Obasanjo: Tinubu’s Administration Yet to Find Right Way to Handle Economy

* Alleges two of president’s policies wrongly implemented

James Sowole in Abeokuta

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, said to engender investor confidence, the administration of President Bola Tinubu must change its current transactional style of leadership.
Obasanjo made the remark at the weekend in Abuja while speaking on, “Nigeria’s Development: Navigating the Way Out of the Current Economic Crisis and Insecurity,” at the Paul Aje Colloquium (tPAC).

The former president concluded that the Tinubu administration was yet to find how to handle the economy in a way that could stimulate investor confidence.
He also criticised two of the three major policies of the present administration, and declared that though they were necessary, they were wrongly implemented.
The three policies referred to by the former president were removal of fuel subsidy, closing the gap between black market and official rates of foreign exchange, and reaction to the military coup in Niger Republic.

A statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, said Obasanjo also took a swipe at those against his position on the much-touted refurbished refinery in Port Harcourt, describing them as “sycophants and spin doctors”.
He declared that such people failed to remember that the attempt made by his administration in 2007 to partly privatise the refineries was after a thorough study of the situation.

Obasanjo stated, “Today, government has taken three decisions, two of which are necessary but wrongly implemented and have led to impoverishment of the economy and of Nigerians. These are removal of subsidy, closing the gap between black market and official rates of exchange, and the third is dealing with military coup in Niger Republic.
“The way forward is production and productivity, which belief and trust in government leadership will engender. No short cut to economic progress but hard work and sweat.

“Economy does not obey orders, not even military orders. I know that. If we get it right, in two years, we will begin to see the light beyond the tunnel. It requires a change of characteristics, attributes and attitude by the leadership at all levels to gain the confidence and trust of investors, who have alternatives.
“Total Energy has gone to invest six billion dollars in Angola instead of Nigeria. If the truth must be stated, the present administration has not found the right way to handle the economy to engender confidence and trust for investors to start trooping in.
“They know us more than we know ourselves. And now, they are laughing at us, not taking us seriously. We have to present ourselves in such a way that we will be taken seriously.”

The former president added, “If the existing investors are disinvesting and going out of our country, how do we persuade new investors to rush in. We can be serious if we choose to be, but we need to change from transactional leadership in government to transformational and genuine servant leadership.
“With change by us, the investors will give us benefit of doubt, and security being taken care of on sustainable long-term basis, they will start to test the water.
“With the right economic policies, attribute of integrity and honesty of purpose, all should be well, with all hands on deck and government become a catalyst for development, growth and progress.”

Obasanjo concluded, “Tinkering with exchange rate is not the answer. The answer is consistency and continuity in policy to ensure stability and predictability. That way, we will be sure of incentivising domestic and foreign investment.
“There must be honesty and transparency in government dealings and contracts and not lying with deception about these issues. When government is seen as pursuing the right policy, the private sector will go for production and productivity.
“Change is possible but it must begin with the leadership.”
The former president’s reaction to the refinery issue came barely six months after the claim that the refinery would begin operation in January. He stated that to get out of the current economic situation in the country, the government and the governed needed to look at the past and the present, and ask how Nigeria got to its current state.

According to Obasanjo, “Looking at the topic of today’s occasion, the question I would ask is, how do we navigate our way out of these crises and pave the path towards a more secure and prosperous Nigeria?
“I believe the answer to this requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses the root causes of these challenges. The central questions are: where were we, and how did we get to where we are today?
“Firstly, we must know where we are coming from. Our economy has consistently suffered from poor policies, lack of long-term sustainable policies, discontinuity, adhocry and corruption firmed on personal greed, avarice, incompetence, lack of knowledge and understanding and lack of patriotism.
“For instance, the statement and proposed actions given 45 years ago to stop fuel scarcity are the same statement and action being touted today. I recall when I made the statement that the refineries will not work, the sycophants and spin doctors of this current administration went out to castigate me as not being a petroleum engineer and that I did not know what I was talking about.
“They forgot that the attempt that was made in 2007 to partly privatise the refineries was made by me after a thorough study of the situation. But the decision was reversed by my successor and the 750 million dollars paid was refunded.”
On the way out, Obasanjo disclosed that the country needed “a 25-year socio-economic development agenda that will be generally agreed to by the nation, all political parties and passed into law by the National Assembly, with State Assembly aspects also passed into law by the state Houses of Assembly.
“We take up the implementation on five-year basis. In reality, that plan will have the effect of almost a constitution. The first priority in the implementation will be education for all.”
The second should be food and nutrition security through agribusiness, Obasanjo said. The third should be energy for all, the fourth should be industrialisation and manufacturing, according to the former president. And the fifth should be science, technology, innovation and Artificial Intelligence, AI, he said.
Obasajo stated, “In all these, government should provide conducive environment for private sector to operate and thrive. And where government will be involved at all, other than as policymaker and enabler, it should be on the basis of private public partnership with government as junior partner.”
Addressing the security question, Obasanjo said, “We need stick and carrot approach. Stick to deal with those who cannot be weaned out of criminality and evil deeds and for those weaned, they should be rehabilitated.”
He said every Nigerian must be in school compulsorily for 11 years – secondary education level.
He stated, “Employment must be a right for all Nigerians from age 18 years to 65 years. With such carrot in position, the stick must then be made more severe for criminals. Five years must be set out to ensure that every Nigerian child that is not in school is in school and no one is left out of popular education.
“Adult education should be embarked upon to give every Nigerian basic education equivalent to six years of formal education. We should give ourselves 10 years to rid Nigeria of illiteracy.
“No matter what we do, if we do not find a way of educating, giving skills and empowerment, over 20 million Nigerian children that are out of school today will end up being rich recruitment centre for drug addicts, Boko Haram, bandits and other social misfits.”

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