Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the blame game and solve the problems he inherited from the previous administrations.
He gave the advice in a keynote address at the First Akintola Williams lecture in Lagos, yesterday.
He also lauded the crackdown on corrupt judges in the country and called for a replication of the action on the legislative arm of government.
Obasanjo advised Buhari to stop dwelling on the past, but rather effect the change he had promised Nigerians during his campaign by concentrating on tackling the challenges he inherited.
He said: “Now that we have had change – because the actors and the situation needed to be changed – let us move forward to have progress through a comprehensive economic policy and programme that is intellectually, strategically and philosophically based.
“It is easier to win an election than to right the wrongs of a badly fouled situation. When you are outside, what you see and know are nothing compared with the reality. And yet, once you are on the seat, you have to clear the mess and put the nation on the path of rectitude, development and progress, leaving no group or section out of your plans, programmes, policies and efforts. The longer it takes, the more intractable the problem may become.”
Commenting on the recent arrest and trial of some judges in the country, the former president said the action “will be salutary for the judiciary and for the nation.”
Although Obasanjo said that the way the judges were arrested was uncalled for, he, however, asserted that the situation needed a drastic action to check it as the judiciary was protective of itself.
He said: “One should also ask if there was an alternative. The National Judicial Council (NJC) would not do anything as it was all in-breeding.
“As now contained in our Constitution, the president of Nigeria cannot influence or make any appointment to the judiciary at the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court level. He can only transmit the decision of the NJC to the Senate even where Senate confirmation is required.
“The Constitution which was heavily influenced by the Judiciary ensured that. And yet a drastic disease requires a drastic treatment. When justice is only for sale and can only be purchased by the highest bidder, impunity and anarchy would be the order of the day and no one would be safe.
“A drastic action was needed to save the situation, albeit one would have preferred an alternative that would serve the same purpose, if there was one. In the absence of that alternative, we must all thank God for giving the president the wisdom, courage and audacity for giving the security agencies the leeway to act.”
The former president encouraged the Buhari administration to take the anti-graft war to the legislature, describing the National Assembly as ‘a den of robbers.’
“If the judiciary is being cleaned, what of the National Assembly which stinks much worse than the judiciary?” he queried, pointing out that that like the judiciary, the National Assembly cannot clean itself.
“Budget padding must not go unpunished,” he asserted.
“It is a reality, which is a regular and systemic practice. Nobody should pull wool over the eyes of Nigerians.”
The former leader said the nation’s top law-making body missed an opportunity to reform itself when it ‘ganged up’ against a whistleblowing lawmaker.
To him, “ganging up to intimidate and threaten the life of a whistle-blower is deplorable and undemocratic.”
He described the vexed issue of constituency projects as a veritable source of corruption.
“These constituency projects are spread over the budget for members of the National Assembly, for which they are the initiators and the contractors directly or by proxy, and money would be fully drawn, with the project only partially executed or not executed at all.
“The National Assembly cabal of today is worse than any cabal that anybody may find anywhere in our national governance system at any time. Members of the National Assembly pay themselves allowances for staff and offices they do not have or maintain. Once you are a member, you are co-opted and your mouth is stuffed with rottenness and corruption that you cannot opt out as you go home with not less than N15 million a month for a Senator and N10 million a month for a member of the House of Representatives. The National Assembly is a den of corruption by a gang of unarmed robbers,” Obasanjo stated.