Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Thursday regretted the failure of the indigenisation policy he pursued during his tenure as military head of state, adding that he thought then that that was the best way to run the Nigerian economy.
Obasanjo, during his regime from 1975 to 1979, had pursued the policy, which sought to transfer the running of some sectors of the economy to Nigeria.
However, the former president, during a courtesy visit to Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, in Benin City, said the policy did not achieve its main objectives.
He was in the state to deliver a lecture in honour of the late Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Dr. Abel Guobadia.
At the lecture, the former president called on government at all levels to redress the marginalisation of women so they could play more active role in the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
He added that that was why during his second coming as a civilian leader, he embarked on the privatisation of some public enterprises and embraced free market economy because the situation and circumstances then had changed.
He told the governor that there was a lesson to be learnt from his experience and hoped that Oshiomhole, who made his name in labour activism, would have seen things differently now as a governor and adjust accordingly.
He said: “I am in Edo State because I accepted to honour the invitation to deliver the first memorial lecture of one of Nigeria’s unsung heroes of the present democratic dispensation, the late Dr. Abel Guobadia, and I said I must visit the governor because all of us have lived different kind of lives.
“At first, you lived a life of radicalism. But I can see now that as governor, you are living a life of realism. We all do that. As head of state, I implemented indigenisation thinking that there was no way we could manage the Nigerian economy except through indigenisation, but it did not work as expected.
“So, when I had another opportunity as president, I became an apostle of privatisation, of free market economy and I hope the governor is learning that way.”
The former president, who thanked the governor for the good work he is doing to rebuild the state, also appreciated him for gracing the London launch of his foundation.
While fielding questions from journalists, Obasanjo said he would no longer speak publicly on the security situation in Nigeria because he had been called names by Nigerians over his comments.
He explained that he had travelled to several places within the country on fact-finding missions and had discovered the major causes of insecurity in the troubled states.
He said he had nothing more to say on the ongoing security concern in the country just as he also stated that he had on several occasions talked on corruption.
Obasanjo pointed out that in the course of his discussion on corruption, some persons agreed with him, while others disagreed.
He disclosed that he decided to launch his foundation in London to source funds for the operations of the organisation as well as to ensure that all the 44 countries on the African continent were carried along.
He said the foundation was for the upliftment of Africans both at home and in the Diaspora.
Oshiomhole, however, commended the former president for the visit and promised to tap from his wealth of experience as a former military head of state and as a civilian president.
Later at the lecture, Obasanjo, in his paper, said it would be difficult for government at all levels to achieve the desired economic and political growth if the challenges facing women were not addressed.
He also said that affirmative action must be designed and implemented to give women an opportunity to acquire and exercise their knowledge not just in national health issues but also in other areas of the economy.
Obasanjo, at the memorial lecture, with the theme “The Role of Women in Safe Guiding the Nation’s Health”, said: “If they (women) are shut out, national development in health and other sectors will be hard to realise. Majority of Nigerians, particularly women, are poor and they are susceptible to diseases and that is bad for any nation.”
He, however, regretted that women despite their contributions to the growth of the nation, have been marginalised, adding: “if about 50 per cent of our population are women, anything that affects the bulk of that population affects the nation directly and this is in addition to the issue of direct effect on women’s health and children and the family. The issue of women’s health must be treated within the other issue of power, control and decision-making.”
“Whatever statistics we may choose to use, maternal mortality, infant mortality, what is generally revealed is problem for the female population and which reflects on the national health situation.
“The issue is not only that of access to medical care and facilities but the issue is also political and economy. We have 36 governors and not one of them is a woman. We have at the national level 109 senators but only eight are women. And we have only 360 members in the House of Representatives, only 24 of them are women. I am taking the issue of women health further; we are taking it beyond the medical, the political and the economy. And until we are able to eliminate and abate this problem, we will not find solution to women problem,” he stated.
Obasanjo extolled the virtues of the late Guobadia, describing him as ‘an intelligent man who helped in the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria”.
Oshiomhole, also at the occasion, regretted that women are being marginalised despite the fact that “they vote more than men during elections”.