Obasanjo and the first built presidential library in Africa
Franklin D. Roosevelt, former President of America, was first to propose the idea of creating a Presidential Library where the Presidential papers, transpirations of significant events and gifts accumulated during his administration could be housed and preserved.
As the world war threatened democracy in Europe, on June 30th, 1941, President Roosevelt dedicated his Presidential Library (American first) at Hyde Park to the benefits of “future generations” who will use the records of his presidency. At the dedication, Roosevelt had this to say:
“To bring together the records of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a nation must believe in three things: It must believe in the past; It must believe in the future; It must believe in the capacity of its own people so as to learn from the past that they can gain judgment in creating their own future.”
Seventy-six years later, President Olusegun Obasanjo, has done exactly what President Roosevelt did by bequeathing to Nigeria and indeed the entire Africa, a complex, costing well over $150 million which in President Obasanjo’s words is : “an effort in pioneering and developing a legacy that can stand the test of time, to preserve the past for posterity, capture the present and let it be known today and tomorrow, to inspire the best to make the future great, project our culture and other cultures, to appreciate the beauty of diversity of cultures and to promote local, domestic and international tourism.”
While all well-meaning Nigerians and Africans and indeed the world would be heading to Abeokuta to wish this great African leader well with all manners of birthday gifts, typical of Baba, as he is reverently and fondly called, has asked us all, by implication, to hold all our birthday gifts in abeyance and accept first his own gift to Africa – Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), the first of its kind in Africa. For those of us who have taken time to seriously study this man, his leadership style and approach, his broad view of Nigeria and passion for Africa democracy sustainability, his commitment to African peace and security, from Congo to South Sudan to Liberia, Sierra lone, Ivory Coast to Angola, his believe that no section of Nigeria must have a monopoly of power at the highest level of government to the exclusion of other minorities, and his philosophy of speaking out at any time wrongs, injustice and leadership failures are taking place, I have come to the conclusion that any country that does not have an OBASANJO, must try and invent one.
What constitutes the major part of OOPL is the impressive museum, conspicuously located on two exhibition floors, while the Archival and the Information and Resource Centers are located on other floors. The museum showcases the life and times of President Obasanjo from his birth to date. The interesting thing is active structure of the exhibitions with interactive games, visuals and words of the man Obasanjo himself. The exhibitions also showcase Nigeria from amalgamation in 1914 and indeed Africa from independence days. In the section housing the huge conference hall, a bookshop, souvenir shop, has an area devoted to his late wife Mrs Stella Obasanjo. Here, information about former first lady Stella Obasanjo are displayed. The Arrival Pavilion is the reception place for the museum and archival floors, connected over a dam with a two lane bridge.
I am of the opinion that the reason(s) we are recording this huge African leadership failures is in large part due to accidental emergence and lack of preparations of these leaders. It’s no wonder therefore that the intellectual brain box of OOPL dwells in the Centre for Human Leadership and Security. Here you will be confronted with the “rich vista of the meanings and thrusts of the concept of human security”. The centre is involved with issues ranging from environment to security threats posed by globalization and technological advances and the response capabilities of most of the countries within the African region. The Centre vigorously embarks on HIV/AIDS education and enlightenment. Incidentally, this OOPL human security center was one of the earliest whistleblowers to the Ebola crisis. Food security, international terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal arms dealings, institutional corruptions etc., are among the areas of intellectual interest for the Centre for Human Leadership and Security of the OOPL. The centre does not only preoccupy itself with problem analysis, but provides recommendations for action-plan to local, state, national, regional and global levels.
Let me make haste to mention here that OOPL is playing host to a UNESCO Category II Institute for African Culture and International Understanding, and it’s the first UNESCO institute on culture in Africa with a mandate to increase intercultural dialogue and international understanding between Africa and other civilizations. The OOPL being acutely aware of the huge revenue involved in servicing and maintaining such a gigantic venture decided to infuse revenue generating enterprises like the Green Legacy Resort to serve visitors to OOPL for seminars, workshops, conferences; the Adire and African Fabric Centre for skill acquisition and sustenance of the old aged industry. In the same vicinity with the guest house, is the first state of the art auditorium, with inherent facilities like conference hall, theatre, reception hall and cinema; there are adult and children swimming pools, a 2,500 persons capacity marquee banquet, a fitness centre, a lawn tennis court and a first class squash court. The squash court didn’t come as a surprise to those of us who know Baba to be an ardent squash sportsman.
May I quickly mention at this juncture that OOPL has a board of trustees (BOT) of carefully chosen global eminent personalities. The BOT members are: Dr. Christopher Kolade (Co- chair); Ambassador Carl Masters (Co-chair); Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (Chief Promoter); Prof. Akin Mabogunje (Member); Chief Olatunde Abudu (Member); Chief Oloye Obafemi Olopade (Member); Chief Onaolapo Soleye (Member); Mrs. Nike Akande (Member); Prof. Peter Okebukola (Member); Dr. Eke Agbai (Member); Alhaji Ahmed Joda (Member); Prof. Joy Ogwu (Member); Gen. Martin Agwai (Member); Chief Bayo Ojo ( Member). These men and women have tirelessly worked so hard for the past ten years towards the realization of this project. I strongly believe, I speak the mind of Obasanjo if I use this opportunity to thank these BOT members for their sacrifice, hard work and dedication.
The OOPL has other outdoor recreational facilities like the Amphitheatre, the bamboo park, the wildlife park, associated with the children’s Amusement Centre, a dam for boating, rowing, fishing and a picnic area.
To friends and critics alike, one can’t but salute the vision in creating this first-class architectural edifice where Africa’s first Presidential library is housed.
By all accounts, President Olusegun Obasanjo is indeed an African Legend. Happy birthday Baba. Nigeria, the region, Africa and indeed the world rejoice with you on this occasion of your birthday and the inauguration of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, the first of its kind in Africa.
Dr. Agbai, executive vice-president, Center for Policy and Foreign Engagement USA is a BOT member of OOPL.