2023 polls, show of shame – Obasanjo

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Thursday, described the just-concluded elections in the country as a painful show of shame, saying that efforts should be made by patriotic Nigerians to correct it and not allow it to repeat itself.

Chief Obasanjo said he is too old to keep quiet and watch the country launch into a dystopia and that efforts are required from well-meaning and committed patriots to rescue the nation from the precipice.

The former President said these as a guest of honour at a public lecture series tagged, “From Elections to Governance and Performance”, in Abuja.

He lamented that the country is currently more divided and corroded than what its founding fathers had in mind.

Also speaking, the Founding Partner of Nextier SPD, Patrick Okigbo, said that election promises can only be implemented if the civil servants that are supposed to drive it were reformed.

The event, put together by Nextier SPD, also witnessed the public presentation of a book: “The Unending Quest for Reform: An Intellectual Memoir”, authored by Prof. Tunji Olaopa.

Obasanjo said with the current situation on ground, it would not be out of place for a national reconciliation, which will assuage the feelings of aggrieved Nigerians, particularly the youth population.

He criticised the growing debt profile and spending spree of government at all tiers, especially those at the helm of affairs currently, likening the situation to “spending like a drunken sailor”.

Obasanjo, however, advised that for reforms to take root, there must be political will and concerted effort to drive it by all stakeholders in Nigeria.

On the issues of reforms, he said governance in Nigeria now calls for thinking outside the box in terms of development financing.

According to him, this trend of thinking has become inevitable in the face of Nigeria’s dwindling fortune in oil revenue, Nigeria’s huge foreign indebtedness and the urgency of diversifying Nigeria’s neo-cultural economy.

He said, “Let me suggest three ideas that I think can enrich the direction of the conversation here today.

“One, given what we saw during the election, Nigeria is now even more divided and more corroded than we thought.

“This places a deep onus on any administration following the current one, to urgently facilitate the process of national moral rearmament and national reconciliation that the potential will enhance skills for the aggrieved and will lead us across Nigeria and to assuage the youth.

“This must be done in sync with the imperative of national value orientation that Nigeria requires to build a collective sense of enduring and local values and national belonging.

“Two, governance in Nigeria now calls for thinking outside the box in terms of development financing, this has become inevitable in the face of Nigeria’s dwindling fortune, in oil revenue, Nigeria’s huge foreign indebtedness and the urgency of diversifying Nigeria’s neo-cultural economy.

“We cannot be spending like a drunken sailor on frivolities and corruption and expect development and growth. Such a situation cannot take us into the fourth industrial revolution already underway.

“My experience and understanding, however, is that the money to develop and grow our economy is out there if we provide a conducive environment for it to come and stay.

“Three, political will, political action and administrative efforts must be invested in reforming the public service into a capability-ready institution that could enable Nigeria’s development agenda beyond 2023.

“All of these and more are necessary to correct and not to repeat the sickening and painful show of shame that the elections of 2023 generated into.

“Let me conclude by stating clearly that I am now too old to keep quiet and watch Nigeria’s seemingly clueless launch into dystopia.

“All efforts are now required from all well-meaning and committed patriots to rescue the nation from the precipice.

“And when I look at the audience I have a feeling that among the people who can do it and who must do it are some of you here.

“It has become my own personal obligation, continuing in my relentless service as a letterman, dedicated in my twilight years to say the truth, as I see it, so as to push Nigeria in the direction of our collective aspirations.

“What is our collective aspiration? A better society where all Nigerian can become what the Almighty God is destined to be.

“At times like this, some of us have to adopt the attitude of being known to be blind and not being afraid of the dark. But we must continually work for the light of all.”

He congratulated the author of the book, Prof. Tunji Olapa for continuing to labour on behalf of the Nigerian public service and adding the significant intellectual memoir to his huge collection of publications and to the annals of administrative reforms in Nigeria.

Speaking to journalists at the occasion, Okigbo noted that reforming the civil service was necessary to drive electoral programmes and promises that would better a lot of all Nigerians.

Okigbo said it is one thing to have a political will as a leader and another thing entirely to translate the will into actionable projects which is what reforms are all about.

According to him, “Every four years, we go to elections, politicians make promises of what they want to do and at the end of the day, not a lot happens.

“It is not because these politicians are bad people, it is not because they do not want to do stuff, it is basically because all the electoral promises will have to be delivered by the public service, the civil servants, the political appointees.

“If the civil service does not have the capacity to deliver on these promises, they will remain mere promises, so what we are attempting to do here is to convene leading scholars, leading practitioners, leading policy advocates, development partners etc, to say what is the pathway for reforming Nigeria’s public service.

“Tunji Olaopa, the author of the book, is one of the most prolific writers on public service reforms.

“I think we have kind of mystified political will, we have created a myth around political will and I give you an example.

“President Muhammadu Buhari can decide that he wants to do XYZ, what he should do is to discuss with ministers at FEC and give an instruction to get it done.

“Who then takes it from that point, when a presidential directive has been issued? It is the civil service.

“The President is not the Holy Spirit, he cannot be everywhere as there are only 24 hours in a day.

“By the way, I am not making excuses for him. I am just saying that even after you bring the political will, it is not enough.

“What you need is an institution that has the capacity to deliver on those promises or programmes.”


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