Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has urged government to be serious with the drive for the diversification of Nigeria’s economy away from oil.
Obasanjo made the call in Abeokuta, Ogun State during an exclusive interview with BusinessDay team.
Waxing nostalgic, the former president and chief promoter of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), noted that Nigeria had in the past recorded some progress in this regard, lamenting, however, that the momentum was not sustained.
According to him, if the vision had been sustained, the country would have, by now, gone beyond where his administration left it, in terms of food production and less dependence on oil.
Responding to a question on whether he believed the country had recorded appreciable success in its avowed policy of diversification into agriculture, Obasanjo said: “I believe we have in the past. Only we have not been consistent and we have not sustained it. And we should continue to do it. We have to.”
“Now, let me just give you two examples: when I took over as president in 1999, I checked by the year 2000, our cocoa production was 150, 000 metric tonnes. Then we decided to go into cocoa and revive it. By the time I left in 2007, our cocoa production had gone to 400, 000 metric tonnes. When we took over, our cassava production was 30 million metric tonnes, by the time we left, we were 50 million metric tonnes. But by then, we were saying, add cassava flour into bread and all that. Now, if we have done that consistently and all that, the story would have been different. So, we can and we should. And with time, we’ll have no choice,” he said further.
The former president, who regretted the suspension, for so long, of teaching and learning of History as a distinct subject at primary and secondary levels in Nigerian schools, said it was a mistake.
“I believe it is a mistake. Some of us are now advocating that this should be corrected in our own schools, both in primary, secondary and in university. We have said this is the history of Nigeria; it meant a lot to us and must be taught in our schools. We said it was a mistake that we did not let people know their history and that it should be corrected,” he said.