Former United States president Bill Clinton yesterday came hard on the federal government, saying it is regrettable that the country has not managed resources realised from oil money effectively.
Clinton, the 42nd president of the US, spoke in Abeokuta, Ogun State, during the 18th edition of the THISDAY Awards. He also lamented the growing rate of poverty in Nigeria. If the trend is not reversed, he warned, it portends a great challenge to the country.
"I would say you have challenges. First of all, like 90 per cent of countries who have one big resource, you haven't done well with your oil money. You should have reinvested it in different ways. You don't do a better job of managing natural resources," the former American leader said, adding that the country could only achieve its potential "if you bring economic opportunity to the people who don't have".
"This is not a problem specific to Nigeria. Almost every place in the world, prosperity is heavily concentrated in and around urban areas," he noted. "The poverty line in the whole of Africa has taken a very alarming dimension."
Calling on leaders to salvage the situation through proper education and empowerment of the youths, he stated: "With qualitative and efficient education, the continent could be liberated and empowered through the use of different technologies that are evolving daily. And then, you have to empower people with education, so they can succeed at home as well as around the world, so that all these political problems and religious differences, and all the rhetoric of Boko Haram could be surmounted."
Attributing the crisis in the country to poverty, Clinton said: "The truth is the poverty rate in the north which is three times greater than what it is in the Lagos area, and to deal with that, you have to have both powerful stake in the local governments and a national policy that work together.
Clinton further disclosed that there was the need for the country to harness its intellectuals and individuals with track records all over the world. He said: "There has to be a way to take the staggering intellectual and organisational ability that Nigerians exhibit in every country in the world in which they are immigrants and bring it to bear here so that the country as a whole can rise.
"One of the people on my trip with me today who unfortunately could not come up here because he had to go visit his family is a young Nigerian-American named Nnamdi. He is an all pro-quarter back footballer for the Philadelphia Eagles. He's a wonderful man; he does great work in America for poor kids in Arkansas City and he became a friend of mine.
"Both his parents have PhDs; his sister has a PhD. He often says, 'I'm the failure in my family and I only have a university degree and I play football.' My point is: there are Nigerians who are like this all over the world! What you have to figure out is how to keep those people in Nigeria and how to ensure their success leads on into the rest of the country."
The former US president further called for investment in infrastructure, saying that the development would foster positive growth. "I think solving the economic divide that is in your country will help the political divide; making better use of your resources, advising that the country should invest more on infrastructure," he said. "Nigeria is trying to set up an investment fund where the federal government will set it up and the governors are being consulted so that they can concentrate the capital. That is the problem in India. They have unbelievable entrepreneurs but they are not very good at collecting capital and investing it in infrastructure so that they can unite the poor part of the country with the rich part. That's what you have to do."
The event was witnessed by former president Olusegun Obasanjo and the governors of Ogun and Delta states, Ibikunle Amosun and Emmanuel Uduaghan respectively. The theme of the event was "Celebrating Teachers".
About 18 teachers were given a cash award of N2 million naira each. Other individuals were honoured on the occasion.