FORMER president Obasanjo launched his non-governmental organisation the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation yesterday at a glitzy dinner which took place at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane.
Attended by Presidents Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, Eileen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia, Boni Yayi of Benin and John Mahama of Ghana, the event attracted over 1,000 guests. Now that it has been launched, the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation hopes to commence work as a charity across Africa, addressing four key areas.
These include education, particularly that of the girl-child, combating preventable diseases, youth unemployment and providing food security. President Obasanjo said his charity will focus on helping to assuage the numerous problems facing Africa.
In his speech, President Jonathan said: “For any country to achieve meaningful development, its citizens must be educated enough to drive the economic potentials. If I was not educated, I couldn’t have been the president of Nigeria, so in one’s life, education is important.”
President Yayi said the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation’s principles were in line with the United Nations’ policy of working towards alleviating the problems of Africa. He added: “We also want to help young people to enable them support their families. Vocational training is important in Africa and training the youths is vital for job creation.”
Chief Obasanjo added: “I am not saying that government, the private sector and other foundations are not doing enough. However, in spite of all what they are doing, there is still a gap that must filled as human security is not the responsibility of one organisation alone.
“For instance, if you educate a girl child, you educate a family and currently across Africa, there is girl child discrimination due to cultural, religion and poverty. Similarly, out of the 38m people who are blind in the world, 90% are preventable as all they need are simple things like eating good food, exercising regularly and regular medical checks.”
Other speakers, including Anne Welsh, the chairperson of the foundation and Richard Attias, the chairman of Richard Attias and Associates, and the founder of The New York Forum, said that various African governments are doing their best to reduce the aforementioned issues but a lot more still needs to be done. Now that it has been formally launched, the foundation is to begin work across various African countries and is expected to start with Malawi or Mali.
Other dignitaries at the launch included Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, former Central Bank of Nigeria governor Charles Soludo, Oby Ezekwesili, Senator Grace Bent and Timi Alaibe. Former British industry secretary Peter Mandleson chaired one of the sessions.