FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, stated that the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus compelled organisers of his 83rd birthday celebration to adjust the programme of the event.
He, however, called on African leaders to redefine democracy to suit the needs and aspirations of their people, saying if this could be done, growth of African countries would be unprecedented.
Obasanjo said this on the occasion of his 83rd birthday held at the President Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, OOPL, Abeokuta.
He explained that international personalities, including former President of Sierra Leone, Bai Koroma, who was scheduled to deliver the keynote address on Pan-Africanism, his Liberian counterpart, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and the two Asian envoys to Nigeria (China and India), who were all invited for the event could not make it due to the on-going prevalence of the virus globally.
He said: “One of the things in the programme is to spend the day before yesterday and yesterday to examine how they came up from where they were and what lessons have we learnt from them, but because of Coronavirus, that programme was shelved.
“I do hope that sometimes in future we would be able to bring it up again because there is a lot to learn about what they have done and how they have done it.”
Explaining why his 83rd birthday celebration was centered around Pan Africanism, Obasanjo said the topic was carefully arrived at by body of Professors having realised that the topic would have substantially addressed the matter of neglect of fate of Africans in diaspora as well as positions of the African economy as it relates to the whims and caprices of the global economic players.
Obasanjo said: “Some people will be saying what has Pan-Africanism got to do with us in Nigeria? We have the problem of insecurity; we have the problem of restructuring and all other problems, so what has Pan-Africanism got to do with us?
“But I am saying that Pan Africanism is different from African unity. It goes beyond African unity and to prove that, when our leaders in 1963 established the Organisation of African Unity, OAU, they did not reckon with Pan Africanism as such to the extent that nobody outside the continent of Africa was considered to be part of the OAU.
“When at the end of 20th century we decided to re – establish or transform OAU to AU. We decided that instead of five regions which made up of OAU; West Africa, North Africa, East Africa, Central Africa and Southern Africa. We created the sixth region which is the Diaspora Africa.
“Therefore, we made AU to go beyond the continent of Africa and to embrace the Africans in diaspora. So, we moved from African Unity to African Union, which means we are not only talking about Africans on the continent of Africa, but also Africans outside the continent of Africa.
“I think that’s very important and that’s why we should talk about Pan – Africanism; what it means and what it can do.”