I communicated my interest in having a video-recorded exclusive interview
with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to his aides as soon as it
became clear to me that I would need to be visiting Nigeria for
compelling family reasons. I moved swiftly, to alert a Nigeria-based
and veteran professional colleague in advance, to get his crew ready
for a panel interview to be jointly conducted by the two of us at
the President’s hilltop residence in Abeokuta. The idea was to do a
production that should have been as professional as possible.
Bearing the typically unreliable Nigerian factor in mind, however, I
devised a plan B to fall back upon if my professional colleague
failed me. I took my amateur kit with me to use as a last resort.
No sooner had I arrived Nigeria on February 29, 2016 than I received a
call from the former President’s Personal Assistant the following
morning, telling me that Baba was in town on Wednesday the 02nd
of March 2016 and would be able to squeeze an interview with me
between his tight schedule that was consumed by his upcoming
birthday bash on the following Saturday. No other date could be
I was frozen dumb by the sudden chill that went up my spine. It was
virtually impossible to get my professional colleague to assemble
his crew within the same day and make a strenuous trip from Benin
City to Abeokuta on that same Tuesday for an early morning interview
the very next day. I gave it a try all the same and my inevitable
nightmare scenario became the reality. I had to fall back on plan B.
That was the origin of my nightmare story of amateurish filming that was
only better than nothing at all. It was the story of an amateur kit
operated by a novice that was hastily converted into a makeshift
As usual, Baba received me happily in his opulent living room in the
early hours of that Wednesday. The room was already filled with
visitors, who all arrived on appointment hoping to get hold of the
ex-President as early as possible before he got immersed in the
There was, therefore, no time for long-drawn pleasantries and I got down
to business as a sole interviewer. I humbly apologize for the
miserable quality of the video material, particularly the audio that
was hardly audible at the beginning of the recording.
fitness and smartness
I started off by asking the former President the secret of his smartness
and physical fitness as this will come as no surprise to people who
know him at close range. Visibly looking nothing less than 70, the
President never fails to enthuse observers with his energy reserve
and extraordinary physical activities. I actually remember a day in
his company in London sometime in the year 2014. He was to locate an
address somewhere in Central London and his embassy-assigned
Chauffeur had mistakenly parked his car roughly half-a-kilometer at
the wrong address. Upon noticing the flaw, President Obasanjo would
not step in the car again to cover the 500-meter-distance. Defying
the protest of his Personal Assistant he simply said
“We will walk the distance”
and walk he did to the amazement of all. I, therefore, chose to toe
the traditional African line of conduct by not asking an elder what
his true age really is.
His candid insight into his private life, revealing his sporting
activities on the golf course, the squash court and tennis court,
marks a rare moment of getting personal with the former General. In
the section of the video recording that was marred by a very poor
audio, the President explains the psychological state of mind that
he has developed over time that sees him not dwelling on bitterness,
hearsays, anxieties and unnecessary worries. He emphasizes the need
to watch what he eats, when he eats and how much he eats. He sees
his present physical condition as the cumulative impact of several
When we went political however, I was struck by the fact that he
carefully avoided any statement on where, precisely, he thinks the
government of his political foster son Goodluck Jonathan derailed. I
attached much importance to this question because I know a school of
thought that strongly believes that former President Jonathan
derailed in the moment that he sacrificed the Obasanjo power base
for the combined power base of Ibrahim Babaginda and Edwin Clark. I
deliberately refused to press him further on this question due to
limited time and other important questions that I had in mind.
In fact, he does not deny that he played a pivotal role in seeing the
emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as President of Nigeria. The
involvement of ethnic minorities in the business of national
leadership in a country that belongs to all the ethnic groups, was a
matter of urgent priority to keep the nation functioning.
Given the generally accepted poor scoring and rating of the Goodluck
Jonathan’s government and the negative perception that it ended up
embodying, however, I pointedly asked General Obasanjo if he has
“any regrets and apologies” for facilitating the Jonathan
Presidency. I was struck by his emphatic
“No, No, No!” The
installment of a President from an ethnic minority was in his views
the ultimate fulfillment of Nigeria. If there should be any regret
whatsoever, it would probably be the impediment that Jonathan’s
failure constituted to Nigeria’s progress.
In his inimitable trademark manner, President Obasanjo is simply candid,
down-to-earth and unflinching.
billion oil money that was missing
He addresses several issues thereafter, ranging from the usefulness of
President Buhari’s current globe-trotting that is coming under
massive attack through the dwindling price of crude oil, agitation
for Biafra (which he simply considers to be dead and buried), the
present state of the People’s Democratic Party (which he also
believes is as “dead as
Dodo[sic]”) down to the contentious issue of the allegedly
missing Naira 2.8 billion oil money of his military days.
President Obasanjo laid the blame for the Naira 2.8 billion oil money
scandal fairly and squarely on mass media sensationalism. The
handwritten note of an external auditor, who sought to figure out,
how precisely Naira 2.8 billion – the entire budget of that year and
the rough equivalent of $ 5 billion at the time – was spent, somehow
found its way into the hands of journalists, who ended up
sensationalizing an auditor’s question mark that they did not truly
Now simply sit back and enjoy the full video and
join the debate to take Nigeria to the next level.
download the Obasanjo Interview from any of the following links
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Frisky Larr is author of the book "Nigeria's Journalistic Militantism" probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria!