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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
on Wednesday came hard on President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him to fix the
country’s economy as he promised during electioneering rather than expressing
frustration at the gloomy economic situation.

Obasanjo spoke during a lecture he
delivered at the First Akintola Williams Annual Lecture in Lagos titled,
“Nigeria yesterday, today and tomorrow: Governance and accountability.’’

He said that it would have been
needless for Nigerians to cry for a change of government if things were rosy in
the country before Buhari took over.

The ex-President also faulted the
proposed borrowing of US$30bn by the Buhari administration, arguing that such
would amount to taking the soft option capable of hurting the country in
future.

Besides, he cautioned Buhari
against castigating his administration alongside previous ones, describing such
as uncharitable, fussy and un-instructive.

According to Obasanjo, if the
current administration does not fix the economy to relieve the pain and anguish
of many Nigerians, the gains recorded in fighting insurgency and corruption
will pale into insignificance.

Obasanjo stated, “It is easier to
win an election than to right the wrongs of a badly fouled situation. When you
are outside, what you see and know is nothing compares  with the reality. And yet once you are on
seat, you have to clear the mess and put the nation on the path of rectitude,
development and progress leaving no group or section out of your plan,
programme and policy and efforts. The longer it takes, the more intractable the
problem may become.

“I understand President Buhari’s
frustration on the state of the economy inherited by him. It was the same
reason and situation that brought about cry for change; otherwise there would
be no need for change if it was all nice and rosy.

“Now that we have had change
because the actors and the situation needed to be changed, let us move forward
to have progress through a comprehensive economic policy and programme that is
intellectually, strategically and philosophically based.’’

He also warned that the anger of
the citizenry particularly the youth might be spurred if the current
administration did not get it right in good governance and accountability.

Obasanjo also warned the Federal
Government against the planned $30bn foreign it intended to take.

He said, “We immediately need loans
to stabilise our foreign reserve and embark on some infrastructure development
but surely not $30bn over a period of less than three years. That was about the
magnitude of the cumulative debt of Nigeria which we worked and wiped out 10
years ago.

“Before that debt relief, we were
spending almost $3bn to service our debt annually and the quantum of the debt
was not going down. Rather, if we defaulted, we paid penalty which was added
on. Economy neither obeys orders nor does it work according to wishes. It must
be worked upon with all factors considered and most stakeholders involved.

“The investors, domestic and
foreign, are no fools and they know what is going on with the management of the
economy including the foreign exchange and they are not amused. The Central
Bank must be restored to its independence and integrity. We must be careful and
watchful of the danger of short-termism. Short-term may be the enemy of medium
and long-term.’’

Obasanjo took a swipe at the
National Assembly, describing it as a den of corruption by a gang of unarmed
robbers and stinking worse than the judiciary.

He said, “Once you are a member,
you are co-opted and your mouth is stuffed with rottenness and corruption that
you cannot opt out as you go home with not less than N15m a month for a senator
and N10m a month for a member of the House of Representatives. The National
Assembly is a den of corruption by a gang of unarmed robbers.’’

He said, “If the judiciary is being
cleaned, what of the National Assembly which stinks much worse than the
judiciary? Budget padding must not go unpunished. It is a reality, which is a
regular and systemic practice. Nobody should pull wool over the eyes of
Nigerians. Ganging up to intimidate and threaten the life of a whistle-blower
is deplorable and undemocratic.’’

He also accused the National
Assembly of using ‘so-called constituency projects’ as a conduit for corruption.

“These constituency projects are
spread over the budget for members of the National Assembly for which they are
the initiators and the contractors directly or by proxy and money would be
fully drawn with the project only partially executed or not executed at all.
The National Assembly cabal of today is worse than any cabal that anybody may
find anywhere in our national governance system at any time,” he said.

According to him, members of the
National Assembly pay themselves allowances for staff and offices they do not
have or maintain.

Stating that like the judiciary,
the National Assembly cannot clean itself, he lamented how the re-current
budget of the lawmakers with the so-called constituency projects had ballooned
since the inception of the current democratic dispensation.

Obasanjo stated, “Our lawmakers are
lawbreakers. They are the accused, the prosecutor, the defenders and the judge
in their own case. Most of them conduct themselves and believe that they are
not answerable to anybody. They are blatant in their misbehaviour, cavalier in
their misconduct and arrogant in the misuse of parliamentary immunity as a
shield against reprisals for their irresponsible acts of malfeasance and/or
outright banditry.’’

The ex-President urged Buhari to ride
on the popularity of current happenings in the judiciary to establish a highly
technical team of incorruptible investigators to investigate the so-called
constituency projects of the past and the present and bring culprits to book.

He faulted a situation where a
person supposed to be screened by the National Assembly for public appointment
would be told to give a bow without any screening because he or she was an
ex-lawmaker

He added that such an action
amounted to dereliction of duty on the part of the lawmakers.

He also urged the President to
return the procurement system in the military to what it used to be.

Obasanjo further said three weeks
after the process of saving the judiciary began, he learnt that there might be
not less than two score of judicial officers having questions to answer.

The ex-President added that when
justice was only for sale and could only be purchased by the highest bidder,
impunity and anarchy would be the order of the day and none would be safe.

Obasanjo stated, ‘‘There is
virtually no corrupt judge without being aided by a member of the bar. The
Nigerian Bar Association has the responsibility to clean up its own house and
help with the cleaning of the judiciary. It is heartening though that some
members of the NBA have recently called for judicial reform. Such reform must
be deep, comprehensive and entail constitutional amendments as appointment and
disciplines of judges are concerned. It must also be said that the good eggs
within the judiciary must be proud of themselves and we must not only be proud
of them but also protect them and their integrity.’’

Obasanjo also commended “all the
foot soldiers in the war against corruption – the different panels of
enquiries, the ICPC but particularly the EFCC which is now showing that it is a
bull dog that can bite.”

He appealed to the Judiciary not to
frustrate the efforts of the anti-graft agencies “through flimsy technicality
and interminable adjournments.’’

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