Nigeria losing influence in Africa — Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says Nigeria’s influence in the world, particularly Africa, is declining.

Mr Obasanjo stated this in Abuja on Thursday during the launch of a book on him by PREMIUM TIMES’ Editor-In-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed.

The book titled, “The Letterman: Inside the ‘secret’ Letters of former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo,” x-rays the role of letter writing in leadership, governance, and politics.

The 492-page publication focuses on the former president and his fondness for letters to address issues.

Mr Obasanjo was military head of state between 1976 and 1979 and civilian president between 1999 and 2007.

The former Nigerian leader, who made a surprise appearance at the event, recalled how he used letters in several diplomatic interventions across the world, including his intervention in the then apartheid South Africa.

He said Nigeria ceded leadership to other countries outside the continent. He cited the example of the intervention of Qatar in the composition of the government in Chad, Nigeria’s neighbour, after the death of President Idris Deby.

He also recounted how Nigeria resolved the crisis between Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, during the fight against the Ian Smith white government in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

“Letter writing is also an art. You must be very careful in the choice of your words. It depends on what you want to put into it. Your letter must be such that it is relevant and purposeful.


“Almost all of the letters stand the test of time. Whether it is the letter on apartheid in South Africa or Ian Smith in Rhodesia. Or between (Joshua) Nkomo and (Robert) Mugabe. These letters stand the test of time.

“Then when I read some of the letters in the book as put by Musikilu, I said to myself—some of you have said what gives me courage? I then look at this book, if you had asked me to give a title, and not the title ‘Letterman’, I would have titled it “Audacity of an optimist”.

“The thing again about a letter is that it goes beyond you. There is nothing personal to me about the letters—interest of the community, the society, the organisation that I belong to, the military, warfront—how should the war be fought so that we minimize casualty, so that we can deal with it and finish it off,” he said.

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Mr Obasanjo also spoke about the status of Nigeria in the 70s and 80s, where the United States Government gets input from Nigeria before taking any action on Africa.

“How did we lose that? Only this morning, I heard something that shocked me. When Idris Deby was shot in the back, and it was Doha (Qatar) that decided to put the different elements together, not Nigeria, and Chad is in our backyard, we did not do anything about it,” he said.

No plan to attend launch

The former president also stated that he had no intention to attend the launch because the author did not get his authorisation to write the book.

He said he changed his mind after going through the book. He disclosed that he had to reschedule his activities in Ethiopia to attend the launch.

“I did not intend to be here for a number of reasons. One, as you have heard from Musikilu, he did not take my permission and until last week Monday, I did not know he was writing a book —when he brought me two copies, and I read the book. I was completely flabbergasted by the amount of work he has done in writing the book, I was torn between what should I do and what should I not do. He did not tell me he was writing a book, but he has done an excellent job,” he stated.

Earlier, the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Mathew Kukah, who reviewed the book, praised Mr Obasanjo for his capacity to keep records.

The cleric said the letters written by the former president over the years showed his bravery and commitment to what is right.

“Obasanjo is assured of a place in the history of Nigeria and the world. We can agree that they do not make them like this anymore,” he added.

Mr Kukah commended the author for writing the book, which according to him would give Nigerians a glance into the mind of the former president.


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