Monday, January 25, 2010

Obasanjo is an Honourable Man…

by Simon Kolawole
Honour has a new admirer. Morality has a new sweat heart. His name is Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Speaking at an event in Abuja on Thursday, Obasanjo released his most direct salvos against President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua since the ex-president honourably imposed the Katsina man as his successor in 2007 via elections that were globally considered to be too low for zero, even by Nigerian standards. Listen to Obasanjo: “If you take up an assignment, a job – elected, appointed, whatever it is – and then your health starts to fail and you will not be able to deliver to satisfy yourself and to satisfy the people you are supposed to serve, then there is a path of honour and the path of morality… and if you don’t do that, then you don’t know anything.”
Reacting to an accusation that he deliberately imposed a “sick man” as President to punish Nigerians for rejecting his third term project, Obasanjo launched into self-defence and self-justification in an unforgettable way, revealing all about the President’s kidney ailment and making every effort to reassure us yet again that everything he did while in office was in the best interest of Nigeria. Hear him again: “When in the year 2006, the idea came up as to succession, I was convinced in my mind that a Southerner succeeding me would not augur well for Nigeria… (by the way, that was a nice message for a predominantly Northern audience). Now, I was looking for [a person] who has three important qualities. One, he has enough intellectual capacity to run the affairs of Nigeria. Two, he has sufficient personal integrity to run the affairs of Nigeria. Three, he is sufficiently broad-minded enough – politically, religiously, socially, whatever to manage the affairs of Nigeria.”
Did you notice the fact that, in Obasanjo’s moral thinking, succession had nothing to do with the choice of the voters? He alone decided it was not good for a Southerner to succeed him; he alone listed the criteria of who would succeed him; and he alone decided who would succeed him – no matter how Nigerians decided to vote. We always said our votes never mattered, and the man of honour has confirmed our suspicion again. He was telling us, in other words, that he had pre-determined presidential election results. He’s an honourable man. He insisted he did not pick Yar’Adua as President so that he would not perform, maintaining: “How can I put so much into this country both in peace and in war and I will begin to run it down? If you have fear of God, you will not make that statement.” Those were the words of Obasanjo, the man who fears God.
Let me tell you something about Obasanjo and honour and morality. He is, typically, trying to extricate himself from the Yar’Adua impasse just to win public applause. When Obasanjo started plotting the third term project in 2004 with his political reform conference, he denied nursing any such ambition. Billions of naira went down the drain at the conference which achieved virtually nothing. As his constitutional term limit drew near in 2006, he adopted every tactic in the book to amend the constitution and get a third term. But he kept denying it. He manipulated the polity, unleashed EFCC on his political opponents and did everything he could to perpetuate himself in power. Lawmakers were being offered (or given) N50 million each to vote for third term. He has now indirectly admitted he did not start thinking of succession until 2006 – after the failure of the third term project. And Obasanjo is an honourable man.
While on a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaign tour in 2007, Obasanjo openly said he would send EFCC after Dr. Olusegun Mimiko who was contesting for governorship in Ondo State against his party. Mimiko, on the ticket of the Labour Party, won the election, but INEC denied him his victory until the courts saved him. Adams Oshiomhole’s victory at the Edo polls was initially denied him, no thanks to Obasanjo. Rotimi Amaechi’s candidacy in Rivers State was truncated, no thanks to Obasanjo’s K-leg, although the Supreme Court eventually served justice hot and fresh. Obasanjo plotted and plotted against Dr Chris Ngige as governor of Anambra State to such a ridiculous extent that Ngige was kidnapped by Chris Uba, Obasanjo’s sidekick. Political thugs set the state of fire, burning the Government House in Awka, the state capital.
Obasanjo revealed, in an open letter, that Uba and Ngige were arguing in his presence at Aso Rock. “Uba told Ngige, ‘You know you did not win the election?’ Ngige said, ‘Yes.’ Uba said, ‘Chris, you know Peter Obi won that election? You know what we did to write the results in your favour’,” Obasanjo wrote in a letter to the then chairman of the PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh. “I then told both of them to get out of my presence.” Obasanjo withdrew Ngige’s security, just to appease Uba, and claimed that Ngige was no longer a governor having resigned under duress. He eventually made Uba a member of the PDP Board of Trustees. He got Ngige expelled from the PDP. Lamidi Adedibu unleashed terror on Ibadan and orchestrated the removal of Rashidi Ladoja as governor of Oyo State for failing to deliver public funds to him. Obasanjo watched in conspiracy and applauded it all. And Obasanjo is an honourable man.
When Obasanjo came to power in 1999, he told us the refineries were not working because Gen. Sani Abacha was awarding fuel import contracts to his cronies and family members. During the entire eight years of Obasanjo, we were still importing fuel. The refineries were still down. Fuel import contracts were in trillions of naira. Who got the import contracts? Abacha’s cronies again? Obasanjo’s regime oversaw one of the most non-transparent eras at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Up till today, every attempt to probe the finances of NNPC has been frustrated.
Even the probe of the power sector, with all the billions of dollars that were pumped into it in Obasanjo’s eight years, has been politically frustrated. And Obasanjo is an honourable man.
He is a clever man, no matter your opinion of him. In the days of President Shehu Shagari, Obasanjo kept quiet until he saw a golden opportunity. When the economy began to crumble under the impact of a global economic meltdown, Obasanjo gauged the mood of the public and unleashed a ferocious attack on Shagari. He was applauded. In the days of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Obasanjo always carefully chose the moment. Anytime Nigerians were disenchanted with the government, Obasanjo always issued virulent statements to “align” with the people. Obasanjo likes to be seen as a fighter for the masses.
But for the eight years he was in government, he could not tolerate dissenting voices. People who criticised his government were labelled homosexuals, godless and corrupt. Now that he knows that the public mood is against Yar’Adua’s failure to allow Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan act in his absence, Obasanjo has “aligned” with the public again, preaching honour and morality. Good old Obasanjo.
But can Nigerians be deceived? You may say that we should separate the message from the messenger.
That would be a convenient argument. But anybody who knows Obasanjo very well will surely predict that the man is up to some mischief. He, no doubt, wants to extricate himself from the Yar’Adua debacle. He, no doubt, wants to wash off his hands like the Pontius Pilate, two-and-a-half years after imposing Yar’Adua as President. Let’s just hope that this is all there is to Obasanjo’s public statements of last week. Let’s hope he does not have anything up his sleeve again. Remember, Obasanjo is an honourable man.
And Four Other Things…
Maduekwe at it Again
I got a call late into the night on Thursday, but I was fast asleep. It was from a senior colleague of mine. He said he was in distress. “I was watching an interview Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, granted the BBC. I was thoroughly distressed,” he said. Thank God I did not watch it. One of Maduekwe’s most memorable answers, I was told, was when he was asked how he had been managing our foreign affairs. The Minister replied: “The important thing is to understand the President’s policies, his vision, his goals and once that is understood, and he believes that this Foreign Minister knows what those visions are… he expects the Foreign Minister to know what to do.” Lord have mercy!
Death on the Plateau
Two weeks ago, I wrote on religious crisis in Nigeria while commenting on the blacklisting of the country by the US. I wrote: “The religious conflicts that we experience in Nigeria are usually sparked off by an incident at a particular point in time, given that the atmosphere is permanently tense and polluted with hate, mistrust and resentment.” I was not surprised at all that the recent clashes between Muslims and Christians in Jos, Plateau State, was caused by a “minor” argument over encroachment on a plot of land. Even a little argument over somebody spitting on the road can spark off an orgy of killings. These tensions are permanently there. A little spark sets the city on fire. And Jos will never have peace until the political leaders stop taking sides. The Fulani always defend the Fulani, the Berom always defend the Berom. No conflict can ever be resolved that way. The time for home truth has come, no matter whose ox is gored.
Better Future ahead?
I was very, very delighted that the election in the Etsako constituency of the Edo House of Assembly held peacefully yesterday. The reports as at last night showed that there was no violence. Six persons were arrested for impersonation, which is not a terrible figure. I am saying all this because I was really afraid there was going to be bloodshed. Both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Action Congress (AC) had been talking tough before the election. The withdrawal of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) from the area was seen as a precursor to the rigging of the election by the PDP. I also got reports that parties had stockpiled arms. That there was no major incident is very encouraging. I wish this would be a sign of good things ahead for the electoral system.
Tenure Tinkering
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has now set the term limit for bank CEOs at a maximum of two five-year terms. I have my reservations on the policy, especially how it caught up with CEOs who had served in different banks and whose previous tenures were to be added together in line with the new policy. I agree totally that nobody should be CEO for life, but I still think there is some deficiency in the policy. I believe it should not have taken effect from dozens of years ago. But if it can be demonstrated that this will help in instilling the principles of corporate governance in the banking industry, we cannot argue against it. Let’s just wait and see.

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