According to LEADERSHIP, Atiku said this in Lagos during a special reunion to mark the 80th anniversary of Ford Foundation.
The newspaper quoted him as saying like many parents of his generation, his father needed his help in the farm and therefore attempted to stop him from getting formal education.
He said if the government had not forced his father, he would not have been allowed to go to school, attributing his achievements in life to education.
“Although he later relented, my father was put in prison by local authorities for refusing to send me to school. Like many parents of his generation, he needed my help in the farm,” he said.
“My encounter with Peace Corps teachers in the 1960s had a profound impact on my life. It helped to instill in me the virtues of hard work, critical thinking, and commitment to excellence. The teachers encouraged us to develop a ‘can-do’ spirit and never to despair in order to bring out the best in us to enable us to succeed in life.
“In my young eyes those Peace Corpers represented excellence. They instilled in me a burning desire to look to a wider horizon to have a global outlook.
“So, my encounter with the Peace Corps changed my life and education is responsible for the modest success I have achieved thus far. Because of the education I received which was paid for by the northern regional government and local authorities, I was able to rise from a small village in Adamawa to the topmost level of the Nigeria Customs Service.
“My exposure to education encouraged me to embrace savings and investment from very early in my career. Upon retirement, I went into business. And when my mentor, the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, invited some of us to join politics to help restore democracy to our country, I agreed, guided by that same ‘can-do’ spirit. Since then, both in and out of public office, my commitment to democracy has not wavered.”
Atiku maintained that education should be free, accessible and compulsory at the primary and secondary levels so as to give every child an opportunity to acquire education irrespective of family circumstances.