Why I travelled to 97 countries as president — Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday said he visited 97 foreign trips during his tenure as president between 1999 and 2007.

He said the trips were largely aimed at repairing the country’s poor image following years of brutal military regimes.

Mr. Obasanjo was widely condemned for spending huge resources on frequent foreign trips.

But the former leader said in a speech on Monday at Oxford University that the trips brought significant economic benefits to the country.

“I was elected as President of Nigeria in February of 1999 and was inaugurated as president in May 1999, when Nigeria was a pariah nation.

“Every where people had poor opinion about us. We were scorned at and viewed as a liability in the comity of nations,” he said.

“The situation demanded that I worked to stave off that perception. As a country under political transformation, I applied myself scrupulously to the task at hand.

“For the eight years that I served, I reached out to world leaders and continue to do so beyond my presidency. That was termed shuttle diplomacy in governance.

“I travelled extensively, canvassing global understanding and our mainstreaming into the New World Order – not only for Nigeria, but for the whole of Africa. By the time I finished my two-terms, I had travelled to 97 countries,” Mr. Obasanjo said.

Nigerian economy witnessed growth under Mr. Obasanjo, compared to his successors.

Nigeria’s gross domestic product, which measures the goods produced and services rendered in a country, was estimated at $36 billion when Mr. Obasanjo assumed office in 1999.

By 2007 when Mr. Obasanjo wrapped up his two terms, the GDP stood at $166.4 billion, according to the World Bank.

Mr. Obasanjo was credited with implementing free market measures that opened up new sectors which contributed immensely to the country’s overall economic progress during his tenure.

Still, analysts say the economic performance was not a result of the former president’s globetrotting.

“It is wrong for the former president to say that the progress was because he embarked on many foreign trips,” said economist Odilim Enwagbara.

Mr. Enwagbara said Nigeria’s emergence from the shackles of military dictatorships naturally triggered the curiosity of investors.

“Investors are very diligent people,” Mr. Enwagbara said. “They travel to see things for themselves and carefully scrutinise places they intend to invest.”

“Obasanjo did not bring investors to Nigeria by making speeches at conferences in foreign countries,” Mr. Enwagbara added.

Moreover, Mr. Enwagbara said in places where Mr. Obasanjo brought economic development, he allowed his alleged corrupt instincts to negate everything.

“He dashed oil blocks to American companies and to his cronies,” Mr. Enwagbara said. “So you cannot say everything he did was in the best interest of Nigeria.”

“In fact, I don’t think it’s appropriate for Obasanjo to be appraising his own records while in office, he should go and relax and allow others to judge his tenure,” he added.


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