Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has passed another damning verdict on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government saying Nigeria under him (Buhari) is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state.
He stated this in Abuja on Thursday while delivering a speech entitled, ‘Moving Nigeria away from tipping over’ at a closed door two-day consultative dialogue he convened involving major socio-cultural political organisations such as Afenifere, Northern Elders’ Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum and Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF between Wednesday and Thursday but which communique was released yesterday.
He said Nigeria was economically becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world.
He described the development as “products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country.”
Obasanjo said he had never seen Nigeria so divided, adding that many of the problems plaguing the country today were due to the recent mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity.
“I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in. Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.
“And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country. Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.”
The former president said those beating drums of war and calling for secession must remember that were Nigeria to break into several countries, the citizens would still be neighbours and would need to interact with one another.
He said anybody not dancing to the drumbeat or joining in chorus singing the current ethnic divisions in the country would be earmarked as ethnically unpatriotic or enemy of its tribe or geographical area.
“In short, the country is fast moving to the precipice”, he added.
However, he commended the five socio-cultural political groups gathered for the dialogue for always “getting together to find common ground, areas of agreement or accord for moving Nigeria away from tipping over.”
He added: “We must remind those who are beating the drums of disintegration and singing choruses of bitterness, anger and separation that if even Nigeria is broken up, the separated parts will still be neighbours. And they will have to find accommodation as neighbours or they will be ever at war. And those who prevent justice to be done, invite violence to reign.
“With what I have seen, read and heard from the rapprochement that you are forging together, I see a ray of hope that Nigeria can be saved from disintegration. If we are ready to live together in understanding, mutual respect and love with equity, justice, inclusiveness while engendering sense of belonging and unity of purpose and all hands on deck, we can deal with internal issues of terrorism, organised crimes, banditry, kidnapping, human trafficking, drug, money laundering and corruption. We will then be able to deal successfully with any incoming attack of terrorism, organised crimes, etc, from outside.
“Today, that is a sure threat dangling over the heads of all of us, no matter our tribe, religion, geographical location, social standing, age or gender. That ray of hope was somewhat manifested in the last ten days or so, when the Northern Elders Forum and Yoruba Summit Group complemented each other in their separate press releases on the Senate idea of inviting submissions from Nigerian public for Constitution amendment which had been regular money-gulping activity by every National Assembly Session since 1999, a veritable source of waste without end.
“I believe one of our major problems in the past was that we did not dialogue enough, we talk at ourselves and selfishly, keep old prejudices and biases. If we show understanding, give-and-take, love of one another and commitment and love of the country, we will do what is right and stand firmly together for the good of all.”
He warned that “Frustration leads to desperation and nobody can be sure of what desperation can lead to. We are here to start the process of putting those other measures together and to continue to enlarge the circle from this mini-dialogue group bit by bit until a national dialogue that can save Nigeria from disintegration is reached and when that is done, this initiative will come to an end. Fixing Nigeria is the duty of all Nigerians and even the duty of friends of Nigeria.”
But he lamented that rather than work on fixing the country and ensuring that grievances among several units within the country are addressed, some are fixated on the 2023 presidential election.
“Some people are obsessed with 2023; I believe that with death, destruction, debt, disease, deceit, disbelief, disenchantment, doubt and suspicion around, we need to see our way through to 2023 and beyond in some form of unity of purpose, reasonable security, shared values, true democratic practice, inclusiveness and shared society. That is why we are here. No constitution is even permanent; it is dynamic with time and experience,” he said.
“We may not need to re-invent the wheel. If 2023 is critical, I believe that there are sufficient documents in the confabs of 2005, 2014, the works of both the Senate and the House of Representatives and other works by other groups on fundamental way of Nigerians living together as good brothers and sisters in love, mutual understanding and respect, equity and fast development and growth in security, safety, cooperation and healthy competition”, he further canvassed.
“Our plurality and diversity are meant to give us all strength, courage and power to excel and to go forward and go far together. When we mismanage plurality and diversity which is the creation of God, we act against the purpose and will of God which, to me, is sin. We weaken ourselves rather than use the power of our number for the good of all of us. We are here to begin the process of finding the best mechanism to manage our plurality and diversity for unity of purpose, love of one another and love and fear of God,” he added.
A communiqué signed by Mr. Ahmed Magaji for the convener expressed the commitment of the socio-cultural political groups to work together and pull Nigeria back from the brink, noting that the nation is faced with grave dangers in the areas of deterioration of governance, the economy, security, political intolerance and poor performance of democratic and electoral structures among others.
The meeting agreed to set up panels of experts to discuss and make recommendations on Nigeria’s federal structure and devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources; security; electoral reforms and ensuring the integrity and credibility of elections; local governments autonomy and effective administration; the economy and fiscal federalism; Judicial reforms, and other matters central to the survival of Nigeria
It added that the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi; the chairman of the All Progressives Congress Governors Forum, Mr. Atiku Bagudu; and the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, had been briefed on the activities of the forum.
Reacting to Obasanjo’s remarks, chairman of the Buhari Media Organisation, Mr. Niyi Akinsiju, said Nigerians would expect people like Obasanjo to behave like a statesman and not join a class of elites who complain because their selfish material interests were not being “serviced.”
“One would expect people like former President Obasanjo to behave like a statesman and not serve as a distraction.
“The Nigerian political elite complain just like he is doing now when their personal interests are not being serviced.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is doing what every sensible leader should do – put the interest of the majority of Nigerians first. Most of our fault lines which Obasanjo is talking about today are creations of the selfish interests of the elite which have no economic consequences. Most of our elite advance these fault lines to further their interests,” he said.
With Punch, The Sun reports