Mr Obasanjo spoke in Abeokuta on Saturday to students from selected secondary schools who participated in the final of the National Exhibition and Awards, organised by Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE).
The former president and Mr Abubakar were in office between 1999 and 2007.
Mr Obasanjo said he had made several “genuine mistakes” in his life but God helped him overcome them.
“One of the mistakes I made was picking my number two when I wanted to become the president,” said the former president. “But because it was a genuine mistake, God saved me.”
Mr Obasanjo said another mistake he made was not leaving the country when he was told about the plans of the late military dictator, Sani Abacha, to arrest him.
“The second one was when Abacha wanted to arrest me. Abacha wanted to arrest me and I was told by the American ambassador that, they will arrest me and that America has asked that I should be given an asylum but, I said no. It could have been a mistake because I could have lost my life.
“I will say there are many things that could have been a mistake but God saved me from them all.”
Mr Obasanjo charged the youth to take advantage of the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ campaign and not allow 70- and 80-year-olds lead the country.
“Another thing inhibiting youth from running is the amount of money involved in going into politics. I hope that things should not continue like this,” he said.
“I was 39 years old when I became the military head of state. 20 later, I came back as civilian president, but those there now do not want to allow the youths. If things continue like this, I do not know how you can come in.”
Earlier at the event, the Chairman of SAGE Nigeria, Agwu Amogu, said the programme was to celebrate the creative energy and commitments of ‘teen’ entrepreneurs who see the challenges in the communities as their responsibilities.
Mr Amogwu said since the introduction of the programme in Nigeria in 2006, it had shown that it is a potent strategy and model for educational reform, youth re-orientation, job creation, and poverty alleviation.
According to him, Nigeria urgently need a new paradigm for education.
“The new paradigm must provide students with a chance to learn while solving community problems and immediately applying what they have learnt in the classroom by actually doing something great,” he said.
“We now live in a world where any country can compete effectively with others based on the creative imagination of its human capital.
“There is no better place to stoke the fire of imagination than in the young people. And that is where SAGE comes in.”