Below is an excerpt of Obasanjo response in an interview with the Guardian Newspaper as he celebrates his 80th birthday
"...I am what I am— a stupid village boy, born in the village, raised in the village, grew up in the village and did a number of things by accident. I went to school by accident, joined the army by accident, rose up in the army by accident, went to Congo, came back, and did what is right or what is wrong there. Then, I continued to rise in the army."
What do you mean when you said by accident?
Because some people would say, ‘yes, I came from a military family.’ But I didn’t come from a military family. Some people would say, ‘yes, I planned it and it took me two years to do so, but I didn’t plan it. I didn’t plan going to school. I was going with my father to the farm and one day, as we were returning from the farm, he just said, ‘look young man, is it this farming thing I am doing that you will continue to do for the rest of your life?’ And I replied, ‘yes, baba.’ Then, I had a cousin, who had left the village and went to Abeokuta to become a motor mechanic. So, he asked, ‘you don’t have an alternative?’ I said I had an alternative; that I wanted to be a mechanic. Then he said, ‘you don’t want to go to school?’ School had not crossed my mind, and I said, ‘baba, if you send me to school I will go.’ So, that was an accident. And he brought me to Abeokuta from the village.
I went to five different schools, because we came late, and I was not admitted. So, I stayed with my uncle in-law, my aunt’s husband. After three months my father came and said, ‘Sobo, don’t turn my son into a lazy man like you.’ He said this because I was going with the man to the river to catch fish every night. But my father came and took me with him. That was an accident. At that time, around the end of the year, people in the villages would go round for harvest. When they got to my village, the headmaster of the nearby village school came and after entertaining them, my father said, ‘can you give my son admission in your school?’ The headmaster said, ‘oh yes.’ That was the end of year, so I went. When I got there, the teacher registering new students asked, ‘what is your name?’ I replied that I am Olusegun. He said, ‘Olusegun, what?’ I said I am Olusegun Matthew.’ ‘Matthew Olusegun, what is your father’s name?’ I said, ‘my father’s name? That’s an insult!’
That would have been my first and last day in school, but for the understanding of the head teacher, because I attempted to slap the teacher. How could you insult my father by calling his name? But when I was called, the head teacher said I should lie flat on my stomach, while the teacher should give me three strokes of the cane. I might not have continued; I might have ended my school on that first day. So, when I talk of accidents, these are things you don’t and cannot say I planned.
I didn’t even plan going to war by virtue of the fact that I belonged to the Engineering Corp in the army. I was in Ibadan, when I was called. One Justice Akin, whose house was not far from mine, said after my name was announced, ‘if he is an army engineer, how could he be called to go to the war front?’ But then, at a certain stage in your military career, they did what was called staff and command training, which means it didn’t matter your area of specialisation, as you could go into normal military runs. So, you could be an engineer and command a brigade; you could be an armoured corps and command a brigade or you could be an artillery and command brigade, and so on. I said, ‘well, you (Justin Akin) haven’t offended me, you only expressed yourself because of the limit of your knowledge.’
Read The Thought-provoking Full Interview With Guardian Newspaper