“I have tremendous respect for him. I believe that one good thing that God did for South Africa was that Nelson Mandela was there to get the country through that transition, otherwise it could have been messy,” the former Head of State told CNBC Africa on Thursday.
The anti-apartheid hero is this year celebrating his big anniversary at the Pretoria Medi Heart Clinic. He was admitted for a recurring lung infection on 8th June and since then his condition has been reported to be critical but stable.
Thursday came as a relief for South Africans and well-wishers throughout the world when government announced that Mandela’s health is "steadily improving”, after weeks in a “critical but stable condition."
Obasanjo said he first met the international icon when he was still incarcerated for the independence of the people of South Africa against apartheid.
“His figure was unmistakable. The first thing that struck me was that he was wearing a belt with African National Congress (ANC) colours, which was an indication of who he was then and represented. The first thing we did was to indicate by signs that the room we were in was heavily bugged,” he added.
“He used the opportunity to send a message to his tormentors and also to say things that I could take away to his colleagues out there and other individuals like Buthelezi - I delivered all those messages.”
Nigeria’s former president challenged African leaders to take a leaf from Mandela’s journey and sacrifices for humankind. He further described Madiba as an epitome and symbol of justice who stood against the evil forces of apartheid.
“Whatever the situation may be in life remember one thing that God allowed it to happen and that God can correct any injustice. Nelson Mandela was the epitome for many years, almost three decades, and because of him people internationally would have forgotten about the evil of apartheid and it could have taken root,” Obasanjo added.
“Nelson Mandela was an epitome and a symbol of that punishers’ evil. He stood against it and was seen as a man against that evil.”