The Punch

My youth, middle age, old age have been glorious, now every day is for thanksgivi­ng, at82 says Osoba

Turns of Ogun State, who Osoba Governor Olusegun on his life and Former AKINKUOTU speaks with ENIOLA 82 today, trending topics in the polity times and other

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ow do you feel celebratin­g your 82nd birthday in a country where the United Nations has pegged life expectancy for men at 54?

My feeling is that of thanksgivi­ng to God for His grace and his benevolenc­e in all aspects of my life.

what would you say has been your greatest achievemen­t in life?

I think history should be the judge. Time and history will always be a reviewer and the final judge on all of us. I think it will be immodest to be talking about my achievemen­ts in whatever form at all. I will leave that to history.

So what is your biggest regret?

(Laughs)… I think God has made everything in my life positive and possible. When I look at my balance sheet, I have no regret whatsoever. Like I said earlier, it has been too good and too graceful and to a large extent too successful in all aspects. I can confess to you that Oba Sikiru Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebuland, reminds me every day that I should take every day as a day of thanksgivi­ng. He tells me that every aspect of my life, my youth, my schooldays, my middle age, my old age, have all been very glorious. We talk every day and he keeps reminding me that I should be doing thanksgivi­ng every day because there are not many people of my age that are celebrated by their profession­al colleagues as I am being celebrated. He is a father in a million and he keeps reminding me every day that I should be doing thanksgivi­ng to God.

How do you unwind at your age?

In my younger days, I and the likes of Ike Nwachukwu and Babangida used to paint Lagos not just red but rainbow. I have seen it all at 82. So, what do I want to do now? Go to disco? No. That is why I don’t do elaborate birthday celebratio­ns. I now spend time with my grandchild­ren. I see birthdays as a day of serious reflection and thanksgivi­ng. I am not a club person. I don’t drink or smoke. I relate with friends occasional­ly. Sam Amuka and I have had everything. There is nothing I want to do that I have not done.

will you say abstaining from cigarettes and

alcohol contribute­d to your longevity?

One of my former classmates, who is also my doctor, used to tell me that somehow, my not joining my classmates in those days in drinking and smoking probably must have contribute­d to my good health. I didn’t join them in smoking and drinking but one thing I can say is that everything I have done in life has been in moderation. Secondly, I try to avoid being envious of people or judging people. I believe in myself and love to have peace of mind. I hate to bear grudges or stay angry overnight. I try to forget bad things that happen in life

As an elder statesman, what do you think Nigeria can do to address the rising demands for secession in various parts of the country 51 years after the civil war ended?

I will not use the word secession. I think self-determinat­ion and requests for self esteem, agitations for fairness and justice are not something to be ashamed of. Even in advanced countries like in the United Kingdom where I am at the moment, the Scots are still agitating for their own country. The UK is not one country. There are different ‘tribes’. So, what is the offence in that? And our founding fathers at different times, displayed their frustratio­ns about Nigeria. So, when the youth of today are expressing their frustratio­n, what we should do is to look at the root cause of the frustratio­n. When people graduate from university, they have no job. When I was young, even with an ordinary secondary school certificat­e, a job was waiting for you. As soon as I got our WASSCE result, a job was waiting for me at the Lagos City Council. I remember in my days, there were not too universiti­es. At the University College, Ibadan, which was a college of the University of London, the graduates in those days could easily be identified with their briefcases. As soon as they came out with their briefcases, jobs would be waiting for them along with a car. But today, even people with Phds, doctors, lawyers, are now event planners. Under such a situation, you don’t expect the young ones not to feel frustrated.

According to research by Dr Jibrin Ibrahim, even the Sardauna of Sokoto at some point wanted to opt out of Nigeria. His reason was that he could not cede authority to the British only for us who are in the South to become the overlords in the North. At a point, even Papa Awolowo, based on research by Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, asked during the constituti­onal conference that we should insert a clause for any region that doesn’t feel happy to secede. At some point, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was frustrated; he too wanted secession like Michael Okpara. Even the symbol of Nigerian unity, General Yakubu Gowon, in his first major speech as head of state, said the base of Nigeria’s unity was no longer in existence.

So, I don’t think we should criminalis­e or demonise those who are talking of self-esteem, those who are asking for justice and fairness. Rather, we should look at the root cause and not let the rabble-rousers hijack the feelings of the younger ones.

what do you see to the rising insecurity?

It is something that bothers me. In the South, the farmers cannot go to farm. I can give you my own example. I do cassava farming in Abeokuta. People that used to come to help us on our farms are no longer coming. We are now farming at 15 per cent capacity. So, you can imagine the amount of yields that we have lost. So, the farmers in the South don’t go to farm because of insecurity and this will lead to food insecurity. The whole of the North has been taken back by 50 years because the educationa­l system has been totally destroyed. No parent will send his child to a boarding school in the North and the boarding school system is the best for the North. So, you can imagine this incessant kidnapping of children and the destructiv­e effect on our system. The northerner­s are the biggest victims and we should be concerned about the kind of society we will have in the next 10 to 15 years. As a parent it is difficult to think of children in captivity.

Recently, the 17 southern governors collective­ly stated that the next President must come from the South, a position which you have canvassed in the past. However, some northern groups have insisted on competence ahead of zoning. what’s your view on this?

In a democracy, we allow different opinions but the fragile situation in Nigeria should teach us that not one section can continue to ride roughshod on the other. I believe that the Presidency for now, for the survival of Nigeria, for the continuati­on of this country, should rotate between North and South. If you talk of competence, is competence limited to a particular ethnic group or sub-ethnic group? During the APC merger, we decided that the President of the party would come from the North, the chairman would be from the South and after eight years, the Presidency would return to the South. In every region we have millions of people who are competent. So, the idea that merit and competence should be ahead of zoning… what standard is being used to measure competence? I am in total support of the southern governors. We started the southern governors’ forum during our time. The northern governors have been meeting for ages and we didn’t complain in the South. So, what is wrong with the southern governors meeting and expressing the views of those who elected them?

When we were forming the APC, we agreed that the Presidency would be given to the North and we the progressiv­es in the South-west agreed. The second point of negotiatio­n was the devolution of power, true federalism. So, some who were not there cannot tell us to stop that. I stand on the fact that we should rotate the Presidency between the North and South of the party.

But the APC has no written constituti­on on zoning and this agreement of North and South rotation was never really put into writing.

I was the chairman of the constituti­on drafting committee of the APC. We drafted the constituti­on and the reason we didn’t put it into writing is that it could be challenged in court and anything in writing could be seen as going against the fundamenta­l right in the constituti­on which guarantees the right to aspire to any office in the country. But for the purpose of the survival of the country, we agreed to this but we cannot put it into writing. It cannot be enforced in court but it is an unwritten understand­ing and for the sake of the continuity of Nigeria, the Presidency should come from the South.

many“I don’t think we should criminalis­e or demonise those who are talking of selfesteem, those who are asking for justice and fairness

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