By DAUD OLATUNJI, ABEOKUTA

It is no news that  the palatial building of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was gutted by fire. What is news is the mystery that pervaded the life of  the former president in the past couple of years. Obasanjo had been in the news for his rumoured deaths  since 1999 when he became president and even after  he  left the mantle of leadership in Aso Rock.

Hardly did a year pass without Obasanjo being rumoured dead.

He was  rumoured dead  in 1999,2002, 2003,2006, 2009, August 10,2010, January1, 2012  and recently on December 15,2012  which he had all dispelled, claiming that  ‘he dey kampe’.The former president  escaped unhurt in the Thursday fire which razed his confidential secretary’s office  located  nearby  his bedroom in his Hilltop building at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State capital. The fire, which did not spare anything in the office, occurred  20  minutes after he stepped out of the house. He was reported to have also held a meeting with  some people  before he left  the palatial building for Ita-Eko, Abeokuta.

His wife, Bola, children and grandchildren, reported to be  holiday, were hurriedly evacuated from the mansion as the fire raged.

Obasanjo’s mansion

Obasanjo had, in one of his reactions to  his rumored deaths, said,  “I think people take delight in speculation and rumour. A friend of mine broke to me the news of my death this morning. He was trying to confirm, and he said he had counted seven times that I have been rumoured dead since the eve of my inauguration as a democratically elected president of Nigeria in 1999.

”Those who indulge in this will not give up. And there are those who have the superstitious belief that when there are rumours and speculations like this, it means longevity.”Whether longevity or not, what I know is that until the good Lord, who has created me, decides to say yes, I have reached my take-off point to return to Him, people may speculate, people may rumour, and that will be their own handicap.”

However,  a spiritualist, sighted   around the partially-burnt  residence of  the former president  after the Thursday fire occurred, disclosed that  the fire had to occur  to save Obasanjo’s life.

According to the spiritualist, who pleaded anonymity, as a Yoruba man, when you are rumoured dead and you are alive, you must  lose some of your property or something substantial. Sunday Vanguard gathered that the fire started during a party in the building that had in attendance the former president’s wife, Bola and children as well as visitors who  were mostly foreigners. Sources close the mansion said the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault as  computers

and office appliances were among items said to have been destroyed in the inferno.

One of the officials of the rescue team, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, identified as  Kunle Famakinwa, sustained injury while joining his colleagues to put out the fire. The  fire, which was said to have started around 4:30p.m, destroyed some documents and household items.

It took security agencies 30 minutes to put out the fire. Two fire fighting trucks of the Ogun State Fire Service, marked  OG 122 AO9 and OG 127 A09, arrived the scene one  hour after the fire had been put under control.

The development forced the former president to return to the mansion to ascertain the level of damage.

Addressing newsmen, Obasanjo expressed appreciation to God, explaining that the fire did not affect the entire building. He said: “You have seen that it is only the office of my secretary that is burnt. The house is almost intact.”

Singing in Yoruba language, the former president said: “Ile Obasanjo to jo ewa lobu kun, ile Obasanjo to jo ewa lobu kun, eyin Press ema wibe, ewa lobu kun”(which when translated means “fire that gutted

Obasanjo’s house has only made it more beautiful, you pressmen sing along with me”).

Meanwhile,  there was a mild drama  when  Obasanjo’s son, Oba, seized and smashed the phone of a journalist taking pictures of his father’s burning house.

Mr. Dimeji Kayode-Adedeji of  the Premium Times  and Johnson Akinpelu of Alaroye newspaper  incurred the wrath of Obasanjo’son who transferred his anger on them and destroyed their equipment.

Oba  descended on Kayode-Adedeji when he  was taking pictures of  his father’s  house. He grabbed the photojournalist’s phone  and smashed it on the ground.

According to Kayode-Adeniji” he (Oba) just approached me and before I knew what was happening he had  collected my Blackberry phone from my hand and the next thing I saw was my phone scattered on the ground.”

Speaking with Sunday Vanguard on the fire incident, the Public Relations Officer of the NSCDC in  Ogun State, Olanrewaju Kareem confirmed that one of his men sustained injury in the cause of saving Obasanjo’s house.

Kareem disclosed that, the Corps got the hint of the fire incident through some of his men attached to the former president’s  house,saying, the fire was quenched by his men with the support of other agencies that were present.

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