Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday said Nigeria’s peculiar challenges required leaders with requisite experience to tackle them.
He told guests inside the auditorium of his Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, during the celebration of his 78th birthday and 2015 annual summit, that there were too many ‘think-tanks’ in the country instead of ‘do-tanks.’
The former President, who looked resplendent in a white flowing agbada, therefore prayed to “ God to give us leaders that occasion like this deserves.
He said that West African countries and Britain were worried about developments in Nigeria.
Reiterating his commitment to the country, Obasanjo said each time he travelled to these countries, he was usually inundated with enquiries about Nigeria’s security, political and socio-economic challenges.
According to him, people in those countries always warn that any turmoil in Nigeria may have dire consequences on its West African neighbours and even Brittain.
He said, “We are about 180 million now, our brothers and sisters in West Africa are worried and when they talk to me and I ask why they were worried, they always reply that, ‘if half a million Nigerians go to Republic of Benin, we will overwhelm them.
“If two million (Nigerians) go to Ghana… Even Britain is worried, they are worried. They said their problem is that if one million Nigerians go to Britain, they said in 10 years, there will be 10 million Nigerians in Britain and they will rather keep us here.”
He said with enormous resources the nation was blessed with, no Nigerian child should lack access to education, food and employment.
Obasanjo lamented that the mismanagement of the nation’s resources had landed the country in the current mess.
He said, “My concern is that we have too many think tanks, we need more of do tanks. The point is, we can do and we have no reason why we can’t do and we have also seen that one individual can make a difference.
“There is no reason why any Nigerian child, at this point in time should not have a basic education, food and nutrition. Not only Nigerian child, no Nigerian should go to bed without food.
“We have the resources to achieve all that, that we are not achieving it does not mean we don’t have the resources. It is because we haven’t managed our resources well.
“Employment, if all other things are right, there should be no reason for any Nigerian who wants to be employed not to have the opportunity for employment.”
He noted that if the unemployment malaise persisted for the next 15 years, “and if all those things that all these young ones are expecting are not there, in 15 years time, they will be be good recruits for Boko Haram or its equivalent.”
Delivering a paper titled: Imperatives of a National Security Framework for Development and Progress of Nigeria,” a former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, condemned the involvement of the military in politics.
He warned that should the military abandon its primary responsibility and engage in politics, the country might be doomed for it.
Agwai called for transformation in the nation’s military system, stressing that the forces trained and equipped to defend the country had suddenly found themselves in a strange terrain.
He said, “The military has to be transformed and this becomes necessary from the point of recruitment, training and assuming leadership role. Our forces that are trained and equipped to defend us are now in a strange field.
“We must have security sector reform because everyone that has anything to do with security must be re-branded for professionalism, efficiency and effectiveness.
“The military has nothing to do with politics and if we allow it, we will run into problems.”
Agwai, who expressed fear at the emergence of ‘private armies’ in the country, said this had led to rivalry and created religious division.
He expressed disappointment at the practice of democratic rule so far, which he said, had created few affluent citizens in the midst of suffocating poverty.
“When you have a scenario like this, there will be insecurity,” he added.
He called on the government to diversify the economy and ensure that “no Nigerian child goes to bed without food in his belly. Farmers should have enough food to eat and sell.”
Agwai, who is the current chairman of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, noted that religious bodies which should serve as checks on corruption had become “facilitators of corruption.”
The chairman of the ceremony, Prof.Akin Mabogunje, stressed the need for inter-dependency of all security agencies in tackling the security challenges in the country.
Mabogunje, who is the Chairman, Governing Board, Centre for Human Security, OOPL, identified intelligence gathering as key to addressing the issue of insecurity.
Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, described the host as “a great Nigerian and a rare species.”
He said Obasanjo had played a significant role in the development of the nation and remained the only Nigerian Head of State to hand over power to a civilian administration and also ensured a civilian to civilian transition.
He said,”As far as he is concerned,issues concerning Nigeria are far beyond party affiliation. There is no way we talk about Nigeria that we will not talk about Obasanjo.”
The former governor of Lagos State and a national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, described Obasanjo as a “nationalist, teacher, disciplinarian and a tutor in dignity and boldness.”
He said though they have had differences in the past, he noted that Obasanjo was a man of value and wisdom.
He said, “Obasanjo is an open book, you read a line, you pick a paragraph, you learn, you comply, if you drink from that fountain of wisdom, you will see value in it, he is very, very committed to the Nigerian nation.”
The chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, described Obasanjo as “an icon, a father, a non- partisan person,and the very first in the history of this nation.”
Among dignitaries at the event were former governors of Ekiti and Osun states – Segun Oni and Olagunsoye Oyinlola , the Osile of Oke-Ona Egba, Dr. Adedapo Tejuoso, and the co-chairman, OOPL Board of Trustees, Ambassador Carl Masters.