Posted by By Rotimi Ajayi, Ben Agande & Emma Aziken on
PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo launched, yesterday, a campaign for the electorate to stop from succeeding him in 2007, those he called scavengers, kleptocrats and their offsprings as well as associates.
ABUJA — PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo launched, yesterday, a campaign for the electorate to stop from succeeding him in 2007, those he called scavengers, kleptocrats and their offsprings as well as associates.
Such people, he said, "detest due diligence, accountability, responsibility, fair competition, transparency, due process and social justice."
He spoke at a joint sitting of the National Assembly which he addressed on the twin issues of the report of the just concluded National Political Reform Conference and the debt relief granted Nigeria by the Paris Club.
President Obasanjo said he was sounding the note of warning in view of the labourious efforts it took his administration to secure the debt relief from the Paris Club.
He said: "This debt relief offered to us, I am pleased and proud to say, is the direct product of our relentless and persistent endeavour over the past six years. Let me say once more for those who say we did not get any relief or that the terms were ambiguous, the debt relief for Nigeria is real. I can only say to those that doubted we would ever get debt relief or those that felt that we were merely junketing around the world doing nothing, history and events have vindicated us.
"To get out of the debt trap and lay a new foundation for growth, development and democracy, we must join hands and resolve to break with bad past; identify new voices and new leaders; reject business as usual, vote for new values of accountability, transparency, fair competition, social justice and the upliftment of the living standards of Nigerians.
"We must protect our citizens from the scavengers and kleptocrats of the past and from their offsprings and associates, who continue to detest due diligence, accountability, responsibility, fair competition, transparency, due process and social justice.
"We must work hard to contain those tendencies, individuals and interest groups that wish to mortgage our future, undermine our foundations, contaminate our souls, squander our present and compromise our happiness as a people."
The president also advised the National Assembly members to complement the reforms embarked upon by government by ensuring speedy passage of some crucial bills some of which, he said, would soon be sent to the Assembly. He named them as Fiscal Responsibility Bill, Procurement Bill, and Tax Reform Bill among others. He said these bills needed to be in place to facilitate Nigeria’s clean and complete break with the past.
The President also announced that a bill, which would spell out the process of obtaining foreign loans by any tier of government in the country, would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly. The bill is expected to peg the interest on such loans.
"This is our story, our struggle, our success, our hopes and our best wishes for Nigeria today, tomorrow and forever. After six years of solid hard work, sometimes with encouraging and sometimes with discouraging signs from within and without, God has granted us success in a near miraculous way.
"Let us all savour the sweet taste of the success but knowing well that the determination and singleness of purpose that has brought success will continue to be required to take us through the reform agenda."
The President used the occasion to hand over the report of the recently concluded National Political Reform Conference which he said was a success to the National Assembly. He said it was unfortunate that those who walked out of the conference failed to understand the goals and purpose of the conference, which he said was an opportunity for Nigerians to get together to discuss issues of national importance.
"We in government were not naive enough to have thought that there would be no disagreements, rigorous discussion and debate of national issues, and that there would be no political posturing and some grandstanding. Of course, the use of walk-out in this age when the entire world is voting for negotiation, dialogue, give-and-take, consensus and understanding is unfortunate.
"I must stress the point, unpalatable as it may be, that the conference was called for the good of our dear country, to promote unity, stability, security, progress, development and prosperity."
He urged the National Assembly to look at the report and adopt any part of it for the Constitutional Review exercise being undertaken by the Joint Committee of the Assembly reviewing the 1999 Constitution.
In his closing remarks after the President’s address, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Masari, commended the President for the hard work put into securing the debt relief. He promised that members of the National Assembly would work hard to ensure the success of the reform agenda so that the tenure of the present government could end in 2007.
"The zeal with which we started, God will give us the grace to support you and carry on to the end of our tenure in 2007."
Reacting to the President’s speech, Minority Whip of the Senate, Senator Abba Aji, described it as a marked departure from the past. According to him, "I am impressed at the President’s capacity to research and to draw inferences from in-depth study of the development of our debt portfolio and how it developed into nearly insurmountable problem. His speech today (yesterday) is a complete departure from the rhetoric that is associated with Presidential statements. These are no rhetorics. He is certainly a practical person."