Obasanjo’s Kingdom

by Banjo Odutola

The state of the nation in his retirement may not be his dream – it is our reality. In Obasanjo’s Kingdom, there is freedom to associate as stated in the constitution of our nation. But that freedom cannot be exercised because the electoral victory of barely a year ago has become intoxicating. Victory has not brought about governance; it inhibits constitutional expressions. Even the chief of police is happy to join the government to appeal for the last Mass Rally to be cancelled. In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – the police is a tool in the hands of the president and not an unbiased institution of the people.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – the office of the Inspector General of Police is not political. Yet, the IG conducts himself as a card-carrying member of the ruling party. Elections are conducted and the nation condemns the police for its conduct. In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – the Police is commended.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom, lives and properties are meant to be secure. But politicians and ordinary citizens are indiscriminate targets of violence, in the face of which the Nigeria Police seems powerless. The level of insecurity is off the Richter scale. Yet, in Obasanjo’s Kingdom, the Inspector General of Police does not only merit a national award. He was decorated with one.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – the president is regarded a honest and sincere leader. He is a co-founder of Transparency International. But with the present classification of the country as one of the most corrupt in the world; he may have learnt setting up an international body to keep watch of others is ironical; as the same body now condemns the country under his watch. Anyway, In Obasanjo’s Kingdom, there is so much motion and no movement. The president has to be seen to be fighting corruption, yet most prosecutions are heading nowhere.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – basic Business Administration principles are defied; yet, the president travels from one convention to another; one country to another; one economic forum to another; to attract foreign investments. The foreign investors are invited to come and set up shop in a country where Law and Order cannot be guaranteed and common thieves give Police a good hiding.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom, citizens complain of hunger and lack of medical facilities. The president’s concern is for a new aircraft and many of his governors are wasting taxpayers’ monies. The dividend of democracy is not trickling down. It is shared amongst those that are ready to stoop before “Baba” and tell him what he wants to hear. No longer does he like anyone to question his wisdom.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – there is a need for government to curb waste and raise revenue. This is not the first government to realise the need. At the governance of Mr. Ibrahim Babangida, the current president pleaded the milk of human compassion in government policies. Now, the same man seems to have forgotten his plea. The price of petrol renders more of our people poorer because a price hike at any part of the economy delivers inflation of its own. In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – the advice he once offered another Head of State government is too good for him.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – George Orwell in his Animal Kingdom stipulated as one of his seven rules that all animals are equal. It is not so in this Kingdom. Imagine a president whose administration claims it is serious in battling corruption. He appoints cabinet ministers to share in the burden of the State. The Constitution of the nation stipulates the remuneration of all public officials. But in Obasanjo’s Kingdom – the president decides, after engaging the services of ministers to pay different salaries. If this does not invite such ministers earning a fraction of what ‘dollar’ ministers earn, to purloin public funds – is there a more attractive proposition to resist stealing when a minister realises he works just as hard as another who is paid far more? Has this president not created grounds for envy within his own cabinet?

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – at his Atlanta Dialogue four years ago, he saw nothing wrong in Nigerians seeking better lives out of the country. He sought to consolidate the gains in Diaspora by encouraging the formation of an organisation. Like most good intentions he has spurned, the organisation remains dysfunctional like the Nigerian economy.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – his namby-pamby appeals for Diasporans to return home took a new turn when he stated the current Finance Minister was noted at a previous assignment and thereafter was invited to join his government. Hence, Diasporans must return home to be noted and granted public appointments. Somewhat, the arithmetic is skewed. Assuming only one per-cent of Diasporans with excellent careers abroad took the president at his invitation. Is the president saying there are adequate appointments in public service to offer generous emoluments? I submit that in this Obasanjo’s Kingdom – the president engages the mouth before engaging his brains.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – the president complained about the state of Federal Highways where Mr. Tony Anenih had spent Billions of Naira and had sweet nothing to showcase. Yet, Mr. Anenih is not at a commission of Inquiry to explain what he spent money on; he is appointed the Chairman of Board of Trustees in the president’s ruling party.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – a promise is not a promise. It is simple grandstanding. This is the president who promised to make the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) work; it is now over five years and several billions of Naira expended – the situation is as bad as the day he made his promise.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – a Commission of Inquiry is set up; Mr. Justice Oputa and other eminent Nigerians travel not only around the country; their sojourn took them to the hearts of man’s inhumanity to another. The nation co-operated and with the findings of the Commission, many citizens were prepared to forgive and move ahead with their lives. In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – the government is still to release the report of the findings. There is also the Okigbo Commission report. Well, in Obasanjo’s Kingdom that report cannot be found. It is lost.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – the man does not care whose Ox is gored for as long as the Ox of Mr. Ibrahim Babangida remains sacred. Even though he advised Mr. Babangida to attend the Oputa Commission and his advice was ignored – a national honour was still appropriate for Mr. Babangida. It so much happens that in this Kingdom, there are so many inconsistencies.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom, a former leader of the House of Representatives forged qualifications to contest politics; when found out, the full force of the law was not brought to bear. He received presidential pardon. But, when a spurious court order was issued to withdraw security operatives from an elected Governor, the law must be allowed to run its full course.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom, the president advises Nigerians to be vigilant and protect our nascent democracy. Is it the same democracy that politicians “won” elections with more votes than registered voters? It is a democracy that we must protect for those who do not have our votes and confidence.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – time is not too late for this president to make a mark in the lives of the governed. It is time to create tax-free zones for cottage industries that can sell not only into the home economy, their manufactured wares should be given incentives to export for domiciliary foreign exchange accounts; they must guaranteed employment of the young and offer vocational training.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – it is time that community self-help schemes are encouraged by the Federal Government. These schemes are known to create immediate employment, which in turn fuels local economies.

In Obasanjo’s Kingdom – there was a time the same man eponymous of the Kingdom initiated Operation Feed the Nation (OFN); and that was a time the Nigerian economy boomed. How come at a time the citizen is famished and his same initiative is required – the man chose to become itinerant chasing investors and seeking debts forgiveness. By the way, how much allowances has he and various officials received as out of station allowances. In Obasanjo’s Kingdom chasing foreign investment is another term to empty the treasury.

Does this president realise hope has turned into hopelessness? Does he appreciate national institutions are now bastardised? This Obasanjo’s Kingdom is a theatre of pain and a temple of a lost cause. But, it ought not to be so. Our politics is a ward of liars, murderers and dishonourable men and women. Our politicians serve themselves and not the people. Yet, this president, who is the leader of a political party, does not consider it imperatively urgent that the next set of office holders must be amongst ordinary Nigerians that have affected their immediate environments and denizens. It so much means that if this president refuses to lead in the choice of good people into our political space – the Obasanjo’s kingdom will in years to come remind us of a retired Military General, whose election was a distraction; dream our nightmare; elixir our asphyxia; posturing and promises offered motion and no movement. Yet, he claimed he prayed and like the other president across the ocean in the United States – on missions for God to lead. Is their God the same as the most merciful? If He is – why is there so much suffering in Nigeria; and for the other president – why has his ineptitude and barefaced lies and falsehood heightened terror and insecurity? We may never know. There is the assurance that both men will one day become the history that we will never seek to repeat.

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