Obasanjo described the majority of lawmakers at the national and state assemblies as “rogues and armed robbers,” and the judiciary as corrupt.
Obasanjo, however, rated the lawmakers as better than the police in crime and corruption.
He said, “Integrity is necessary for systems and institutions to be strong. Today, rogues, armed robbers are in the state Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly. What sort of laws will they make?
“The judiciary is also corrupt. During my tenure, many of the corrupt judges were removed, some are still there.
“If the Judiciary becomes corrupt, where is the hope for the nation? Justice, no doubt, will go to the highest bidder. The judiciary did not see anything wrong with a former governor but the same set of evidence was used to sentence him in the United Kingdom.
“The police are even worse. Well, I will not lament; I will only say, ‘let us understand our problems and emphasise the good ones.’”
The former President, who spoke at the fourth Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies, Nigeria, annual national conference in Lagos, also did not spare the citizenry, accusing them of lacking in diligence and integrity.
The conference had the theme, “Strong Systems: Necessity for Building a Virile Nation.”
“The problem is that the diligence that was being undertaken before people are appointed or elected is no more today,” Obasanjo said.
He said the country needed strong, stable, enduring and sustainable institutions for the country to remain virile, dynamic and successful.
“I believe we will get there, but all Nigerians must play their roles,” Obasanjo said.
The Lagos State Governor Mr. Babatunde Fashola, at the same event, made a case for state police as part of the measures to build strong judicial system.
“The question of whether we will have state police ‘is not a matter of if, but when’. If we want our judicial system to be strong, we need a well-motivated, equipped, remunerated and efficient police system,” Fashola said.
The governor, who said the Judiciary did not belong to the government but a part of it, added that there was the need for Nigerians to re-assess their values if strong systems and institutions could exist.
Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), who was the Chairman of the occasion, urged all Nigerians to work for the unity of the country, saying the country’s oneness is not negotiable.
“Nigeria is not a bad nation or where nothing works. It is not a country that anything goes; we may have got it wrong somewhere, but we are on the right track. This does not make us a failed nation or people. The need for strong systems to achieve a virile nation is a necessity,” Gowon said.
Also, former Head, Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, said Nigeria needed a stable socio-economic environment to grow the economy, stressing that there was absolute need to improve the security in the country.
“We must improve on our governance system and the age-long values of hard work, honesty and integrity. The judicial system also matters. Justice must not only be seen but must be clearly seen to be done. Corruption must be battled and exterminated because it tarnishes the image of our country and discourages investment,” Shonekan said.
A lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay, said there was no doubt that Nigeria had strong systems and institutions but the operators (the political elite) were the problems of the country.
“There is nothing wrong with Nigeria but with the 90 per cent of the political elite who have neutralised all the laws in the country. Nigeria public officers do not resign on the grounds of principles. The country is a value-deficient society,” Sagay said.
Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammadu Uwais, said the problem of corruption had spread even to the judiciary, adding that during his tenure as CJN, many judges were removed on the grounds of corruption.
“Without a strong judiciary, even though you have a strong economy, the economy will find it difficult to grow,” Uwais stated.
President, AES, Dr. Ausbeth Ajagu, urged Nigerians to imbibe ethical values to move the country forward.
“Leadership in Nigeria is characterised by ego system. Our leaders usually fail to understand that government is a continuum and this has led to mismanagement of funds by abandoning the programmes of their predecessors,” Ajagu said.