By Evelyn Usman
Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo , has berated the present state of the country, calling for the need for a purposeful leadership in order for Nigeria to take its position as leader of the black race.
Speaking at a colloquium themed ‘Building the Nigeria of our dreams’ organized by the King’s College Old Boys’ Association in commemoration of the 113th anniversary of the institution in Lagos, he advised leaders to be honest with themselves and to God while discharging their obligations to the country.
To have a Nigeria of the desired dream, Obasanjo emphasized on the need for national identity as the primary purpose of all Nigerians , adding that leaders must first dream of a better Nigeria before youths would have a vision of it.
According to him, “The Americans can say they have the American dream, the British can say they have the British dream . But in our case, do we really have what we can call the Nigerian dream?
“ For me, the Nigeria dream will start from national identity . National identity is the foundation of social provision. Where there is no consequence, there is no governance. If we have no dream, then what can be the inspiration of our youths? What can they look up to, what can they aspire for or hold on to?
“ Nigeria is said to be a complex country and the complexity and diversity is part of what makes us strong. But Nigeria is not a complex country if only you will be honest with yourselves and your God. Leadership that understands what it means to be a leader, not arrogance or ignorance or crying nepotism “ .
Lamenting the present state of the nation, he said, “We are politically divided and economically disunited. We are nowhere, we are down the drain. Diplomatically, Nigeria is not at the table.
” Before, we have sent troops to Liberia, Sudan and Sierra Leone when there were crisis there. But today, we can not send troops to the Republic of Benin.
“There are three races in the world – white, yellow and black. For now, America is leading the whites, the Chinese are leading the yellow race and Nigeria with 225 million people is created by God to lead the black race and we must work towards attaining that position..
When we stop disappointing ourselves, we can take care of the continent and the black race. Nigeria has no business with poverty, insecurity or political division.It is the advertent or inadvertent choice of our leaders. It is not God’s choice for us. If God has not chosen that for us, we can do better.
” For Nigeria, we have done a few things right, but we have not continued to do it right. We need a government that understands Nigeria and Africa, which will be fair and sincere with Nigerians, together with the right government, this nation can become the right leading country to develop Africa”, he asserted.
On her part, the Director General, World Trade Organisation, WTO Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the Nigeria of her dream was one in which 100% or about 99% of the population must have access to clean water and sanitation, good health care and accessible quality education, as well creating an opportunity for all.
Continuing, she said, “It Is a Nigeria where the school system functions and universities are not on strike for once at a time. A Nigeria where everyone has access to basic items, where infrastructure is in place and it includes technology and internet access.The Nigeria of my dream is where young people are digitally sound , gainfully employed and receive the support they need to create jobs for themselves and others. It is a Nigeria where everyone participates to his full potential in both economic and political life”
But she decried that the realities on ground was a yawning gap to the realization of her dreams for Nigeria.
Giving a comparative statistics on the country’s economic growth from 2000 till date, she disclosed that “between 2000 and 2010 , Nigeria recorded one of the strongest growth performances with an average annual growth of 8.6%, while sub-saharan Africa’s economy grew at about 5%. Between 2011 and 2015 under President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s economy grew an average by almost 5%, 4.7% to the exact comparison to 4.2% average of sub-saharan Africa.
” From 2015 to 2022, the average annual growth fell to about 4.1%, this time below 2.5% average growth rate of sub-sahara Africa.
” We got inflation of 18.9% in 2004 to about 9% in 2015 before President Jonathan’s administration came to an end. Inflation has risen to about 16% in 2022 . Today, our G.D.P ratio is about 32% triple the number .
Continuing, she said, ‘ In 2003, the percentage of people living in absolute poverty was 45.9%. By 2010 it was 34.9%. By 2015 , 32.3%, while in 2018 it was 30.9%,. The poverty ratio as of now has overtaken all of them”.
“In 2005 under president Obasanjo government, we created the excess crude account so that when prices are high we could save , while when oil prices were low we used what we had to keep the economy going.
“We saved up to 22billion in the excess crude account, that indeed when oil prices fell during the financial crisis of 2008-2010 ,we were able to keep the economy functioning ,using those resources so that Nigeria will not suffer the effects of worldwide recession.
“Nigeria can fight poverty and improve people’s lives if it is properly managed. Our revenue sources are not diversified. We depend only on one revenue resource, Nigeria lacks a sacrosanct social compact. In the country, there should be a guideline that dictates certain things that should be sacrosanct. We should have guiding principles to decide how to manage, save, spend and take vigorous actions on our revenues. As a country, we need to have certain indicators of how our economy should be governed. If we do this, we have so much to gain.
“We have had episodes showing we can sustain strong growth. All we need is to work on all key indicators and move in the right direction.
“If we must build a strong governance, we need to choose our leaders wisely, we need to ensure we build a strong foundation, we need to get our leaders to accept social compact that will take us into the future.” she stated.
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba, on his part, said many conferences had been held on the way forward for a better Nigeria.
He however said the desired aim would not be achieved if Nigerians did not address the real question.
“We will never come out of this if we do not sit and ask ourselves if we are really one and until the infractions are tackled. Do we wish to be one because this marriage was imposed on us? What marriage do we really want? Why have we excluded all the nationals at the national conferences we have had?”, he asked.
Also speaking, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, charged Nigerians to be fully involved in political and electoral activities, noting that ” lack of quality leadership, selection process and painstaking criteria for choosing leaders remains a major challenge in the country”
Earlier in his remark, KCOBA President, Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, went on his knees to appeal to the Federal Government to halt fuel subsidy, saying, “it is a fraud that will kill what is left for the country.”
He lamented that at no time in the history of Nigeria had the situation deteriorated to its preset abysmal level.
He said, ” our economy is imperilled as oil theft in the South- South geo-political zone has dropped out from two to less than one million BPD, leading to huge revenue loses and erosion of foreign reserves to meet our national obligation.
” The effect , is that on the parallel foreign exchange market, one dollar was exchanging for N715 at a time of writing this address”.
In his welcome address, Chairman,. 2022 Kings week Planning committee, Mr Etigwe Ewa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, explained that the theme of this year’s event was aimed at addressing the myriad problems confronting Nigeria.
He further explained that members of the panel were selected based on their being adjudged as the best performing public servants since independence , in order to give direction on the way forward in attaining the “Nigeria of our dreams”