By Femi Adediran, Abeokuta
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday urged Nigerians, especially the youths not to loose hope in the country, saying contrary to some people’s belief that Nigeria would cease to exist when he completed his tenure in office in 2007, the country is still pushing on although not as he wished for.
Obasanjo spoke at a mentoring session of a group of youths on “Youth Governance and Dialogue”, held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The former President expressed serious concern about the alarming rate Nigeria’s population is growing, saying the country’s inability to know its exact number of its population is not only sad but also dangerous.
The former President also said it is disturbing that, most Nigerian children of school age are roaming the street, insisting that there should no Nigerian child should be out of school.
In Obasanjo’s view, if nothing is done to ensure that every Nigerian child has quality education, the country’s insecurity situation in future would be worse and pleaded that something urgent must be done to check trend.
Obasanjo said, “There should be no Nigerian child that should be out of school for any reason. How are we talking about state of emergency on education, how are we talking about popular education”?
The former President explained, “You have already got your Boko Haram in the next 15 years if you don’t do anything about that. So, whatever you are talking about, unless you take care of inclusiveness, you will not get there. Quality is important, but inclusiveness is much more better, education for all.”
He queried, “The other problem is demography. We are now 200 million population and in about 30 years to come we will be about 400 million. Some say we will be 415 million, some say we will be 450 million, whichever one, we will be the third largest country in the world after China and Indian, that would present great challenges, how are we going to handle it?”
“It (population) can be an asset if we handle it well, but, if we continue with business as usual as we are doing now, it will be a great calamity, it will be a great disaster, we have to think about it. And those who will produce the 450 million people, they are already here, they have been born, so you cannot stop them from being born.”
“Those who will produce 750 million in the year 22,000 they are the ones we can do something about. And again, it is important People are already thinking, who is doing the short, medium and long term thinking plan? None.”
“Having run or taken care of a very substantial number of soldiers in the war front. The soldiers from a division that people have lost hope about, in the sense that, they have lost the fighting spirit and within a space of six months, that division was saved and that division ended the Nigerian civil war. I ran the affairs of Nigeria as a military Head of State when some people felt there was virtually no hope about Nigeria and we turned it around.”
“And having taken care of Nigeria when I came out of the prison, when some people told me that I will be the last President of Nigeria, because after me there would be no Nigeria again because the situation was so bad but I have come to have tremendous hope in Nigeria and I am optimistic. So, I am an incurable optimist about Nigeria”.
Obasanjo recalled, “During the Muritala Mohammed and I government, Nigerian soldiers who were working in Lagos and who had to go to office in public transport, they didn’t wear their uniform, they were ashamed but within the space of six months they were proudly wearing their uniform. So it can be done.”
He told the youths “Don’t loose hope, the situation is bad. The current situation is bad, I don’t need to tell you that, I can see the light beyond the tunnel. There is light beyond the tunnel.”