Abiodun Onafuye/Abeokuta

Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has declared that 90 percent of the 38 million people in the world who are blind could not have suffered the disability because the cause was preventable.

Obasanjo, also known as Ebora Owu, further said experts have revealed to him that out of the 38 million people in the world who are blind, at least five million of them are Nigerians, affirming that four million of the number in Nigeria could have been prevented.

Obasanjo dropped this hint at the flag-off of the 2013 Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) Free Eye Surgery programme, held at the OOPL complex, Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, southwest Nigeria.

According to him, “not too long ago, I was in the United Kingdom and I met with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who told me that 90 percent of global blindness is preventable. He told me this figure and I was baffled that if they could be prevented, what has been stopping us from preventing them? Since then, we have been making efforts to work with the experts to assist our people here at home to put a stop to this disease.

“What we are doing here is not special, but, also important, because eye is very important. It is our determination to ensure that our people are not blind.”

Obasanjo said the Nigerian specialists will do a good job, assuring that “you cannot be in better hands than in the hands of these experts. What people are looking for in China, India, we can also do it here and God will assist us,” he added.

He spoke with those who were undergoing screening and those that had just been operated upon, telling them “there is nothing to fear about the operation, contrary to what some people are saying around.

“They will just tap you, look into your eyes and the next thing you will hear is: ‘sir, you can stand up,’” he said.

On the effort of the OOPL to extend the services to other parts of the country, Obasanjo said, “all we can do is to do our little bit in catalyzing others to do the rest. In other societies, it is not the private sector that renders this kind of service. We are only lending helping hand to the public effort.

“If 90 percent of the 38 million blind people in the world are prevented from such disability and about five million out of them are Nigerians, which means that at least four million Nigerians who are blind can still have their sight, that is tremendous.,” Obasanjo said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Olalekan Makinde, the Programme Co-ordinator, said the exercise would benefit at least 200 people.

“For the two days set aside for the programme, the surgery is free of charge. They are not paying for anything,”adding that at least 3000 people had so far benefited since the free surgery started about four years ago.