GENEVA— FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo, Wednesday, in Geneva, Switzerland took a swipe at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, over their efforts at tackling corruption since he left office.
He said: “I haven’t seen the persistence and consistency in Nigeria because the people involved in corruption are strongly entrenched.”
Obasanjo who was a discussant in a high level panel discussion on “the need for a new era of social justice” commented on the effect of corruption on social development, and took a swipe at other countries especially the West on their attitude to corruption.
He defined corruption as “a two way affair and most of the givers of bribes are in the developed countries,” noting that he was surprised that some companies in Europe named in corruption deals were granted tax relief.
The former president said: “We jail our people, head of police, minister but when we say these are your people who have given bribes, they don’t do anything. I believe the United Nations Convention on Corruption should be signed by every country.”
On development in Africa, Obasanjo said it was not possible to have economic growth without social justice. Citing Nigeria as an instance, he said: “We have a GDP of 70 per cent and you ask, where is it reflected?”
While suggesting new indices for indicating development, Obasanjo said: “In Nigeria, if you say we are growing, how much has it affected jobs, how many children have gone to school, how does it affect maternal mortality? It is only when we have this that I can say we are growing economically and there is social justice.”
Obasanjo and his Ghanaian counterpart, John Kuffour agreed that leadership plays a crucial role in economic development and social justice.
Kuffour said a leader must submit to the laws of the State, noting that to tackle corruption “we must empower the judiciary but fighting corruption is not alternative to good leadership and good governance.”
Obasanjo whose comments drew an applause from the audience, said: “A leader who is only thinking about the next election, there is a limit to what you can expect from him. A leader should think beyond election, he should think about the next generation.
“I believe there are a few leaders in Africa two or three; in Europe one or two, in Asia may be two or three but I will not name anyone so that I will not cause diplomatic row.”
All the speakers, former president of the Republic of Ecuador, Mr, Osvaldo Hurtado; former prime minister of Yemen, Mr. Abdul Karim Al Eryani, former prime minister of Netherlands, Mr. Wim Kok; former president of Ghana, Mr. John Kuffour and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, all agreed that the private sector must drive the economy for jobs to be created.
They were also unanimous that tripartism of workers, government and the private sector, need to work together to create sustainable jobs.
The former presidents also agreed that for corruption to be effectively tackled there was the need to strengthen democratic institutions especially the judiciary.
Obasanjo and Kuffour blamed the financial melt down on the failure of public institutions to effectively regulate the private sector.
Kuffour said: “Taking public money to bail out the private sector impoverished the people”.
On his part, Obasanjo said: “I believe this is why the world financial organisation as opposed to World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, regulate the trillions that move around every day”.
The panel discussion which was part of activities marking the 100th session of the International Labour Organisation with the theme “Building a future with decent work.”