Nigeria’s ex-president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, dissected the state of socio-economic affairs of the country, especially the initiatives of the current administration, and returned a verdict of doubt. His words:
“The problem today is that it is doubtful if the current administrative system is imbued with right mix of skills and values to successfully implement a well-articulated programme of change.”
He also averred that the country was on its way to another debt burden unless the rising debts were creatively addressed.
The former president made the remarks at the conference of Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy, ISGPP, Ibadan, Oyo State.
The former President stressed the need for government to kick out all forms of corruption in the polity, provide jobs for unemployed youths and be committed to change.
Looming debt overhang
Noting that the conference was timely as the country was in search of new ways of doing things, given the crisis of governance that now manifests in vigorous ways, Obasanjo said: “The drastic fall in the price of oil in the international market has unravelled the weakness of governance in Nigeria. “The Minister of Finance has recently announced that the 2016 Budget deficit may be increased from the current N2.2 trillion in the draft document before the National Assembly, to N3 trillion due to decline in the price of crude oil.
“If the current fiscal challenge is not creatively addressed, Nigeria may be on its way to another episode of debt overhang, which may not be good for the country. It will be recalled that a few years ago, we rescued Nigeria from its creditors with the deal in which the Paris Club of sovereign creditors wrote off USD 18 billion of debt, Africa’s largest debt cancellation.
“Nigeria then used windfall earnings from oil exports to pay off another USD 12 billion in debts and arrears.
He continued: “Recent developments in governance show the failure of systems, the disregard for institutional processes and the general decline of institutions that used to function to guarantee reasonable service delivery to citizens
Leadership must be committed to change
“Now, given these governance challenges and our experience with reform, it is clear that change doesn’t just happen, there must be a basis for change. Leadership has to be committed to change. Beginning with the reality of the budget, there is need for sober reflection. Rebuilding the foundations of governance involved paying attention to values, principles and practices that promote hard work, innovation and sacrifice.
“Leaders who call for sacrifice from the citizenry cannot be living in obscene opulence. We must address these foundational issues to make the economy work, to strengthen our institutions, build public confidence in government and deal with our peace and security challenges. We must address the issue of employment for our teeming population, particularly for our youths.
“Leadership must mentor the young and provide them with hope about their future as part of a process of inter-generational conversation.”
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The former president also lambasted some state governors who he said had turned themselves to emperors in their various states, mismanaging funds meant for local councils.
Lamenting the pitiable conditions of teeming masses in the councils, he said: “Is there any development going on in the 774 constitutionally recognised local government councils?
“Now, we have a situation where some governors have become sole administrators, acting like emperors. These governors have rendered public institutions irrelevant and useless in the manner they starve local governments their legitimate funds from the federation account.
“When governors take their money, the chairmen of councils take the balance of the money and put it on the table and share it out among the council members. In some states, governors have hijacked the resources of local governments and expended them to serve their whims and caprices instead of using these resources to galvanise growth and development”.