Agha Ibiam in London
A former Nigerian president and chairman of the panel of advisors of the Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has said that it is not yet ripe to determine if he will support President Muhammadu Buhari’s bid for a second term in office or not.
Having ditched the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which brought him to power for eight years, Obasanjo in 2014 threw his weight behind Buhari and invariably the All Progressives Congress (APC) as against the PDP administration led by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
However, Obasanjo, whose response was brief when confronted with the question by THISDAY after delivering a speech titled, “Leadership in the African Context – How to Drive Transformational Change in African Countries,” at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, Monday, retorted that the time was not ripe to answer such a question.
Having given his terse response, Obasanjo was hurriedly ushered into his car and driven off for a dinner event at the university college.
The event, which was organised by AIG to announce the 2017/18 scholarship recipients, attracted hundreds of people from the university community and beyond.
His speech, nonetheless, drew a lot of questions bordering on why the African continent is governed by bad, corrupt and inexperienced leaders.
Obasanjo, who was well equipped and prepared to make the event an interactive one, responded to all the questions thrown at him by the audience.
On fighting corruption in Nigeria, he said it was a hydra-headed monster, which was deeply entrenched in the system, adding that fighting corruption was not a one-day affair but something that must be fought continuously.
“The man (leader) on top must be above board and be seen to fight corruption. Those around him must also be upright and various institutions such as the police, judiciary, the executive and other bodies must make it an all-inclusive affair because it is an endless process,” Obasanjo said.
He then went on to blame the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua whom he said had dismantled some of the structures he had put in place to check and curtail corruption, such as the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
He noted that Yar’Adua had allowed former Delta State governor, Mr. James Ibori, to push for the replacement of the former EFCC chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, whom Obasanjo claimed was poisoned but eventually survived it.
On achieving good governance in Africa and particularly Nigeria, Obasanjo urged Nigerian youths to participate in politics.
He, however, expressed regret that the amount of money required in politics was obscene, noting that something must be done about it.
“Politics in Nigeria has been dominated by people that have stolen money, that have godfathers or even drug barons, the type we have now at the National Assembly. So youths should pool resources to become politically active in order to replace the present crop of leaders and provide better alternatives,” he added.
Obasanjo told the audience that he was satisfied with what AIG was doing by collaborating with the Blavatnik School of Government to ensure that young minds are produced in West Africa to take up the mantle of leadership in the near future.
He remarked that Africa’s time to develop was now, but maintained that African leaders needed to implement transformational change agendas if things must happen.
“There must be far reaching reforms to ensure we remove the old order and introduce the new order because Africa is viewed by the Western world as a liability.
“For the eight years I was in power, I tried to reach out to other world leaders using my shuttle diplomacy which attracted positive actions. I campaigned for debt relief which we got and Africa was no longer treated with disdain,” he recalled.
He said transformational leadership abhors complacency by thinking outside the box, thinking strategically, and refuses to take no for an answer.
The former president added that policy development and honesty would push the reforms that the African continent was yearning for, adding that leaders needed to wake up for the paradigm shift.
The inaugural recipients of the AIG scholarships for 2017/18 are Emokiniovo Akpughe (Nigeria), Efosa Trevor Edobor (Nigeria), Abdul-Fatawu Z. Hakeem (Ghana), Chukwunonso Iheoma (Nigeria), Oluwapelumi Simpson (Nigeria) and Emmanuel Taiwo (Nigeria).
Before his speech, Obasanjo arrived at the university college at 14.07GMT and went straight into a meeting to discuss the partnership between the Blavatnik School of Government and AIG.
Others at the meeting included the Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, Prof. Ngaire Woods; Director of Development, Dr. Kirstine Knox; Head of Executive Office, Hillary Coyne-Bar; and the Head of Partnerships and Fellowship Office, Gail Allan.
Members of the AIG advisory panel present at the meeting included Obasanjo, Chairman of the THISDAY Editorial Board, Mr. Segun Adeniyi, and Mrs Yemisi Ayeni, while the AIG board members present were former President of Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Mrs. Ofovwe Aig-Imoukhuede, and the Group Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe.