Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday marked his 84th birthday with a colloquium at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, Ogun State. Also for the first time, the former President disclosed that he once tested positive to the dreaded Coronavirus and survived. He said he was relieved 72 hours later when subsequent tests came out negative.

The colloquium, which took place simultaneously both online and offline had as its topic, ‘Reflection on Governance and Changes for Post-pandemic Leadership in Africa’, with hundreds of people in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Singapore and Nigeria participating virtually.

On his COVID-19 scare, Obasanjo said: “It will surprise you that I was tested positive for COVID-19. I called them to come and test me, they came on a Saturday, I didn’t get the result until Wednesday and it came out positive but I didn’t see any symptoms.“They came three days after they tested me and said I am negative – that is three days after I tested positive.”

He said he was a bit concerned about it and had to call his daughter, Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, that he was not having any symptom but had COVID-19 test from sample extracted from him reading positive.

The elder statesman said Iyabo’s verdict was that the result might be faulty and required further tests.

According to him, subsequent tests 72 hours later, all certified him negative to the Coronavirus.

“Since then, I have tested three times negative; so, if you want to come near me, you can come near me. It is nothing to worry about, when I was tested positive, my household was running from me, I told them to stay in their place while I stay in mine.”

Obasanjo therefore, advised people not to be afraid to come quite close to felicitating with him on his birthday because of the dread of COVID-19 infection, saying he had tested negative three times.

“God has continued to be compassionate and merciful to Nigeria and the rest of Africa; if the Coronavirus had come in the manner of Ebola in Africa with its devastation, no amount of social or physical distancing would have saved the continent.

“I wondered how much social distancing requirement would have been able to accomplish in Mushin, Lagos, where eight people live in one room or Ajegunle, also in Lagos, where no fewer than 10 people occupy 12 by 12 room,” he said.

On why the pandemic did not wreak havoc in Africa like it did in America, Europe and Asia, Obasanjo said many had attributed Africa’s luck to genetics, heat and peculiar food in the environment, but stressed that “for whatever might be the plausible explanation, God’s finger cannot be ruled out.”

He also lamented that the Coronavirus spread to many nations of the world was because the United States under the administration of former President Donald Trump was passive in addressing the public challenge.

“Trump spent all his time dismissing the danger as Chinese virus until it became a global problem,” he recalled.

Former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has felicitated with Obasanjo on the occasion of his 84th birthday.

Dr. Jonathan described Chief Obasanjo as a sincere patriot and thanked God for his life and all the great things he has achieved.

In a goodwill message he personally signed, former President Jonathan said: “As you mark this occasion of your 84th birthday, I join your family, friends and well-wishers to thank Almighty God for a fulfilling and highly eventful life.

“You are a sincere patriot who has sacrificed so much for the growth and development of our dear country. Your leadership both as a military Head of State and President at different periods produced landmark achievements in uniting and deepening the bond that holds together our diverse country.”

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State also sent a warm birthday greetings to the former President, describing him as “Nigeria’s most authentic living statesman.”

The Abia governor extolled the leadership quality of a man “whose life’s oddysey has become an invaluable source of history.”

He stated that the former president has lived for Nigeria and given the best of his years to the sustenance of the unity and democratic development of our country with the very exceptional privilege of serving as both a military and democratically elected leader

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also saluted Obasanjo at 84.

The PDP in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan described President Obasanjo as a patriotic leader, global figure and exceptionally energetic administrator, who has made immeasurable contributions, both as a military leader and as democratically elected President, for the survival, unity, stability and development of the nation.