By Chika Okeke, Abuja
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday denounced his Christian name, Matthew, saying he should no more be called by it because he is not a tax collector like his biblical namesake.
Accordingly, he adopted only Olusegun Okikiola Aremu as his names, even as he noted that names have lots of connotations in African setting.
He said, while his decision was borne out of the fact that Matthew in the Bible was known as a stupid tax collector,
anybody who does not want to see his (Obasanjo’s) eyes red should stop calling him Matthew.
He stated this in Abuja at an event organised by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in commemoration of his 80th birthday celebration in Abuja.
Obasanjo who clocked 80 years in March this year said, “When I was born in my part of Nigeria, the system was that after eight days, you must be given a name and for people to know that you were born into a Christian family, you will be given one Hebrew name.
“My mother and father decided to name me Matthew but when I grew up, I started asking myself the meaning of Matthew. Not only does it not have meaning as long as I am concerned, the biblical Matthew is a stupid tax collector. Anybody who does not want to see my eyes red should stop calling me Matthew”.
Obasanjo commended the NSE presidential system of election and governance, wishing that it could be introduced into Nigerian politics.
While highlighting the differences among engineers, doctors and lawyers, he noted that they were three famous professionals in the country at a time, though Post masters, police, teachers and station masters existed.
“If a doctor makes mistake in a patient, it is only one patient that will die; if a lawyer makes mistake on his client, the client will go to prison but if an engineer makes mistake, it is a disaster and tragedy. If an engineer builds a house or bridge and it collapses, many people will die and not one person will go to prison”, the former Nigerian leader explained.
Obasanjo thanked NSE President, Engr Oliver Tagbo Anyaeji and other members of the engineering bodies for the honour bestowed on him, even as he described the chairman, Senate Committee on Housing, Senator Barnabas Gemade and former governor of Osun state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, as (political) victims.
The former president however gave reasons why he sacked 93 officers of the armed forces from the military upon his assumption of office as the elected president of Nigeria.
He said, “The 93 officers were used to chummy chummy life in the government house and If I had left them in the military, they would have created more problems for us and our democratic dispensation would not have lasted as it has lasted till now”.
He maintained that Oyinlola was one of the 93 officers adding that, “If he was not out by that time, he may not have had the privilege of becoming a state governor”.
Obasanjo stated that Gemade was not competent to handle the chairmanship of the party which was why he was kicked out.
His words: “If Senator Gemade had not been kicked out as chairman, he would never have become a Senator but I’m happy that Gemade said that in all these, I was looking for perfection and what is best for Nigeria because till tomorrow, Gemade is still a friend and will remain a friend.
“When it comes to Nigeria even with the death of my friends, Nigeria will continue working and for that, I have no apology and will never have apologies. If he (Gemade) is not good enough, he is not good enough and you will continue to look until you get what is good enough because in this country, we are not short of men and women. If he’s not good enough in one area, he may be good enough in another area”.
Obasanjo emphasised that if Gemade was not good enough as chairman of a party, he may be good enough as a Senator.
“The place you are as a Senator may also be a learning process and who knows you may have learnt so much that you would have improved as a Senator”, he added, just as he further tasked Gemade to contribute to legislations that have engineering bearing in the National Assembly since he is an engineer.
Also speaking, the President of NSE, Engr Oliver Tagbo Anyaeji noted that Obasanjo successfully initiated and pioneered the establishment of an Engineering and Technology University (Bells) as well as the state-of-art presidential library in Ota, Ogun State, which considered as first of its kind in Africa.
“While it will be pretty difficult to bring to the fore all the achievements of this world acclaimed achiever, I wish to mention that President Obasanjo initiated the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP)in 2005 and directed by policy that Nigerian engineering firms must get at least 25 percent of exhausted project scope”, he stated.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Housing, Sen Barnabas Gemade who spoke on the topic: ‘Engineers in Politics’ noted that controversies are necessary ingredients to politicking geared towards perfection, adding that “when politicians begin to exhibit political activities, Nigerians will think the world is coming to an end”.
He described Obasanjo as a man greatly loved by Nigerians, stressing that in the midst of every controversy, Obasanjo’s aim was to achieve perfection and make the country better than it was.
Gemade noted that every reform initiated in Nigeria was centred upon the works of Obasanjo who he said created a national investment promotion council that united all business establishments under one umbrella.
Speaking on Obasanjo’s achievement in Engineering Education, Prof Micheal Faborode, said that Nigeria’s academics are not the worst paid in Africa, adding that Nigeria has more private universities in the country due to Obasanjo’s initiatives and foresight.
Faborode confirmed that private universities would determine the future of Nigeria’s educational system and that Bells University Ota Ogun State is one of the best hidden universities in engineering education.
On Obasanjo’s achievement in industries and private sector development, the chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, noted that the success story of Dangote group would be incomplete without the support of Obasanjo.
He noted that Obasanjo introduced the privatisation policy which encouraged private sector establishment, saying that it gave the opportunity for Dangote group to rise as the highest producer and exporter of cement.
“From the production of 1.2m tons of cement annually, we rose to 29m tons of cement annually”, he stated.
Dangote who was represented by the Executive Director Dangote Industries limited, Alhaji Mansur Ahmed, said that the sustenance of the policy created the beginning of change that moved Nigeria into an industrialised country, but regretted that the policy shrunk upon the exit of Obasanjo as the president of Nigeria.