This Day (Lagos)

7 February 2013

Nigeria: Mali - Obasanjo Rallies International Support for Military Coalition

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo Wednesday made a case for the international community to mobilise funds for the military expedition in Mali to smash Islamic militants that took over the northern part of the country.

Obasanjo, in an interview on ARISE NEWS, a new 24-hour international television station broadcasting from its main news centres in London, New York, Johannesburg and Lagos, said for the international military coalition in Mali to succeed in its interventionist role, the global community must mobilise sufficient funds for it.

In another interview with the television station, Britain's former Prime Minister, Mr. Gordon Brown, said there was no reason why 10 million Nigerian children, who are currently out of school, should not get back to school by 2015.

Obasanjo, in the interview recorded in London, said the intervention in Mali was launched for the benefit of the global community, hence the need for the international community to adequately fund the military expedition in the country.

The former president who is in London for the launch of his Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation scheduled for tomorrow, commended the global concern for the Malian crisis.

But he added that the Malian troops must be bolstered through increased training to be able to handle the critical situation, which if not checked, could affect the whole world.

"The point is that if we have a situation anywhere in the world that affects the whole world, the world must be able to raise the needed money in order to deal with the situation. If the will is there, it would be done," he said.

Obasanjo also told Jeff Koinange, his interviewer, that he had no plans to retire for as long as he breathes.

He, however, pledged to continue to do good so long as he has the grace of God in him and the capacity to do so.

"There is no retirement in doing good in life and so long as you have breath, you should continue to do good," Obasanjo said.

He explained that his efforts in good works that were also being channelled through his Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, were in line with the American tradition where presidents set up presidential libraries after leaving office.

He said: "One of the things I started doing when I left office was to build a presidential library. In our own case, we are taking the issue of human security seriously. The foundation I am launching tomorrow, we have chosen five areas to concentrate on. We have chosen the area of security, girl/child education, health, especially high blood pressure, diabetes, sickle cell. These are not only diseases of the rich, it can affect any body; be it those in leadership position at public and private levels as well as at the social level."

In his interview with the television station, Brown stated that there was no scientific, technological or medical reason why 10 million Nigerian children currently out of school should not be in school by 2015.

Brown, now the United Nations Special Envoy for Education, who spoke to Arise News in the interview conducted during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said no country could make a leap from a low income country to a high income country unless it has educated people.

Brown stated that his target was to get all the 61 million children worldwide, who are currently out of school, into school by 2015.

When told that not all African countries would be able to send all their children to school by 2015, Brown disclosed that part of the reasons why he took up the UN job was to make this possible.

"Why I have taken this job is that I am going to change that. Take Nigeria, 10 million children are not going to school. Don't tell me that there is scientific or technological or medical reason why we can't get these children into school. In some cases, we need money; in some cases, we need to train the teachers; in some cases, we need to build more schools. But this is something that is imminently possible if there is a will to do it," he said.

According to him, if money is invested in building more schools and training teachers, these children would get back to school.

When reminded that two-thirds of Africans are between the ages of 18 and 25, while three-quarters are between the ages of 18 and 40 and a lot of them uneducated, Brown said: "That is the additional reason why we need to do it because in time, 20 to 25 per cent of the people in the world will be in Africa.

"They need to be educated. If you leave the countries illiterate, then they cannot progress economically. The individual loses; the family loses and the country loses. So, because population is rising in Africa and because Africa is potentially a source of workforce for the world - making goods, making services, delivering some of the products people want to buy, we need to educate the children so that they can get the benefits of these jobs."

The UN special envoy expressed the belief that Africa would achieve much within the next two-and-a-half years.

"I have been in schools in Africa and I have talked to pupils and I have talked to parents," he added.

He described as outrageous a situation whereby 61 million children are out of school worldwide.

"Many of them are working full-time; some are going to be married at the ages of 10, 11 and 12. Some of them like in Pakistan are victims of discrimination against girls. Some just don't have teachers to teach them. We have to ensure that at the first chance, a child gets the benefits of basic education. So, over the next two-and-a-half years, until 2015, our aim is to spread to as many countries as possible to invest in primary education; to get them into secondary education and tertiary education," he said.

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