Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government is driving Nigeria towards “disaster and instability”.
Mr Obasanjo said this in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES at his Ibogun Olaogun ancestral home in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State, last month.
The interview is part of a special magazine publication by PREMIUM TIMES, put together to commemorate Nigeria’s 20 years of democracy since 1999.
The former president fell apart with Mr Buhari ahead of the 2019 general elections and endorsed the president’s closest rival and his estranged vice president, Atiku Abubakar. Mr Abubakar, who served as vice president to Mr Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007, was the flagbearer of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 election.
Speaking during the interview, Mr Obasanjo noted that although the country has made considerable progress since the new dispensation began in 1999, the pace at which it is currently moving shows the nation may be inching towards disaster and instability.
“I think we have no choice but to be on the path for sustainable development,” Mr Obasanjo said. “The progress we are making may be questionable—-Is it fast enough? Is it steady enough? Is it stable enough? Are we taking two steps forward and one step back or one step side-way?
“You can question that, but we have no choice but to be on (the) path for sustainable development. Any other thing will be a disaster. In fact, the pace at which we are going now is tending more and more toward disaster and instability and unsustainability.”
‘No Confidence in the Economy’
The former president argued that there is no confidence in the Nigerian economy today. Rather, he said, the gains recorded in the past have been frittered away over the years.
Speaking on what went wrong, the former president explained that Nigeria has failed to do what is right to instill confidence in domestic and foreign investors. The ripple effect of the nation’s indecision, he said, manifests in the state of the economy.
Nigeria slipped into recession in 2016 after several contractions in the economy, amidst an unstable naira and rising inflation rates. By the second quarter of 2017, the nation slipped out of recession.
Although the government claims that the nation has been put on the path of sustainable growth, unemployment figures have also ballooned within the period.
“The problem is that we are just not doing what we should be doing,” said Mr Obasanjo, who supported Mr Buhari of the All Progressives Congress when the retired general contested against former president Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. “Nobody has that confidence, and we cannot develop Nigeria without that confidence in our economy. Both for domestic investors and foreign investors.”
‘Anti-graft institutions have been corrupted’
Speaking further on the state of the nation, Mr Obasanjo argued that the present government that claims to be fighting corruption has “corrupted” the anti-graft agencies his government put in place. He claimed that between 1999 and 2007 when he held sway as president, his government “reasonably achieved” all the things he promised to achieve, including fighting corruption.
“I set up two (anti-corruption) institutions,” he said. “I came with two laws that were not there before, to fight corruption. And those who claim they are fighting corruption today have not brought in anything different. If anything, they have corrupted those two institutions.
“And the institutions were open and independent. I never, never, as president had to say to either the head of ICPC or EFCC: ‘Oh, chase this person’.”