Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that no region or zone in the country has monopoly of leaders, nothing that federal character, rotation and “such other measures are meant to help our nation-building process and more sure-footedly move Nigeria forward.”
Obasanjo, who spoke at an international symposium in Abeokuta to mark his 85th birthday, therefore warned that no one should toy with power rotation, federal character and other principles designed to make Nigeria a strong and united nation.
He said “riding over these measures rudely, shoddily and roughly cannot augur well for our nation-building process and progress.”
“From personal experience and clinical observation, there is no substitute for steady and uncompromised process of nation-building as we have had in some notable examples in the past that have stood us in good stead.”
Going down the history lane, he said: “We have a lot to learn from the events of the last almost 24 years, and God is not to blame if we fail.
“It would appear that we are not getting our priorities right, and that can spell doom on our country if we fail to do what we should do for nation-building in terms of fundamentals of equity, justice, common ideals, popular education, shared values, mutual respect and equality of opportunity anchored and propelled by leaders across the board that are persons of integrity, honour, morality, competence, great virtue, courage to do what is right, humility and ability to put a team together and work with them in selfless devotion and service with the fear of God.”
He said the emergence of the late Shehu Shagari as President in 1979 with the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme as vice president less than 10 years after attempted secession by ‘Biafra’ was part of the process of nation-building.
“Sustaining the declaration of the victory of Shagari by the National Electoral Commission when Shagari had majority of votes and clear one-third of votes cast in twelve states as against six states by Obafemi Awolowo, which was also sustained and certified by the court and endorsed for implementation by our military administration, was also part of the process of our nation-building.
“Voting for me by other Nigerians in 1999, when Afenifere and the Yoruba substantially voted against me strengthened our nation-building process.
“As continuation of that process, PDP adopted rotation and sharing formula for six key party political offices and government offices among the six geopolitical zones, which stood the country and the party in good stead.
“It was the PDP policy that made it inadvisable to have candidate from the South to succeed me after my eight years in office as President.
“I was succeeded by Umaru Yar’Adua from the North. When Yar’Adua died in office, the nation-building process made us to follow the constitution and for Jonathan to step in, contrary to the desire of some people from the North, who agitated otherwise.
“I have been at the giving end and at the receiving end of contribution to the nation-building process, and I know that if we derail from nation-building process with solid principles, Nigeria will be shipwrecked.
“I will, at this juncture, leave it to fair-minded Nigerians who believe in the continuation of the process of nation-building to decide which way Nigeria should go.
“I have always maintained that if we look hard widely and fairly and we bring objectivity, national interest and patriotism to bear and which must be spiced with equity, integrity, performance, then no region or zone should claim to have monopoly of Nigerians that can lead us along the path of nation-building on the basis of justice, fast economic development, inclusive growth, shared value and our rightful place in the global division of labour and decision making process.
“If we are going fault finding zonally or regionally, no region or zone can claim absolute innocence. And federal character is a very important and perfect instrument of nation-building in our Constitution.
“When we have adequately taken care of nation-building measures, especially management of our unity, and taken care of every anomalous situation and performance or lack of it that have put us in political, security, economic and solid quagmire situations that we find ourselves, then we must zero on personalities.
“Each contender 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.”
He said all hands must be on deck to rescue Nigeria from going under, saying: “If in 2015 Nigeria was seventy-five per cent a country and fifty per cent a nation, today, Nigeria will not be more than fifty per cent a country and twenty-five per cent a nation.
“The task of reversing the trend is beyond one personality, one political party or all political parties; it is beyond professional and commercial politicians alone. It demands and requires all hands on deck.
“I mean Nigerians in all walks of life – politicians, community leaders, traditional leaders, religious leaders, diplomatic leaders, leaders in the academia, leaders in all aspects of government life and leaders in other aspects of the civil society.
“Nigeria is tottering, and for as long as we continue to put the cart before the horse, it cannot be well. Or put another way, for as long as we continue to do the same thing over and over again, the result will not be different.
“If the drift is not halted, the remaining twenty-five per cent of Nigerian nation will be dissipated in no time and Nigeria will not be a country but countries and will never be possible to be a nation again.
“That will be a monumental tragedy for Nigeria, Africa, the black race and humanity.
“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 substance of integrity, honesty, patriotism, commitment, outreach, courage, understanding of what make a nation and what make for development, we will soon have to say goodbye to Nigeria as a nation.”
Obasanjo said if the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had done their jobs properly and supported adequately by the judiciary, most of those canvassing to be president in 2023 would be in jail.
He denied speculations that he has endorsed some people for the 2023 presidential race.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
He said there was no such thing.