Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has once again criticized President Muhammadu Buhari’s style of leadership, saying it is driving Nigeria towards “disaster and instability”.
In a special Democracy Day interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the former President who fell out with President Buhari before the last general elections, said the present administration has achieved nothing close to the giant strides he made in economic recovery, debt relief and anti-corruption crusade, between 1999 and 2007.
“I think we have no choice but to be on the path for sustainable development. The progress we are making may be questionable—-Is it fast enough? Is it steady enough? Is it stable enough? Are we taking two steps forward and one step back or one step side-way?
“You can question that, but we have no choice but to be on (the) path for sustainable development. Any other thing will be a disaster. In fact, the pace at which we are going now is tending more and more toward disaster and instability and unsustainability,” he lamented.
The former president argued that there is no confidence in the Nigerian economy today. Rather, he said, the gains recorded in the past have been frittered away over the years.
He explained that Nigeria has failed to do what is right to instill confidence in domestic and foreign investors. The ripple effect of the nation’s indecision, he said, manifests in the state of the economy.
“The problem is that we are just not doing what we should be doing,” Nobody has that confidence, and we cannot develop Nigeria without that confidence in our economy; both for domestic investors and foreign investors.”
Obasanjo argued that the present government that claims to be fighting corruption has “corrupted” the anti-graft agencies his government put in place. He claimed that between 1999 and 2007 when he held sway as president, his government “reasonably achieved” all the things he promised to achieve, including fighting corruption.
“I set up two (anti-corruption) institutions. I came with two laws that were not there before, to fight corruption. And those who claim they are fighting corruption today have not brought in anything different. If anything, they have corrupted those two institutions.
“And the institutions were open and independent. I never, never, as president had to say to either the head of ICPC or EFCC: ‘Oh, chase this person’.”
Obasanjo also said that despite the challenges faced upon the departure of the military, he tried to lay a solid foundation for the country upon taking over government in May 1999.
“Nigeria was a pariah state. Within the first four years (1999-2003)… we actually hosted the commonwealth. And Nigeria which was kicked out of the Commonwealth became the host of a Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting (CHOGOM). We became the darling of almost all nations. The economy started doing well.
“I remember on one occasion one day or one week, Chukwuma Soludo (then governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria) phoned me and said: “Sir, in one day, we had an inflow of $80 million”. From foreign direct flow; not money from our oil export or cocoa export. Just direct! And he (Soludo) said to me: “Sir, this is almost unbelievable.”
“I said we were not where I want us to be yet. I want us to be $100 million per day. That means in five working days, that will be half a billion dollars. If we are making half a billion dollars a week of five working days; in 52 weeks, it will be $26 billion. It is possible. I got debt relief,” he added.
The former president also queried the present leadership arrangement in the country today, saying the composition does not take care of Nigeria’s cultural diversity.
“I think there is a presumption in our constitution that our system will bring out competent leaders devoid of extremism, religious or tribal bigotry; leaders who understand what it takes to hold the country together and put it in high gear for development, unity and an inclusive and shared society.
“These are assumptions. And if these assumptions come true, what is meant to be achieved in our country will be achieved. But the kind of situation you have now cannot allow those assumptions to become reality. Now you have a situation where three top officials of government will be from only two northern zones. Ahmed Lawan (who has been pencilled down as Senate President) is from the North-East, the acting chief justice of Nigeria is from the north-east, The President of the country is from the north-west. They are all from what we call the core north. How can you have that kind of arrangement and then be absolutely insensitive to it (lack of geographical diversity)?
“So the prescription that our constitution makes of the kind of leadership that should emerge, we have failed to achieve that with the present leadership we have in place. The Constitution expects the executive to care for the welfare and security of every Nigerian. But in the present situation, they don’t seem to care,” he lamented..