Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
By Omololu Ogunmade
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo Tuesday broke his silence on the alleged $16 billion spent by his administration on independent power project (IPP), saying he couldn’t complete the project because it did not start early.
Obasanjo, who made this disclosure in Lagos while delivering a lecture on the theme: “Leadership Foundation and Underpinning,” organised by Nigeria Leadership Initiative, said the oil companies which should have financed the power project failed to come to the aid of his government.
Therefore, he said lack of funds delayed the take off of the project, adding that when the administration eventually had money to pursue the project, it was already late and hence, opted to go for IPP, implying that as a result of the late take off, the government ran out of time to complete the project.
Obasanjo who boasted that besides the power project, his administration achieved every other thing it planned to achieve, recalled that when he came on board in 1999, he met only paltry $3.5 billion dollars in the reserve and upon his exit, he left whopping $45 billion as well as $25 billion in excess crude account.
He also boasted that whereas he met only 35,000 metric tones of cocoa when he came to office, he raised it to 400,000 metric tones upon his exit in 2007. Obasanjo who flayed comments at the event that he was a military dictator, said it was wrong to assume that every military man is a dictator, arguing that if former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, addressed himself as a dictator, he (Obasanjo) never was.
He advised Nigerians against losing interest in the country, saying the greatest pitfall that they must avoid is to lose faith in the country, admitting that even though so many things are wrong with the country, all must continue to believe in it.
Obasanjo also disclosed that when he was military head of state, his government’s major pre-occupation was how to forge a united and reliant country, a commitment which he said resulted in the production of 1979 Constitution “which I believed would forge a united and reliant country.”
The former president noted that one of the problems bedevilling Africa is lack of leadership training and exposure, explaining that future leaders need to experience sound training and exposure as he revealed that he did not only bring former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, back to Nigeria, he also brought back Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga and Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adeshina, at the request of President Goodluck Jonathan.
He expressed happiness that the trio are doing well in their respective offices as a result of leadership exposures that they had outside the country. He submitted that it has become imperative that Africa makes transition of leadership from one generation to the other an institution adding: “Leadership succession should be a relay race and not an obstacle race.”
Further, he said: “We found it appropriate to conclude that African polity needs leaders who will be committed to the value of service and service to community, humanity and God; committed to the value of honesty and integrity; and committed to the rule of law and to upholding fairness, equity, justice and fear of God.”