Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday said most of the politicians aspiring to be Nigeria’s president in 2023 should be in jail had the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) performed their jobs efficiently and effectively, and supported by the judiciary.
Obasanjo stated this during an international symposium to mark his 85th birthday held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The former president, who stopped short of calling for power rotation in the country, disclosed that it was the power rotation policy of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that made it inadvisable for a southern candidate to succeed him after his eight years in office as president in 2007.
Obasanjo also argued that for the purpose of equity and integrity, no region or zone should claim to have monopoly of Nigerians that can lead the country along the path of nation-building.
This is coming as President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday rejoiced with the former president on the occasion of his 85th birthday anniversary, describing him as a study in patriotism, leadership, and courage.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan; Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa; Northern Governors’ Forum, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina have also congratulated Obasanjo, as he clocked 85 years.
Obasanjo’s international symposium, with the theme: ‘Leadership and Africa Narrative in Development and Progress of Africa,’ was attended by eminent personalities, including former President of the Republic of Benin, Mr. Nicephore Soglo; Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheik Shakbook bin Nahyan; President of the Republic of Rwanda, President Paul Kaigama, who delivered the keynote address and the Director-General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who also delivered a speech.
Speaking during the event, Obasanjo also declared that he had not endorsed any presidential aspirant for 2023.He also debunked reports that he was sponsoring three people from the South for the presidency in 2023.
“Since 1999, we have changed from one political party or another we have maneuvered 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 requiring actions and personnel to move us forward. If we continue in the same pattern of recycling, sweet-word campaigning, maneuvering without the substance of integrity, honesty, patriotism, commitment, outreach, courage, understanding of what makes a nation and what makes for development, we will soon have to say goodbye to Nigeria as a nation.
“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 been 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.
“As the quadrennial madness builds a head of steam and the runners and riders crisscross the nation in the quest for nomination as the party flag bearer to the highest office in the land, I read and hear about endorsement and statements in support of candidates that I frankly have not made and forming next political parties that I can never get involved in. I was told that social media credited to me the names of three people from the south that I am sponsoring for the presidency in 2023.
“My friend, Professor Ango Abdullah, 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. I have neither named names nor stated my position. In a 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,”Obasanjo added.
The former president also restated the need for peaceful co-existence in Nigeria.
He argued that fixing Nigeria must begin on the principles of nation-building, not necessarily on emotion, ethnicity, or religion.
Obasanjo disclosed that it was the power rotation policy of the PDP that made it inadvisable for a southern candidate to succeed him after his eight years in office as President in 2007.
“I have always maintained that if we look hard widely and fairly and we bring objectivity, national interest and patriotism to bear and which must be spiced with equity, integrity, performance, then no region or zone should claim to have monopoly of Nigerians that can lead us along the path of nation-building on the basis of justice, fast economic development, inclusive growth, shared value and our rightful place in the global division of labour and decision making process. If we are going fault finding, zonally or regionally, no region or zone can claim absolute innocence. And federal character is a very important and perfect instrument of nation-building in our Constitution,” he explained.
He suggested that all presidential aspirants must be “properly x-rayed and profiled from birth and Nigerians must be educated to be able to make a choice that will be in the national interest and propel Nigeria forward”.
“Such a person will have to lead what remains of the nation to courageously continue on the path of nation-building as a national team leader, no matter on what platform he or she assumes leadership. No one can do it alone. We must, however, stop sacrificing character, track records, and performance on the altar of ethnic, regional, or religious jingoism. As the watchman counts on daybreak, so too do I count on Nigerians and Nigeria to bring forth that person,” Obasanjo explained.
Meanwhile, President Buhari, yesterday rejoiced with Obasanjo on the occasion of his 85th birthday anniversary, describing him as a study in patriotism, leadership, and courage.
The president, in a statement issued by his Media Adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, on behalf of the federal government and Nigerians in general, felicitated Obasanjo on his birthday and joined family, friends, and associates in celebrating the joyous occasion.
According to the statement, President Buhari believed the former Head of State, 1976 -1979 and former President of Nigeria, 1999-2007, is a study in patriotism, leadership, and courage, leading the country to democratic government in 1979, and taking over the reins of power as elected President in 1999.
Buhari affirmed that Obasanjo’s influence continues to resonate beyond the country, extending to the international community and multilateral institutions.
“As a former military and civilian leader, with a strong network nationally and internationally, President Buhari extolled the wisdom, insight, and versatility that Chief Obasanjo brings to bear on things, reflecting his experience, diligence, and versatility,” the statement said.
On his 85th birthday, Buhari joined family members in thanking God for the life, health, and alertness of the former leader, praying for grace and more strength as he serves the country, Africa, and the world.
Former President Jonathan has also felicitated Obasanjo, describing him as a leader with a good reputation in statesmanship.
In a message of goodwill released by his spokesman, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, which Jonathan signed, the former president noted that Obasanjo’s legacies “have continued to endure many years after you left office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“I join your family and friends to celebrate you as you mark your birthday this year. You are an accomplished leader, with a sterling reputation in statesmanship and a peacemaker in Nigeria and across Africa.“Your legacies in Nigeria and Africa have continued to endure many years after you left office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Your Excellency, you are a beacon of hope to many leaders and a source of inspiration to people from all walks of life,” Jonathan explained.
On its part, the Northern Governors Forum has also felicitated Obasanjo on his 85th birthday.
Chairman of the forum and Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Bako Lalong, in a statement, described Obasanjo as a nationalist and passionate leader whose patriotism is paramount in all his engagements.
Lalong, in a statement by his spokesman, Dr. Makut Simon Macham, wished him many more years of good health and God’s protection, urging him never to relent in lending his voice towards a greater Nigeria.
He said the former president has never hidden his belief in the unity, oneness, and indivisibility of Nigeria.Also, Delta State Governor, Okowa, has congratulated Obasanjo.
Okowa in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika, yesterday in Asaba, said Nigeria benefited immensely from the former president’s leadership at various times as several tangible key infrastructure and, economic reforms, were hallmarks of his leadership.
He commended the former president for always lending his voice on national issues and for his patriotic and unrelenting service to the country and humanity.
He described the octogenarian as an epitome of nationalism and statesmanship and lauded him for his sustained contributions to peace and unity in Nigeria.
The PDP also yesterday congratulated Obasanjo, as he attained the age of 85 years.
The PDP in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Debo Ologunagba described Obasanjo as an exceptionally patriotic leader, courageous statesman, insightful administrator, and global personality who continues to play pivotal roles towards the security, unity, stability, and development of the nation, Nigeria, Africa and indeed the world at large.
The statement noted that Obasanjo, under the PDP-led administration, ran an all-inclusive, transparent, and development-oriented government, entrenched democratic practice, revamped the productive sectors, set up anti-corruption institutions, and steadied the nation on the path of economic prosperity in line with the vision and manifesto of the PDP.
“Under the Obasanjo-led PDP administration, our nation paid off our foreign debt, instilled good governance to effectively empower Nigerians and stimulate rapid growth in critical sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, education, power, oil and gas, healthcare, housing, banking and finance, telecommunication among others, and made our nation a global investment destination,” PDP explained.
On his part, President of the AfDB, Adesina, in a goodwill message issued yesterday, described Obasanjo’s contributions to Nigeria, Africa, and the world as exemplary.
“On behalf of myself, my wife, Grace, and the entire family of the African Development Bank, I am writing to wish you a very happy 85th birthday.
“Your selflessness toward causes in Africa as well as global issues, has always shown that your heart and passion are to drive transformation and seek solutions to pressing development challenges facing Africa and developing nations.
“Anyone that knows you would immediately wonder how someone at your age can work several times harder than people who are half your age. Your passion and commitment to the younger generation are further exemplified by your always finding time and resources to encourage and support the youth, especially in agriculture.
“You have remained engaged with former Heads of State and Government across Africa, to relentlessly find solutions to challenges and mediate to resolve conflicts. This includes service as UN High Representative, African Union High Representative, and election.”