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Obasanjo To Nigerians: Is This Government Working?

Source: pointblanknews.com
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FORMER president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, dissected the state

of socio-economic affairs of the country, especially the initiatives of

the current administration, and returned a verdict of doubt. His words:

“The problem today is that it is doubtful if the current administrative

system is imbued with right mix of skills and values to successfully

implement a well-articulated programme of change.”
He also averred that the country was on its way to another debt burden

unless the rising debts were creatively addressed.
Obasanjo, who recalled how he led Nigeria to exit the Paris Club and how

he pursued public service reforms, regretted that the gains he made had

been reversed.
The former president made the remarks at the conference of Ibadan School

of Government and Public Policy, ISGPP, Ibadan, Oyo State.

The former President stressed the need for government to kick out all

forms of corruption in the polity, provide jobs for unemployed youths and

be committed to change.
Looming debt overhang
Noting that the conference was timely as the country was in search of new

ways of doing things, given the crisis of governance that now manifests

in vigorous ways, Obasanjo said: “The drastic fall in the price of oil in

the international market has unravelled the weakness of governance in

Nigeria. “The Minister of Finance has recently announced that the 2016

Budget deficit may be increased from the current N2.2 trillion in the

draft document before the National Assembly, to N3 trillion due to

decline in the price of crude oil.
“If the current fiscal challenge is not creatively addressed, Nigeria may

be on its way to another episode of debt overhang, which may not be good

for the country. It will be recalled that a few years ago, we rescued

Nigeria from its creditors with the deal in which the Paris Club of

sovereign creditors wrote off USD 18 billion of debt, Africa's largest

debt cancellation.
“Nigeria then used windfall earnings from oil exports to pay off another

USD 12 billion in debts and arrears.
Is govt working?
“On the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, the hope that followed the initiative

of the New Partnership for Africa Development, NEPAD, and African

renaissance initiatives are being threatened by developments in the global

economy and governance.
“Falling commodity prices have put pressures on local currencies, and if

caution is not taken, may lead to mounting debts. It is, indeed, proper

for us in Nigeria to ask the questions: Is the government working? Is

government positioned to deal with challenges arising from these new

developments?
“These questions are made apposite by the massive scale of poverty and

unemployment, the decay in infrastructure facilities, the impoverished

living standards of citizens with regard to food, housing, water supply,

education and healthcare which have deepened in recent years.

“This is complicated by the protracted experience of violence and

brutality, the flow of internally displaced persons, IDPs, arising from

the Boko Haram insurgency in large parts of North-Eastern Nigeria where

many citizens have become distressed, live in fear and insecurity.”

Systemic failure
He continued: “Recent developments in governance show the failure of

systems, the disregard for institutional processes and the general

decline of institutions that used to function to guarantee reasonable

service delivery to citizens.
“When I assumed office in 1999, though I had some sense that the

bureaucracy of government that I left in 1979 had experienced significant

decline, I only appreciated the extent of this decline after the Dr

Christopher Kolade Panel that I set up submitted its report.

“I implemented remedial measures and a reorientation programme coordinated

by Professor Adebayo Adedeji. I got the Management Service Office to

undertake and evolve a National Strategy for Public Service Reform. The

reform process commenced in 2003 and by 2007, significant progress had

been made.
“Unfortunately, the evidence available today shows that those gains have

been reversed. The problem today is that it is doubtful if the current

administrative system is imbued with right mix of skills and values to

successfully implement a well-articulated programme of change.”

We must fight all forms of graft
Recalling that during his tenure, he identified corruption as the

greatest single bane of our society and as one of the worst legacies of

misrule and bad governance, a reason his administration set up the ICPC

and the EFCC to tackle it, Obasanjo lamented that things had taken a turn

for the worse.
“Today, corruption drains billions of dollars from our economy that cannot

afford to lose even a million dollars. It seems we are just beginning the

fight against corruption afresh.
“Until recently, it seems corruption had returned with a vengeance, taking

seat at the very heart of government. I reiterate my statement in October

last year during the 55th anniversary of Nigeria's independence that

'corruption must not have a resting place within our society; we must kick

corruption out because it destroys almost everything and I am not talking

about corruption of money; corruption of attitude, nepotism, favouritism,

they are corruption in different forms and all aspects of corruption must

be kicked out of our society.”
Leadership must be committed to change
“Now, given these governance challenges and our experience with reform, it

is clear that change doesn't just happen, there must be a basis for

change. Leadership has to be committed to change. Beginning with the

reality of the budget, there is need for sober reflection. Rebuilding the

foundations of governance involved paying attention to values, principles

and practices that promote hard work, innovation and sacrifice.

“Leaders who call for sacrifice from the citizenry cannot be living in

obscene opulence. We must address these foundational issues to make the

economy work, to strengthen our institutions, build public confidence in

government and deal with our peace and security challenges. We must

address the issue of employment for our teeming population, particularly

for our youths.
“Leadership must mentor the young and provide them with hope about their

future as part of a process of inter-generational conversation.”

Lambasts govs over LG funds
…Anyaoku wants six geo-political zones made federating units

The former president also lambasted some state governors who he said had

turned themselves to emperors in their various states, mismanaging funds

meant for local councils.
Lamenting the pitiable conditions of teeming masses in the councils, he

said: “Is there any development going on in the 774 constitutionally

recognised local government councils?
“Now, we have a situation where some governors have become sole

administrators, acting like emperors. These governors have rendered public

institutions irrelevant and useless in the manner they starve local

governments their legitimate funds from the federation account.

“When governors take their money, the chairmen of councils take the

balance of the money and put it on the table and share it out among the

council members. In some states, governors have hijacked the resources of

local governments and expended them to serve their whims and caprices

instead of using these resources to galvanise growth and development”.

Chief Obasanjo who later visited the Olubadan- designate, High Chief Saliu

Adetunji in his residence, spoke extensively as the chairman of the

occasion.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku, a former Commonwealth Secretary-General expressed

disapproval over the lopsided federal structure and situation in which

many of the states are hovering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Anyaoku said: “Instead of the structure of 36 unhealthy states the country

currently has, the National Assembly should convert the six geo-political

zones to federating unit while the 36 states remain administrative units.”

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