Simon Utebor, Yenagoa
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Sunday worshipped with ex-President Goodluck Jonathan at the St. Stephen Anglican Church, Otuoke Diocese, in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The church service, which was carnival like, had in attendance Governor Seriake Dickson; his deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd.); Jonathan’s wife, Patience; a former Military Governor of old Rivers State, King Alfred Diete-Spiff and other personalities.
Bayelsa State cultural troupe, children and youths from the state clad in attire of different cultures of Nigeria treated the congregation to dance drama and musical renditions.
Speaking to the large audience, Obasanjo, who has been in Bayelsa for the past three days where he inaugurated some projects carried out by Dickson’s administration, said there could never be peace in Nigeria without reconciliation and oneness.
The former President, who said he was mostly touched by the children’s performance calling for oneness of Nigeria, noted that the call underpinned the need for reconciliation in the country.
Talking to the Vicar of the church, Rt. Rev. James Oruwari, and the audience, Obasanjo said, “What touched me most in this short gathering is the children coming forward and singing the welcome song and dressed in the attire of different cultures, different tribes and different linguistic groups in Nigeria.
“And for me, that underpins the homily you (Rev. Oruwari) gave to us reconciliation. And the country like Nigeria, unless we preach, we teach, we practise reconciliation, then we will not have peace.
“And unless we have peace, we will not have development, and unless we have development, we will not have growth and if we do not have growth, we will not come out of poverty.
“Even if some of us are exceptionally lucky and they are able to get out, the majority of us will be ridden in poverty and that is not what God has ordained for this country. What God has ordained for this country is for this country to be a land flowing with milk and honey; a land of plenty and a land of prosperity.
“I think we cannot do better than copy what those children have taught us with their appearance this morning, that whatever we are, wherever God has brought us to be in this country, what is most important is the oneness of Nigeria. That is what we can do as individuals and collectively for the good of this country.
“And one of the things is always bitter and many things they say that are really not quite right; they say history repeats itself. History doesn’t repeat itself. It is we, human beings, that do not learn from history and because we do not learn from history, we say history repeats itself. And when you continue to make the same mistake, you say history repeats itself, you are the one making mistake; history is not repeating itself.”
Making a biblical reference, Obasanjo said it was only the truth that would make people free, insisting that only people that had not lost their freedom that would not value it.
He added, “I think in the same way, the Bible is absolutely right. It says: ‘You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.’ Now, many of us may not know the value of freedom, because you have never lost your freedom.
“I have lost mine and I know the value of freedom. There is nothing, except life, and if you have life without freedom, you may even regret life and that is as bad as not having freedom. And when the Bible says, truth will make you free. It is total freedom.
“You must know the truth and in truth we will have freedom and in freedom we will have life in abundance. That is what the word of God says to us and that is what we should embrace.”
He said it was a privilege to worship in the church, particularly with Jonathan, whom he described as “my brother, my colleague and my friend.”
Also speaking, former President Goodluck Jonathan thanked Obasanjo for his visit and for worshipping with him in the church in his hometown.
Jonathan preached the unity and oneness of Nigeria, condemning some messages, particularly in the social media portraying the country as if it was sitting on a keg of gunpowder that could explode one day.
On Obasanjo’s two-day visit to him, Jonathan said it was a unique opportunity to receive him (Obasanjo) in his village.
He stated, “It is a unique opportunity. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo promised that he was going to visit my village when I visited his hometown after leaving office. But I did not know it was going to come at this time. But we have to thank Governor Seriake Dickson because Obasanjo was to come here only once.
“He was not to come to this village twice within a three-day programme but the governor insisted that immediately he comes in, Obasanjo would come and see us, then of course, before he leaves, he will also come and worship with us.
“Just like Obasanjo said when the young came out and performed in different cultures, different languages, different dance steps, I think that is what the country should be like.
“I pray that as we progress in this country, one day all the churches and mosques should bring children and do this kind of dance drama so that we all know that the message of unity should be carried on. Because if you listen to the radio, watch the television and go especially into the social media, it will be as if the country is hanging on a keg of gunpowder that can explode one day. I think the children have given us a message of unity that Nigeria is one.”
On his part, Dickson thanked Obasanjo for coming to the state to inaugurate some projects completed by his administration.
He insisted on the significance of peace in the country, saying that without peace, no meaningful progress could be attained