With the possible exception of the United States, Nigeria is the world’s greatest Father Christmas in peace keeping missions around the world. We did it in the Congo. We sure did it in Sierra Leone, if you remember ECOMOG, and more recently, we are doing it in Liberia. We were more than prepared to do it in the war-torn Ivory Coast and in South Africa and any other part of the globe where our help is needed. I am sure we may have done it in Iraq under the auspices of the UN, although few of our leaders have the courage to openly admit it, because of our country’s sensitivity not to be seen as taking part in a war that is perceived in most parts of the Middle East as an attempt to subjugate Islam or minimize its power around the world.
My point is that we are ever so generous in volunteering peace keeping forces in Africa and around the world, even though the majority of our citizens are wallowing in abject poverty, and our Nation is classified among the poorest nations, and one of the most corrupt in the entire Universe. We volunteer troops for peacekeeping duties because most of our leaders have seen the budget for such international deployment of troops beyond borders, as another Security Vote whose disbursement they are not obligated to explain to anybody at home, like they do in America. They also see it as a huge conduit pipe to conveniently siphon away public money into their own private pockets, as clearly demonstrated by IBB and Abacha who made his billions using surrogates like Alhadji Arisekola and Nzeribe as major Food and Weapon contractors to ECOMOG.
Our country used to complain of poverty when crude oil sold for 17 dollars per barrel, and we are still complaining today when a barrel sells for 60 or 65 dollars per barrel. Because the Federal Government is leading the way in this horrific observation, many of the States of Nigeria which are now classified as oil producing States and therefore entitled to share from the 13% of Federal revenues set aside for them from oil which now runs into billions of Naira are similarly behaving as if nothing has changed in their financial buoyancy.
A good example is Ondo State where Governor Agagu and his Government receive today, in just one month in Federal Revenue, what Pa Adekunle Ajasin used to receive for Ondo State in all of his four to six years in office. Governor Olumilua to whom the same Agagu was Deputy, had received nothing, but mere peanuts for the few years he was Governor. The difference is that Pa Ajasin and Olumilua still managed to pay teachers’ and civil servants’ salaries when they were due, but Agagu, for reasons best known to him, was not able to do that promptly, as we speak. Where is all the money going? The short answer is to his own private vault where no less than 2 billion Naira is reportedly being set aside for his re-election in 2007, regardless of Obasanjo’s hollow War against Coruption.
Much of that money is being squandered and stolen to purchase properties abroad and to set up privately owned moneymaking ventures in London and many other European capitals. Part of that money is being transferred abroad to build private refineries in places like Ecuador, and to buy properties across Europe and the United States in the name of girl friends and their children, as clearly shown by the Governor-general of Ijaw nation, who had no qualms forfeiting to the British Government his more than 10 million of his fraudulently acquired assets in Britain, for jumping bail and running back to Nigeria under cover of darkness, dressed as a Yoruba “Onfoloke” woman with an expensive lace attire with lip stick, jewelry and shoes to match.
I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw his portrait on the Internet. If the Ijaw Nation Governor-general does not have money and other properties and assets stacked somewhere else in Nigeria, and around the world, he would have thought twice before jumping bail. I will be surprised, if the British Government is going to waste her time and resources going after him to extradite him to London to face justice. What for? The cash and the properties Alamieyeseigha or whatever his name is has already forfeited, is more than adequate compensation to Britain. The British need not waste a dime on him. Sooner or later the Governor is going to come again to Britain with false documents when all the noise about his escape has died down, and when he is no longer Governor.
If I were the British Prime Minister, I would not even bother seeking extradition. Once a thief, always a thief. The terrible Governor would soon venture to go retrieve some of his other assets elsewhere in Europe or the United States. The British Government can then use their Interpol contact to grab him in any of those countries where the obnoxious immunity laws of Nigeria do not apply. They can then bring him back to London to serve his term, before going back to enjoy the rest of his loot till he dies.
I happen to know the Governor’s young unmarried daughter just out of College in Los Angeles. The young unemployed lady has been buying and living in properties worth more than 2 million dollars in the Hollywood section of LA, and driving the latest models of Mercedes SUV and salon, Lexus SUV and salon and Lambhogini. She receives an allowance of 10,000.00 per month from her filthy rich father to maintain her lifestyle in LA. I am sure there are other properties bought in her name elsewhere around the United States by her heartless father who now ascribe to God his miraculous escape from London, in a made for the movie kind of scenario that has managed to fool the British and the French security men on both sides of the two countries.
Our leaders want Nigeria to actively participate in peacekeeping missions not just for the sake of helping other African countries or neighbors, secure their freedom. They relish it, because it offers them limitless opportunities to steal public money, and to acquire properties abroad both for themselves and for their children. Not too long ago, the only son of the late first lady was rumored to have purchased a home for 78 million dollars somewhere in the United States. Some would doubt the veracity of that report because American Laws have a way of finding out purchases made from money laundering. I seriously doubt the validity of that claim though, when I realize that the Bayelsa State Governor’s daughter, a mere student at LA, has had quite a few multimillion properties purchased in her name by her father without any problem.
When I bought my last property in New York for only 375,000.00 only a few years back, I had to show the sources of my income, to the last penny. Not so in every State in America. The Laws differ from one State to another. Some of the foreign countries we deal with couldn’t care less about the source of your money. They depend on such looted money to keep their own economy going, like Switzerland does. The same countries like America often encourage Nigeria to embark on such peacekeeping missions abroad, because they knew such transactions are carried out in dollars, to begin with, and they know, it is a win-win situation for them. The Nigerian leaders could steal as much as they want. They know such funds are invariably invested or used to buy properties or weapons in their countries.
Now to the real crux of the matter. We all know how much Nigeria has stood up for South Africa in the Apartheid years. If any country could be cited as being the brain behind the ANC eventual victory in her determined struggle against Apartheid in South Africa, Nigeria was number one. We did so in cash and kind, and with our sweat and blood, so to speak. We did the same in Sierra Leone and more recently in Liberia. South Africa is today the leading nation in Africa without any doubt. Nigeria is a distant second to South Africa and we have so much to learn and emulate from South Africa in terms of leadership and democratic maturity and civility.
Madiba Nelson Mandela is without any question the foremost African Statesman that is widely respected all over the world. His was a virtuoso performance, and he knew how to quit the stage, while the ovation was loudest. He did not have to be appealed to, not to run for office the second time or not to disrespect the South African Constitution. If, for any reason, the immunity from public prosecution for a corrupt President or Politician had found a place in the draft of the South African Constitution, Mandela would have been the first to shoot such a provision down, because he sought the presidency to set a standard below which any future South African leader cannot afford to fall below.
In that unique sense, Mandela was a role model indeed. When he initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, he did it for the sole purpose of putting a closure to the long years of recriminations, oppression and distrust that has existed between the Whites, the Blacks, the Indians in a pluralistic society that South Africa has become. Mandela was a leader in a million. Our own Obasanjo was a far cry from Mandela whichever way you slice it.
While Obasanjo and his handlers were busy looking for ways and means to review the Nigerian Constitution in a way to smuggle in a provision for a third term for his own selfish end, Mandela was actively busy finding and grooming a successor in Thabo Mbeki that would carry South Africa to loftier heights after Mandela is retired or dead. Mandela behaved more like Mahatma Ghandhi, the founding father of the Indian Nation who never, for one day, held a public office in India. Ghandhi only led a movement to change India for good, and his legacies still remained intact till tomorrow. India is today, one of the most stable democracies around the world where male and female Prime Ministers have been elected and where no single Party has dominated the politics of India like the PDP is attempting to do under the Balogun of Owu.
Whenever I hear Nigerians agonize over the subtle or hidden agenda of Obasanjo to surreptitiously plant himself and his Party back to power for a third term in 2007, I cannot help, but wonder how far apart the brand of leadership offered by Obasanjo and Mandela truly is. Mandela has clearly foreseen a South Africa where the Opposition led by DE Clark could one day, come to power again, if for any reason the ANC did not live up to its mandate and promise. Mandela evidently does not believe in a one party dictatorship. Period. Obasanjo, on the other hand, is happy, and he wants the PDP, regardless of its imperfections and iniquities, which are legion, to continue to dominate Nigerian politics. How, for goodness sake, could a Party that has produced the likes of IBB, Anninih, Enwerem, Wabara, Ngige, Uba, Omisore, Dariye and now Alamieyeseigha, to mention a few, ever believe it could win any free and fair election in Nigeria, if Nigerian voters are not just being taken for a ride?
The situation is as bad as Alamieyeseigha or the PDP still nursing the hope they could win any free and fair election in today’s Bayelsa with all the water that has passed under the bridge!
I am surprised that Obasanjo is even considering doing a third term, with his track record and his Party’s track record in the last six to seven years. Yes, he may have been successful in getting debt relief for Nigeria, on the short run, but if you discount that achievement and his belated but one-sided effort at fighting Corruption, I think Nigeria is decidedly worse off than it was, before his second coming. His leadership has offered more liability than asset, if the truth must be told. His War on Corruption is a horrendous failure.
The propensity of his Government to put in the wrong people into power by crooked means is alarming. The exchange rate of the Naira is much lower today, than it has ever been in our history. Starvation has hit the roof as Nigerians now buy a bag of Rice for 5,000.00 to 10,000.00 Naira or more to give a conservative estimate. A liter of 87 Octane Petrol is selling for close to 150.00 Naira. University education has hit the rock bottom while public University fee is unaffordably high. Unemployment in Nigeria has become a total epidemic leading to uncontrollable brain drain everywhere you look.
Compared to South Africa which we helped to liberate we are doing much worse today by any standard. Our network of roads and highways is nothing to write home about, and our hospitals in Nigeria have become glorified clinics. The last time I visited home in 2004, I had cause to visit the old University College Hospital at Ibadan to visit a patient. What I saw was a horrific eye-opener. Nigeria is literarily dead, in my judgment.
If you think the comparison with South Africa has little or no basis in view of their head start under the white Apartheid moguls, how about our comparison with Liberia which has just elected the first woman President in the whole of the Continent?
Liberia may have passed thru the shadow of death in their evolution as an independent State, but their voters have proved, for once, that they are more rational and sophisticated than Nigerian voters taken together. In the first Presidential Election recently held in Moronvia, the two top candidates were a former Soccer champion named Weah and a Harvard University graduate and former Minister of Finance under Charles Taylor named Ellen Sirleaf. In the second run-off election that followed, Liberian voters had a chance to rationally pick who has the best chance to realistically confront the problems faced by Liberia, at this point in their history. They have unanimously gone for Ellen giving her 59% of the vote in an election closely supervised by international observers from all over the world.
In Nigeria, Mr. Weah would still have won just like Tafawa Balewa, a school teacher was picked as first Prime Minister of Nigeria in 1959 over and above Ogbuefi Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe whose party had formed a coalition Government with the then Northern Peoples Congress led by Sardauna Bello. In 1979 and 1983, Nigerian voters voted again for Shehu Shagari, another school teacher, over and above the late Nnamdi Azikiwe and late Obafemi Awolowo. On June 12, 1993, the Nigerian voters had done the right thing by voting massively for Alhadji M.K.O. Abiola over and above Alhadji Tofa, his Kano opponent, but IBB in his blatant stupidity and dictatorship, had mindlessly annulled the Election on a flimsy excuse. In 1999 the Nigerian voters again voted for General Obasanjo over and above a worthy candidate in Oluyemi Falae of Ondo State in an election believed to have been rigged, and in 2003, the Nigerian voters reelected the PDP and Obasanjo in the most outrageous rigging the country has ever seen, as clearly proved in the trials of Tafa Balogun, the agent provocateur the Federal Government had used to massively rig the elections in favor of the PDP and Obasanjo.
Liberian voters would not stand for that kind of cheat. They had put sentiments aside and they have given a landslide victory to the candidate adjudged to be the better of the two. They knew they were not voting for a Liberian delegate to the World Olympics Committee. They were voting for the President of Liberia and they needed the a round peg in a round hole, not a square peg. They had proved that a new wind of change is truly blowing through Africa and the world at large. Today the new German Chancellor is a woman named DeMarco, and the new Prime Minister of Mozambique is also a woman, and there is a chance another woman who is now Deputy President, may well be the most eligible successor to Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. Even Am
erica, the world’s greatest Democracy may well have two distinguished women running for President in 2008, in the two major political parties. That is an interesting trend to watch.
I see in this article, a potent lesson that Nigerian voters can learn from little Liberia. Liberian voters appear more politically savvy than the Nigerian voters at this point, and they may well be on their way to a more stable future. Ellen Sirleaf did contest and lose before, but this time she has won, and won with dignity, proving once and for all, that any opposition Party in a good and stable Democracy should be seen as a Government in waiting like is done in all civilized countries the world over.
There is no reason, at all, why Buhari and the ANPP or the newly formed MDD cannot win the next presidential and general Election in Nigeria, if it can convince the voters, it is quite different from the existing PDP which has become an albatross on the neck of Nigeria. Why not, if not?
I rest my case.