By Olawale Jokotoye
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Saturday in Abeokuta that Nigeria needed to embrace and prioritise nation- building to attain greater heights.
He spoke at a symposium with the theme: “African narrative with the Nigerian Situation’’ organised to mark his 85th birthday.
Obasanjo listed the ideals of nation building to include equity, justice, common ideals, popular education, shared values, mutual respect and equality of opportunities.
He explained that the fundamentals needed to be anchored and propelled by leaders who are persons of integrity, honour, morality, competence, great virtue and must be courageous to do what is right.
He added that such leaders must be humble and be able to put a team together to work in selfless devotion and service with the fear of God.
“From personal experience and clinical observation, there is no substitute for steady and uncompromised process of nation-building as we have had in some notable examples in the past that have stood us in good stead.
“Fixing Nigeria must begin on the principles of nation-building; not necessarily on emotions, sentiments, euphoria, ignorance, incompetence, ethnicity, nepotism, bigotry, sectionalism, regionalism, religion or class.
“The issues of security, stability, development, economy and our relationship within Africa and with the rest of the world can only be taken care of if we get the issue of nation-building right,’’ he said.
Obasanjo advised that Nigeria must first seek to be a nation rather than a country, stressing that: “the cart should not be put before the horse, otherwise, Nigeria, in no time will not be a country, but countries.’’
For the statesman, such task was beyond one person, political parties, professionals and commercial politicians.
“It demands and requires all hands to be on deck. I mean Nigerians in all walks of life including, politicians, community leaders, traditional leaders, religious leaders, diplomatic leaders, leaders in the academia, leaders in all aspects of government and leaders in other aspects of the civil society,’’ he said.
Concerning the 2023 general elections, Obasanjo advised Nigerians to prioritise principles above personalities in their choice of leaders.
“We need to be clear about what Nigeria needs today and why Nigeria needs it. Only then can we answer the question of how. The answer will inform us of the criteria and characteristics for determining who.
“I believe in principles before personalities and taking personalities before principles is putting the cart before the horse,’’ the former Nigerian leader said.
He added that what was uppermost for him was how to transit Nigeria from being a country to a nation.
“When we have adequately taken care of nation-building measures, especially management of our unity and taken care of every anomalous situation, then we must zero on personalities.
“In situation like the one we are in, I will not rush into naming names without necessary consultations and well-defined principles and criteria.
“Each contender must be properly x-rayed and profiled from birth and Nigerians must be educated to be able to make a choice that will be in the national interest and propel Nigeria forward,’’ Obasanjo stressed. (NAN)