•Indian told me I’ll be great, live long
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has recounted how hard he tried to know his actual date of birth.
He went as far as consulting an astrologer in India to ascertain the date, he told an audience yesterday in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The astrologer, failed to tell him the date, but told him he would become great and live long.
Obasanjo said when he met the astrologer, he stretched forth his palms towards the man and asked him to read and determine when exactly he was born.
Speaking at the “2017 International Youth Variety Day” and the public presentation of his books entitled: “The World of the Tortoise”, the two-time leader, who is the Balogun of Owu Kingdom, noted that consulting an astrologer in India was part of the measures he took in the past to unravel his birth date.
According to him, his largely illiterate parents kept no record of his birth in 1937.
The opening of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) on Siun-Sagamu Road, Abeokuta, to mark the ex-President’s 80th birthday was also part of the event.
It was organised by the Centre for Human Security (CHS), an arm of the OOPL.
Explaining further, Obasanjo said that the astrologer could not help the situation after reading his palms.
The ex-President, who will join the Octogenarian club on Sunday, reiterated his earlier stand that he does not know his birth date and would not want to leave anybody in confusion about it.
His words: “Let me say this, I do not know the date of my birth, when I started school, we were asked to give our date of birth. I used to ask my mother, she would say ‘You were born on Ifo Market Day.’
“She said ‘you were born on Ifo Market Day. Tell them you were born on Ifo Market Day. All the my mother, an illiterate woman, could remember was that it was an Ifo Market Day and before the people who went to the market returned, he had fallen into labour and I was delivered,” he said.
Obasanjo explained that since he did not know his true age, he elected to rely on the age bracket of his mates, whose birth dates are established to pick a date for himself.
On why he established the OOPL after his tenure as a democratically-elected president in 2007, he said it was meant to address the dearth of “institutional memory” in Nigeria.
He said the OOPL, modelled after the United States (U.S.) Presidential Library, will serve the young and old on collections and preservation of past records and bridge the gap between Nigerians’ behaviour and attitude, which he noted are fast eroding the society.
Going down the memory lane, Obasanjo recalled his prison experience in Yola, Adamawa State. He said his interaction with inmates revealed that they were victims of parental and societal failure in the promotion of moral values.
He said: “One of the confusion in peoples’ mind is that presidential library is the same as normal library. And I see many people sending books to me. The Library is for the both young and old. I also believe that it might start bridging the gap between in our behaviour and attitude.
“One of our behavioural pattern and attitude is that we have no institutional memory; that is what brings about the idea of presidential library. If you go into our national Museums, what you see will be pathetic but these are national treasure.
“When I was growing up, if people are very doubtful of your source of wealth, you are isolated, you are ostracised. If your father goes out every night then, the conclusion is that your father maybe a thief. And we would be cleverly told to mind how we relate with children from such father,” Obasanjo said.
Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano, who spoke on the occasion, said his state shared a common affinity with the former President regarding “promotion of reading culture and eradication of illiteracy” in the country.
Obiano revealed that his administration has through its three-prong programme on education, infrastructure and teachers’/students’ welfare, raised the people’s reading culture and access to quality and affordable education.
The governor, who was represented at the occasion by the Anambra State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kate Omenugha, shared his thought on the theme: “Presidential Libraries will reduce leadership deficit in Africa”.
The topic was also extensively debated by secondary school pupils and varsity students drawn from over seven states across the country.
He said his administration has an objective to position Anambra as one of the states with the highest literacy figure just the same way Obasanjo, through writing of books, building of library and investment in education, has been helping to increase reading culture and literacy level.
Obiano, who decried the fast declining culture, particularly among the younger generation, recalled a situation where a third year undergraduate who was asked to write ‘trader’ wrote ‘trada’ because he did not correct spelling.
He lauded Obasanjo for his continued contribution to the growth and development of the country even at 80, especially working to revive reading culture among the younger generation.
In her remarks, Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s wife, Olufunso, urged the youths to “imbibe the culture of hard work, perseverance and good work ethics” as they aspire to achieve success in life.
“Greatness is only achievable through hard work and perseverance. Nothing good comes easy and any disappointment should be viewed as part of the learning curve and winding road to success”, she said.
Speaking earlier, Education Minister Mallam Adamu Adamu and the maiden African President of the International Geographical Union, Prof Akin Mabogunje, paid glowing tributes to the former President, who they maintained, remains an exceptional leader.
Adamu described Obasanjo as a detribalised Nigerian and a “rare gift to Nigeria”. Prof. Mabogunje said the former President “stands tall among world leaders.”
“I am conscious of the fact that as an accomplished gentleman, an engineer, a General, a leader, a politician and at 80, you are still a student. You legacy will always be protected by all us”, the minister, who was represented by Dr Yakubu Gambo, said.
Commended Obasanjo for written a children’s book, Adamu said the book would be bought and distributed across schools in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Mabogunje, who chairs the Governing Board of the CHS, at the OOPL, highlighted the benefits of the library noted Nigerian and African youths, saying that visiting the library would give then transformational encounter.
The renowned geographer added that Obasanjo’s library, if adequately explored, would improve leadership in Africa.
Mabogunje tasked Africans “on good governance through commitment, resilence, diligence, probity and not through corruption.”
Pupils from 47 secondary schools and students from 30 universities across seven states participated in debates entitled: “Young people will benefit from Presidential Libraries in Africa than old people” and “Presidential Libraries will reduce leadership deficit in Africa.”