At the convocation ceremony of Benson Idahosa University, Benin City last weekend, former president Olusegun Obasanjo who delivered the convocation lecture was quoted as saying that Nigerians should not blame him for the failure of the immediate past President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He also was quoted as saying that the actions of Jonathan as President for six years would continue to haunt the people of the South South geo-political region for a long time to come. Obasanjo who continues to pose as a messiah despite his monumental failure for eight miserable years as a civilian dictator (1999-2007) would not brook any nimbling in castigating Jonathan even when he knows that Jonathan performed better than him by far.
This has now become his stock-intrade since 2012 when it became obvious to him that Jonathan would not allow him to have his scuttled third term agenda through the back door. Jonathan resisted his attempt to manipulate him while acting as the Board of Trustees chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party( PDP). When he tried this gambit a few months to the 2015 presidential election, Nigerians had thought that his mission was simply to sway Jonathan’s support base. But the reactions of Nigerians of varied backgrounds to Obasanjo’s old tricks showed that Nigerians are no fools. The people’s condemnation of Obasanjo’s arrant hypocrisy was overwhelming.
The first reaction came from no less a personality than the traditional ruler of Lagos, His Majesty Oba Rilwan Akiolu, who said that Obasanjo’s government was the most corrupt in the history of Nigeria. The respected monarch cannot be more correct. Amidst Obasanjo’s catalogue of anti-corruption verbal interventions, the question that now begs for an urgent answer is: is Obasanjo among the Saints? Yet Obasanjo is still bashing Jonathan even after the latter has lost election. Analysts now believe that Obasanjo’s recent diatribe against Jonathan is just the manifestation of his bottled up anger that the Bayelsa: born former President has won international acclaim over his display of the highest form of civility by conceding victory to his opponent even when the actual result was still evolving.
Now, he is poised to incriminate Jonathan while making himself look like a saint before Nigerians. But does Obasanjo possess the moral credentials to speak from a higher pedestal than Jonathan? Due largely to the lamentable short memory of homosapiens, it seems as though we have forgotten so soon about the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his recent past. But the poor boy from Owu village in Ogun State was led by fortuitous and opportunistic circumstances to have a rendezvous with history and destiny. Against his will and command, Obasanjo became head of state after the assassination of his boss, General Murtala Muhammed. He was said to have been the man who launched Nigeria into the estranged comity of heavily indebted nations when he took the first ever N1 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan in 1978 when the Nigerian currency was 75 kobo to the United States dollar.
It was said that more than half of this money was not accounted for by General Obasanjo while a fraction of it was left for the incoming administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in October 1979. Moments after Obasanjo left office in 1979, his regime’s pet project, Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) suddenly metamorphosed into Obasanjo Farms Nigeria (OFN). Today, the Ota Farms which was allegedly reduced to zero level by the regime of the late General Sani Abacha, is the richest privately owned farm in the world. In this introductory piece, we cannot go into the tissues of issues implicated in the text of Obasanjo’s sundry looting of our national patrimony into his private pockets. But an investigation of how a man who had a paltry twenty five thousand Naira(N25,000.00) only, as his bank balance when he came out of Abacha’s gulag in 1998 has now become one of the richest men in the world after eight years in office as civilian president between 1999 and 2007 would leave a sour taste in the mouth.
At the 1998 national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Jos, the Plateau State Capital, Stella, the late wife of the former President, savouring the husband’s victory as the party’s flagbearer, told the press that General Abacha, the late head of state, was a beast. The reason, according to her, was that the latter crippled all their ( the Obasanjo’s) businesses leaving them with just N25,000 as at when her husband was released from detention by General Abdulsalami Abubakar. When asked how the Obasanjo family was able to cope during those trying times, Stella, a warm and personable lady, revealed that she had to travel to the United States to seek help from Jimmy Carter, former United States President who was Obasanjo’s contemporary in the 1970’s as military head of state.
The rest is now history. But just between May 29, 1999 and May 29, 2007, when he handed over power to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Obasanjo acquired so much ill-gotten wealth that he allegedly became the richest former President in the world. Like a story in a book, Obasanjo was the first President in the world to have issued himself the license to own a private university while still a sitting President. He is the proud owner of Bell University of Technology, Ota. As you read this piece, Obasanjo is the owner of the N12.7 billion Obasanjo Presidential Library at Ota in Ogun State. There is also the Five Star hotel he allegedly completed in three months upon leaving office in 2007. His hilltop mansion a section of which was gutted by fire early last year was built while he was President. Obasanjo was alleged to have bought the highest shares in Transcorp, meaning he is into hospitality, airlines, insurance, agriculture, construction, oil and gas, etcetera. It was during his administration that a whopping $16 billion was spent to generate darkness for Nigerians for eight miserable years.
It is as though Nigerians have forgotten so soon the Ikoyi land deals scandal, the National Poverty Alleviation scandal, the N10 billion presidential jet scandal, the Halliburton bribery scandal and the rest of the jaw-breaking, mindthe ALboggling corruption allegations that coloured Obasanjo’s dull and trepidated presidency. Here, we are not talking about the N37 trillion generated between 1999 and 2007 under Obasanjo who doubled as petroleum minister for seven and a half years.
Obasanjo under whose watch prominent Nigerian politicians including Chief Marshall Harry, Chief A. K. Dikibo, Chief Ogbonnaya Uche, Chief Bola Ige, his Attorney General and Minister of Justice, were assassinated, alleged in his 18-page letter dated December 2, 2013 that Jonathan placed over 1,000 Nigerians on political watch list. According to him, while Jonathan was training snipers and other armed personnel secretly in a location where the late head of state General Abacha also allegedly trained his killers, he was clandestinely acquiring weapons for political purposes. One full year after his vainglorious allegations, Nigerians have not heard of the killing of any of Dr. Jonathan’s sworn enemies. In fact, corruption was more pronounced during the Obasanjo years than during Jonathan’s administration. This should be a subject of another piece.
But if Obasanjo did so well in the management of the economy and the war on corruption, why are Nigerians complaining about his years of the locusts? Just as he did, and is still doing to Jonathan, Obasanjo rankled the weeping wounds and gangrenes of Nigeria under erstwhile military president General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, ostensibly with the healthy intension of pouring balsam on the wounds. He accused IBB of running the nation aground with degenerate economic policies like the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) which, according to him, lacked a human face.
He also dragged the Babangida junta to the dock of the people’s court to answer for charges of fuel price increases that induced greater hardships for the pauperised citizenry. But alas! What did we see when Obasanjo was in the saddle between 1999 and 2007? He increased fuel prices eight times in eight years and sold juicy public enterprises off to himself and his cronies. It was he who mortgaged Nigeria’s juicy land, the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon in order to win the Nobel Peace Prize which eventually eluded him. His current support for President Muhammadu Buhari is hypocritical, not from his heart. He is just playing to the gallery to avoid being probed for his reckless plundering of our national patrimony into his private pockets. Jonathan should come out of his shell and tell Obasanjo the home truth. That he lost election does not mean he should allow Obasanjo reduce him to an ant in his moral tea cup.