History was made at Abeokuta, Ogun State in Nigeria on Saturday, March 4, 2017, as the ex-president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo in the company of the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, and other dignitaries launched the first presidential library in Africa. The Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) is the first in Africa to be modeled after the presidential libraries of the United States. This library was designed and built in the expansive style of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
The idea for the $150 million facility was conceived by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1988 after his first stint as Nigeria’s military head of state from 1976-1979. He was later to serve as an elected president from 1999 to 2007 during which he established the ‘Office of Presidential Libraries (Libraries, Research and Documentation).' The library was incorporated in November 2002 as a not-for-profit organization and finally established in 2005. Basic in its footprint is the United States presidential library system and culture whose concept is deeply rooted in ideas of President Franklin Roosevelt.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo stated that three elements were necessary if this project was to be successful in an African environment such as Nigeria: “One, we must incorporate revenue generating unit to ensure substantial fund are generated to support what donations we may continue to receive.Two, there must be enough facilities to serve the need of the community and to impart positively on the community in a way it must be a community project from the point of view. Three, it must be active and dynamic, not inactive, but also instructive and inspiring. It must also be a centre for knowledge, information and values to a large extent.”1
The goal of the library is reflected by its official statement, "The OOPL aims at ‘preserving the past, capturing the present and inspiring the future.’ It is a historic, touristic, recreational and academic centre, which is regarded as a national archive and a place for the preservation of presidential documents and historical items associated with the office and person of President Olusegun Obasanjo. It will house some cultural artifacts and feature essential events in the Nigeria history and modern Africa history. The vision of the OOPL itself is to be an evergreen resource for stimulation of the ideas of democracy, good governance and leadership in Africa, with the mission to foster deeper understanding of the life, career and passion of President Olusegun Obasanjo. The OOPL seeks to facilitate reflection on best practices in public service; provide a clearer comprehension of development in Africa, the Commonwealth and the rest of the world, and collaborate with similar institutions in attaining these objectives.’’2 To accomplish and maintain such lofty goals the library is managed by a board of trustees of eminent Nigerians with international organizational experience.
The library in the facility has over 42 million books, documents, and archival materials of the former president. It houses a museum showcasing the life and times of President Obasanjo from birth to date. It also has an Auditorium, Amphitheatre, and the Adire and African Fabrics Center. Also in the facility is the ‘Center for Human Leadership and Security’ and other advocacy centers. Within the environs are zoological gardens and the Green Legacy Resort that serves visitors attending seminars, workshops, and conferences.
In addition to the many distinguished Nigerians in attendance at the grand opening was the former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Anan; Liberian President, Ellen Sirleaf; and about 14 serving and former African Presidents. In his own words Olusegun Obasanjo sees this as “an effort in pioneering and developing a legacy that can stand the test of time, to preserve the past for posterity, capture the present and let it be known today and tomorrow, to inspire the best to make the future great, project our culture and other cultures, to appreciate the beauty of diversity of cultures and to promote local, domestic and international tourism.” 3
1Dimeji Kayode-Adedeji, "Osinbajo, others launch Obasanjo presidential library" http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/225210-%E2%80%8Eosinbajo-others-launch-obasanjo-presidential-library.html (March 4, 2017).
2Marcel Mbamalu "Inside Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library" https://guardian.ng/features/inside-olusegun-obasanjo-presidential-library (March 3,2017).
3 Dimeji Kayode-Adedeji, "Osinbajo, others launch Obasanjo presidential library" http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/225210-%E2%80%8Eosinbajo-others-launch-obasanjo-presidential-library.html (March 4, 2017).