Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday warned that if Nigeria continues to recycle corrupt set of politicians who lack commitment, courage and understanding of what makes a nation and development, Nigerians “will soon have to say goodbye to Nigeria as a nation.”
He spoke on Saturday at the international symposium organised to mark his 85th birthday at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The symposium was attended physically and virtually by eminent personalities, including: President Paul Kagame, President Nicéphore Soglo, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Professor Goski Alabi (Ghana); Ambassador Barry Desker
(Singapore); Professor Juma Shabani (Burundi); Dr. Mary Khimulu (Kenya); Dr. Moussa Kondo (Mali); Professor Sarah Agbor (Cameroon); Professor Chukwuma Soludo and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, among others.
Obasanjo whose address was titled, “Africa Narrative with Nigeria Situation”, insisted that Nigerians must learn from the events of the past and put aside sentiments in choosing the next President of the country.
“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.
“If we continue in the same pattern of recycling, sweet-word campaigning, maneuvering 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,” Obasanjo warned.
The former President lamented that the principles of federal character which ought to serve as a guideline for the emergence of quality leaders had been bastardised by selfish politicians and advised politicians to prioritise nation-building in whatever political arrangement they make.
He stressed that if Nigeria derailed from nation-building process with solid principles, it would collapse.
Obasanjo said, “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. We have a lot to learn from the events of the last almost 24 years and God is not to blame if we fail.
“It would appear that we are not getting our priorities right and that can spell doom on our country if we fail to do what we should do for nation-building in terms of fundamentals of equity, justice, common ideals, popular education, shared values, mutual respect and equality of opportunity anchored and propelled by leaders across the board that are persons of integrity, honour, morality, competence, great virtue, courage to do what is right, humility and ability to put a team together and work with them in selfless devotion and service with the fear of God.”
The former President said he had always maintained that if objectivity, national interest and patriotism were brought to bear coupled with equity, integrity, performance, no region or zone should claim to have monopoly of Nigerians.
He added, “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. When we have adequately taken care of nation-building measures especially management of our unity and taken care of every anomalous situation and performance or lack of it, that have put us in political, security, economic and solid quagmire situations that we find ourselves, then we must zero on personalities.
“Each contender 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.
“I do not, cannot and will not at this point suggest the how and to what, I can only count on the patriotic commitment and desires of well-meaning Nigerians to start the process of forging a path out of darkness into the light of salvation and a new glorious dawn.
“It is time to reach into the ability of Nigeria to always snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as we start this collective search on how we can climb out of this hole in which we find our country, Nigeria.”