London- A British Author, Prof. John Ilife, has lauded former President Olusegun Obasanjo for his role in the building of modern Nigeria.
Ilife, a retired Professor of African History at Cambridge University gave the commendation at the introduction of his book entitled: “Obasanjo, Nigeria and The World’’, held on Wednesday at the Chatham House in London.
Chatham is the Royal Institute of International Affairs, an elite and highly regarded think-thank that conducts independent research and academic studies on international affairs.
Ilife, who described the book as a provisional biography, pointed out that he never approached Obasanjo in the course of writing the book.
He said, Obasanjo, though described by many as a controversial personality, has remained dominant in the politics of Nigeria since the civil war.
`Though described as a controversial man, I have no reason to either attack him or defend him; my concern in this book is to try to understand him in the Nigerian and international contexts in which he worked,’’ Ilife said.
He said Obasanjo, who was given great authority as a military commander in his early thirties, became `exceptionally’ sensitive to the location of power including power at the international arena and on the streets of Nigerian cities.
According to Ilife, Obasanjo’s decisions were invariably based on political calculations, rather than legal and constitutional principles that concerned his elite critics.
“A man of great physical and intellectual energy, he exercised power with skill and ruthlessness, sometimes unscrupulously but seldom cruelly,’’ he said.
He said to study Obasanjo’s career means to gain some sense of the immense demands that the government of a large African state like Nigeria placed on those who governed it.
Ilife observed further that his critics believed that power corrupted Obasanjo, and that an `inordinate desire for absolute, unfettered power’’ became the driving principle of his administration, especially during his second term as President.
He said, “paradoxically, Obasanjo was not corrupted by his lust for power but chiefly by the strength of his own patriotism.’’
Also, Dr Abdul Mustapha, a lecturer at the University of Oxford, described the book as an important examination of “possibly the most controversial personality in modern Nigerian politics”.
“The strength of this study is that, it is an outsider’s calmer examination of a man who evokes such strong emotions that studies of him within Nigeria are necessarily tainted by widespread perceptions of who he is,’’ Mustapha, a former lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, stated in his review of the seminal publication.
Mr Bob Dewar, former British High Commissioner to Nigeria and Chairman of the event, agreed with the author on several counts,adding that the book was timely coming on the eve of the general elections in Nigeria in which Obasanjo continues to play a critical role. (NAN)
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British author extols Obasanjo’s modernising role