Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has revealed that, despite being a devout Christian, he flatly refused to use government funds to build a Christian Association of Nigeria edifice in Abuja during his tenure as President, which lasted from May 1999 to May 2007.
He said this on Friday at the Admiralty Centre, Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, Lagos State, during the Book Launch and 85th Birthday of Eminence Prelate Sunday Mbang of the Methodist Church Nigeria.
The former president, who also served as the Convener of the Mbang tribute program, characterized the former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria as a lover of the country. ‘My Life and Times,’ a memoir detailing the octogenarian’s journey, is the title of the book.
“He (Mbang) asked me, in his capacity as the leader of the Christian Association in Nigeria, to provide money to construct the Ecumenical Centre, as they called it at the time, now known as the National Christian Centre,” the former President remembered. ‘No, I don’t have; I won’t put government money into that kind of stuff because if I do it for Christians, I have to do it for Muslims, I have to do it for Babalawo (traditionalists), I have to do it for Sango worshippers,’ I answered.
But he was adamant. Persistence is required once more. I had no choice but to agree to become a fundraiser for the National Christian Centre’s completion, which I did. I gathered people — the wealthy, the not-so-wealthy, the poor, and the not-so-poor – and we raised enough to finish the National Christian Centre. I don’t think he’s been given credit for that job because if he hadn’t gone in the direction he did, that center may still be unfinished today.”
He recalled how “pressure” was put on him to run for president after he was freed from prison in 1999 during the episode.
“I came out of prison and pressure was mounted on me to contest election as president,” Obasanjo said of his meeting with the priest before his victory in 1999. I protested at first, saying, “How many presidents do you want to make out of me?” but the pressure persisted.
“After that, I gave in. When I finally gave in, I decided to go about, and one of the people I met was Sunday Mbang, the Prelate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria. I had never met him before, so I gave him a courtesy call and said, ‘Sir, I have come to see you,’ but before I could finish, he responded, ‘I will not vote for you, and I have no idea why you came here.’
He said that even if the cleric had not voted for him, he had won the election.
“As the President of CAN and a Christian, he became my religious boss and I became his political boss, and we had to work together out of necessity. Somehow, interest began to grow. “You need to have this man around you who will tell it like it is so you can say it as it is,” he added..