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Picking Atiku As Running Mate Was An Error, Says Obasanjo

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There appears to be a fresh battle brewing between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, ahead of the 2023 presidential election, giving a scathing remark yesterday, the former Head of State on his former Deputy.

Obasanjo exploded again and said he made a mistake picking Atiku as his running mate for the 1999 election.

He said it was one of the many genuine mistakes he has made in the course of his public life.

“One of the mistakes I made was picking my Number Two when I wanted to become the president,” Obasanjo told students from select secondary school students that participated in the final of the National Exhibition and Awards organised by Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

He added: “But because it was a genuine mistake, God saved me.”

Although the former president did not mention his former right-hand man by name in the statement, Atiku was his running mate in that election and that of 2003 before their relationship went sour.

Another costly mistake Obasanjo said he made, was not taking seriously a warning he got from an American ambassador that the late military head of state, General Sani Abacha, was planning to arrest him.

His words: “When Abacha wanted to arrest me, I was told by the American ambassador that they would arrest me and that America had asked that I should be given asylum.

“I said no. It could have been a mistake because I could have lost my life.

“I will say there are many things that could have been a mistake but God saved me from them all.”

He wondered how Nigerian youths could assume leadership positions in various cadres of governance when those contesting elective offices in the forthcoming 2023 general elections are largely septuagenarians.

“Another thing inhibiting the youth from running is the amount of money involved in going into politics. I hope that things should not continue like this.

“I was 39 years old when I became the military head of state.

“Twenty years later, I came back as civilian president, but those there now do not want to allow the youths.

“If things continue like this, I do not know how you can come in,” he said.

On religious tolerance, he advised the youth not to see their own religion as superior to that of another person.

Obasanjo said: “I have no right to say what another man believes in is inferior to mine.

“If God had wanted all of us to be of the same religion, he would have made it so. And since He did not make it so, no person should attempt to make it so.

“Young people should learn at a very early age in life that if there are five religions in the world, that is how God wants it to be. If there are 10, that is how God wants it. All religions originated from the same source.

“If you are a Muslim and you do not live the way God wants you to live, you cannot enter Aljannah (Paradise). If you are a Christian and you do not live the way God wants you to live, the same thing, you will not enter Paradise.

“If the basis of religion is doing the right thing for the benefit of mankind, you don’t have to condemn any person because of what he believed.

“I do not believe that any religion is superior to mine, and I don’t believe that mine is superior to another person’s belief.

“I will not allow any person to cast aspersions on my religion and will not do the same to another person. Practice your religion the way God wants you to do it and don’t condemn another person.”

Obasanjo had in an earlier brutal assessment of Atiku, said he would not have had any second thought about making Atiku his successor if he had “been a loyal, faithful, dutiful and committed second-in-command.”

Recalling how he settled for Atiku as his running mate in the 1999 election, the former president said: ”I considered all candidates that were available and what I knew about them. I had earlier collected information about some to beef up my knowledge of them.

“That night, I settled for Atiku Abubakar. Some of the reasons were: he worked hard for the project; he never indicated an interest in the job to me; he had worked closely with Shehu Yar’Adua and Shehu never passed any adverse comment on him; he had been elected as a governor, which already put him on the pedestal to move up politically, but he had been short-changed in the election that would have put M.K.O. Abiola in power, and he seemed to have some national outreach.”

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