April 29, 2015

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo Press Conference at TSU

“Political and Economic Situation in Africa with a focus on Nigeria”
The former Head of State of the Republic of Nigeria addressed the diaspora, including Nigerian students as well as visitors at Texas Southern University on April 25, 2015 to include Her Royal Highness, Regent Odetutu Adeshida Ojei, The Odeji of Akure, a TSU alum, Pharm. D. Host to the program was Interim Associate Provost and Vice President for Research, Mr. Adebayo Olekan. His Excellency used the opportunity to discuss the state of affairs of the economic situation and development in Nigeria as well as address the audience on how the current election would affect such state of affairs. He stated his aim was to celebrate great strides made in Africa and encouraged the diaspora to join him in doing so.

He eludes to the fact that Africa is moving away from it’s usual stereotype—a continent affected by hunger, pain, misery, backwardness and bearer of bad news. Africa is now a land of opportunity, possibilities and progress. Africa has a lot to be proud of by way of it’s achievements, emerged a big player in the global economy despite it’s challenges. Great strides have been made since the advent of our colonial masters. He encouraged the audience to focus their attention on the positive aspects of our development with a sense of direction and determination and not so much on the negative stereotypes that have been perpetuated for a long time now. He urges the the diaspora to be patient with all that’s plaguing us—bad governance, corruption, violence, poor resource management, technological challenges, structural deficiencies as those would surely change with time so long as we are united for this cause. We are not all that different from the generation before us five decades ago when military coup was prevalent, we want the same thing—a continent free from colonialism and more democratic and progressive, hence the reason most countries sought independence. The truth remains, we want a truly democratic society. The political well being of any nation is as important as it’s economy.

For the first time in our young democracy, an incumbent president concedes defeat to an opponent, in stark contrast to not very long ago, where citizens were met with violence. Peace, tranquillity and patriotism prevailed to the envy of a lot of other African countries. This election was truly democratic thanks to a new generation, young people played a pivotal role in making their voices heard, making sure the elected was the right person for the job.

An integral part of a progressive continent is the quality of its education, today’s generation is much more exposed to advancements in science and technology than the generations before ever were. Today’s youth do not just need the education—the ability to read, write and communicate, but the spirit of entrepreneurship needs to harnessed; tomorrow’s leaders, creators and inventors in a progressively developing continent are produced through quality education. Africa must employ a holistic approach to educating youths today in a way that boosts all areas of the economic sector. The former President joked about one time when the listed occupation on his passport was Farmer while visiting a friend in Canada who thought it an oddity, how he encouraged his son with a PhD in Electronics abroad to join his farming business in Nigeria and he had no interest in doing so. A young person would not be interested in farming as a business or occupation without an incentive, no young person wants to go lifting a hoe and a cutlass. Farming can be a lucrative business with good technology to support it. Speaking from experience, farming has generated jobs for a lot of people, to appeal to budding and enterprising minds however, it must be made more attractive. Needless to say his son is now in the “Agric business.” It’s all in the presentation.
What Africa needs now is to increase the value of goods and resources exported, to invest more on its human and natural resources. The problem Africa continues to face is more internal than external. It’s time we stop blaming our colonial masters. Africa is already an industrial giant, we have what we need—collect our human, natural resources and existing innovations from research findings of our academic institutions and put them to practical use with financial backing. We employ foreign contractors to build our facilities and roads, not taking the initiative to understudy them, hence ultimately depending on them. As we continue to outsource our projects to foreigners, this guarantees our continued dependence on them for our economic growth, which is not sustainable. Our students must be posted to understudy construction sites and the like in the sectors of science and technology to gain first hand experience in undertaking such projects on their own.

The growth and development of Nigeria depend not only on it’s economy, but on its politics, one cannot be achieved without the other, Africa needs strong leadership. In the end, Chief Obasanjo urged the leaders to come together in building a better Africa with a sustainable economy and strong leadership. He applauded Texas Southern University for its diversity and the fact that the Vice President of Academic Affairs—Dr. Sunny Ohia and Interim Associate Provost and Vice President for Research—Mr. Adebayo Olekan are of Nigerian roots.
Reagent Adeshida Ojei, center
After much of the discussion questions are left unanswered, such as the situation of continued lack of electricity, continued strikes by the health care sector and universities. What would encourage the youth in the diaspora to want to invest in its country? His excellency answered questions on current Xenophobia in South Africa against other African immigrants after prompts by the media. He condemned such actions stating he will publicly castigate perpetrators of such actions. If South Africa cannot accommodate other Africans on their soil then they don’t deserve to be leaders.

After a brief Q&A, His Excellency was presented with a TSU Tiger by the Provost.

Msadaku.

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