Economic crisis: Obasanjo calls for devolution of power, resources to states

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A former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on Saturday said that the current economic crisis being faced in the country is because of a lack of productivity among Nigerians and mismanagement of resources.


He also called for the devolution of power and resources from the federal government to the states and local governments.

According to him, this is to ensure effective management of resources and less competition at the centre.


Obasanjo, who was represented by a former Governor of Niger State, Dr Babangida Aliyu, spoke as a guest of honour at the public presentation of the book “Court and Politics,” authored by Dr. Umar Ardo. The book chronicled the first-hand experience of the author in politics and the courts.

Dr Ardo was the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party in the last election in Adamawa State and recently lost his bid to annul the election of Governor Ahmadu Fintiri.

While speaking at the book launch, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, a member of the Northern Elders Forum, threw his weight behind moves by some lawmakers in the National Assembly to return Nigeria to the parliamentary system of government.

Abdullahi, a former vice chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, said it was glaring that the presidential system has failed Nigeria; hence, the country should be returned to a parliamentary system, which he said was better for the nation.

Former President Obasanjo, however, disagreed with Ango Abdullahi on the call for a return to the parliamentary system, noting that what is needed to be done to put the country on the path of progress is attitudinal and political culture to strengthen the system.

He said contributions were based on two key issues: productivity and political culture.

Chief Obasanjo, who served as Nigeria’s head of state from 1976 to 1979 and later as elected president from 1999 to 2007, noted that the foundation of any economy is the productivity of the sum total of the nation’s people and its resources, saying everybody is lamenting that the economy has gone under because the productivity has never been there.

According to him, “Nigeria’s oil production is about 1.7 million barrels per day, while almost the same quantity is stolen every day, adding that other countries that produce about 5 million barrels could account for them.

“How can you talk about the economy when you have kidnappers, bandits, Boko Haram, IPOB, and all these bad people making life difficult for farmers and schoolchildren?” he said.

He blamed the Northern leaders for the backwardness of the region, saying it was not correct when Ango Abdullahi said the North had failed itself.”.

According to him, “don’t say northern Nigeria failed when you produce somebody who does not know what to do. We should be blaming those people.

“The second issue is that you imported the parliamentary system in 1960 without the requisite political culture to hold it. Now you imported the presidential system, and I have heard people say to bring back the parliamentary system again.

“Anybody who remembers the coup of 1966 will associate that coup with the elections of 1965, leading to the killing and murdering of people in the name of politics. No matter what you bring and no matter what you import, if the political culture is not there, it will not work.

“To bring it back home, no matter what you bring, if the political culture is not there—the same attitude, the same people, the same ways of doing things—we are wasting our time.

He insisted that 24 years of practising the presidential system were not enough, saying the important thing is to devolve power and resources to the states and certain jobs from the federal to state and local governments.

He said this would reduce the competition at the centre back to the electorate, saying that in some local governments, people who have not even finished primary school are local government chairmen.

On his own, the former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus, called for judicial reform, arguing that the judiciary as it is constituted has failed the country.

According to him, “the case of Plateau State is a typical case that needed national attention. Our system here, be it military, civilian, or democratic, is based on sentiment and emotions that have crept into our laws and politics.

“I believe we have reached a stage where, like Professor Abdullahi has said, we have all failed and come short of the glory of God, and we need to repent so the country can be good for the next generation.”.

In his remarks, the Chairman of the committee for the book launch, Alhaji Shehu Musa Gabam, said that Nigeria would continue to have challenges in politics and the electoral process as long as courts continue to base their judgements on technicalities rather than facts of the issues

Alhaji Gabam who is also the National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, noted that part of what brought Nigeria to where it is today is that “we have a body, the Independent National Electoral Commission, empowered by the law to conduct elections, and another arm of government, the Judiciary (Court), that decides on who is elected.”

He urged Nigerians to be united and courageous in telling the authorities to do the right thing, adding that being cowards is not the solution.