Only popular movement can rescue Nigeria – Ex-President Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said there is need for a popular movement to enthrone progressive leadership required to make Nigeria a great country in Africa.

He said Nigeria has disappointed Africa in providing needed leadership in post-military era.

Although, the ex-president did not specifically mention any regime; he said the nation deserved a better leadership to enable it play front role in Africa’s socio-economic development.

He said the only way out of the development quagmire in which the nation plunged is for the masses to form non-partisan “popular movement” that would serve as credible alternative to the current national leadership.

The former president spoke yesterday at the 15th Lecture and International Leadership Symposium with the theme: Leadership and Performance in Africa: The Challenge of the Continent’s Economic Competitiveness, organised by Centre for Value Leadership (CVL) in Muson Center, Onikan, Lagos. CVL is a leadership think-tank founded by Prof. Pat Utomi.

Obasanjo said: “The first generation of leaders in this country, whatever you say about them, gave us independence. They helped in the transition from colonial power to indigenous leadership. Within their knowledge, their experience and exposure, these first generation leaders did their best. But then, they made mistake, which led to the transition to the military era. Later, there was another transition to democracy.

“The nation has also witnessed transition from one civilian regime to another within a political party and from one political party to another. But, there is another important transition which the country requires right now; this is the transition to popular movement to give people credible alternatives. Until we are able to achieve this, we are not going anywhere.”

Obasanjo, who made a dramatic walk to the podium by removing his agbada (flowing gown), noted that Nigeria must appreciate and acknowledge its diversity if there must be socio-economic development. He said the much-talked-about development must be predicated on provision of key infrastructure to power the economy.

The ex-president also said security matter should not be politicised or treated as emotional issue, noting that insecurity does not recognise anyone’s emotion or cultural beliefs. Obasanjo said he disagreed with a statement credited to former United States (U.S.) President Barack Obama, who said Africa needed to build strong institutions and not strong men.

“I believe we need both strong institutions and strong leaders. If there are no strong leaders, we will not be able to build strong institutions. If strong institutions are established and our leaders are weak, those strong institutions will collapse,” Obasanjo said.

He warned the nation on the consequence of disparity in education across geopolitical zones, saying what could be worse than Boko Haram could arise if education gap is not bridged.

Obasanjo said Africa must get leadership, governance and development right before the continent could achieve real growth. He said Africa still lagged behind in economic growth because some leaders don’t understand basic principle of economics of demand and supply.

He said countries on the continent must share common prosperity to achieve accelerated development.

He said: “It is the height of stupidity if you think of yourself alone and you do think not other. In Africa, if Nigeria thinks of itself alone and does not think of the rest of Africa, it would be foolish.”

In his keynote speech, former Director of United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and a presidential candidate in Sierra Leone, Mr Kandeh Yumkella, said African leaders must manage demographic transition and invest in energy and infrastructure. He said education, skill acquisition and women empowerment must play key role in the continent’s development policies.


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