Obasanjos Foundation Launching: Many Came Saw And Conquered… yet some are onlookers


With Dare Lasisi, London

Olusegun_ObasanjoAs the general saying goes that the depth of the wealth of a successful  icon is always full of filthiness  and true  woe-tales.  So is the history of our iconic statesman, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

It is no longer a hidden fact that he grew up with  a humble beginning. Tales are town-filled that the  family background  in Ogun state had experienced many hardships in life. The Nigerian political legend personally survived bullets during Nigeria-Biafra civil war. He experienced a raw deal in the hand of Ibrahim Babangida and  was  detained by Sanni Abacha’s military regime on trumped-up charges of coup plotting.

Oh! What a life as the old man, who played important role in building up the two military traitors ands making  them recognisable officers  with good guide as a mentor and influencing their elevation in the army as a senior officer was paid back in such coin of ingratitude and humiliating gesture.

But as the name implied( the God that pays back), he had the last laugh as he bounced back from such obscurity to new prominence as a well recognised African hero, leading the Nigeria for the second time and paddling the ship of the state in such unmatched manner.

The old man recently decided to give back to the society by empowering the youths for the future. He established an African-centred foundation in his name in London. It was an occasion attended by highs and mighties with the African and European political fora.

It was a star-studded global event which took place on Friday 8th February 2013.

As the foundation was launched there are behind the scene tit-bits that will interest your reading and make you quip  Here are some of the news behind the news at the star-studded global event which took place on Friday 8th February 2013

Evergreen  and immortal Obasanjo?

Former President Olusegun Okikiolakan Obasanjo was all smiles as he appeared like a ‘birthday boy’ as his foundation was being launched in the earth of London.

He was the cynosure of all eyes  at the colourful ceremony in London. The old man fondly called ‘Baba’ by his well-wishers, supporters and friends dressed in a white agbada with a black shoe plus a brown cap. One thing that really agitates the mind  as the Foundation was being launched was Baba’s usual youthful look which always stun his admirers. Could this be because of the magic of money or has it got to do with his easy access to good food in his Ota Farm. Well, as he  addressed the world press at exactly 4.30pm in conjunction with Ms. Anne Welsh,Chairperson of the Foundation and Mr.Richard Attias, Foundation’s consultant on the day he was full of glow which made made many think Baba is indeed a living legend who refuse to age.

There was this gist that really kindled my interest. When Baba said he is proudly a village African man, one  of the London-based Nigerian journalists replied him that he is a Nigerian man and not a village man. Suddenly Baba snapped:”If you’re not from any village in Nigeria, I am afraid that must be a misfortune. I am a village man.We all have roots in respective villages as Africans.”

Baba then looked sideway to challenge Ms.Anne Welsh to mention his father’s village and the young Chairperson just avoided Baba’s technical question by saying;”I was born in Kaduna, northern Nigeria but my parents are from the South East Nigeria.
Baba was just strolling round the whole area(Grosvenor House Hotel,London),smiling, shaking hands  and snapping photographs with several people.

Former Oyo State Governor,Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala in political lobby?

This former henchman in Oyo State must be having issues to handle for his next political journey. The self styled  ‘big man’ of Oyo State  politics entered the main hall quietly in the company of the former president Olusegun Obasanjo.He was seen having a deep conversation with Baba with the former president only shaking his head. The Ogbomoso-born politician then sat down in a seat assigned to both past and present governors of Nigeria. He did not grant any press interview.He tactically  avoided the pen-pushers. When approached by some people at the event.He greeted them so well and even hugged some of them to show love and appreciation of recognising him. 

Ken Wiwa Jnr?

This young man is the son of the hanged Nigerian writer,celebrated columnist and environmental activist,Ken Saro-Wiwa.He sat down like a gentleman next to Mr Oronto Douglas.They were chatting friendly on some issues.When asked for a photo opportunity or press interviews.He turned down the offer and pretended to be too tired or stressed up to move to talk.Ken Wiwa Jnr once lived in Canada for many years but he is now back in Nigeria to propagate his father’s legacy and learnt he is now a ‘consultant’ to President Jonathan’s government.

Edo state governor,Comrade Adams Oshiomole?

This former vibrant labour leader was just as simple as his popular name.He dressed so simple that you’ll mistaken him for an ordinary ‘powerless’ human being but  he is an elected governor in Edo state.He appeared to be hiding himself in a corner next to Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala.When greeted,he responded so well as if known for years.Comrade Adams Oshiomole is one of the ‘performing’ governors in Nigeria.He is well respected in his state of origin based on his visible achievements and projects.

Lord Peter Mandelson mentoring Chuka Umunna MP at Obasanjo’s event?

Lord Peter Mandelson and Labour Streatham MP British-born Nigerian citizen Chuka Umunna appeared glued together during the dinner and evening roundtable conference. Lord Mandelson, one of the controversial politicians during the Blair-Brown era was seen several times discussing passionate issues and political strategies with the young Labour MP Chuka who listened with rapt attention the way  students would listen to their headteacher.

Who knows Chuka might be the next occupant of number 10 Downing Street.What is good for any Obama in Washington DC must also be good for Chuka in Westminster London.During the roundtable conference,Lord Mandelson  picked on Obasanjo by asking several controversial questions concerning transparency and sincerity of purpose to run his new charity organisation with qualified,well-trained and honest personalities.Baba as usual defended himself. At the end of the discussion,Lord Mandelson quipped:”We both have something in common as a leader:controversial life style!”

Aliko what?Aliko Dangote?

The richest African man(Alhaji Aliko Dangote of Nigeria) was nearly prevented from gaining entrance into the main hall by the non-Nigerian officials in-charge of protocols and hospitality.There was a prepared list of invited guests but the richest African man alive today can’t be accused of ‘gate-crashing’ such a global event.He lined up for over one hour like other guests and to reach the ‘As the drama was dragging,former President Obasanjo suddenly appeared from the moon to save ‘Boy Alinko’ from any further harrassment.’Baba hugged and said :”Aliko,so happy to see you to honour my foundation.Thanks for coming.”Alhaji Dangote bowed down to greet Baba while the non-Nigerians(mostly Asians!)in charge of protocols and security just opened their mouth as Baba himself cleared ways for his Very Important Personality.To say ‘Money Man’ Dangote is very simple and blessed with high sense of humility is an understatement.Alhaji Dangote arrived alone,no bodyguard and no personal assistant.

Bayelsa State Governor,Mr.Dickson Seriake?

This tall  and strongly-built man also came to honour the political godfather of the man(President Goodluck Jonathan) who made it possible for him to be elected as governor of Bayelsa state despite political intrigues,blackmails and controversies.He balanced for one corner like other governors to enjoy his food and drinks.Don’t disturb His Excellency please!

Former Education minister Mrs.Obi Ezekwesili?

This brilliant  and accomplished global woman recently stirred hornets’ nest when she challenged President Goodluck Jonathan to a public debate to explain to fellow Nigerians on some missing ‘funds’.It was a ‘free-for-all’ fight both online and offline.She attended the event to honour former President Olusegun Obasanjo and not because of President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to London.She is a very diplomatic woman who smartly avoided any name-calling  or re-opening of old wounds at her presentation during the evening roundtable conference.She suggested practical ways to move the country forward and general advise for charity organisations from every corner of the globe.Funny enough,her seat was strategically located just few steps to where President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife,Mrs.Patience Jonathan were enjoying their food and drinks.

Femi Otedola of Farouk’s Cap-banking scandal?

This business mogul arrived with his personal assistant,a friendly youngman called Mr.Olarinre.Otedola lined up like everybody with his invitation letter on his right hand.He appeared to be in good mood,chatting with somebody on phone.Some of the guests that knew him greeted him and he responded very well.As he was about to cross the last ‘point of entry’,he looked back and saw his good friend,Alhaji Aliko Dangote still negotiating his way.He waited for him a bit after his own clearance then the drama(explained above)happened but at the end of the day,the celebrant himself(Chief Olusegun Obasanjo)cleared the whole mess.Hon.Farouk Lawan from Kano state won’t forget in hurry the political trap set for him by this controversial business tycoon during the fuel subsidy removal brouhaha.

Dr.Reuben Abati?

This wonderful pen-technocrat,prose stylist and former Chairman editorial board of Guardian newspapers of Nigeria is a friendly and very humble fellow.He is the current Special adviser on Media and Publicity to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.It appeared Oga Abati was not happy with the wicked winter of England.He is a man with deep love for his Africa continent.After the event,he was so much in hurry since he must always be with the Mr.President at every public occasion.He could not grant any press interview,maybe press release shall follow later about his boss’s visit to the UK.

Otunba Oyewole Fashawe?

This popular socialite and successful businessman surprised Baba by his attendance. When Baba saw him, he was shocked and Otunba never stayed far from the former President through out the whole event. They became inseparable during the evening programme.
Otunba Fashawe sat at the corner during the world press conference and as soon as the conference ended,he quickly moved closer to Baba.

President Thomas Yayi Boyi of Benin Republic? Parlez Francais?

This young man spoke briefly in Yoruba language and momentarily switched to English language but later asked for permission to speak in French language,his country national language.He jokingly inform his interpreter to translate exactly what he would say since the man is well-paid for such an assignment.Everybody just laughed at his sense of humour.He saluted the courage of former President Obasanjo as a pan-Africanist for establishing a foundation to cater for the disadvantaged people in Africa and developing countries.

President Ellen John Sirleaf of Liberia?

This beautiful old lady president also supported Olusegun Obasanjo foundation and totally agreed with the concept of girl-child education which is one of the cardinal points of the foundation.She advocated that with good education,anybody could easily achieve his or her dreams in life.She hopes that  Africa shall elect more educated and experienced female presidents in the coming years.

President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria?

The ‘lucky man’ arrived at the scene with his entourage.He went straight to pay homage to his godfather,former president Olusegun Obasanjo.When asked to talk about education and other issues in Nigeria and Africa.He used himself as a typical example that if not for his education he cannot be president of the most populous African country in the world.He mentioned some of his achievements in power during the roundtable conference but also stated that more areas still need to be touched in order to reduce the daily hardship of fellow Nigerians.