By Lucy Osuizigbo
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday gave an account of how Pa Abraham Adesanya, late leader of Pan-Yoruba political group, Afenifere, rejected his candidature for the presidency three times in 1999.
Obasanjo gave the account in Lagos, at the 10th Memorial Symposium of the late National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain.
Adesanya, a politician, senior advocate of Nigeria, activist and deputy leader of NADECO, a pro-democracy movement formed in 1994, died on April 27, 2008 at 85.
Obasanjo said: “I did not know late Pa Adesanya in my early days or in his early days in politics.
“I came to know him when I was going into politics and for necessity, the paths of politicians do cross.’’
The former president said having been persuaded to vie for the presidency, he decided to consult and meet with political leaders all over the country.
“One of the leaders I had to meet was Pa Abraham Adesanya. The first time I met him, he received me warmly and that was the first time I met his daughter — Mrs Dupe Adelaja — who became one of my ministers.
“When I met Pa Adesanya, he did not mince words at all and went straight to ask why I came as I am not with the ‘Afenifere and NADECO’ group.
“I told him that `as a politician and well-bred Yoruba boy, I have to pay homage and consult you`. Baba told me he will not support me.
“I told him it was my duty and responsibility to inform him I was going into politics and we parted.
“As I went on in the consultation, I met him a second time and the same thing happened. I told him I came to give him progress report and he said again, ‘We will not support you’ and I said alright.
“Again, he asked me why I was not in their group and I told him their group was alright but it was limited, and I believe that we should not be limited. He told me again that they will not support me.
“I visited him a third time; this was just before the election. I told him I came to give him update and the third time Baba said ‘we will not support you’.
“And of course, as the results of the election turned out, I was not supported by the Yorubas in the South West for the 1999 election,” he said.
Obasanjo said that he did not regret appointing late Chief Bola Ige and Mrs Dupe Adelaja, daughter of late Adesanya, who were members of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), as ministers during his administration.
“But then, Pa Adesanya did not know how her daughter Dupe became a minister in my government because I did not consult him. On two occasions when I visited Baba, Dupe was the one who served drinks and refreshments.
“When after the election I decided that I was going to bring people from parties other than PDP, on my own I decided to take Bola Ige and Dupe Adelaja to represent AD in my government and Baba never talked to me about it and I never talked to him about it.
“Dupe played her role — dutiful and diligent minister — and I have no regret for taking Dupe and Bola Ige as ministers in the administration that set up the present democratic dispensation,” he said.
Obasanjo commended the children and families of late Adesanya for organising the event, describing him as a man who deserved to be honoured.
“My prayer is that the legacy of Pa Adesanya will continue to influence the way things move in this country. People like them are not many; we need to create more of Adesanyas,” he said.
Dignitaries that graced the occasion include a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; Mrs Yetunde Onanuga, Deputy Governor of Ogun State; Mr Gbenga Daniel, a former Governor of Ogun State; and Mr Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State.
Others include APC chieftain, Chief Bisi Akande, KOWA Party leader, Prof. Remi Sonaiya and PDP chieftain, Chief Bode George, among others.