow might not come again.”
Obasanjo said: “We have to make allowance for them where we have to make allowance for them but we must make provision for them. We must make accommodation for them because they are not only the leaders of tomorrow.
“Their leadership must start from today because if we leave them only till tomorrow, they will never be left waiting for tomorrow that may never come. Today must be their time; let us accommodate them, let us make room for them, thus carry them along.”
The former President also said that despite other qualities a leader should possess, Nigeria was in need of a leader with the fear of God.
“One thing the books on leadership don’t always talk about which I found very important is the fear of God. If you are a leader that fears God, the chances are that you will be a good leader. If you are a leader that doesn’t fear God, forget it”, he said.
Dickson on his part highlighted some of the roles Obasanjo played for the state, including ensuring that an Ijaw man became a Vice-President from where he rose to be the President of the country.
Describing himself as a student of Obasanjo’s school of leadership, Dickson showcased his achievements in health, education and agriculture.
“These things were built for the benefit of our people. In this state, there is democratisation of health care. I believe in fair and just leadership because leaders in the end are also human beings.
“While it is right to expect perfection from leaders, you cannot find perfection in any leader. While we strive towards perfection, what I have found useful in my own little way, is that I always want to convince myself knowing that actions and inactions of leaders have consequences.
“You have to convince yourself that what you are doing or not doing is in the best interest of the people and you remain true to yourself and to God. Let it be said that you did your best. There must be corresponding courage to do what is right”.
While receiving Obasanjo at the Traditional Rulers’ Council, Spiff expressed delight at the brand new secretariat donated to the council by Dickson, saying it was a clear indication of the value he attached to traditional stools.
He said the governor promoted eight other stools in the state to first-class status, adding that Dickson created a fourth class for village heads to reach the grassroots for developmental and political reasons. He congratulated Obasanjo for his doctoral degree describing his style of life as unique.