Speaking in Abuja during the launch of ‘Muhammadu Buhari, the Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria’, a book authored by John Paden, a professor, Obasanjo described Buhari as an upright man.
To buttress this point, he went down memory lane in recalling an encounter he had with Buhari, when the incumbent president served under him as a commissioner.
“President Buhari and I have had many encounters, but most of them in parallel. Not too long ago, we had a direct opposition at the ballot box. But even then, it did not affect our relationship,” he said.
“And fortunately, we didn’t have to look at each other through the barrels of our guns. I thank God for that.
“On one occasion when President Buhari was a commissioner for petroleum, he went for an OPEC meeting in Saudi Arabia, and each leader of a country was given a special gold coin. President Buhari, then an army officer, came back to show his superior the gold medal which was very expensive, and said: ‘This I was given, if I give you, promise me that you won’t give it to somebody else.’
“And that came about because one of his colleagues bought me a hand-made shoe, and after I discovered that it was too luxurious, I gave it to my ADC. I believe President Buhari heard about that story, and he wanted to make sure that I didn’t give out the gold coin… But don’t ask me where the coin is today.”
The audience, which paid rapt attention to the elder statesman, erupted in laughter.
When it was time for him to give his vote of thanks, Buhari identified the officer whom Obasanjo spoke of as “the late Joe Garuba”.
The book, a biography, chronicled the struggles, and the career of the president until May, 29, 2016, when he assumed office as a democratic leader.
Presidents of Chad, Niger, and Benin Republic attended the programme, which held at the International Conference Center (ICC), Abuja.
Among other dignitaries were Yakubu Gowon, former head of state; Aisha Buhari, wife of the president; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and his wife; Senate President Bukola Saraki; Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the house of representatives, and his wife.
Bola Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC); John Oyegun, national chairman of the APC; Aliko Dangote, president of Dangote Group; Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holding; governors, and ministers.
Obasanjo and Buhari are the only individuals who have occupied the topmost position in the country both in military and civilian dispensations.