By Omoniyi Salaudeen and Onyedika Agbedo
Varying reactions have continued to trail the statement made by former president Olusegun Obasanjo challenging President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently address the dismal plight of the economy rather than giving excuses.
Obasanjo, who in his keynote address delivered at the First Akintola Williams Annual Lecture on Wednesday, blamed the judiciary and the National Assembly for the endemic corruption plaguing the nation, had urged Buhari not to relent on his determination to fight the menace. However, while some concerned stakeholders welcome the advice as a wakeup call, others slam the former president.
Here are the excerpts:
It’s a wakeup call –Balarabe Musa
I support Obasanjo’s statement urging the Federal Government to face the challenge of governance instead of blaming everything on the previous government. The situation is getting worse by the day and even becoming dangerous. They need to do something urgent about poverty, hunger and rising level of unemployment in the country. They need to address the current economic recession. The most effective way of dealing with these problems is to change the policy of government from the leading role of the private sector in the economy to effective state participation in a manner that will ensure equality, justice and dignity of the human person.
It is unbelievably dishonest for the government to seek $30 billion loan to finance infrastructural projects because the amount of money recovered from thieves in the country is far more than the amount they are negotiating for. Only a part of what has been officially declared can be used to finance these projects. The amount they have recovered is well over one trillion naira. And that is just a fraction of what has been recovered from the stolen public fund. Why seek foreign loan when you have recovered loots which have not been accounted for? There is enough fund from the recovered loots to stimulate the economy from the current recession. Why not use it instead of borrowing?
Obasanjo talks from both sides of his mouth –Yakassai
I hope he (Obasanjo) is honest about his advice to President Muhammadu Buhari. By virtue of his position as a former military head of state and also an elected former president, I will normally expect people like him to be men of their words. But the problem is that whenever you hear him criticize the government, it is usually because they are not doing his bidding. He normally criticizes in order to control those in government. When they are doing his bidding, you will not hear anything from him. So, whenever he talks, I get confused. At 80, he still talks from both sides of his mouth. Otherwise, he should have talked about startling revelations of corruption made by different committees set up by his government to probe the activities of power and petroleum sectors.
For instance, there was power sector investigation by the Elumelu committee of the House of Representatives and startling revelations of huge amount of money paid to contractors without executing the projects were made. He didn’t say anything about that. He was also the one that set up Prof Haruna Adamu investigation committee which investigated the activities of the PTF headed by Buhari and recommendations were made. Yet he sat on it. He is also aware of Farouk Lawan committee on oil subsidy where shocking revelations of money paid as subsidy were also made. Obasanjo is aware of it; he has never talked about it. The US also investigated Halliburton scandal which happened during his regime and certain revelations were made. He doesn’t talk about it. When you see him talk like this, he is out to blackmail somebody to do his own bidding.
Obasanjo likes to force his opinion on government –Chekwas Okorie
Obasanjo has been in government both as a military Head of State and as a two-term civilian president. Even though we never belonged to the same party, I agree that Obasanjo has some experience that he can make available to any person in the seat of power as president. It is in the public sphere that he has had several meetings with President Buhari but the details of the meetings were not made public.
So, if he came out on the occasion of Akintola Williams first public lecture to make such stinking remarks about the President, it means that those meetings they had did not yield adequately to his opinions. But we also know that Obasanjo can also be very opinionated such that if his opinions are not taken, he will take it as if he has been slighted. It is also important to note that it was the same Obasanjo that truncated Buhari’s three attempts to become a civilian president in 2003, 2007 and 2011. So, Nigerians should also not lose sight of the many frustrations that arise from that same Obasanjo.
Having said that, Obasanjo raised some salient issues in the lecture. I believe that the president ought to learn even from the opposition because the purpose of opposition is to provide alternative options to issues of governance. So, Buhari has a plethora of suggestions both from his friends and the opposition to change his style. Even the Senate came down hard on him about the same time Obasanjo was criticising him. The Senate rejected his proposal for 2017 to 2019. I believe that this calls for serious introspection.
I recommend that the President must immediately begin to reflate the economy by adhering to the advice of the Debt Management Office (DMO) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to begin to reduce internal debt. When you reduce internal debt, you reflate the economy and you are bringing people back to job.
The President must also review whatever advice given to him to seek external borrowing. Borrowing would mortgage the future of Nigerians even after he has left office. Borrowing is good but it must not be at the expense of our future generation.
I have also seen from my own vantage position as a politician that a certain section of the country is now firing at the president from all cylinder. So, it is now time for him to build new friendships amongst political blocs for two reasons — first, for the sustainability and stability of his administration as he still has about two and a half years to go; and second, to prepare for the future. So, he must combine the economic and political aspects of improving his administration and image pari-passu.
Obasanjo’s criticism unhealthy
My take on it is that it is not politically healthy for a former president to publicly criticise the current holder of office. It is not a healthy practice because circumstances will always vary; situations will never be the same. We can testify that the Nigeria presided over by Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007 is not the same as the one presided over by Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; it is not the same as the one presided over by Goodluck Jonathan and obviously it is not the same as the one currently being presided over by Buhari. In fairness, President Buhari is steering the affairs of the country at a most critical period. He came in at a time that the price of the country’s sole source of income dropped drastically. In fact, he inherited a nation under recession. So, we should be fair to him. However, we should also criticise him when the need arises not unnecessarily given that we understand the situation.
On the part of Obasanjo, I give it to him; he was actually right on the way President Buhari has been generalising his criticisms of the past administrations, which was headed by Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan. These are three different regimes; it is not proper to generalise when you want to criticise them. But beyond all of these, we should leave criticisms alone and join hands to see how we can move this nation forward. That is why my organisation is doing everything possible to ensure that Nigeria is on the path of progress.
Obasanjo should shut up — Ayo Adebanjo
As far as I am concerned, it is the country as well as Buhari that are attaching importance to Obasanjo. What record has he to make him the judge of others? What was his own achievement when he was there? What is happening now that did not happen when he was in government? I don’t regard his comment as worthy of attention. I am not one of those who listen to him. What did he do about corruption when he was there? From the beginning when he came into office, he institutionalised corruption. As far as I am concerned, he should be ignored and disregarded. I don’t pay attention to his opinion. I am not one of those who respect his opinion on government or morality. He has no moral right to condemn anybody in government. He should let Buhari go on with his job. I don’t believe in his leadership or performance. To me, his public performance does not warrant him telling anybody what to be done. There were so many defects in his government too. He should shut up!
It’s his right to say what he likes
— Ebenezer Babatope
He is the owner of his mouth. Let him use it the way he wants to use it.
The advice should have been made private — Prof Itse Sagay
There is nothing wrong in giving advice. I only wish it had been given privately. On the issue of the foreign loan, government has to be very careful about taking loan. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take loan. The important issue is that such a loan should be put to productive use so that at the end of the day what you are getting out of the investment of that loan will be far more than the value of the loan. That way, you can pay back fairly easily.
I support Obasanjo, but he too could not provide leadership — Ibuchukwu Ezike
We in the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) have said it severally that this government should stop complaining about the corrupt practices of the previous administration and face governance.
That the previous administration was corrupt is not enough reason for the government not to perform. When the PDP took over power in 1999, Nigeria was more or less a pariah society. Instead of lamenting about how the military had plundered Nigeria, the government faced the challenge and gradually began to right the wrongs. That is what Nigerians are expecting the Buhari administration to do. But the problem is that this government has created more problems than it met on ground when it came to power. From the Niger Delta crisis to the agitation by IPOB and to the recent protests by the Shiite Movement, it is clear that the government now has more problems to contend with outside the Boko Haram.
On the issue of borrowing, my take is that the administration is trying to take us back to debt. The government pledged to diversify the economy, but we are not seeing serious commitment to agriculture and solid minerals. Today, Nigerians are stealing pots of soup on fire because of hunger. So, looking at these indices, one would totally support Obasanjo even though he is not the best person to say so because he could not provide leadership when he was in power.