By Emeka Oparah
No man is perfect. None. And so with all his imperfections, OBJ is one man, one leader I admire and have come to be friends with. Aside his courage, his ability to speak his mind at all times, no matter whose ox or camel is gored, he possess a rare intellectual capacity not easily associated with men of his background, at least not in these parts. His looks and apparent roughness belie the quality of time, talent and trouble he puts into intellectual work, hence his books and now his PhD.
He’s one leader who’s diligently documented his life and times, as imperfect as they may seem to some, unlike several others who may appear even more educated. A voracious reader and equally voracious writer, he surrounds himself with men and women of intellect. Between his study and dining are hundreds of books and documents that have passed through his inquisitive eyes. His library, the Obasanjo Presidential Library (OPL) is a spectacle to behold.
OBJ is perhaps one of the most traveled African alive-and still clocks the highest frequent flier miles at 82. He travels mainly to attend to speaking opportunities on a wide range of topics across the world. His personal aides, mostly half his age or slightly above, can’t keep up with his energy and work rate! Many suspect the old man is on some kind of Performance Enhancing drugs!
You needed to have seen his performance at Prof. Pat Uromi’s 62nd Birthday event, on Tuesday, which doubled as the 15th Annual CVL Leadership Colloquium. OBJ didn’t have a prepared speech, but I saw him diligently taking notes from the MC, the host, Utomi, and the Keynote Speaker, and when he was called upon, he simply reacted to important aspects of their speeches as his own intervention with anecdotes that sat squarely and perfectly where he dropped them. His words carefully chosen, his reasoning well defined and argument pointedly made. What a man!
One more thing: He enjoys jokes especially when it’s about him and he can throw jibes right back-even at himself. He once told me a man who can laugh at himself is likely to be happy and likely to live long too. Evidently so. His sense of humor is diabolical, sincerely speaking. I feel sorry for him sometimes. Not many have been so blessed with good health, long life, prosperity and opportunities to lead their countries like him. I’m sure there are times he wishes the hands of the clock can turn back and he does his time again as President 1999-2007. I bet he will do many things differently. Unfortunately, time lost can’t be recovered.
In line with my father’s counsel to seek, find and make friends with mostly older and more successful people, I’m proud to say OBJ is my friend and what I’ve learnt from him is priceless and unquantifiable. His quest for education inspires me, and, believe you me, my dream of a PhD, long abandoned, had been re-ignited by Obasanjo’s challenge. I won’t forget to mention he’s also encouraged and promoted the Ethelberts idea, proudly modeling and quietly marketing our menswear-unsolicited. Thank you, Mr. President! OBJ is an enigma, extravagantly gifted and loved by God. His prime place in Nigerian history is assured. His place in paradise may also be assured with the very long rope the Great Architect of the Universe has so magnanimously gifted him. I want to believe he’s handling the rope well.
Fifth March is around the corner. We shall gather to celebrate a rare gem at 83. Poor old man, his phone never stops ringing as “punishment” for helping to make so many and wielding incredible influence and cult following.
*Mr. Oparah, Public Affairs Commentator, lives in Lagos.