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Nigeria Destined To Lead Africa, Says Obasanjo


Nigeria Destined To Lead Africa, Says Obasanjo

AFRICA, as the centrepiece of Nigeria's foreign policy in the 1970s and early 1980s, is here once again, going by indications from President Olusegun Obasanjo.

AFRICA, as the centrepiece of Nigeria's foreign policy in the 1970s and early 1980s, is here once again, going by indications from President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The President said yesterday that as Chairman of the African Union (AU), his priority in the next one year would be to remove essentially all the conflicts and consolidate democratic rule on the continent.

He affirmed that Africa could tackle its own problems provided that outsiders did not put their "dirty fingers."

On his monthly radio programme, 'The President Explains', Obasanjo illustrated that Nigeria had been ordained by God to play a leadership role in Africa.

He recalled the roles the country played in the past, leading to the liberation of Southern African states such as Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique as well as the eradication of apartheid in South Africa.

The President regretted that Nigeria had been irresponsible for long, with such roles relegated to the background by the military, which turned the country into a pariah state. He promised that the country would soon assume its continental responsibilities.

"Since one in every four Africans in the world is a Nigerian and one in every five black people is a Nigerian, there is a purpose for God to make it so. Nigeria as a nation has to play a great responsibility, which if she fails, would be irresponsibility."

He noted with regret a media report that he usurped the leadership of the African Union from the Central African Republic (CAR), saying "in fact, I was called upon by my colleagues to lead them so as to achieve result and to turn it down will be an act of irresponsibility."

On the review of land allocation in Abuja, the President said the review was meant to benefit the people since some of the buildings marked for demolition were built on water and sewage lanes.

Answering questions on food security, he said the Federal Government had made available over 200,000 tonnes of fertiliser imported from Japan and over 2000 tractors, subsidised to the tune of 25 per cent, for farmers to increase productions.

The President reiterated the three cardinal programmes of his government - Agriculture, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME) and Physical and Human Infrastructural Development which, he said, would be pursued more vigorously.

He said the government had placed a high premium on agriculture, noting that a law would be made to mandate bakers in the country to generate 10 per cent of their flour requirement from cassava flour.

On high rate of unemployment in the nation, he said private sector investment remains the key to generating employment while government would provide the enabling environment for them to thrive.

The President argued that though he instituted the Federal Character Commission, he would not sacrifice merit on the altar of incompetence, since the government was determined to put a round peg in a round hole, especially as it concerns technocrats.

He, however, said there would be some element of balancing in all federal appointments.

Yesterdays programme, the 29th in the series, originated from the Government House, Osogbo, Osun State where the President would round off his three-day official visit today.

Apart from being the first time the President would hold the programme outside Abuja and his Ota Farm, a live audience witnessed the edition and the first set of questions were asked by the audience in Yoruba, the language of the people of the state popularly referred to as "the State of the Living Spring."

As usual, the President was in his elements, displaying anger and compassion, two contradictory sides of every mortal, at the same time.

His anger reminded listeners of his encounter with the chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Jos, Rev. Yakubu Pam, in the wake of the crisis that resulted in the imposition of a state of emergency in Plateau State.

For questioning government's alleged "double standard" in dealing with crisis involving Christians and Moslems, the President had reportedly told Rev. Pam that, "you are talking rubbish," and "CAN my foot."

That comment drew public outrage, particularly from members of CAN, which demanded an apology from the President.

Yesterday, Obasanjo told a caller from Lagos, Isaac Ozoma, to "shut up, you don't know and if you don't know you just shut-up."

Ozoma had raised the issue of delay in payment of pensions to retired military men especially those that served in Liberia, at a time the President is Chairman of the African Union (AU).

The following dialogue ensued between the questioner and the President:

Ozoma: We have so much in Nigeria, charity begins at home. A lot of Nigerian soldiers fought in Liberia and some are now retired. Most of them have their arrears held with a lot of pensioners, having served the country and do not receive their arrears.

President: My friend, tell me what my being the Chairman of AU will do about that

Are you one of those retired soldiers
Ozoma: I have a lot of them.

President: Are you one of them

Ozoma: I am not one of them.

President: If you are not one of them, so you don't know what is happening. So if you don't know, just shut up.

But the President was soon to show the other side of his persona, bringing succour to an unemployed victim of poliomyelitis, a Master's degree holder, who may be on his way to good life.

The listener, who left a GSM number, was directed by the President to meet the Ondo State governor, Chief Olusegun Agagu.

The man, who lives in Ore, Ondo State is to be recommended by Agagu for assistance by the Presidency.

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