By Chukwudi Nweje
Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, yesterday, gave insight into the problems facing Nigeria and how he would tackle the economy if elected.
He spoke at the fourth edition of the Editors’ Forum in Lagos, where he answered questions on what he would do as president.
He narrowed down the challenges facing Nigeria to incompetent leadership and noted that Nigerians were too complacent when choosing their leaders.
Obi said whoever is striving to lead Nigeria in 2023 must be somebody with character, competence, and capacity.
“Today, we are having series of problems because we have incompetent leaders. The only way Nigeria will work is when the person in charge understands the country. We have not made progress because we have incompetent leaders. We are sometimes too complacent when choosing leaders. We vote for incompetent people and believe competent advisers will work with them.
“We have had incompetent leaders with competent ministers and advisers but that has not helped us. Nigeria has a pilot who is quiet as the country is facing turbulence, and this has left the people confused. Nigeria needs a leader who can communicate.
“Leadership changes everything but the driver of the vehicle must be competent. The job of the leader is not to make excuses; it is to find solutions.”
Obi said his major tasks as president would be to find solutions to security challenges, which, he noted, has negatively impacted every sector of the economy and prevented Nigeria from harnessing its natural resources.
According to him, Nigeria has failed to exploit the massive arable land resources, especially in the northern parts to attain food security, whereas, India, a country that shares several similarities with Nigeria, and dedicated a less portion of its land assets to agriculture has grown from being dependent on food import to being a food exporting country.
“The reason for the series of problems we face is leadership and the foundation is tied to the fact that we are not a productive country. If we are productive, three-quarters of our problems will be solved.
“The only thing we do here is to share, we can move the sharing to production. If you look at Benue State, it has vast fertile land that can be used for agriculture. The first thing you should do as a country is to be able to feed yourself. If Nigeria can feed itself today, its gross domestic product will grow.”
Obi said moving from consumption to production is necessary to create jobs and grow the economy.
“My commitment is to move Nigeria from consumption to production because without production we cannot create jobs. The first thing you do as a country is to lay the foundation to feed yourself. If Nigeria can feed itself today, it will also grow the gross domestic product.”
On the country’s debt portfolio, Obi said there was nothing wrong with borrowing to invest.
“Every nation in the world borrows. The problem is in what you do with the money you borrowed. The United States is owing over 100 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), China is owing over 50 per cent of its GDP.”
On how to move Nigeria from consumption to production, Obi said the problem of power generation must be addressed because there cannot be effective production without power.
He said power remains a problem in Nigeria because the country cannot transmit. He, however, denied allegations that he offered presidential candidate of New Nigerian Peoples Party, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, money to step down and become his vice presidential candidate.
“I never knowingly or unknowingly offered money to Kwankwaso to step down for me and become my vice presidential candidate. I will never pay anybody to step down for me. I fund myself; nobody is funding me. To date, nobody has given me N1. If the money comes, we will accept it and we would spend it wisely and we would not give it to anybody to step down. All the people you see with me are people who believe in our cause, and I have assured them I will not disappoint them,” Obi said.