Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has revealed that the founder of Cable News Network, CNN, Ted Turner and Ford Foundation both gave him the sum of $150,000 as a lifeline after he was released from prison by former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar(rtd) in 1998.
Obasanjo, who disclosed that he left prison broke, added that the money helped him to settle the tuition fees of his children and other needs at the time.
He made the revelation while sharing his prison experience at the a programme organised by Christ The Redeemer’s Friends International, CRFI, of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Lagos.
The former President said before he left Yola prison, he resolved, “to live a new life – quiet, peaceful and possibly private. But it was surprising when I got to the airport; a presidential aircraft was already waiting for me. I did not believe it. When I arrived Lagos, two cars with pilots were waiting to convey me to my residence. I held my peace.”
According to Obasanjo, after he returned home, he decided “to travel to the US for two reasons. First, I needed to see my children. When I was in prison, they could not pay their tuition. One of them was not allowed to continue because he could not pay his tuition.”
He said, “I did not have money after I returned from prison. And the experience was agonising. I did not even have money to settle their tuition and upkeep. As a father, I decided to travel first to see my children after a long time and second to encourage them, even though I did not have much with me at that time.
“To my surprise, the federal government provided me a presidential aircraft to take me to the US. I was equally surprised at the way the federal government then treated me. My transformation was so sudden. I said this is not ordinary. It is God in action.”
The former President said he traveled to the US where he visited Carter, Turner, Ford Foundation and other associates that tirelessly fought for his freedom.
Obasanjo said, “Both Carter and Turner fought hard for my release. When I got to Carter, he was happy to see me. Before we started discussing, he asked me if I had seen my friend, Ted. I said I had not seen him. He said Ted had been asking of me. He advised me to visit him before I travelled back to Nigeria. I assured him that I would visit him. He also told me about the roles Turner played to secure my release from Abacha’s claws. He said he really tried for me and that I should visit him in appreciation.
“After I left Carter’s place, I visited Ted. Oh, Ted was so glad to see me. He said you would need some money. “I asked him why he was asking such question when I just returned from prison and I had no money. He looked at me and smiled.
“Turner, then asked his secretary to give me $50,000. After I received the cash, I looked somehow unhappy and I did not say anything. He discovered I was not too excited about the money he asked his secretary to give me. He asked me why I was not looking happy.
“I told him directly that the money was not enough. I said you knew your friend had been in prison for a long time and that the money you gave me would not be enough. He smiled at me again and directed his secretary to add $50,000. I received $100,000 from Ted alone. I was relieved that I got some money to settle my children’s tuition.”
Obasanjo revealed that from Turner’s office, he visited the office of Ford Foundation in New York, because he was the sole African on its Board of Trustees before ex-Miltary Head of State, Sani Abacha framed him in a coup plot that sent him to prison.
The former President disclosed that at Ford Foundation, “I was well-received. After we had short discussion, I was asked if I had checked my account balance. I said there was no need to check it because I did not have any money in my account. I was advised to check my bank account.
“I did not know Ford Foundation was paying honorarium into my bank account. Ford was treating me as though I was attending its conferences, programmes and seminars. I was surprised to find a balance of $50,000 in my bank account. I got $150,000 during my trip to the US.
“Oh, I was so happy that I had more than enough to settle my children’s tuitions and other outstanding issues. I later visited my children, and they were all happy to see me after a long time. At some point, there was no hope of meeting again with what Abacha did to me. I settled their tuition. I shared my experience with them. I encouraged them to always trust God. And I returned to Nigeria after my mission. At the time I was released from the prison, I was really broke. But Ford and Ted rescued me from financial mess.”