This Day (Lagos)

20 July 2006

Nigeria: How Obasanjo Cut UK, U.S. to Size, By Andrew Young

Abuja — Delegates to the on-going 7th Leon H. Sullivan Summit in Abuja were last night taken on a historical excursion on how President Olusegun Obasanjo 'cut to size' the United Kingdom and United States of America over the countries' surreptitious support for apartheid South Africa.

Driving the excursion, United States' former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Andrew Young, told the delegates who had gathered at the Banquet Hall, State House, for a state banquet, that Obasanjo, as former Nigeria's military head of state forced the United States and the United Kingdom to review their positions on the apartheid South Africa when he denied the then US Secretary of State, Mr. Henry Kissinger landing in Nigeria for an official visit as well confiscating the UK government's assets in the country.

Young said Kissinger, who's respected for his greatness, did everything, but pragmatic and proactive actions to address the evils of the apartheid regime.

"Kissinger was powerful. He was well respected all over the world. He was quite influential. But he tenure did not take any steps to crush apartheid.

"And when he (Kissinger) decided to take official trips to some countries on the African continent then, including Nigeria, the government of then General Olusegun Obasanjo did not allow his plane to land in Nigeria because the regime felt that the UN under Kissinger failed to take serious action against apartheid. So the plane had to return back to the United States."

Reflecting on the Obasanjo's confrontation with government of the United Kingdom with respect to the apartheid regime, Young said: "It was also during the same period that the UN took a resolution imposing economic sanctions on the regime. The UK and other countries, including Nigeria voted for the sanction.

"To the chagrin of Nigeria, the UK was found secretly pumping oil to the regime. This infuriated the Nigerian government which then made legislations confiscating oil assets of the UK in Nigeria that valued at about $2 billion.

"This was how the Obasanjo regime cut the two most powerful countries to size," he added.

Young, who described Obasanjo as a man of his words, enjoined the audience to "take me seriously", and said: "President Obasanjo is respected man. When he makes any commitment, you better respect it."

He said the president believes that it was better to make more money "honestly in a growing economy than continue to steal from a dying economy."

He said, as a man who was on throes of death, he saw the need to promote democracy, rather than military dictatorship "as he demonstrated when he willingly organized, held and handed over power to a democratically elected government in Nigeria, when he had the option of staying on to power like his other African leaders of those days.

"Today Obasanjo is treated like a royalty all over the world because he has brought respectability to the African continent."

Also speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer of the Sullivan Foundation, Hope Sullivan, described Obasanjo as her earthly angel "Who watches over me and my family."

She eulogized what she called Obasanjo's leadership role on the continent and "His steadfastness in the actualization of my late father's dream. He is a man of honor, integrity and has bridged the gap between the Africans and the Americans."

In his welcome remarks, Obasanjo enjoined the delegates to eat, drink and dance as "We have the honour of having in our midst one of Nigeria's best artists, King Sunny Ade as well as several others."

He said Sullivan was an extra-ordinary man who did not only serve humanity, but did so in the service of God.

He said the late Sullivan was man who did not forget his root, "More reason why he fought tirelessly to terminate apartheid regime in South Africa."

He expressed gratitude to the delegates and Heads of States that were present at the state banquet.

The next summit, which comes up in May 2008, takes place in Tanzania.

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