Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says Nigerian leaders must be tough and “ready to bite the bullet”.
Speaking at a seminar in Kaduna state on Monday, Obasanjo said we have not made progress as a nation because some of those in power “lack focus, commitment, and sometimes proper knowledge about economic and development issues”.
The elder statesman said the problem of poor leadership needs to be corrected urgently; otherwise we would be taking “one step forward and another step backward”.
The Kaduna Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KADCCIMA) organised the seminar to flag off the 38th Kaduna International Trade Fair.
“Nigerian leaders must be tough and ready to bite the bullet, because Nigeria cannot have it easy and until we get the right leadership, the problem will continue,” he said.
“Some leaders lack focus, commitment, and continuity, hence we have not been able to achieve meaningful result.”
Expressing displeasure over inconsistency in policies, Obasanjo said, as military head of state, his administration banned the importation of toothpick in 1977, because it is the “most stupid thing to import when we can produce it here”.
However, he regretted that about 40 years later, one of the presidents that succeeded him reversed the ban.
“One of the presidents that came after me, I won’t mention his name, unbanned toothpick. Then, I put on my Babanriga (a native attire) and went to Abuja to express my shock about the policy, but to my greatest surprise, the president told me, he signed the document unbanning toothpick without reading it,” he said.
“Another thing is that, he came in saying he will generate additional 30,000 megawatts to the 3,500 megawatts we left behind, and I told him, ‘don’t trouble yourself, if you can add 3,000 megawatts to the one we left behind, you will receive the best of awards’. But, to my greatest shock, he couldn’t add one megawatt before leaving office.”
Obasanjo said lack of synergy in public and private sectors was responsible for the setback in the nation’s economic growth.
He said the public sector perceives the private sector as a profit making industry that reaps where it does not sow, but in actual fact, “they are two legs that when brought together can accelerate development in all sectors of the economy”.
Obasanjo also spoke on the privatisation of the oil sector, which was revoked by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
“When we were in office, we privatised NNPC and sold to Dangote and partners, but the government that succeeded me revoked it and that is why till today, NNPC cannot work optimally,” he said.
“But, today the same Dangote that was denied ownership of NNPC is building a refinery that can produce in excess of what NNPC can produce and what Nigeria can consume. So, it means he will even export.”