Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has disclosed that despite being a Christian, he bluntly refused to use government’s fund to complete a Christian Association of Nigeria building in Abuja while he was President between May 1999 and May 2007.
He revealed this on Friday while speaking during the Book Launch and 85th Birthday of Eminence Prelate Sunday Mbang of the Methodist Church Nigeria held at the Admiralty Centre, Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, Lagos State.
The former president, who was the Convener of the programme in honour of Mbang, described the former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria as a lover of Nigeria. The book, a memoir, chronicling the journey of the octogenarian, is titled, ‘My Life and Times.’
The former President recalled, “He (Mbang) asked me in his capacity as the head of the Christian Association in Nigeria that I should bring money to complete the Ecumenical Centre as they called it then, now it is known as National Christian Centre. I said, ‘No, I don’t have; I won’t put government money into that type of thing because if I do it for Christians, I have to do it for Muslims, I have to do it for Babalawo (traditionalist), I have to do it for Sango worshippers. No.
“But he insisted. Again, persistence. I had no choice to agree to now become a fundraiser for the completion of the National Christian Centre and I did. I got people together –the rich, the not-so rich, the poor, the not-so poor and we raised money to complete the National Christian Centre. I don’t believe he has been given credit for that work because if he had not gone the way he did, may be that centre will still remain uncompleted till today.”
At the programme, he reminisced how “pressure” was mounted on him in 1999 to contest as president after he was released from prison.
Obasanjo recalled how he met the cleric before his election in 1999, saying, “I came out of prison and pressure was mounted on me to contest election as president. Initially, I resisted and I said how many presidents do you want to make out of me but the pressure continued to mount.
“Then, I caved in. When I caved in, I decided to go round and one of those I visited was the Prelate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, Sunday Mbang. I haven’t met him before but I made a courtesy call and I said, ‘Sir, I have come to see you’ but before I finished, he said, ‘I will not vote for you and I don’t know what you come here for’.”
He said though the cleric might not had voted for him but he won the election.
“As the President of CAN and me, a Christian, he then became my boss religiously and I became his boss politically and of necessity, we had to work together. Somehow, interest started developing. This man who will say it as it is a man that you need to have around you so that you can say it as it is,” he said.