Answering questions from students of the Ijaw National Academy(INA) Kaiama at the school auditorium as part of activities lined up for his two day working visit to Bayelsa, Obasanjo said in spite of the economic and political challenges confronting the country, there is great hope for Nigeria.
While admitting that there are things that could have been done differently, he insisted that Nigerians should not give up hope as that would spell doom for the country.
“If Nigeria does not have hope I would find a rope and commit suicide immediately because then what am I living for? I am an incurable optimist in Nigeria. Nigeria has hope. There are many things we should have done as we should have done them. There is no doubt about that. But that does not mean Nigeria does not have hope. Look, hope is what drives any human being. A person without hope is like a person without life. How can I therefore say that Nigeria has no hope? Nigeria has hope and you are part of the hope of Nigeria. You asking me that question heightens my conviction that Nigeria has hope.
This country in spite of our difficulties, we have hope. I just came back from Rome and while there I asked the Ambassador what are his major problems and he told me that there are 1600 Nigerians in Italian prisons, that is a problem but we shouldn’t because of that say that there is no hope for Nigeria. No, I won’t say that. I would say that we have a problem that we have to address and if we don’t address that problem we are postponing the evil day. That doesn’t mean that Nigeria has no hope. Never lose hope. If you lose hope you lose everything. Great hope because of you and great hope because I would not keep my mouth shut when I see things or anything wrong in Nigeria”
Obasanjo who insisted that he has no single regret as military Head of State and civilian President said he did everything humanly possible with the resources, facilities and knowledge at his disposal at that material time.
“Is there anything I would have wanted to do with the resources that I had, with the knowledge that I had when I was in government, with facilities that I had that I did not do? I would say no. Now If I had more resources there are things I would have done differently. But with what I had at the time that I had at my disposal and some of the people who worked with me are here, I did all the things I believe are humanly possible for me to do. Now mind you, I did not say that I was perfect, I would never say that, only God is perfect. I did not have any regret when I was in government”
When asked to compare and contrast his challenge as a military Head of State and an elected President, he explained that the Dimka coup and subsequent assassination of Muritala Mohammed was a major challenge which he had to deal with.
As an elected President, he said he had to come to grips with the fact that he was dealing with democratic institutions with its own peculiarities.
“Dealing with democracy is far different from military government. That was what I had to understand. As military Head of State I did not have a party to contend with, I did not have a National Assembly to contend with, I did not have the opposition to contend with; Labour Union, ASUU etc. These are things that you had to contend with and manage them.”