Obasanjo: “Lagos will become the third largest economy before I take my boarding pass.”
Following the deteriorating state of things in the nation, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has highlighted some of the reasons why all Nigerian leaders after his administration were unable to increase power generation from where he left it 10 years ago.
Speaking in Lagos on Tuesday at the launch of a book, “Making Africa Work,” which he co-authored with Director of Brenthurst Foundation, Dr. Greg Mills; President of NEWSEUM, Dr. Jeffrey Herbst and Major General Dickie Davis (retd), Obasanjo noted that lack of good leadership, continuity in governance and financial constraints were responsible for the diminishing status of power generation in the country.
In his words, Obasanjo explained that his administration came up with an agenda called ‘NEEDS,’ which is National Economic Empowerment Strategy, to deal with power and other problems confronting the nation.
He stated that: “the idea is that we would have something that will lead us in every aspect of governance
and we make federal, states and local governments buy into it.
“When we were planning it, we went round the country, sample people’s opinion and consult traditional leaders. The incoming administration after us was not left out in it and during my administration, we implemented the first phase of NEEDS and it was supposed to be continuous.
“But to my surprise, the administration that succeeded our tenure, which campaigned on the basis of continuity, failed us.
“When they assumed office, the first statement they made on energy was that in four years, they will generate 30,000 megawatts of electricity. At that time, the highest we generated was 4,000 megawatts.
“I was shocked, wondering how they will do it in four years. I quickly sent someone to educate him (then President) because, as at that time, we were in the process of generating 10,000 megawatts.
“It is regrettable that the administration that succeeded us did not even generate up to 3,750 megawatts that we were able to generate before we left.
“It even came down to 1,500 and the one we have in the pipeline, they stopped it. That was about 10
years ago and up till today, our power generation has not gone beyond where I left it 10 years ago.”
Obasanjo regretted that even when power had been privatized, there was still no money to improve it.
saying: “As far as funding is concerned, there is funding out there but it can only come when the environment is conducive.
The military and civilian leader explained how the government could use contributing pension to facilitate development in the country, lamenting the fact that some people didn’t get their pension till they died.
In his words; “I formed a committee and sent them to different parts of the world to gather experience.
They came back and we enacted a law that there should be contributory pension.
‘’The public service didn’t want it because they didn’t want to make contributions but we were able to achieve 10 per cent compliance.
“Ten percent of Nigeria workers were captured in the contributing scheme and in a space of 12 years, that fund yielded up to $40,000, only 10 percent, one can imagine if 50 percent of our working population is captured.
“This is the kind of money that can be used for development. The same kind of money was used in Singapore to give everybody housing.”
However, the dogged former leader said that the newly launched book detailed practical steps of how to
make Africa work.
He said: “Africa is not poor, but poorly managed because if we decide to manage it properly, we would get out of the situation we find ourselves.
“I don’t talk about poverty in Africa because the international community is tired of hearing poverty. So our narration has to change. We need to talk about job creation and wealth generation.”
Obasanjo also said Lagos would be Africa’s third largest economy before he dies, adding that the necessary structures were already being put in place to achieve that.
“Even though people said I look like someone who is in the departure lounge, Lagos will become the third largest economy before I take my boarding pass,” he said.