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Olusegun Obasanjo
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I left a huge reserve for Nigeria: Obasanjo

Yvonne Williams

Former President of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo   has said that the country’s problems can be traced to the failure of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to keep reserves in times of want.

Speaking to the Iyalodes and eminent women leaders   from the South-West in his   Hilltop residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State the former president said that the nation’s reserves which stood at $67bn in 2007 had been depleted by the Federal Government.

Obasanjo was responding to a call by the delegation led by the Iyalode of Yorubaland, Chief Alaba Lawson, and the Iyaloja General of Nigeria, Chief Folashade Tinubu-Ojo,   to   lend his voice to the socio-economic crisis rocking the country.

Stressing that the country did not deserve its current situation, Obasanjo vowed that he would not keep quiet until the right things were done.

He said, “When I was leaving office about eight years ago, I left a very huge reserve after we had paid all our debts.

“Almost $25bn we kept in what they called Excess Crude Account, it was the excess from the budget we were saving as reserve for a rainy day.

“When we left in May 2007, the reserve was said to have risen to $35bn. But today, that reserve has been depleted.

“After paying our debts which was about $40bn,   including debt forgiveness, the   remaining (debt) was not more than $3bn.

“Our reserves after we had paid off these debts amounted to about $45bn. As I said, they continued to rise till the end of 2007. I heard that the reserves increased to almost $67bn before the end of the year.

“Our reserves now, I learnt, stand at only $30bn.”

Although he noted that the slump in oil price would naturally have a negative impact on a monolithic economy like Nigeria, Obasanjo said that “anyone who is wise enough should know that since we depend on just one mineral resource and since we have no control over its pricing, we should be planning for this type of situation we currently find ourselves   and the way out of it.”

The former President lamented that “our inability to have healthy reserves had brought us to “this economic quagmire.”

He added, “A leader must be forward-looking and plan ahead. At the beginning of last year, the budget was based on $78 per barrel. That year, the Federal Government spent more on recurrent expenditure and a little on capital expenditure.”

Obasanjo also berated   the leadership for robbing Nigeria of its God-ordained greatness.

He said, ”God made Nigeria a great nation. Is it that those living here have no brain? Is it that the leaders are not thinking? Or that we don’t have the resources?

“When I was in the army, our slogan was, ‘There are no bad soldiers but bad officers.’ Wherever soldiers are not doing well, blame the officers. The same thing obtains in the family, communities, towns and the nation.

The former President, who also denied quarrelling with Jonathan, told the Iyalodes and eminent women leaders   that he was surprised to have read in a newspaper on Monday that some people in government were jittery on learning of their visit.

“Is (it) that Jonathan and I are not in good terms?, he asked and immediately provided an answer himself. He said, “There is nothing as such. I have no grudges against Jonathan and I think Jonathan equally has no grudges against me. I’m not quarrelling with Jonathan but all I know is that whatever is good for Nigeria, that I’m ready to die for.

“I emphasise that whatever is good for Nigeria, is what I’m ready to defend with my life. Whoever, I emphasise, whoever says he would not do anything good for Nigeria, even if he says he’s ready to go ‘koko bellow,’ I’m ready to square it up with such a person.

“I say again, whoever that person may be, I want you to get that correctly. If this country is going to change for the better, it must start from the top and if it’s going to be otherwise, it must start from the top too.

“I have had some little experience about this country. I was a Head of State and   a President; so what is left? If I talk, I know what I’m talking about. 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.”