Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Nigerian President, on Saturday said some persons aspiring to be Nigeria’s President in 2023 should be in jail had the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission performed its job efficiently.
Obasanjo stated this during an international symposium to mark his 85th birthday in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Speaking during the well-attended event with the theme, ‘Africa Narrative with Nigeria Situation’, the ex-President and strongman of Hilltop Towers also said though many presidential hopefuls have visited him to solicit support for their tall ambition, he has not endorsed any aspirant for the much-exalted seat in Aso Rock.
‘I’m not sponsoring any southern candidate’
He said, “As the quadrennial madness builds a head of steam and the runners and riders crisscross the nation in the quest for nomination as the party flag bearer to the highest office in the land, I read and hear about endorsement and statements in support of candidates that I frankly have not made and forming next political parties that I can never get involved in. I was told that social media credited to me the names of three people from the south that I am sponsoring for Presidency in 2023.
“My friend, Professor Ango Abdullah, who brought this to my knowledge remarked that he did not believe that I made such a statement because it was out of my character. I have neither named names nor stated my position. In a situation like the one we are in, I will not rush into naming names without necessary consultations and well-defined principles and criteria. We need to be clear about what Nigeria needs today and why Nigeria needs it. Only then can we answer the question of how that will inform us of the criteria and characteristics for determining who.”
Continuing, the celebrant said some 2023 presidential aspirants should be in jail had the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission done their jobs effectively.
Obasanjo said, “Since 1999, we have changed from one political party or another we have manoeuvred and manipulated to the point that election results are no longer reflections of the will of the people and we seemed to be progressively going back rather than going forward politically, economically and socially.
“We have activities without requite actions and personnel to move us forward. If we continue in the same pattern of recycling, sweet-word campaigning, manoeuvring without the substance of integrity, honesty, patriotism, commitment, outreach, courage, understanding of what makes a nation and what make for development, we will soon have to say goodbye to Nigeria as a nation.
“I cast a cursory look at some of the people running around and those for whom people are running around. If EFCC and ICPC will have done their jobs properly and supported adequately by the judiciary, most of them would be in jail. Any person who has no integrity in small things cannot have integrity in big things.”
Obasanjo, unarguably one of the prestigious global citizens from Africa, was Nigeria’s democratically elected President between 1999 and 2007.
The former Nigerian military head of state between February 1976 and October 1979 had sat on many peace committees including those of the United Nations, African Union and Economic Community of West African States and had been instrumental to the restoration of peace in many parts of Africa including Liberia, Sudan, Ethiopia, amongst others.
On the occasion of his 85th birthday, the former military head of state restated the need for peaceful co-existence in Nigeria.
According to him, fixing Nigeria must begin on the principles of nation-building, not necessarily on emotion, ethnicity or religion. “The issues of security, stability, development, economy and our relationship within Africa and with the rest of the world can only be taken care of if we get the issue of the nation-building right,” he emphasised.
X-ray presidential aspirants, Obasanjo tells Nigerians
On the way forward, Obasanjo said all presidential aspirants must be “properly x-rayed and profiled from birth and Nigerians must be educated to be able to make a choice that will be in the national interest and propel Nigeria forward”.
“Such a person will have to lead what remains of the nation to courageously continue on the path of nation-building as a national team leader, no matter on what platform he or she assumes leadership. No one can do it alone. We must, however, stop sacrificing character, track records and performance on the altar of ethnic, regional or religious jingoism. As the watchman counts on daybreak, so too do I count on Nigerians and Nigeria to bring forth that person,” the elder statesman concluded.
After his prison ordeal, Obasanjo was later elected Nigeria’s President on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. He, however, publicly tore his PDP membership card in February 2015 after a feud with ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
Despite his stance that he won’t be involved in partisan politics, Obasanjo said he won’t quit nation-building, noting that the elite must have enough integrity to provide accountable leadership for Nigerians.
As the race for the next election gets keenly interesting, many politicians have expressed interest to succeed the incumbent President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), whose second term ends in May 2023.
Northern politicians who have shown interest in getting the PDP’s 2023 presidential ticket include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed; and ex-governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Aside from northern politicians, some southern stalwarts including former Senate President and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim; former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose; ex-governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; media personality, Dele Momodu, amongst others have also expressed interest in clinching the party’s 2023 presidential ticket in the primary which is expected to hold later this year.
Other presidential hopefuls include All Progressives Congress leader, Bola Tinubu; Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi; ex-Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha; former Governor of Abia State and Majority Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Kalu; former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Kingsley Moghalu, among others.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has also been rumoured to nurse an ambition to succeed his boss through the 2023 election but the professor of law has not officially made his intention known.