FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo has identified corruption, insecurity and infrastructure decay as major problems confronting the African continent.
Obasanjo said this at the inauguration of newly-established Africa Institute, Valparaiso University, Indiana, USA.
The former president spoke as the convener of the Save Nigeria group, even as SNG, Pastor Tunde Bakare, yesterday accused him of allegedly returning the country to the path of corruption.
Pastor Bakare spoke at the first anniversary of the Occupy Nigeria protest in a message entitled: “Corruption and the soul of Nigeria”, at the Latter Rain Assembly, in Lagos.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, the institute would serve as a cultural exchange between it and Nigeria in particular and Africa at large.
Obasanjo expressed worry that almost every country in Africa had one form of security problem or the other, pointing out that insecurity would not allow development to thrive.
On the security challenges facing Nigeria, the former president said government must properly identify remote causes of activities of the Boko Haram sect.
He stressed the need for more attention to be placed on improvement of infrastructure within the continent. He said human development should not be such that individuals were allowed to leave the continent and be servicing other lands.
The former president, however, called on Nigerians living abroad to return home where their knowledge would be utilised.
Obasanjo said: “We must develop people and retain them. We must encourage most of them that are in Diaspora, to move back home”.
On corruption, the former Nigerian leader said corruption was very serious and should not be undermined, adding that it was virtually in every aspect of life. He siad: “If you pretend that there is no corruption, the world already knows there is corruption.”
Commending efforts of some African leaders in carrying out reforms that had made the continent an emerging economy in the 21st century, Obasanjo said Western economists earlier ruled out Africa as a living continent about 10 years ago. He explained that some of the economists had even described the 21st century as the best for Africa.
As part of his reforms while in office, Obasanjo disclosed that when he took over in 1999, the country owed close to $35 billion.
He also said the country was spending about $3 billion annually to service debts, noting that “I decided that we should seek debts relief.”
He added that “I also decided that we would go for deep reforms. Our creditors took us very serious and granted us debts relief. The reserve of $3.7 billion that I met in 1999 grew to well over $45 billion by the time I left office. After we paid over $12 billion, we cleared the debts. Nigeria was not the only country moving in that direction.”
Obasanjo commended the university for honouring him, saying that the establishment of the institute was quite timely in view of global development.
Earlier, President of the university, Dr. Mark Heckler, said the exemplary leadership of Obasanjo in Africa and Nigeria was a driving force for the choice of honouring him. Heckler said the university was established in 1859, stressing that the establishment of the Africa Institute was a dream fulfilled.
Similarly, the Nigeria’s Ambassador to the USA, Prof. Ade Adefuye, also commended the University “for giving honour to whom honour is due”.
Obasanjo, responsible for corruption in Nigeria — Bakare
Meanwhile, Bakare has said that Obasanjo should be blamed for the corruption status of Nigeria.
While criticising Obasanjo for allegedly derailing Nigeria at the critical juncture of the nation’s life, Bakare said the former president should be held responsible for the alarming level corruption has attained in the country.
He said: “Nigerians wanted a better Nigeria. We wanted a chance to start all over again. We lost that chance when former president Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office. Today, the old man conveniently assumes the stance of a statesman. He goes up and down telling everybody Nigeria will go up in flames. That the man he planted in power has allowed corruption to go unchecked under his clueless watch. What he expediently forgets is his role in facilitating our arrival at the sticky junction we presently find ourselves.”
“Obasanjo”, he noted “was one person who derailed Nigeria at a critical juncture in her life. In 1999, Nigerians were full of enthusiasm as they watched the military return to the barracks. We were excited because it was the dawn of a new beginning.”
Speaking further, the clergyman said “we wanted a different and better country, one with a defined national character and the possibility of creating a sense of self-pride, we so badly needed after so many traumatizing years under the military. It never happened.
Obasanjo squandered that enthusiasm and returned the country to a path of corruption, prebendalism, primordial sentiments and even administrative bullying”.
The fiery televangelist, who said that corruption has been institutionalized in the country said “I do not find it necessary to highlight in numerical details the countless corrupt practices that have found home in Nigeria, nor do I even want to attempt to capture their effects. They are all around us, clear as a sun-filled sky.”
He said “from infrastructural deficits to a social collapse, from a lack of ambition to a collective sense of despondency, to a lack of adaisical attitude and a general inuredness that makes us all look away from even the most outrageously corrupt acts, we are no longer strangers to the results of corruption even though it is doubtful that we will fully comprehend its entire effect on our country for a long time to come.”
Speaking on the first anniversary of the Occupy Nigeria Protest, he stated the need for Nigerians not to be taken for granted by leaders in positions of authority.
His words: “The Occupy Nigeria protests revived the enthusiasm in Nigerians and showed us that when we are ready, we can always have our country back. For now, we appear to be more of a makeshift country simply existing without ideas, vision and goals.”