March is the birth month of two prominent Nigerians who have made significant marks in the country and around the world: General Olusegun Obasanjo and Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
Obasanjo was born on March 5, 1937. He was Nigeria’s Military Head of State between 1976 and 1979; and later the President, of Federal Republic of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.
He left Nigeria’s active political space to become a mechanized farmer, high school and university proprietor as well as an episodic clergyman.
Tothe date, the General continues to fit into what John Iliffe calls “the outstanding member of the second generation of independent African leaders who dedicate themselves to the consolidation of their postcolonial states.”
Pastor Adeboye, on the other hand, has been the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) since 1981. His church has 2.5 million members worldwide.
It is the most populated church in China this year. Adeboye’s leadership has extended RCCG’s vision to education and landed property ownership.
The church leader has several financial endowments in some universities, notably OAU, UNN and Unilag. He was, as of 2008, one of the 50 most powerful people in the world, and cited by the New African Magazine in 2019 as one of the 100 most influential Africans.
We felicitate with Chief Obasanjo and Pastor Adeboye on attaining 85 years and 80 years respectively. Both men are prominent international figures of Nigerian origin. With all the immanent and manifest contradictions in our country, anyone who lives above 60 deserves special recognition.
This is because as of 2019, life expectancy at birth for women in Nigeria was about 55.62 years; and for men, about 53.79 years on average. Only special ‘grace’ must have blessed both prominent Nigerians with such longevity. But what is the current state of the country from where they rose to prominence?
What will the average Nigerian remember them for with the passage of time? What are their dispositions towards the socio-political and economic development of their country?
We note that Obasanjo and Adeboye have not been indifferent to the socio-political situation in Nigeria. Obasanjo has, even after heading the country twice, been vocal on almost all social and political developments. He criticises and advises where and when he feels it is necessary.
In his 85th birthday speech, Obasanjo emphasised the need for the government to concentrate on good governance and quality leadership to prevent a situation of what he called ‘saying goodbye to Nigeria.’ This political alertness and vigilant activism are commendable on the part of the former president. We do appreciate his current proactive disposition and nationalism.
However, such incidents as the military attack on Fela Anikulapo’s Kalakuta Republic in 1977, ‘Ali Must Go’ students’ protest of 1978, failure of power sector reforms and Odi Massacre in 1999 on his watch blighted his days in power. Leaders should always remember that they are in political offices to create legacies.
On Adeboye’s birthday he called on RCCG youths all over Nigeria to set aside one Sunday to pray for the nation. A committee to win 80 million Nigerian souls to Christ was also set up.
Although Adeboye’s approach differs from Obasanjo’s, it is commendable that both national elders are committed to ensuring the continuity and survival of Nigeria, The Trumpet gathered.
Adeboye, however, needs to be reminded that prayers and soul-winning are not enough in nation building. He and other religious leaders should speak truth to power and utilise their large followings to ensure wide, proactive political participation that can move the country forward.
In addition, since gender inequality is often generally perceived to be rooted in religion, Adeboye and other religious leaders should promote women empowerment and an egalitarian society.
Other Nigerian elder statesmen should emulate Obasanjo and Adeboye by actively using their wide acceptance and charisma to re-engineer the socio-political situation of Nigeria.
We note specially that the ‘grace’ of longevity enjoyed by Obasanjo and Adeboye is not unconnected with their access to foreign medical facilities. Both men should use their influence and sermons to appeal to the Nigerian government to fix the health sector because a majority of Nigerians cannot afford medical help overseas.
We join both men to give thanks to God for a life of service to mankind and wish them happy birthdays.