May 27, 2024

Obasanjo tackles Tinubu on subsidy removal, forex policy, handling of coup in Niger


By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & James Ogunnaike

ABUJA — Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday tackled President Bola Tinubu’s administration‘s poor handling of fuel subsidy removal, flotation of the naira and the military coup in Niger Republic.

He said though subsidy removal and the government’s forex policy were desirable, they were poorly handled by the government.
The former president observed at a colloquium,” Nigeria’s Development: Navigating the Way Out of the Current Economic Crisis and Insecurity” delivered at the Paul Aje Colloquium, tPAC, in Abuja weekend.

However, efforts made to get reactions from the President’s Media office were unsuccessful but a Presidency source simply said: “It is his personal opinion, he is entitled to that but we don’t want to reply to him.”

But Obasanjo also took a swipe at those against his position on the much-touted refurbished refinery in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, describing them as “sycophants and spin doctors”.

He declared that such people failed to remember that the attempt made in 2007 to partly privatise the refineries was made him, after a thorough study of the situation, hence his knowledge and better understanding of the situation before making his decision late last year.

On what could be described as his position on 365 days of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, the former president also spoke on ways out of the situation in the country, including a 25-year development agenda.

He said: “Today, the government has taken three decisions, two of which are necessary but wrongly implemented and have led to impoverishment of the economy and Nigerians. These are the removal of subsidies, closing the gap between the black market and official rates of exchange and the third is dealing with the military coup in Niger Republic.

“The way forward is production and productivity which belief and trust in government leadership will engender. No shortcut to economic progress but hard work and sweat.

‘Economy doesn’t obey orders’

“Economy does not obey orders, not even military orders. I know that. If we get it right, we will begin to see the light beyond the tunnel in two years. It requires a change of characteristics, attributes and attitudes by the leadership at all levels to gain the confidence and trust of investors who have alternatives.

“TotalEnergy has gone to invest $6 billion in Angola, instead of Nigeria. If the truth must be stated, the present administration has not found the right way to handle the economy to engender confidence and trust for investors to start trooping in.

“They know us more than we know ourselves. And now they are laughing at us, not taking us seriously. We have to present ourselves in such a way that we will be taken seriously. If existing investors are divesting and going out of our country, how do we persuade new investors to rush in?
‘’We can be serious if we choose to be, but we need to change from transactional leadership in government to transformational and genuine servant leadership.

“With change by us, the investors will give us the benefit of the doubt, and security is taken care of on a sustainable, long-term basis, they will start to test the waters. With the right economic policies, attribute of integrity and honesty of purpose, all should be well, with all hands on deck and the government become a catalyst for development, growth and progress.

“Tinkering with the exchange rate is not the answer. The answer is consistency and continuity in policy to ensure stability and predictability. That way, we will be sure to incentivize domestic and foreign investment.
‘’There must be honesty and transparency in government dealings and contracts and not lying with deception about these issues. When the government is seen as pursuing the right policy, the private sector will go for production and productivity.”

Change is possible but it must begin with the leadership

The former president’s reaction to the refinery issue is coming six months after the claim that the refinery would begin operation in January.
He noted that to get out of the current situation of the country, the government and the governed needed to look at the past and the present, and ask: How did we get here?.

Obasanjo said further: “Looking at the topic of today’s occasion, the question I would ask is, how do we navigate our way out of these crises and pave the path towards a more secure and prosperous Nigeria?

‘’I believe the answer to this requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses the root causes of these challenges. The central questions are: where were we? And how did we get to where we are today?

“Firstly, we must know where we are coming from. Our economy has consistently suffered from poor policies, lack of long-term, sustainable policies, discontinuity, ad hoc arrangement and corruption firmed on personal greed, avarice, incompetence, lack of knowledge and understanding and lack of patriotism.

“For instance, the statement and proposed actions given forty-five years ago to stop fuel scarcity is the same statement and action being touted today. I recall when I made the statement that the refineries will not work, the sycophants and spin doctors of this current administration went out to castigate me as not being a petroleum engineer and that I did not know what I was talking about.

“They forgot that the attempt that was made in 2007 to partly privatise the refineries was made by me after a thorough study of the situation. But the decision was reversed by my successor and the $750 million paid was refunded.”

On a way out, the former President said the country needed a 25-year socio-economic development agenda that would be generally agreed to by all political parties and passed into law by the National Assembly, with State Assembly aspects also passed into law by State Houses of Assembly.
‘’We take up the implementation on a five-year basis. In reality, that plan will have the effect of almost a Constitution. The first priority in the implementation will be education for all.

‘’The second should be food and nutrition security through agribusiness. The third should be energy for all. The fourth should be industrialization and manufacturing. And the fifth should be science, technology, innovation and Artificial Intelligence, AI.

‘’In all these, the government should provide a conducive environment for the private sector to operate and thrive. And where the government will be involved at all, other than as a policymaker and enabler, it should be based on private public partnership with the government as a junior partner.

On the security, “we need stick and carrot approach. Stick to deal with those who cannot be weaned out of criminality and evil deeds and for those weaned, they should be rehabilitated. There should be no Nigerian without being in school compulsorily for eleven years – secondary education level.

“Employment must be a right for all Nigerians from age 18 years to 65 years. With such a carrot in position, the stick must then be made more severe for criminals. Five years must be set out to ensure that every Nigerian child who is not in school is in school and no one is left out of popular education.

Adult education should be embarked upon to give every Nigerian basic education equivalent to six years of formal education. We should give ourselves ten years to rid Nigeria of illiteracy. No matter what we do, if we do not find a way of educating, giving skills and empowerment, over 20 million Nigerian children that are out of school today will end up being rich recruitment centres for drug addicts, Boko Haram, bandits and other social misfits.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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