2023: The youth must change Nigeria's leadership, no time for ethnic politics - Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo

Idowu Olakunle, Abeokuta

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president, has opined that some aspirants currently moving freely around the country on consultations ahead of the 2023 presidential election should have been jailed, what seems to be an apparent dig at the likes former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, among others currently aspiring for president. 

The former President made the observation today in Abeokuta when he presented a paper at the international symposium marking his 85th birthday anniversary.

Obasanjo who spoke on the theme, “Africa Narrative with Nigeria Situation,” explained that if the anti-graft agencies and the judiciary had lived up to their responsibilities some politicians criss-crossing the country presently should have been cooling their feet in the prison.

He observed that Nigeria had continued to drift and had failed to evolve from a country to a nation, because all those qualities and factors needed for good leadership were not there.

Obasanjo expressed dismay that leadership in Africa was jaundiced, calling for the formation of what he termed ‘Our Africa Narrative Club or society,’ even as he listed some irreducible qualities of leadership, whether within Africa or outside it to include ‘people-centredness’, inclusiveness, ability to manage diversity, abhorrence of corruption and ethnic jingoism.

“Nigeria has not witnessed any remarkable development because the leadership has continued to do things the same way, which has continued to produce the same results.” Obasanjo added.

Obasanjo debunked news on social media that he had endorsed three presidential aspirants from the South, stating that he would never rush into naming names without necessary consultations and arriving at well-defined principles and criteria.

“My friend, Professor Ango Abdullahi, who brought this to my knowledge remarked that he did not believe that I made such a statement because it was out of my character,” he said.

“I have neither named names nor stated my position. In situation like the one we are in, I will not rush into naming names without necessary consultations and well-defined principles and criteria.”

“We need to be clear about what Nigeria needs today and why Nigeria needs it. Only then can we answer the question of how that will inform us of the criteria and characteristics for determining who.

“I believe in principles before personalities and taking personalities before principles is putting the cart before the horse. And for me, the major issue is how to progress Nigeria from a country to a nation.

“If in 2015 Nigeria was seventy-five per cent a country and fifty per cent a nation, today, Nigeria will not be more than fifty per cent a country and twenty-five per cent a nation.

“The task of reversing the trend is beyond one personality, one political party or all political parties; it is beyond professional and commercial politicians alone.

“It demands and requires all hands on deck. I mean Nigerians in all walks of life – politicians, community leaders, traditional leaders, religious leaders, diplomatic leaders, leaders in the academia, leaders in all aspects of government life, and leaders in other aspects of the civil society.”

He said further, “Nigeria is tottering and for as long as we continue to put the cart before the horse, it cannot be well. Or put another way, for as long as we continue to do the same thing over and over again, the result will not be different.

“If the drift is not halted, the remaining twenty-five per cent of Nigerian nation will be dissipated in no time and Nigeria will not be a country but countries and will never be possible to be a nation again. That will be a monumental tragedy for Nigeria, Africa, the black race and humanity.”

Obasanjo observed that since 1999, “we have changed from one political party or another we have manoeuvred and manipulated to the point that election results are no longer reflections of the will of the people and we seemed to be progressively going back rather than going forward politically, economically and socially.

“We have activities without requite actions and personnel to move us forward. If we continue in the same pattern of recycling, sweet-word campaigning, manoeuvring without substance of integrity, honesty, patriotism, commitment, outreach, courage, understanding of what make a nation and what make for development, we will soon have to say goodbye to Nigeria as a nation.”

He added, “I cast a cursory look at some of the people running around and those for whom people are running around. If EFCC and ICPC will have done their jobs properly and supported adequately by the judiciary, most of them would be in jail.

“Any person who has no integrity in small things cannot have integrity in big things. Fixing Nigeria must begin on the principles of nation building, not necessarily on emotion, sentiments, euphoria, ignorance, incompetence, ethnicity, nepotism, bigotry, sectionalism, regionalism, religion or class.

“The issues of security, stability, development, economy and our relationship within Africa and with the rest of the world can only be taken care of if we get the issue of the nation building right,” he posited further.

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