Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday said the current fiscal challenge facing the country must be creatively addressed.
Obasanjo spoke at the inaugural conference of the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy held at the International Conference Centre of the University of Ibadan.
The former president said the drastic fall in the price of oil in the international market had unravelled the weakness of governance in the country.
He said: “The Minister of Finance recently announced that the 2016 budget deficit may be increased from the current N2.2 trillion in the draft document before the National Assembly to N3 trillion.
“It will be recalled that a few years ago we rescued Nigeria from its creditors with the deal in which the Paris Club of sovereign creditors wrote off USD 18 billion of debt.
“It was Africa’s largest debt cancellation. Nigeria then used windfall earnings from oil export to pay off another USD 12 billion in debts and arrears.”
The former president, who identified corruption as the greatest single challenge facing the country, said it was one of the worst legacies of misrule and bad governance.
He said it appeared the fight against corruption was abandoned after he left office and was just being restored now.
He said: “We set up the ICPC and the EFCC to tackle it head on. Today, corruption drains billions of dollars from our economy that cannot afford to lose even a million dollars.
“It seems we are just beginning the fight against corruption afresh. Until recently, it seems corruption had returned with a vengeance, taking seat at the very heart of government.
“We must kick corruption out because it destroys almost everything and I am not talking about corruption of money; corruption of attitude, nepotism, favouritism, they are corruption in different forms.”
Obasanjo also commended the initiator of the school, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, saying that the institution seeks to engage with the people that public policy affects.
“I charge the conference to redefine the issues and catalyse a process of sustained dialogue to address them,” he said.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, in a key note address, said if the country must tackle the challenges confronting it effectively, it would need to restructure its present governance architecture.
Anyaoku said the country had not yet got it right in terms of having an enduring governance structure that would ensure political stability and co-prosperity for all.
He said that the current eighth National Assembly should focus more on tackling the country’s two major challenges – social-economic development and enduring political stability.
“I urge the eighth National Assembly to take this opportunity to effect a more fundamental change in the country’s governance architecture rather than stop tinkering with the edges of the constitution,” he said.
Anyaoku said that the constitution must enable the country to plan and pursue a non-crude-oil based economic development, particularly in the continuing fall in the price of crude oil.
He said: “It must also address the issue of concentration of power at the centre, which fuels the destabilising competition for the control of the centre between the country’s ethnic and religious groups.
“In my view, there are many aspects of the present state of the Nigeria project that require fixing.”