I used to think highly of a few things Obasanjo has done as President of Nigeria. I started having a rethinking on passing a conclusive judgment on him because of a few bad moves he has made on issues like his most recent third term gamble and few of the things he had done before. I recall his Administration pushing for the extension of the Land Use Decree in the North to the southern part of Nigeria as a prelude to his acquisition of some thousand hectares of Land for his Ota Farms at a place he knew was going to be in hot demand for economic development, as Lagos becomes too congested and people start moving to the outskirts of Lagos. By that single stroke, Obasanjo has used the opportunity he had as a former Head of State from 1976 to 1979 to secure his own future and economic power.
There is nothing wrong or illegal with his using his position to enrich himself, but I have observed a pattern in his propensity to want to cash in on every opportunity he has as one of the luckiest Nigerians to ever rule our country. I see his plan to establish an Obasanjo Presidential Library while using his connections as President to attract funds and donations from individuals and corporate bodies that have been taking huge contracts in road construction, GSM Telephone contract and petrochemical industries from a Federal Government led by him. It was wrong of him as a self-acclaimed crusader against corruption to start doing that kind of thing while he is still President. He should have waited till he is out of office before doing that.
Obasanjo is sitting on top of Nigerian treasures and is dishing out those treasures to whosoever he likes as president, and doing so with impunity. I could not help but laugh when I read the effusive praise recently showered on him by Thabo Mbeki the current President of South Africa for accepting the verdict of the Nigerian Parliament for rejecting his third term elongation plan. Mbeki has described Obasanjo as a statesman for so doing and calling him the best among African leaders. On the surface such encomiums and expression of solidarity with a brother Head of State would appear normal, but when you remember that Thabo is a business partner of Obasanjo with some interest in companies lifting Nigerian crude oil, you have got to put those encomiums in the right context.
When I think of Obasanjo’s reactions to the Bola Ige’s political assassination and how his Government has so far miserably failed to trace the assassins, I often wonder what kind ofcharacter Obasanjo truly is? He is quite an enigma to me. I have just finished reading a thought-provoking transcript of an interview with the Nigerian Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala moderated by one Paul Vallely and widely publicized on the world wide web and Naija Poltics dot com. I urge everyone of you reading this piece to go read that interview. If you do, you will be seeing a side of Obasanjo that is so attractive and appealing as portrayed by his Finance Minister.
The Minister has spoken of Obasanjo in superlatives in reference to his ironclad determination to bring the Minister on board and to give her all the political backing she needs to do her work as Minister. The Minister has given Obasanjo all the credit for her modest achievement as one of the best Finance Ministers Nigerian has had.
WhatI still cannot understand is why Obasanjo would have such a juggernaut in hisCabinet, and he is still worried about whom he should have groomed for succession when his term expires in 2007. Obasanjo now has less than a year to leave office as President. He has had the opportunity to work with Okonjo-Iweala for three good years and must have come to know her very well and her ability as a seasoned technocrat and international public servant very much in the mode ofSirleaf- Johnson, the Obasanjo-sponsored new President of Liberia.. How could Obasanjo ever think that Sirleaf is good as President for Liberia but Okonjo is not that good for Nigeria at this moment in our history?
Onewould have been happy to see Obasanjo leading the crusade to have Okonjo-Iwealacomplete the wonderful job she has been doing as the plenipotentiary Minister ofFinance. At a time the PDP is controlling all the three tiers of Government in Nigeria, that should have been the right moment for Obasanjo to show leadership and statesmanship that he is really above board and would settle for no less than the best for Nigeria at this point in our history. He would easily have been able to make the case that his first priority is in laying a sound foundation for Nigeria. Much of the whole nation would have rallied round behind him. But by flying the kite that without him that Nigeria could not make it, he has, so to speak, shot himself in the mouth, and has madeit that much harder for anybody to believe him as a true patriot. Because of his dubious agenda, he has wasted precious time pursuing shadow rather than substance.
The next election is less than one year and yet because of mixed messages Obasanjo has been sending to the nation and the INEC, a lot of valuable time has been lost, all because of Obasanjo’s overbearing greed. As a matter of fact, many are now rightly insinuating and suggesting that Obasanjo may be scheming for more time to render the INEC impotent from the “get go”, and by so doing, create the climate for his second term elongation to resurrect again through the back door. It is now being speculated that Obasanjo may yet laugh last, by simply making it impossible for INEC to successfully conduct the next batch of elections that could lead to any passing of the touch from Obasanjo to another Government in Nigeria. In more civilized polities, the chances of the PDPwinning another election in Nigeria would have been reduced to zero, butObasanjo and his supporters are still talking as if nothing hashappened. I submit again that Okonjo-Iweala would have been a good candidate for the Nigerian presidency at this time for obvious reasons. If she is from Delta State as rumored, she is also from the South East by marriage. Quite apart from that, she is eminently qualified to lead the country by reason of her qualifications and cumulative experience, and more so for her track record as Finance Minister. By her own admission, and by general acclamation, she has correctly analyzed the Nigerian problems. She has crafted the programs to address them. She has articulated in her latest interview the measures she has implemented, not at the behest of outsiders like the IMF, but by being herself.She has proved herself a very hardworking professional and administrator able to get things done, so much so, that many other African countries are already seeking a chance to emulate Nigeria. Among such countries include Tanzania, Togo, Angola and even Egypt.
Great achievers around the world who have had the opportunity to lead their respective countries, at one time or the other, have done no more than Okonjo-Iweala has achieved for Nigeria in the last three years. I am talking of great leaders like our own Murtala Mohammed, the great Lee Kuan Yu of Singapore, the great Margaret Thatcher of Britain, the great Golda Meir of the State of Israel, the great Indira Ghandhi of India, the great Pierre Trudeau of Canada and the great Julius Nyerere of Tanzania including Nelson Mandela to mention just a few.
All the presidential hopefuls currently mentioned as possible candidates for the presidency including Abubakar Atiku,Ibrahim Babangida, Ebitu Ukiwe. Governor Odili, Orji Uzor Kalu, MohammaduBuhari. Buba Marwa, and Okhai Mike Akhigbe, to mention a few, all have some qualities to recommend them, but if you are talking of the most qualified, given the current needs and circumstance of Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala has to be seen as a force to reckon with. She can hold her own against any of these individuals in the present circumstance of our cou
ntry where a stable economy and fighting corruption are about the biggest of our problems, as we speak. A military man and elder statesman like Obasanjo, if he were not greedy and selfish, ought to have been rooting for such a woman to lead us at this point in time. I strongly believe Ngozi can do it, if we give her a chance. I am all for Okonjo-Iweala joining the race.
I rest my case.