Nigeria Matters

$10 Billion Darkness: Obasanjo’s Expensive Gift To Nigerians

This is an example of a country that has fallen down; it has collapsed. This house has fallenChinua Achebe

I never for once hid my deep-seated conviction that little or no governance took place in Nigeria throughout the eight dark years of protracted nightmare that former President Olusegun Obasanjo encumbered the ground as Nigeria’s most flamboyant pretender on the throne. The only thing that has continued to pain me is that the man he carefully selected and imposed on the nation through a phantom election is unwilling or afraid (or both) to probe his regime and prove me wrong.

Nigerians would recall that I never ceased raising the alarm in this column that our country, in the hands of Obasanjo, was simply a decaying, rickety, old truck, severely vandalized and abandoned on the roadside, and resented by even the fellow that claims to be its driver. I wrote a number of essays in this column with these captions: A Nation Not Governed,” “Nigeria: The High Cost Of Neglect,” “Still An Abandoned Project”, “No doubt, This House Has Collapsed,” “Waiting For Our Unprofitable Servants,” and some others, saying and emphasizing just the same thing.

I had insisted on this page, that very soon, Nigerians would begin to face the grim reality of the cruel neglect to which their country was subjected by a ruler who was not sincere enough to tell his countrymen that, actually, he neither meant well for anybody nor had any clear idea about how Nigeria could be steered out of the woods. Almost everyday now, hideous facts emerge to prove that I had even understated the matter. But am I happy that I have been vindicated? No, I am very sad, and my heart bleeds, because my beloved country, with every potential for greatness and mass prosperity, has for many years now been visited with the worst form of cruelty and plunder by men and women without any bit of conscience and compassion. I only wish they would just let go, quit the stage, and allow men of conscience and vision to come on board to commence the process of reclamation.

Before the gang of Nigeria-haters led by the “evil genius” in Minna, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, conspired with Gen Theophilous Damjuma and some other incredibly wealthy generals and politicians to inflict Obasanjo on the nation, the governments we had had in Nigeria had managed to invest modest efforts to, at least, under-perform and under-achieve. But when Obasanjo came in, he simply decided that the best way to “move Nigeria forward” was just to sit by and watch it decay, while he did well for himself to become, in the estimation of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State and some other people, one of the richest billionaires in Africa.

His was such an unserious government, without any purpose, clear-cut direction, and even the tiniest hint of concern and/or determination to change anything in Nigeria. Each time the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) beamed the offensive images of the “Obasanjo boys and girls” at their so-called Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, what one usually saw was a gaggle of palpably unserious men and women, holding hands, laughing with reckless abandon, clowning, backslapping, tickling and hugging each other, and generally having a jolly good time in a most vulgar and obscene fashion. In fact, anyone who mistook those footages for images of a riotous party of some gin-soaked high school delinquents should be forgiven. On a particular day, VANGUARD Newspaper published on its front-page the picture of a male and female member of that incestuous Cabinet holding one another in a highly suggestive, most irresponsible, and compromising manner that alerted the nation to the quality of minds that converge for that clearly unproductive meeting every Wednesday. Also, another picture was published where the Baba himself was dutifully adjusting the headgear of a particular minister while she waited patiently, with her face radiating with rapture and ecstasy.

There could be more horribly obscene scenes that may have escaped the lenses of the photojournalists. Indeed, there was just no way anything good could have come out of such a enclave of boundless frivolity, where all those merry light-minded fellows gathered for fun-filled and obviously lust-soaked FEC sessions. It is therefore not surprising that the regime was a huge failure, except, that many who had starred in it had also done well for themselves, like their jolly old boss. The only loser is, of course, the nation, which was left in terrible ruins after eight years of noisy unproductivity and grand advertisement of visionlessness and incompetence.

Following the horrible, unnamable scandal which hit the Obasanjo family recently, a newsmagazine had gone to town last week with a detailed report on the kind of nauseating relationship that flourished between Obasanjo and the many women that worked under him in the unmissed, God-forsaken, “woman-friendly” regime. It was a very disgusting report, which every decent mind would hope were not true. But assuming the lurid details presented there were true, how could any productive venture had taken place under such an ungodly environment?

Well, thank God, the nightmare is over, even though, we now have as our leader a man whose direction and purpose are yet to become clear to anyone, even, perhaps, himself. What might happen in the next few days and weeks, if you ask me, is that the tremor which hit the Obasanjo family following his son, Gbenga’s grave allegations may replicate in various degrees in the several homes of the ladies that had worked in the last regime. I can imagine many jealous husbands looking their wives in the face and asking: tell me the truth, darling, were you involved? So, disgusting.

An opportunity once presented itself for me to know the feeling of some of the characters in the now expired circus show in Aso Rock towards my articles when one of the most passionate defenders and promoters of the failed regime, Mrs. Obiagaeli Ezekwesili, then Education Minister, came to Independent. When we met, she looked me in the face and called me “the angry man.” Indeed, the point she was trying to pass across did not elude me. I saw her remark as an indirect way of informing me that they had already classified me as just another “angry Nigerian”, and so nothing I wrote could move them.

Now, Mrs. Ezekwesili is working for the World Bank, and it was probably not a coincidence that President Umar Musa Yar’Adua would choose the occasion of her recent visit to Nigeria to tell the nation that Obasanjo, under whom she had served as “Madam Due Process” and Education Minister, had squandered the nation’s $10 billion while pretending to fix the power sector, yet Nigerians are still trapped in an impenetrable, choking darkness. Of course, that was a nice way of telling “Madam Due Process” to her very face that she was also guilty, having failed to raise any finger to check that kind of mindless squander-mania and prodigality right under her nose.

The deepening crises in the power sector regularly reminds me of how Mr. Liyel Imoke, the current Governor of Cross River State, had, while he was Obasanjo’s Minister of Power and Steel, raised the people’s hope and callously dashed it. Imoke had gathered some journalists somewhere and gleefully showed them video clips of the “wonderful achievements” he had recorded in the power sector. It sounded too good to be true. He had proudly announced that the nation would soon even have more megawatts than it needed, just within a few months. He showed the power plants he was building, and announced the dates many of them would be commissioned to the delight of his listeners. But nobody in that gathering suspected that Imoke was involved in mere film tricks, to waste everybody’s time.

Yes, Obasanjo had actually commissioned those “power plants,” but what the nation eventually saw were mere deadwoods, that only occupied spaces here and there. What we now hear is that the Balogun Owu had commissioned uncompleted projects. I will still return to this subject, for a more detailed treatment, because it pains me so much that Imoke had deceived his audience and the nation on this very important subject that touches the very life of Nigerians. Indeed, instead of anyone noticing any improvement in the power sector due to the Imoke/Obasanjo power plants, the deterioration that has set in has become even worse.

Where is Imoke’s targeted 10,000 megawatts, which, going by the dates he had announced, the nation would have got by now? Could it be that the contracts for the construction of the power plants were given to people with no proven experience in the area for reasons that are less than patriotic?

Not too long ago, we heard that Ms. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, Obasanjo’s first(?) daughter, and her Austrian friends were given contracts to build power plants, even when it was clear they had no previous experience in that sector. Well, as everyone now knows, the whole thing ended so sordidly, with each party in the grand perfidy against the nation, spilling the bin against the other, with Nigeria, of course, being the ultimate loser. Who cares? Why are these people always treating their fellow citizens like lesser beings, just because they are in power? Why?

Indeed, only a thorough probe can tell the nation why Obasanjo had used the intimidating sum of $10 billion to purchase for Nigerians thicker and more suffocating darkness than they have ever experienced. The manufacturing sector in Nigeria is under serious threat. Many companies have closed down due to the high cost of doing business here, occasioned by the equally high cost of purchasing diesel to run countless generators.

Any probe that fails to unearth how U$10 billion could only purchase us darkness instead power supply that would have illuminated our lives would be useless. Totally useless! Indeed, all those implicated in this scam must be brought to book before all Nigerians whom they had cheated and severely traumatized.

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