Game Politics, Fiscal Sharing And The Rest Of Us

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

Well, Obasanjo’s government has come and gone and yours truly is still out here in Africa‘s most populous black nation doing his own thing; and not in anyway shape or form linked to any government in this nation, then and now. Unlike the character assassins that cannot survive outside of government, but indulge themselves in primitive tactics of intimidation, I have a job I love and a life I cherish outside the corridors of power. I do not hold views based on any expedient considerations or on the expectations of personal benefits. It’s those who do precisely that that accuse others of such motives because they are simply projecting and transposing their essential selves and inner mercenary instincts and motivations onto others. I pay them no mind because they are unworthy of my time.

I am therefore paying this tribute in the firm belief and conviction that honour is due to whoever deserves it, whether it’s Obasanjo, Okonjo Iweala, el Rufai, Charles Soludo, Oby Ezekwesili, Dora Akinyili, Nuhu Ribadu, ex-governors Attah, Duke, Odili, Saraki, Muazu, and and many other bright stars, who have made a difference in the lives of their peoples in their respective offices. Obasanjo led the pack. There is no question, even in the camp of his political foes, that ex-President Obasanjo deserves our honour for his selfless service to his fatherland. And, even Obasanjo’s most acidic critic who had been pouring out vitriol on him knows that he was no more than a pathetic ant tugging at the feet of the elephantine Obasanjo.

Obasanjo is not only a Nigerian but a continental institution. He was the greatest African of his time. This is no praise singing but simply acknowledging a fact and reality that was embraced by the world. World leaders such as Bill Clinton, George Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair, UN Secretary General, Anan, World Bank Chief, Paul Wolfowitcz, and many others, have severally, publicly voiced their admiration for and acknowledgement Obasanjo’s un-quantifiable achievements for Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. Who am I then to withhold my compliments to this great son of Africa? Who am I not to give honor to which it’s due?

The former president introduced desperately needed reforms. High oil prices have given Nigeria a windfall that would once have gone into senior officials’ pockets. Instead, a new Excess Crude Earnings Account, open to public scrutiny, holds these funds, and currently contains £4.6 billion. But huge sums are still squandered by Nigeria‘s 36 states and 774 local governments, all based on shameless political patronage. Public funds are used to buy off opponents, while vastly inflated contracts are awarded to the relatives or cronies of officials, in return for large kickbacks.

But nothing in Nigeria today compares with the venality of previous rulers. The sums looted by past leaders comfortably exceed the £155 billion of oil revenues reaped in the last 30 years. At present, perhaps £55 billion of private Nigerian assets languish in overseas bank accounts, according to western analysts – enough to repay the country’s entire foreign debt more than twice over. Critics say that corruption has become so deeply embedded in the political system that it can be dealt with only by a completely new approach and a new government.

Is it true that Obasanjo is a misunderstood leader who really meant well in the eight years he was president? Those who eulogise him say the hallmark of leadership is the ability to take hard decisions without minding whose ox is gored. And because Obasanjo, according to them, took very hard decisions, he therefore qualifies to be inducted into the country’s hall of great leaders. But isn’t that too simplistic an argument to make? Nothing could be more fallacious. If the ability to take hard decisions – whatever that means – is the trademark of leadership, then General Sani Abacha also qualifies as a great Nigerian leader. Or who could have taken harder decisions than acclaimed African villains such as the late Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, etc? In recent times, the argument has changed. If you dare criticise Obasanjo for dragging Nigeria back in an era when the resolve of most world leaders, even those in the Third World countries, seem to be ‘forward ever, backward never’ his apologists accuse you of being intellectually lazy. They ask if there is no other issue to discuss. If you suggest that the man should be made to account for his eight years of ruinous administration, they counter that the man is no longer the president and therefore should be left alone. But how can we leave him alone when the ghost he unleashed on the nation haunts us daily? How can we forget the man when the evil that he did while in office continue to dog our every step? How can we leave Obasanjo alone when we have not left the likes of General Sani Abacha alone, almost a decade after his death? There is no single day since he was forced to quit power on May 29 that new facts are not emerging concerning the level of corruption in the eight years that Obasanjo held sway as Nigeria‘s president.

Little wonder that most world leaders who, indubitably through their intelligence network knew how rancid things became in the country even when the man was busy lying to himself and all who cared to listen that he was taking Nigeria to the next level, are treating him like a leper. While other African leaders who served their people selflessly are being rewarded with continental and global awards, Obasanjo, the man who sees himself as the best thing that happened to Africa after Nelson Mandela, has been ignored. The former leader of the most populous black nation in the world, a man who hugs international limelight as if his life depends on it, is today no longer invited to any gathering of world and African leaders even when he makes overtures. Who says the evil that men do does not live with them?

Today, Obasanjo looks up to the Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel, for hollow leadership awards and for company, Lamidi Adedibu’s Molete home has become a sanctuary. Of all the crimes Obasanjo committed against Nigerians, perhaps the most heinous is the unconscionable sale of the country’s patrimony to himself and his cronies. How could a man who claims to mean well device a scheme- privatisation programme – through which, in eight years, he divested Nigerians of their stake in almost all their strategic assets? Arguably, the worst of these cases was the sale of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) to Trans National Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp), a company Obasanjo is a shareholder, on July 3, 2006. In selling Nigeria’s strategic telecommunication asset to Transcorp, all the rules were bent because of Obasanjo’s interest in the Transcorp which became the core investor after Nasir el-Rufai’s attempt, as head of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), to impose Pentascope on the company failed. It is heart-warming that at long last, stakeholders in the industry together with the government and the Senate have agreed to review this vexing exercise.

Nigerians must just take the bull by the horn and put their arms around their destiny. They must take money from anyone one who offered them money but refuse to vote for them. They must ask for the basic things of life other than elephant projects that are making those in government richer and the poor masses poorer. Those abroad who are more feckless than the ones in Nigeria must come together to identify honest and patriotic Nigerians and sponsor them for political offices, of course not on the platform of PDP or AC. They must discontinue acting like crabs in the basket, running after people in office. When AD was in power, we had AD in United Kingdom and the United States. As soon as Obasanjo succeeded in using military strategy to dislodge AD out of power, majority of Nigerians abroad rushed to PDP. How unprincipled, unpatriotic, and politically senseless can they be? One can make weak excuses for those in Nigeria, what kind of excuses can we make for those abroad who are looking for power for power sake? A lot of them have asked me to dump National Conscience Party for the party that can win whereas the winning party is destroying our people and the nation.

With this kind of mentality, Nigerians would continue to be scorns everywhere in the world. Nigerians at home, must once and for all, decide to fast and listen carefully to those seeking elective offices and stop asking for money for votes. This is the only way we can get out of shackles of want, bad leadership and disease. The police must also know those fighting for their rights are fighting for all of us, and thus must be seen to be enforcing the laws for national interest and not for the interests of the people in power. One must give kudos to the Judiciary, they have tried and I have high hope that they will continue to try.

The same thing I told my own aging father and mother. This is the situation created by your parents, if you don’t learn from it, your own children would be worse. To keep hope alive is in your hand and there is no way you can be hopeful when you ask politicians to give you money for votes. Your hopes would be dashed, if your parents keep praising current governors because they know them personally, or because they are benefiting from them. Your hopes would be dashed if you keep bugging relatives abroad to keep sending you money without encouraging them to help you fix the system so that you would not continue to be liabilities on them. Your hopes will be nipped in the bud, if your relatives abroad allow you to put so much pressure on them to the extent that they start having heart attacks as we are witnessing in Nigerian community abroad. Your future is in your hand my fellow sojourners in life.

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