Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Don’t Measure Citizens’ Welfare by Growth in GDP, Says Obasanjo
Writing by Emma Okonji and Abdullahi Rabiu
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo Wednesday warned against measuring the wealth of a nation and its constituent states as well as the wellbeing of the people by the increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Obasanjo, speaking as the special guest of honour at the opening ceremony of the ongoing First Economic and Investment Summit in Jigawa State, said rather, the welfare of the people and the state of the economy should be determined by the amount of investments that are capable of creating employment.
According to him, “States should invest more in projects that will bring economic wealth for the people and states should be judged by the amount of investments that have improved the livelihood of the people, and not by the growth in GDP, as increase in GDP does not translate to actual wealth creation and wellbeing of the people.”
The former president who spoke in Dutse, the state capital, praised Governor Sule Lamido for his commitment to the development of the state and commended him for the underground drainage system that is currently going on in the state and for other infrastructure being put in place.
He urged other state governments to invest in projects that would benefit Nigerians and in those products that could be legally exported to neighbouring countries.
Nigeria, he said, remained a choice destination for foreign investors, and urged more foreign investors to avail themselves of the opportunities in various sectors of the nation’s economy.
Obasanjo said Nigeria was endowed with abundant natural and human resources, which could be transformed to the social and economic benefits to the people.
“Nigeria is a land of opportunities and it is blessed with all it takes to develop; it has been stagnant for so long; it is about time to change these opportunities to actuality.
“There is no reason why we should not do that; we must invest in education to save the larger population of the country or else our population will become a liability,” he said.
The former president said for Nigeria to attain sustainable development, children must be trained, educated and be skilled in every sector to be self-reliant.
According to him, “I will rather invest in education for my children than build houses for them because if I do not invest in education for them, the educated ones will rise some day to buy the houses from them.”
He explained that such improvement could be translated to provide employment opportunities, wealth creation and poverty reduction in the society.
Obasanjo stressed the need for investments in the area of agriculture and tourism, and specifically mentioned sugar, rice and cassava as viable products for investment.
Nigeria, he said, had done pilot project on agriculture in Katsina and Kebbi States, which has started yielding results.
He also advised state governments to invest in tourism and train people who will be knowledgeable to narrate the history of Nigerians to the outside world.
The former president commended the governor for his vision, adding that he saw that vision long ago, hence he appointed him as one of his foreign ministers during his tenure.
He described Jigawa as a state with everything to attract businessmen to invest in it, adding that with purposeful leadership and high sense of commitment on the part of leaders, it would be easier for a government to achieve its aim socially, politically and economically.
Obasanjo explained that for any country to prosper economically, it should provide an enabling environment that could attract investors.
Speaking earlier, a member of the British parliament, Lord Paul Boateng, said Nigeria was passing through one of the most trying moments in its chequered history due to lack of credible leadership despite the availability of solid minerals and enough land mass and other resources that would have made it one of the leading nations in the world.
Boateng described the Jigawa State initiative as worthwhile because investment that would lead to economic prosperity would provide jobs for the youth to realise their potential.
On his part, Lamido said when he came in as governor, the state was in a shambles and the people disenchanted with the government.
He told the gathering that he mobilised his team to tackle the problems by addressing the welfare of the people first before he later concentrated on infrastructure.