Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday said one of his mistakes in life was picking former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as his running mate during the 1999 Presidential election.
He made the disclosure at an event, held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, Ogun State, which featured presentations and exhibitions of some products, made by students of the participating schools.
Obasanjo was responding to questions, posed by students from selected secondary schools that, participated in the final of the National Exhibition and Awards, organised by Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE).
Obasanjo and his former number two man, Atiku had a running battle during the build up to the 2003 elections.
Going down memory lane on his life and achievements both as Military Head of State and a civilian President, he said he had made many “genuine” mistakes in his life, but God made him to overcome.
The former President said, “One of the mistakes I made was picking my Number Two (referring to Atiku) when I wanted to become the President. But because it was a genuine mistake, God saved me.
“The second one (mistake) was when Abacha wanted to arrest me. When. Abacha wanted to arrest me, I was told by the American ambassador that they will arrest me and that America has asked that I should be given an 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”.
Obasanjo lamented the current trend of recycling of old politicians in elective positions, stressing that young Nigerians would not have chance to exhibit themselves if the trends continues.
While speaking on opportunities for the youths to take over the mantle of leadership in the country, Obasanjo bemoaned the trend of money politics in the country, which according to him would make it difficult for young Nigerians to participate in politics.
He, however urged the youths to remain hopeful even in the face of money politics.
He said with the “Not Too Young to Run” campaign, and you can see that those that are contesting now are between 70 and 80 years old, how can the youths run?
“Another thing inhibiting 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.”
The former President, also tutored the students, that they should imbibe religious tolerance.
He advised them 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 get in life that if there are five religions in the world, that is how God wants it to be. If there are ten, that is how God wants it. All religions originate from the same source.
“If you are a Muslim and you did not live the way the God wants you to live, you cannot enter Aljannah. If you are a Christian and you did not live the way God wants you to live, the same thing, you will not enter paradise.
“If this is the basis of religion is doing the right thing for the benefits 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 believe that mine is superior to another person’s beliefs. I will not allow any person to cast aspersions to my religion and will not do same for another person. Practice your religion the way God wants you to do it and don’t condemn another person”.
Welcoming participant at the event, the Chairman of SAGE Nigeria, Agwu Amogu, said the programme was to celebrate the creative energies and commitments of teen entrepreneurs who see the challenges in the communities as their responsibilities.
He said, “SAGE is an acronym for Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship. It is an international program initiated at the California State University Chico USA in 2002 and currently operational in over 32 countries across all the continents of the world.
“It offers secondary school-aged young people a hands-on learning process on how to create wealth, help others and their communities.”