President Olusegun Obasanjo is arguably one of the biggest contributors to national development in Nigeria. By national development, we mean building the very fabric of society – the economy, infrastructure, national unity, the entire gamut of the Nigeria project.
So when The Alvin Report pitched an essay competition in honour of President Obasanjo, it was not surprising that there was a flood of entries in tribute of him that saw four finalists emerge namely: Charles O’tudor, Emmanuel Ajao, Femi Asu, and Yemi Iskilu Ojo.
There can be no gainsaying the fact that the four finalists are excellent writers as the judges of the competition admitted the extreme difficulty of identifying the best essay. It was a competition with a result too close to call. Indeed, a few technicalities respecting the rules of the competition distinguished the winner.
The four finalists, among other things, talked about the national icon’s nation-building exploits to include being the first modern-day Nigerian president to hand over the authority of the country to a democratically elected civilian president, Shehu Shagari.
But before then, in 1977, he had started building enduring institutions when he formed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), organized the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77).
It was President Obasanjo who introduced the National Pledge to stoke up Nigerian nationalism and indigenized the lyrics of the national anthem. He set up the Constitution Drafting Committee and the Constituent Assembly; introduced the N20 currency in honour of his friend and predecessor, the Late General Murtala Muhammed and introduced the Land Use Decree on March 29, 1978. Then General Obasanjo also confirmed the movement of the Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja in accordance with the Murtala-Obasanjo policy programme.
Under Obasanjo more recently, significant improvements were also recorded in the following areas: The Space Technology Programme – the launch of two satellites, SAT 3 and NICOMSAT, the Energy and Nuclear Programmes, Education Sector ICT Programme, Bio-Technology Programmes Agriculture Programme Poverty Eradication Programme Niger Delta Development Commission, Universal Basic Education and the general improvement of infrastructure amongst others.
He established the Egbin, Ughelli and Afam thermal power stations in an effort to bring to an end the perennial power shortage being suffered by the nation.
Workers welfare after retirement, according to the competitors, would have remained uncertain if not for his establishment of the Pension Reform Act in 2004.
He initiated the privatization of the power sector leading to the unbundling of NEPA into Generation, Transmission and Distribution companies that we have today.
Under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR), he recognized that small and medium enterprises are major contributors to the diversification of the Nigerian economy, and a vital tool for the creation of wealth, poverty alleviation, employment generation and rural development and as such created the Small and Medium Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).
To combat corruption in Nigeria, Obasanjo established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), as well as strengthened the Code of Conduct Bureau, after inheriting a deeply divided, indebted, corrupt, and insecure country.
It was arguably the transparency and good governance demonstrated by the Obasanjo administration that convinced the Paris Club of creditor nations to forgive Nigeria her huge external debt in 2006. He was relentless and undaunted in his efforts to tackle the country’s external debt burden of about $36 billion, most of which was owed to the Paris Club creditors.
If there is one thing that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo will be remembered for, it will be his part in ensuring that Nigeria’s telecoms sector thrived. He gave licenses to telecommunication operators to roll out GSM SIM cards for Nigerians thereby breaking the monopoly of NITEL. The current tech development in Nigeria could not have been possible without GSM.
A few months ago, the country celebrated the passage of the much-delayed Petroleum Industry Bill, which seeks to reform the oil and gas industry. That process was initiated by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He established the Justice Oputa panel to reconcile Nigerians who were aggrieved and it helped in healing a lot of wounds.
Out of office, Obasanjo has continued to show his commitment to the country’s development in word and deed.
He has written at least one letter to every president after him, voicing his concerns about critical national issues. Love him or loathe him, Obasanjo has distinguished himself as one of Nigeria’s, nay Africa’s, living legends.
Those and many other encomiums were showered on the former president for his nation-building efforts.
In the end, by a narrow margin, Yekini Iskilu Ojo emerged as the winner of the essay competition.
The Alvin Report salutes the writing skills and deft knowledge of the achievements of all the writers who participated in the competition, but especially the four finalists. The Alvin Report is appreciative of their effort at recognizing and bringing to the fore the achievements of this national icon, nay global icon.