July 23, 2016


I met the veteran African leader and former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo (b. 1937), at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) Annual General Meeting of shareholders in Seychelles. Mahesh Patelji, Chairman of the Export Trading Group (ETG), one of Africa’s largest agricultural conglomerates, and my friend, invited me there.

President Obasanjo fondly recalled his training at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, India, in 1965 as a young military officer. In 1970, Obasanjo defeated the Biafran separatist state and ended the Nigerian Civil War. In February 1976, he took over as the Military Ruler of Nigeria after President Murtala Muhammed was killed in a failed coup, but three years later, handed over power to the newly elected civilian president, Shehu Shagari. Almost two decades later, Obasanjo returned as the democratically elected President of Nigeria and ruled for two terms (1999–2007).

Indians are good people, he said joyously, and asked me to sit by his side, holding my hand. There is something that leaders have in them, which followers do not, I mused, surprised by the warmth of his gesture and the firm grip of his hand even at nearly 80 years of age.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This