He also said that the present generation of leaders had failed the country because they lacked the focus and commitment to move the nation forward.
Obasanjo, who identified bad leadership as one of the problems confronting the country, noted that his generation might have failed in raising Nigeria to where it should be but said they (his generation) had fared well in keeping Nigeria united under a stable democratic dispensation.
Obasanjo spoke as the chairman of the 38th Kaduna International Trade Fair’s Seminar with the theme, ‘Promoting Public Private Partnership as Panacea for Accelerated Growth and Development,’ organised by the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture on Monday.
He added that Nigerians must learn to stop blaming God for the nation’s woes, saying “let us stop troubling God, because God has done all we need for us, we only need to play our own part.”
Obasanjo stated that if Nigerians should pray to God, “our prayer should be that God should not take away all He has given to us as a nation.”
This, the former President said, was because God had given Nigeria everything it needed to be great but for the leadership problem bedeviling the country.
He said, “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.”
The former President added, “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.”
Obasanjo faulted the lack of focus and capability of the nation’s leadership to handle the complex issue of the economy, noting that if Nigeria must get it right in its democratic journey, the problem of poor leadership must be resolved.
“Another problem is that, we take one step forward and another step 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.
Obasanjo, who traced the nation’s socio-economic and political history from independence to date, said the First Republic generation, led by its founding fathers, gave the country independence, but noted with sadness that the present generation had nothing to offer.
He said, “It doesn’t matter what you want to say about them, the Awolowos, Nnamdi Azikiwes, the Sardaunas, Aminu Kanos, Tafawa Balewas, gave us independence, they were not perfect and if you like, you can even go from now till tomorrow to condemn what they did, but they gave us independence.
“My own generation fought for the unity of Nigeria. You cannot deny that. There are many things we must have done wrong but we fought for the unity of this country. I still have sharp nails from grenades that entered my body that our brothers shot at me during the Civil War. But, at the end of it, we reconciled.
“In addition, my generation laid the foundation of democracy in the country. Our democracy is not perfect, our democracy is a journey and not a destination, we must continue to improve on it. My sons and daughters, what will your generation do?”
Besides, the former President said that lack of synergy between the public and the private sectors was responsible for the setback in the nation’s economy growth.
“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,” he stressed.
He said public and private sectors must work together to accelerate growth and development.
Obasanjo said, “When we were in office, we privatised the NNPC and sold it to Dangote and partners, but the government that succeeded me revoked it and that is why till today, the NNPC cannot work optimally.
“Today, the same Dangote that was denied ownership of the NNPC is building a refinery that can produce in excess of what the NNPC can produce and what Nigeria can consume. So, it means he will even export.”
Earlier, a former Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, who delivered a paper on ‘Promoting Public Private Partnership As Panacea For Accelerated Growth And Development,’ had called on the government to encourage the concept of Public Private Partnership for the growth of the nation.
Usman said the country needed foreign capital and expertise to augment the resources that the country could afford to generate.
Also, the KADCCIMA President, Dr. Muheeba Dankaka, had explained that the theme was chosen to highlight the need for collaboration between the public and private sectors to enhance the business environment through massive infrastructure development.