Former president Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday admitted that his generation has failed Nigeria in their efforts at taking it to the ‘Promised Land.’ He, however, quickly added that what they missed out in growing the nation economically, they have been able to deliver in a united and stable country under a democratic dispensation.
Obasanjo spoke in Kaduna during the one-day trade fair seminar of the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KADCCIMA), where he listed the factors inhibiting the nation’s growth and development.
Obasanjo traced the journey of the country from 1960: “the generation before us gave us and our country independence. Whatever you like, say about them: the Awolowos, Nnamdi Azikiwes, the Sardaunas, Aminu Kanos, Tafawa Balewas and others; they gave us independence, they were not perfect and if you like you can even go from now till tomorrow to condemn what they did, but they gave us independence.”
“These people and my generation laid the foundation for the democracy we enjoy today. Our democracy is not perfect, our democracy is a journey and not a destination and we must continue to improve on it. My sons and daughters, what will your generation do? Condemnation is easy but what will you do?”
Obasanjo listed policy summersault as one of the factors that held Nigeria down. “When I banned the importation of toothpicks, another president came and lifted the ban. When I heard it I quickly got across to him: you unbanned importation of toothpicks? He explained that he did not read the recommendation before he approved. Isn’t that a disaster for a country like Nigeria?”
The former president also faulted the lack of focus and capability of the nation’s leadership in handling the complex economic issues. “Part of our problems is that our leaders were not proactive. If Aliko Dangote and other private sector giants have taken over the refinery that we privatised at that time we won’t have had all the problems of petroleum shortage and all that. But, that was not done.”
“Dangote today is building a refinery capable of producing 650,000 barrels per day. Whereas what we are consuming may not be more than 500,000 barrel per day.”
“Lack of continuity and inconsistency in government and lack of knowledge is also a factor. There was a president, one of the two who came after me. He promised to generate 30,000 megawatts of electricity in 4 years.”
He said: “At that time our maximum from all the power plants in the country was 3, 900 mw. I sent somebody to him that if he can add 3,000 megawatts to what we had, he should be given the highest award in the country. He did not add one megawatt. He probably meant well but his knowledge and understanding was faulty.”