He urged Nigerians to allow sound judgement of candidates’ “track records” determine how they cast their votes in the February 14 and 28 general elections.
The presidential election is slated for February 14. President Goodluck Jonathan is facing a huge challenge from Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Obasanjo is unhappy that Nigeria is buffeted by crippling “poverty, sheer impunity, economic downturn and insecurity”.
Leaders elected to make things better for the people but chose to do otherwise would “give account to God”, he said in an emotional voice.
To him, the solution to Nigeria’s problems is leadership. That the country can only change for better or experience a worse fate based on the calibre of the person at the top, he said.
The former President, who spoke in Yoruba, occasionally alternating it with English, was hosting at his mansion on the Presidential HillTop Estate, Abeokuta Southwest women leaders, including the Iyaloja – General of Nigeria, Chief Folashade Tinubu – Ojo.
The election is an avenue for Nigerians to bring about the “change” the country deserves, Obasanjo said.
The women leaders, including the National President (Women Wing), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr Oyin Sowoolu, were led to Obasanjo’s home by the Iyalode of Yorubaland, Chief Alaba Lawson.
They had, through their leader, Mrs. Lawson, expressed grave concern over the growing insecurity in the land, poverty, the need for credible polls, agriculture as panacea to unemployment as well as the empowerment of women.
The former Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said he was still in the party, but elected to remain less active following events in PDP which he can neither defend before man nor God. He did not give details of such events.
Drawing an analogy from the account of King Saul of the biblical Israel as recorded in the Bible, Obasanjo said God, who sent Prophet Samuel to anoint him (Saul) King over Israel, also sent Samuel later to anoint David King in place of Saul, following his rejection by God.
He said he harboured no grudges against President Goodluck Jonathan and believed same applies to the President but he (Obasanjo) would remain resolute in his fight against anybody who does not want to do what is right and beneficial to the country and the citizenry.
Obsanjo said: “ I’m still in PDP but not active because of what I saw that I can’t defend before man and God. That is why I refrained from PDP a bit; the attitude and characters that I have seen, I don’t think I can defend it before man and God, but that’ll be for a few period.
“I explain most of these things in my new book, but we must all pray that God should change our condition for better because Nigeria doesn’t deserve the position it found itself today. That is what you are saying.
“Our nation is plagued with insecurity, economic downturn, increase in poverty, corruption and impunity in doing things. People do things because no man can do anything to them, but God’ll catch them.
“I emphasise that whatever is good for Nigeria is what I’m ready to defend with my life. Whoever, I emphasise, whoever says he would not do anything good to Nigeria, even if he says he’s ready to go ‘koko below’, I’m ready to square it up with such a person.
“I say again, whoever that person may be, I want you to get that correctly. If this country is going to change for the better, it would start from the top and if it’s going to be otherwise, it would start from the top, too,” Obasanjo said.
He went on: “I have served this country as a soldier and as a civilian leader. I cannot just keep quiet when things are not well in the nation.
“Good governance comes from voting, from selection of leaders. It is now left to you to decide who you cast your vote for because if you throw away your votes and tomorrow you are saying good governance, once you throw away your votes you have lost out.”
The former president event philosophical. He said: “I know that God did not create Nigeria not to be rich or great. Is it that the people he created in Nigeria are not intelligent enough? Or is it that they don’t know their rights? Our problems in Nigeria, let’s look at the foundation of our leadership.
“In the military profession I know very well, the military, what we normally say is that there are no bad soldiers but bad officers. If you see a situation where the soldiers are not doing well, we need to examine the officers in charge. So it is in the family, the community, the town and the country.”
He spoke about reactions to the news that he called the meeting.
“This year is an election year and I have no fears over the forthcoming elections. I was reading it in one paper today where they said they became jittery when they heard you were coming to visit me; is it that Jonathan and I are not in good terms? There is nothing of such,” Obasanjo said, adding: “I have no grudges against Jonathan and I think Jonathan equally has no grudges against me. I’m not quarelling with Jonathan but all I know is that whatever is good for Nigeria, that I’m ready to die for.
“I have had some little experience about this country. I was a military head of state and I was also a civilian president; so what is left? So, if I talk, I know what I’m saying. Whoever wants should listen to me and whoever feels otherwise, may turn a deaf ear.
“But when I’m talking, I’m talking with my understanding and intellect. I’m drawing from my experience and from what I’ve learnt with others and from other countries and fellow eminent citizens of the world that I relate with.
“Good governance comes from voting, from selection of leaders. It is now left to you to decide who you cast your vote for because if you throw away your votes and tomorrow you are saying good governance, once you throw away your votes you have lost out.
“That is one. The second leg is that you find out the track records of achievements of those you want to vote for. What have they achieved in the past and not what they have said.
“If our economy is not good, it would affect those of you in the market everywhere. It takes us back to what we said earlier that if the head is rotten, it will affect the entire body because if there is no good governance, it would affect the economy.
“Our economy should not have been this bad. When I was leaving office about eight years ago, I left a very huge reserve after we had paid all our debts. Almost 25billion dollars we kept in what they called excess crude. The excess from the budget we were saving as reserve for the rainy days.
“When we left in May 2007, the reserve was said to have been raised to 35billion dollars. But today, that reserve has been depleted. The reserve we left when we finished paying all our debts, our debt that was about 40billion dollars, that is including debt forgiveness, the remaining debt was not more than 3billion dollars.
“Our reserve after we had paid off this debt was about 45billion dollars. As I said, they continued till the end of 2007. I heard that the reserve increased to almost 67billion dollars before the end of that year. Our reserve now, I learnt, is left with around only 30billion dollars.
“That is why the Naira has been falling against the dollar.
What would now happen? I learnt if you want to buy a dollar now, it’s about N192 or N195. What it means is this, what you have been buying at N150 to a dollar, now you need N192 or N195 to buy it. That is the real situation. Is there any remedy? There is but it does not come overnight because it means we have to give up all the bad things we have been doing.”
Obasanjo agreed that falling prices have hit the economy badly, but he did not believe the situation could not have been tackled. He said: “Truly, the price of crude has fallen, but anyone who is wise enough should know that since we depend on just one resource and since we have no control over its pricing, we should be planning for this type of situation and the way out of it. Our inability to have reserve has brought us into this economic quagmire.” -TheNation