Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday disclosed that he was forced to make adjustments to his 83rd birthday programme because of the outbreak of the coronavirus which had spread across the world.
Obasanjo made the disclosure in Abeokuta while speaking at a symposium organised to celebrate his 83rd birthday.
He said that the birthday ceremony was originally scheduled to hold between Tuesday and Friday, adding that the programmes for Tuesday and Wednesday were put off because some of the participants could not attend because of the coronavirus.
“When we were thinking of this celebration, two programmes came to mind.
“One was to consider what Asian countries have done to make their continent become what they have become.
“We had planned a round-table discussion which was meant to share lessons from Asia’s development for strengthening Africa’s integration and cooperation in the area of socio-economic development.
“We had wanted to consider countries like Malaysia which was worse than us when we got our independence in 1960 , South Korea, which was below us and Vietnam which was plunged into series of wars.
“However, because of Coronavirus, that programme was shelved because some of the intended participants would not have been able to attend.
“I do hope that sometime in the future, we will be able to bring back such programme.
“The second programme was the subject of Pan Africanism for which we have invited a former Prime Minister of Jamaica, James Patterson, to open discussions.
“When we learnt that Patterson would not be available due to accident, we chose a former President of Seria Leone, Bai Koroma, but then, with coronavirus, we had shelved that plan and reached out to a different set of discussants that we have today,” he said.
The celebrator also spoke on the theme of the symposium which was “The Place of Pan Africanism In An Emerging World Of Besieged Liberal Democracy.”
The former president recalled how African leaders used the instrument of the creation of the African Union (AU) to extend the frontiers of the concept of Pan Africanism to embrace Africans in the Diaspora.
Obasanjo, who insisted that no two democratic systems in the world were the same, called on the African region to redefine its own democracy, adding that the concept of liberal democracy was a western coinage and idea.
“Can we not have our own democracy that satisfies our needs?
“I think we can define our own democracy in our own way to satisfy ourselves,” he said.
He, however, advised Africans to be ready for antagonism when they so decide to carve out their own definition for democracy, adding that the region must be steadfast.
“We can, however, learn from the experience of a former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yeuu, whom they called called different names when he embarked on transformation of his country in the mid-70s.
“When Singapore moved from third world to first world, they all shared and basked in the success of Singapore.
“If we are able to do something not too far away from that but radical enough to meet our needs and we succeed, they will grudgingly accept us but if we do and we fail, we are on our own.
“We must realise that the world will not wait for us and they will not want us to succeed.
“If we succeed, we would have taken something away, but if we fail, we will be on our own,” he said.