Former President Olusegun Obasanjo reviewed the performance of the President Muhammadu Buhari government in the last 21 months and concluded that the government has not performed creditably well in the area of economy and foreign affairs.
He however noted that the Buhari administration has stepped up efforts on the foreign policy segment and gave kudos to the President in the way he has been piloting the affairs of the country.
Speaking in an interactive session with The Guardian at his HillTop Presidential Mansion in Abeokuta, Friday, Obasanjo noted that leadership was not about age, but quality of the individual, stressing that Buhari has performed creditably in the areas of fighting insurgency and securing the country.
His words: “I don’t know about what is your direction or wrong direction. But what I know is that President Buhari has not disappointed me. From what I know of him and what he has done, he has not disappointed me.
“You can come to whatever conclusion you want to. In my book I said, and that is not running him down; I said he is not strong on the economy and he is not. In fact, I also said he is not strong on foreign affairs, although he has somewhat improved on foreign affairs.
“But in the areas we know he is strong, he is doing his best. He is doing his best in fighting insurgency; he is trying his best in trying to fight corruption. So where you are facing is entirely unto you. You may be facing east or west or north.”
On the issue of youth empowerment, the former President expressed dismay at the absence of commensurate opportunities for the teeming population of young people, pointing out that quite unlike during his own time when there was only one university, there are more than 150 universities in the country.
“I pity the youths, they have more facilities than in my time, but they lack opportunities. What we need is to create more opportunities,” he added, recalling that when he left secondary school, he got employment offers from five establishments, including a teaching job.
The former President also clarified his position on the issue of zoning of the presidency to the Southeast in 2019, pointing out that it was merely a passing allusion to the underlying factors that give rise to agitations leading to the Southern Kaduna crisis.
He stated: “The Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) Abeokuta chapter, came to meet me about the situation in Southern Kaduna. Before then, I had been briefed by the governor (of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai), Bishop (Matthew Hassan) Kukah, General (Martin Luther) Agwai (retd), who hail from the area.
“So I gave them my own understanding of the situation. I said the Southern Kaduna issue is historical, cultural, religious and political. That if you want to resolve the issue, you now take all these issues together. And I said, the problem is that when we fail to attend to what is important at the time that we should attend to it and then it boomerangs on our face, we don’t have anybody to blame.
“I said here in Ogun State, we have a bit of Southern Kaduna problem. I said since Ogun State was created, we have had four elected governors. We have three senatorial districts, East, West and Central; it (the governorship) has rotated between East and Central. And I said the West has not produced the governor, I don’t know when you will get there, but if you don’t get there when you should get there and the West decides to go into agitation, you have yourself to blame.”
Speaking on the age-long animosity between him and the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, dating from when Soyinka opposed his aspiration for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Chief Obasanjo noted that contrary to public perception, he does not hold grudge.
“I don’t hold grudge, he added. “(But) Wole Soyinka is not God and I don’t believe that there is any human being that is absolutely right. Wole Soyinka, has what I believe he has, he is a gifted person in his own way.
“But Soyinka is not an orator. I cannot accept it when Wole Soyinka makes cathedral statements on everything. When he does what is right I will commend him, when he does what is not right I will criticize him. Wole Soyinka is a populist I am not a populist, so you got it wrong and you should get it right.”
On the development of his Presidential Library project, which is the first in the country and Africa; the former President said some observers may describe what he is doing at the Presidential Library as madness, saying it is not something you do because you want to make money.
“If you want to do something that is not popular, you must have a touch of madness. History is very good, it is like memory. I have continued to say it, that as a country we have been careless about institutional memory, for instance, if you go to what we call the national museum, you will weep,” he surmised.