16 Jun 2011
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo Wednesday told world leaders that the Federal Government lacks the political will to fight corruption, which he described as a cankerworm that has militated against the development of the economy.
Obasanjo, who made this revelation at the ongoing 100th International Labour Conference holding in Geneva, Switzerland, also accused politicians of deploying proceeds of crude oil to fund their various political ambitions.
Speaking at a high-level panel meeting on the platform of the Club de Madrid, the former president maintained that it would be impossible for government to fight corruption, that the people that are involved in the practice are strongly entrenched in governance.
Obasanjo, who admitted that the fight against corruption in the country could not be achieved overnight, said that it would be difficult for corruption to be eradicated in Nigeria, except leaders are ready to confront those involved in the practice to the point of giving up their lives in the process.
Fielding questions from delegates at the Conference, he explained that corruption found its way into the nation’s economy with the discovery of oil shortly after independence, adding that the overdependence of oil had become a doom rather than a boom for the country.
He said the politicians saw the advent of oil boom as opportunity to milk the nation’s resources by awarding contracts to themselves and in the process setting aside some percentages to fund their political parties.
When asked on how the present administration tend to address the issue of corruption and unfair distribution of resources, Obasanjo said: “You are absolutely right about corruption as the cankerworm that has militated against our development and does not allow us to develop as fast as we ought to be. When we came out of the civil war, oil was discovered but the oil became a doom rather than a boom for us because nobody wanted to do anything as we were torn between agriculture, industry and oil.
Nobody wanted to do anything because we were thinking oil, sleeping oil and were almost drinking oil. It was that bad.
“More importantly, corruption came in initially with politics at independence when our politicians were awarding contracts at 10 per cent, they saw it as a way to make money for their party. 10 per cent of that contract is used to develop the party. Then it went beyond 10 per cent to 20 per cent and sometimes 25 per cent and at a time it grew so large that when you are given a job, you don’t just care to do it but share the money or whatever they call it. That was very bad.”
However, he said his administration recorded significant success in the fight against corruption which saw the arrest and prosecution of high ranking public officers by the anti-corruption agencies established under his tenure.
“When I became president of Nigeria, the first thing I did after my election was to establish two independent bodies to fight corruption. That body was so effective that ministers of government, the head of the police, the head of parastatals were put to jail. But if you are going to fight corruption it is not a one day or one night job. You have to be consistent and persistent with it.
“I have not seen that will of persistency and consistency in Nigeria because the people that are involved in corruption in Nigeria are strongly entrenched and unless you are ready to confront them at the point of even giving your life for it then you will give in and when you give in that is the end of it,” Obasanjo stated.
He said leaders in Nigeria and other countries have concentrated efforts and resources on the next election rather than on growth and development, this he said has made it difficult to fight corruption headlong.
“I think it is all about leadership. A leader who is only thinking about the next election there is a limit to what you can expect from him. A leader must think beyond the next election, he must think of the next generation and in fact the next generation after that. And that is when he will be able to get it right,” he said.
When asked to name the leaders who have such ambition, Obasanjo said: “I have met quite a lot of leaders around the world in my short period of life. I believe they are few that have such ambition. In Africa without meaning to embarrass anybody, I can list probably two or three. In Europe, maybe one or two, in Asia, I see two or three but I will not name anyone so that I will not cause diplomatic chaos.”
Also speaking at the Conference, Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, said the greatest challenge African nations have to contend with is leadership noting that there is a general perception of politicians wanting to hold on to power indefinitely.
“Corruption can be said to be a habit and it is like an addiction, you get used to it for some time and it is very difficult to get out of it. But I tell you that the real challenge Africa has had to face so far is leadership. Leadership is the most crucial thing to get. If you want good governance, you must get good leader to implement it. A leader that will use laws and not personal power in authority, a leader that is not a dictator and this is what Africans are suffering. Politicians must have a vision and once that vision is there then they will uplift society. He will not think of the short term but look towards the future. The only trouble is that these days because of the perception of politicians wanting to hold on to power indefinitely, they are unable to deliver on the development of the nation,” he said.