“I banned importation of toothpick in 1977, because it was the most stupid thing to import when we can produce it here. But, about 40 years after, one of my successors, I won’t mention his name, unmanned toothpick. Then, I put on my Babanriga and went to Abuja to express my shock about the policy, but to my greatest surprise, the President told me, he signed the document unbanning toothpick without reading it.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday took a swipe at his successors, blaming them for the nation’s economic woes. He said God was not responsible for the problems hindering the development of Nigeria.
Obasanjo spoke while chairing the 38th Kaduna International Trade Fair Seminar with the theme: “Promoting Public Private Partnership as Panacea for Accelerated Growth and Development”.
The ex-President said “that Nigeria is where it is today is a question of leadership and not God”.
According to him, “somebody came to me and said we need to pray to God and I said, for what? He said, so that God can do for us, what we cannot do for ourselves. And I said, no, let us stop troubling God, because God has done all we need for us, we only need to play our own part.
“But, if we must pray to God, our prayer should be that God should not take away all He has given us as a nation.
“God, in His mercy, has given us all the needed resources, both human and natural, but we have not been able to put them together and manage them effectively. The countries that have developed and are performing better are not better than Nigeria in terms of resources.
“One problem that must be corrected is the problem of leadership. This is because our leaders lack focus, commitment, continuity and sometimes proper knowledge about economic and development issues, hence we have not been able to achieve meaningful result.
“Another problem is that, we take one step forward and two backward. Nigerian leaders must be tough and ready to bite the bullet, because Nigeria cannot have it easy. Until we get the right leadership, the problem will continue”, he said.
Registering his displeasure over inconsistency in policies, Obasanjo said: “I banned importation of toothpick in 1977, because it was the most stupid thing to import when we can produce it here. But, about 40 years after, one of my successors, I won’t mention his name, unmanned toothpick. Then, I put on my Babanriga and went to Abuja to express my shock about the policy, but to my greatest surprise, the President told me, he signed the document unbanning toothpick without reading it.
“Another thing is that, he came in saying he will generate additional 30,000 megawatts to the 3,500 megawatts we left behind, and I told him, don’t trouble yourself, if you can add 3,000 megawatts to the one we left behind, you will receive awards. But, to my greatest shock, he couldn’t add one megawatt before leaving office”, he narrated.
Speaking on the public-private partnership, the former President said lack of synergy in public-private sectors was responsible for the set back in the nation’s economy and growth.
He said: “The public sector perceives the private sector as a profit making industry that reaps where it does not sow, but in actual fact, they are two legs that when brought together can accelerate development in all sectors of the economy.
“Public and private sectors must work together to accelerate growth and development. When we were in office, we privatised the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and sold to Dangote and partners, but the government that succeeded me revoked it and that is why till today, NNPC cannot work optimally.
“But, today the same Dangote that was denied ownership of NNPC is building a refinery that can produce in excess of what NNPC can produce and what Nigeria can consume. So, it means he will even export.”
In his lecture, former Minister of Finance Shamdudeen Usman said Nigeria was facing backwardness in economic growth and development because of the lack of continuity in governance and poor will by political leaders to complete projects started by their predecessors.
According to him, “delay in budgetary approval process and also padding of the budget contribute to the slow acceleration of growth and development experienced in the nation.
“Short term policies affected PPP projects across the country due to inconsistencies in government. Though several governments gave high support to PPP, only President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration recorded about 90 per cent completion of PPP projects and they include the Garki hospital in Abuja, Lagos International Airport, port terminals, amongst others.
“However, the Jonathan administration took a huge step in adpoting a 30-year National Integrated Infrastructure master plan, which targets core infrastructure in the country, but nothing much has been achieved so far,” he said.