A former Nigerian President, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, has blamed the present economic woes facing the nation on the depletion of the Excess Crude Account and the external reserves.
Mr Obasanjo made the assertion on Monday at a meeting with women leaders from the south-west states held at his hilltop residence in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The women from Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti, Lagos, Osun and Ondo States had met with the former leader to express their displeasure over what they termed the parlous state of the Nigerian economy and some knotty issues in the polity.
Insecurity in the north-east, corruption, girl child education and effective representation of women topped the talks.
After listening to the barrage of challenges slowing down the nation’s socio economic development, as listed by the Iyalode of Yorubaland, Alaba Lawson, the former President blamed it all on bad leadership, saying “the country does not deserve the current state it has found itself”.
He said that his administration left $25 billion in the excess crude accounts in 2007 which was shored up to about $35 billion by the Yar’Adua’s administration, while he left $45 billion in external reserve.
“Our economy should not have been this bad. When I was leaving office about eight years ago, I left a very huge reserve after we had paid all our debts. Almost $25billion we kept in what they called excess crude. The excess from the budget we were saving as reserve for the rainy days. When we left in May 2007, the reserve was said to have been raised to $35billion,” he said.
“But today, that reserve has been depleted! Today, that reserve has been depleted. The reserve we left when we finished paying all our debts, our debts that was about 40billion dollars, that is including debt forgiveness, the remaining debt was not more than $3billion. Our reserve after we had paid off this debt was about $45billion. As I said, they continued till the end of 2007, I heard that the reserve increased to almost $67billion before the end of the year. Our reserve now, learnt is left with around only $30billion.
“That is why the Naira has been falling against the dollar. What would now happen, I learnt if you want to buy a dollar now, it’s about N192 or N195. What it means is this, what you have been buying at N150 to a dollar, now you need N192 or N195 to buy it. That is the real situation. Is there any remedy? There is, but it does not come overnight because it means we have to give up all the bad things we have been doing,” Mr. Obasanjo said.
These funds, he said, had been mismanaged by the present administration.
The former president also expressed optimism that the forthcoming elections will be peaceful and violence free.
“I have no apprehension over this coming elections. I have no fears over the forthcoming elections. I have had some little experience about this country. I was a military head of state and I was also a civilian president, so what is left?’
“So, if I talk, I know what I’m saying. Whoever wants, should listen to me and whoever feels otherwise, may turn a deaf ear. But when I’m talking, I’m talking with my understanding and intellect. I’m drawing from my experience and from what I’ve learnt with others and from other countries and fellow eminent citizens of the world that I relate with. But leave all of that.
“Good governance comes from voting, from selection of leaders. It is now left to you to decide who you cast your vote for because if you throw away your votes and tomorrow you are saying good governance, once you throw away your votes you have lost out. That is one. Find out the track records of achievements of those you want to vote for. What have they achieved in the past and not what they have said’.
“Truly, the price of crude has fallen, but anyone who is wise enough should know that since we depend on just one resources, and since we have no control over its pricing, we should be planning for this type of situation and the way out of it. Our inability to have reserve has brought us into this economic quagmire,” he said.
‘Vote For Credible Candidates’
The former President condemned the spate of corruption, economic downturn, insecurity and alleged impunity in the system.
Mr Obasanjo further tried to allay agitations over the possible peaceful conduct of the forth coming general elections, asking Nigerians to vote according to their consciences.
“Vote for credible candidates,” he told Nigerians and further asked politicians to play by the rules of the game.
He expressed belief in the unity of the nation and assured the women of his readiness to proffer practical suggestions based on experience on issues.
The former Nigerian leader, however, canvassed diversification of the nation’s economy in the face of the fall in the price of crude in the international market to agricultural based.
Mr Obasanjo also denied any rancour with President Goodluck Jonathan, but he had on different occasions of recent expressed his grouse with the present administration, condemning what he called wide spread corruption.
He told a gathering in Lagos that the Legislature had shrouded its corruption in the opaque nature of its budget and had been paid through direct transfer of money to cover up wrongs done by the executive, thereby making the legislature fail in its oversight responsibility.
Mr Obasanjo said that part of why he had expressed his frustration was because the present administration had failed to respond to some of his correspondent to the President.
He said: “When I was President, I have my predecessors who will come to me, some with written notes, and I will give them my reaction and if I cannot give an answer or reaction immediately, I will say give me time let me do something and I will react. And that is the way I believe it should be. He should be able to come talk to me and I will give him an answer”.