Once again, former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday took a swipe at the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, saying he has depleted the foreign reserve of the country and generally mismanaged the fortunes of the economy he inherited.
According to the former president, “When we left in May 2007, the reserve was said to have been raised to $35 billion. But today, that reserve has been depleted!”
Obasanjo, who spoke at his residence in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, while receiving the Iyalojas (market women) in South-west, said the country's economy would not have been as bad if the funds were well managed, recalling that, "When I was leaving office about eight years ago, I left a very huge reserve after we had paid all our debts."
He said his government left almost $25 billion in the Excess Crude Account (ECA), explaining that the excess was the difference between the budgetary benchmark and the actual price in the global market, which the country saved as reserve for the rainy day. â€¨
He further said: "The reserve we left when we finished paying all our debts was about $40 billion; that is including debt forgiveness, the remaining debt was not more than $3 billion.”
He continued: "Our reserve after we had paid off this debt was about $45 billion. As I said, they continued till the end of 2007. I heard that the reserve increased to almost $67 billion before the end of the year."â€¨
He then lamented that: "Our reserve now, I learnt, is left with around only $30 billion. That is why the naira has been falling against the dollar. I learnt that if you want to buy a dollar now, it's about N192 or N195. â€¨
"What it means is this, what you have been buying at N150 to a dollar, now you need N192 or N195 to buy it. That is the real situation. Is there any remedy? There is, but it does not come overnight because it means we have to give up all the bad things we have been doing.”
He explained that though the price of crude oil has fallen, anyone who is wise enough should know that since the country depends on just one resource and since Nigeria has no control over its pricing, Nigerians should be planning for this type of situation and the way out of it.
According to him, "Our inability to have reserve has brought us into this economic quagmire." â€¨
He said he knew God did not create Nigeria not to be rich or great, adding: "It is the people he created in Nigeria that are not knowledgeable enough or not intelligent enough? Or is it that they don't know their rights?"
Speaking further on the problems of the country, Obasanjo said Nigerians should look at the foundation of our leadership. â€¨
Making reference to the military profession, he said there is the general belief in the army that there are no bad soldiers but bad officers. â€¨
He said: "If you see a situation where the soldiers are not doing well, we need to examine the officers in charge. So it is in the family, the community, the town and the country.
"You said this year is an election year, I have no apprehension over these coming elections. I have no fears over the forthcoming elections.â€¨I was reading in one paper today where they said why they became jittery when they heard you were coming to visit me, is that I and Jonathan are not in good terms. There is nothing as such.â€¨ I have no grudges against Jonathan and I think Jonathan equally has no grudge against me. I'm not quarrelling with Jonathan but all I know is that whatever is good for Nigeria is what I am ready to die for. â€¨I emphasise that whatever is good for Nigeria is what I am ready to defend with my life. Whoever, I emphasise, whoever says he would not do anything good to Nigeria, even if he says he's ready to go 'koko below'. â€¨I'm ready to square it up with such a person, whoever that person may be.
“If this country is going to change for the better, it would start from the top and if it's going to be otherwise, it would start from the top too.â€¨I have had some little experience about this country. I was a military head of state and I was also a civilian president, so what is left? So, if I talk, I know what I'm saying. Whoever wants should listen to me and whoever feels otherwise may turn a deaf ear. But when I'm talking, I'm talking with my understanding and intellect. I'm drawing from my experience and from what I've learnt with others and from other countries and fellow eminent citizens of the world that I relate with.
“Good governance comes from voting, from selection of leaders. It is now left to you to decide who you cast your vote for because if you throw away your votes and tomorrow you are saying good governance, once you throw away your votes you have lost out. That is one.”
He admonished the market women to vote wisely, adding that: "Find out the track records of achievements of those you want to vote for. What have they achieved in the past and not what they have said.â€¨
"If our economy is not good, it would affect those of you in the market everywhere. It takes us back to what we said earlier that if the head is rotten, it will affect the entire body because if there is no good governance, it would affect the economy."