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I will look at anyone I will vote for critically, clinically – Obasanjo

Obasanjo applauds Fintiri over infrastructure development in Adamawa

Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria says character, vision, track record, physical and mental agility, and attitude are elements of leadership that determine who he votes for or supports.

Obasanjo also noted that these leadership traits have the potential to be solutions to Nigeria’s poor leadership during his address at the Nigerian Leadership Series organised by the African Leadership Group (ALG) on Zoom, Thursday, January 12, 2023.

“This platform; Nigeria Leadership Series, is an initiative of ALG, a group born out of a passion for good governance, accountability, equitable and judicious use of both human and natural resources and created to address the leadership dilemma on the African continent,” Ituah Ighodalo, Chairman & Founder, ALG said.

Speaking on the theme “Leadership for Nation Building,” Obasanjo said leadership is the chief or biggest problem in Africa today.

“We are where we are today because of leadership,” the former president said. “We need to ensure that first we cultivate and develop leaders for nation-building. I look at it this way: every human has an element of leadership ability. I will look at anyone I will vote for critically and clinically. Someone not swayed by ethnicity, religion, or nepotism but looking at the future of our country with a clean and clear conscience; when you place all this together, the one I thought had an edge is the one I chose.”

Sequel to that, the former president cited poor political education as one of the challenges in selecting the best hands to lead Africa’s largest economy.

“Regardless of your educational background and qualifications, political education is very important to get good leadership, which many Nigerians, unfortunately, don’t have.”

He went on to say that over 20 million Nigerian children are out of school, and when they grow up, they will be unable to contribute optimally to the welfare and well-being of their family, community, state, and nation, not to mention their continent and the world in which they live.

Thirdly, the former president stated that Nigerians are easily swayed by ethnicity. He said “Ha! He’s our own, your own for what? Your own, who continues to do the same thing that has not led us to where we should be. And what is your own? Your own who will lead us astray?”

Then there is religion and corruption. “These are things that have not helped us in the past and if they have not helped us in the past, they will not help us today and if we continue with them, surely they will not help us in the future,” he noted.

Tomi Mercy Ademokun, a public health advisor in the USA and also a participant, raised the issue of Nigerians in the diaspora having a say in governance. She said, “We in the diaspora contribute significantly to the Nigerian economy; since the diaspora voting bill is yet to be passed into law; how then can we participate in Nigeria’s elections?”

“For Nigerians in the diaspora, you don’t have to be physically present to contribute to Nigeria’s economy,” Obasanjo said. “I believe that one of the things we should be able to do is get Nigerians out there, or wherever they are, to be able to vote, and I believe very much in that. However, how that goes may depend on what is done at home; we need to change our constitution for that to happen.”

Read also: Elections: Don’t meddle in Nigeria’s politics, Buhari tells diplomats

Femi Olowe, another participant, also said that there needs to be a solution or strategy to keep thuggery out of politics.

“Thuggery, what we can do is what I’ve been preaching,” the ex-president said. “Youths, aged 18 to 40 years, are, in my opinion, the majority of voters, and they are the ones to whom we should appeal to make use of their numbers to bring about the desired change because you need good leaders to turn a good country into a great one.”

Obasanjo, however, noted that getting the right leadership in Nigeria can be done, but it will require tightening our belt, and the type of leader we are talking about must understand the economy.

“If he understands the economy, he will do something about the petroleum subsidy; the debt that we have; oil theft, the amount of petroleum products stolen is mind-boggling and should not be tolerated, he said. “Banditry, kidnapping, and corruption are also problems that need to be fixed right away if the country wants to attract investors.”

To illustrate how Nigerians can make the right leadership choices, Obasanjo said “if the person you want to vote for or you have originally decided to vote for is not the person you want your child to be like, then change it.”

For me, character matters. Anybody who will look me in the face and lie, why should I vote for a man like that? And when I ask, Oh! This is a lie, and he says, Oh, it’s politics. So politics must mean that you will lie.

Some people say that to know what a man is, give him power or money. What kind of man accepts $4 million or $5 million and then decides to sell his country and his conscience? Or another one that is sharing 1kg of rice, saying you will eat bellefull (eat to satisfaction), is that a vision? How long will it take you to eat one kilogram of rice, that you’re almost selling your birthright?”

In addition, Obasanjo emphasised the importance of electing a leader who is mindful to Nigeria’s religious and ethnic diversity

“It wasn’t in our constitution, but if you want to manage diversity, there must be rotation,” he explained. “This is a diverse country, and I don’t see anything wrong with that; it’s what makes us who we are, but if you can’t manage diversity, what right do you have to run the affairs of this country; you’ll have to tell me.”

“Can we ever have peace among the religious adherents? Of course, we can. In my facility here, I have a chapel for Christians and a mosque for Muslims. I am a Christian, people come to the mosque to pray, and the church to worship. We treat them equally as Christians but bound together by one humanity, and I believe if we go by that, we will definitely have peace and accommodation of religious differences.”