Obasanjo: Nigeria Needs President Who  Understands Economy

Olusegun Obasanjo
  • Disagrees with Kukah on connotation of politics

By Segun James

Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday insisted that Nigeria needed a president with a sound knowledge of the economy to make headway.

This, he said, was what a former German Chancellor, the late Helmut Schmidt, who was one of his international friends, told him during a discussion about African countries.

Obasanjo and the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, have also disagreed on what politics is actually about.

The former president argued that there was no way a president with a poor knowledge of the economy could meet the needs of the citizens, adding that even Jesus Christ understood economics.

Obasanjo spoke in Lagos at this year’s edition of Foursquare Gospel Church annual public lecture, which held at the church’s national headquarters in Yaba.

Kukah was the guest speaker at the lecture with the theme, ‘The Trying Triangle of Economy, Faith and Politics-Looking through the Eye of the Needle.’

Commenting on the lecture, the former president said even if Kukah was right in his description of politics as a game, politics must be the most serious game created by man.

He said he agreed with Kukah that even Jesus Christ had a good knowledge of the economy.

Obasanjo said he believed that for Nigeria to get it right, the country must strike a balance among economy, faith and politics.

He said, “There is no doubt at all that if we have to get it right the three (economy, faith and politics) must go together.

“One of my international friends, the late Helmut Schmidt, who was a former Chancellor of Germany –  he died at the age of 96 about three years ago, I was at the burial – and he said if we in Africa have to make it, all our political leaders must have good grounding in economy.

“As a fact from Bishop Kukah, even Jesus Christ understood the economy and if you have a leader who does not understand economics, then you cannot have a leader that will satisfy the need of the people, the physical and the material needs of the people.

However, Kukah, who was the guest speaker, insisted that politics is a game and very deceptive, adding that clerics should be wary in participating actively in it.

But Obasanjo, who was the chairman of the occasion, contended that politics is a serious business that should not be left to politicians alone.

 According to Kukah, due to the sensitive nature of politics and the fact that most clerics lead people with different and divergent political views, it would be wrong for them to be partisan.

“Whereas for example, other Christian clergy can participate directly in partisan politics, the Code of Canon Law does not allow a Catholic priest or religious leader to participate in active politics. The law specifically states that clerics are forbidden to assume public offices, which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power,” he said.

 He said clerics can participate in political activism without being a politician, adding that late Pope John Paul II was one of such priests.

According to Kukah, “In my view, there can be no Christian way of playing politics in the same way that there is no Christian way of playing football. What Christians can do in both games is to play by the rules and use our convictions to model the behavior of others. The central question is whether we are Christians who are in politics or politicians who are Christians.” He insisted that the two are not the same.

 On religion and economy, Kukah noted, “As with politics, there are no simple prescriptions within Christianity, different faith and traditions will respond to these issues differently in their interpretations. Although many Christians have tried to find biblical direction for what our role should be in economic life, I argue that there are no prescriptions that anyone can make beyond insisting that central to all of these is the need for the common good to be sought within that particular context.

“Again, the Catholic Church, through its social teaching, is in the forefront of calling for economic justice, promoting and advocating always the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, insisting on the responsibility of all people, and especially those in power, to seek the promotion of human dignity and the common good as well as allow the participation of all people in the determination of civil affairs.”