I had written some time ago that ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was guilty of not taking responsibility for anything (An Abject Abdication of Responsibility) I have been proven right almost a year later, with his now famous self-righteous and indignant response to BBC’s Hard Talk interview where he was visibly angry and exasperated by the questions thrown mercilessly at him to explain himself on allegations of his government’s, and himself being very corrupt.
In a way, I really feel sorry for Obasanjo, because he will go down in history as a leader who refused to take responsibility for his actions or inactions; a man who abdicated his responsibility for 140 million people; a man who, despite any experience, intelligence and education he might possess, refused to acknowledge that as a leader of a people, he MUST assume responsibility for them. If he is shy of being responsible, or does not want that onus imposed on him, he should never have tried to be a leader. Even if it turns out that Obasanjo was not personally corrupt, he is still guilty of not acknowledging that he was, for eight years, responsible for his people, their lives, their sufferings, their hopes, their security, their well-being and their overall governance in all its ramifications.
There goes his quest to be regarded as a Statesman out of the window. Neither will he ever be regarded as a great leader of his people. This is a waste of a lifetime and lost opportunity to redeem himself.
However, we must accept one thing from his utterances, and this is something every one of us will be guilty of: I do not expect anybody, any leader of any country, to go in front of the world press and admit to being corrupt. Unless such person has a gun pointed at him or her. That is a fact.
My issue with Obasanjo then is his abject abdication of responsibility and refusal to take the blame, as a good and great leader should do. If he himself was not corrupt and members of his family, his party, his government and even ordinary Nigerians were corrupt, then, as the leader, he was corrupt. In his interview, he practically admitted that people in his government were corrupt, but tried desperately to absolve himself of any blame. This in itself was corruption, because he knew about their complicity in the corrupt practices and murderous games that they were involved in, and he never took adequate action. This is not simply a matter of passing the buck, but totally refusing to be accountable.
There are different kinds of responsibility, and I will only mention those apropos to this issue.
Collective responsibility is a concept or doctrine, according to which individuals are to be held responsible for other people’s actions by tolerating, ignoring, or harboring them, without actively collaborating in these actions.
Moral responsibility can refer to two different but related things. First, a person has ‘moral responsibility’ for a situation if that person has an obligation to ensure that something happens. Second, a person has moral responsibility for a situation when it would be correct to morally praise or blame that person for the situation. People who have moral responsibility for an action are usually called moral agents. Agents are creatures that are capable of reflecting on their situation, forming intentions about how they will act, and then carrying out that action.
Social responsibility is an ethical or ideological theory that an entity whether it is a government, corporation, organization or individual has a responsibility to society but this responsibility can be “negative.” In that it is a responsibility to refrain from acting (resistance stance) or it can be “positive,” meaning there is a responsibility to act (proactive stance).
The synonyms of responsibility include accountability, answerability, burden, liability, duty, conscientiousness.
A leader must always take responsibility; otherwise, he’s not a leader. This is the bottom line. I have already written about his culpability (The Trials and Tribulations Of A Leader – several publications, 21 march 2009), so there is no need to mention this again, except to reaffirm Obasanjo’s culpability.
No matter how ex-President Obasanjo tried to absolve himself of corruption, and therefore, responsibility, there are some posers for him:
Where did he get the billions he used to build his University, library and mansion in Otta library and his properties all over the country? And as the president, the universities and indeed the education sector in Nigeria were starved of funding during his tenure, so much so that it is no longer considered a right move by many parents to send their children to Nigerian educational institutions.
Where did the $16 billion power supply fund disappear to? $16 billion and eight years later, where is the light? Obasanjo was going all over the country commissioning several bogus power projects (and other projects in other sectors) estimated in billions of dollars, and yet, Nigerians are suffering from lack of electricity, which is a number one factor holding the development of the country back every day.
What happened to billions spent on road construction and rehabilitations? Even his erstwhile Minister for Roads, the wily Tony Anenih, said recently that being allocated 300 billion naira for roads is one thing, getting the allocation is another matter or something to that effect. What about the billions that now seems to have been carted away by the Chinese for the railway extension and modernisation project?
It was widely reported that when Obasanjo came out of Abacha’s prison, he had just N20, 000 in both cash and assets (His ex-Vice President alleged this). Eight years later, he was owning and selling off everything that Nigeria has, yet he can be bold enough to tell Nigerians and the world that he is not corrupt. Obasanjo Farms is one of the biggest in Nigeria today, with prime farmlands in various states of the federation, yet all the state-owned agricultural farms combined are so unproductive that they cannot feed Nigerians.
Aside from being accused of being corrupt, he has also been accused of being a killer. When he was the president, political assassinations (Bola Ige, Funsho Williams, etc,) prevailed everyday and not a single assassin was ever apprehended during his reign. Since he left office, Nigeria has not recorded any political assassinations. Can we ask Obasanjo why this is so?
Obasanjo’s transfer of power to Yar’Adua is the greatest corruption (political corruption) that he committed on Nigerians and humanity. Apparently, he does not realise that rigging elections is a corrupt practice, and a major corruption category. Political corruption is the use of governmental powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. (And Obasanjo and members of his family, government and party are guilty of this, if he does not realise it). An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption if the act is directly related to their official duties (guilty again). In short, in the political realm, corruption generally undermines democracy and good governance by flouting or even subverting formal processes. Corruption in elections and in legislative bodies reduces accountability and distorts representation in policymaking; corruption in the judiciary compromises the rule of law; and corruption in public administration results in the unfair provision of services. More generally, corruption erodes the institutional capacity of government as procedures are disregarded, resources are siphoned off, and public offices are bought and sold. At the same time, co
rruption undermines the legitimacy of government and such democratic values as trust and tolerance.
I hope Chief Obasanjo now knows that, with all the above, he will be pronounced guilty of corruption, because these are exactly what happened during his tenure in the highest position of the land and therefore he can no longer absolve himself of any responsibility. It is an inconvenient truth for him. For the rest of us, it is a convenient truth that must be told as it is.
As far as most Nigerians are concerned, Obasanjo was the head of a clique of unscrupulously corrupt individuals who have held the country down to its current deplorable affliction. His very poor stint at positively impacting on our lives when he had three rare chances informs our mindset.
Now that he has challenged Nigeria and the Yar’Adua government to directly probe him, we will wait with baited breath to see what President Yar’Adua would do, though I am 100% certain that nothing will ever happen.
The EFCC should also take him up on this challenge – again, perhaps this is another wishful thinking.
The truth? Let it be said always.