Nigeria Matters

Obasanjo’s Probe: Mr. Ribadu’s Redeeming Job

The single most formidable threat to President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s integrity and acceptance in Nigeria today, aside the revolting, horribly manipulated elections that brought him to power a couple of months ago, is his reluctance or refusal to probe the regime of his predecessor in office, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, widely believed to be the most corrupt since Nigeria came into being.

Each time the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) docked one former Governor, Commissioner or Council Chairman, with characteristic fanfare and din, the feeling out there is that it was merely engaged in some diversionary operation, dragging about petty thieves before television cameras, all in an attempt to give Nigerians the impression that it was sincerely fighting corruption.

Certainly, the Federal Government and EFCC cannot pretend to be unaware that only very few Nigerians actually believe that they are sincerely fighting corruption.

When Obasanjo came out of prison, it was public knowledge (which also worked in his favour at that time) that he was in abject poverty, living on the generousity of friends like Theophilous Danjuma and Atiku Abubakar.

In fact, one of his closest ministers told the nation that Obasanjo had only twenty thousand naira in 1999. Now how can anyone explain the sudden transformation of this paltry sum to the incredible wealth the man possesses today?

In fact, the joke out there is that while the EFCC Chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, is at one side of town “fighting corruption,” Obasanjo is at the other end neatly arranging his billions, expanding his business empire, and consolidating his wealthy dynasty.

Obasanjo single-handedly ran the Petroleum Ministry for eight years, with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) directly under his command, yet, till date, no one can claim to have seen any copy of the audited accounts of that enclave of corruption since 1999. The whole thing was run like a family business.

Again, a former Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Azie, was hurriedly sacked for daring to produce a damning report detailing the mind-blowing corruption and financial rascality that thrived in the Obasanjo regime. Now, are we to take it that the EFCC is neither aware of that report, nor how to reach out to Mr. Azie to come and throw more light on the report?

What of the recent Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) scandal which threw up shocking revelations about how mindless profligacy and abuse of office were given a most vulgar and repelling definition, where money was frivolously withdrawn to either buy exquisite cars for “women friends” or finance countless affairs that were totally outside the PTDF mandate.

How much did the Tenure Elongation madness consume? How much was expended to destablize and effect the various changes in the leadership of the National Assembly in order to install stooges that helped Obasanjo turn the National Assembly into an appendage of the Presidency? Does anyone still remember the N10 billion belonging to the long-suffering people of Jigawa State “donated” by their former Governor, Mr. Saminu Turaki, to the Self Perpetuation Agenda?

Given the overwhelming stench oozing from these hideous cases, what kind of corruption can anyone claim to be fighting without having them on top of his list? Or are Obasanjo and his privileged mob enjoying perpetual immunity from investigation and prosecution?

Only last Friday, Daily Independent reported that an NGO, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), had sent a petition to the EFCC voicing the general feeling among Nigerians that there was no way Obasanjo’s massive investments could have been financed by his legitimate income.

“We are aware that the annual salary of Nigeria’s President is not up to N38 million. But even if [Obasanjo] earned N60 million per annum for seventy years, he would not have up to N5 billion. But [he] is currently worth about N70 billion by our conservative estimate,” the group asserted. It also called for a probe of the “several billions of Naira pumped into the power sector” and the “allegations that Obasanjo overshot the budget of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as stated in the report on Budget Performance issued by the House of Representatives in 2005.”

And while all these were yet to be scratched, the Siemens bribery scandal exploded on our face, and to the best of my knowledge, none of the Obasanjo ministers implicated in the sleaze has expressed any surprise that his name made the list.

One should think that instead of countless refutations to widespread claims that the EFCC is only after predetermined and selected targets, Ribadu can easily redeem the image of the anti-graft commission by simply gratifying the deep yearning of Nigerians to probe the Obasanjo regime and make the findings public. Nigerians want to know the view of the Yar’Adua Government on the Obasanjo regime on this issue of corruption. They want the EFCC to say what it has found about the regime, to enable them to make an informed decision on the sincerity or otherwise of the whole anti-graft business.

Mr. Nuhu Ribadu and his EFCC can no longer afford to postpone this any further.

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