I measure his performance from the quantifiable results I can feel and see. Are there lapses here and there in his implementation of those policies? Are there things that can be done better? Does Obasanjo sometimes give the impressions he is doing a one-sided inquisition of perceived enemies? Does he regularly make efforts to clearly articulate what he is about, by carrying the silent majority of the nation along like other democratic leaders do in more civilized countries? The short answer to all of these questions is a resounding “No” Should that be a justification to condemn hook, line, and sinker everything Obasanjo has been doing? My short answer to that as well, is also a resounding “No.” I guess the next question would be for me to define what Obasanjo may have been doing right that I probably did not pay enough attention to in my last article on him.
In consequence of what Obasanjo has been doing on the economy, you could tranfer money in dollars or any currency to your Account in any Nigerian Bank, and get paid in real dollars within days not months, back home in Nigeria. There is more international confidence in the Nigerian economy today than at any time since the late 60s and much of the 70s spilling over to the early 80s. So much is the confidence in the Nigerian economy today that China, Japan, South and North Korea, not to talk of many European countries and the United States are much more mentally prepared and willing to invest in Nigeria. The flight of capital used to be from Nigeria to other countries of the world. Today, because of the conducive environment created through the Obasanjo Government policies, that position has been reversed.
That, in of itself, is a monumental achievement and one of the architects and executors of those policies is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. It is a question of time before those policies rub off on the value of the Naira in global terms. The Nigerian Stock Exchange has today achieved a level of stability never before seen in our country.
How about Debt relief for our country, and how that is fast changing the economic climate of our country? Those who criticize and said nothing has changed have to be living in a fool’s paradise. A lot has changed. But sustaining what has changed and to make it outlive Obasanjo who, whether he likes it or not, must one day throw in the towel and go into retirement or be forced to go like other leaders before him, is the real acid test. What is more needed is sustainable growth?
I am deeply troubled that some or all of the Obasanjo’s reforms may not survive him. Why? Because I believe Obasanjo has not groomed anyone to succeed him. Less than 18 months to the end of his second term, the best he has done is to keep the nation guessing on what happens, if the Third term dog would not hunt. Any nation whose stability is predicated on the whims and caprices of just one individual, is nothing but a weak and volatile country. Josep Tito had proved that in the former Yugoslavia. Ho Chi Mingh has proved it in Vietnam.
It takes more than one man to build and to sustain a nation. America and Great Britain are shining examples of that. George Washington as the founding father of the United States was a one man battalion, for sure, but America could count on other juggernauts like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman, JFK, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton to pass on the touch, and to keep the nation going. I guess you could say the same of Great Britain. Winston Churchill was only one among several generation of strong leaders which include Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher and now Tony Blair to mention just a few.
Democracy thrives best in plurality, and not in a one man or a one party dictatorship like the Nigerian PDP has become. The Opposition should always be the Government in waiting like is done in America and Great Britain, if the Government in power fumbles. If Obasanjo is ever going to be recognized as one of the founding fathers of our nation, he should be above board like Caesar’s wife, and must be seen to welcome the opposition and to create a conducive environment for the Opposition to thrive by letting the Electoral Commission and the Police and Law Enforcement do their work without fear of favor. He ought not to be seen as openly siding with or hobnobbing with political mercenaries and charlatans like Chris Uba and Alhaji Adedibu.
Usually second term Presidents who have no ambition to run again and who are disallowed by the Constitution so to do, ought to maintain such neutral postures that will put the nation’s interest above their own personal interest, and give an ironclad guarantee that a successor would be available to carry on just like Nelson Mandela had done.
Obasanjo’s Wars against Corruption as derelict and one-sided as it may appear to many, is definitely doing some good. Today when you see a one time Inspector General, past and present Governors and intimate buddies of Mr. President in handcuffs, to answer for their past misdeeds, it sends a powerful message to all Nigerians across the board. I cannot think of any of the 36 Governors and Deputies who have not abused their offices and stolen money from their states, one way or the other, if you look closely into their records. Corruption has been idolized in our country because nearly everybody does it, but with different levels of intensity. Taking their cues from Alimiyeseigha, the impeached Governor of Bayelsa and Governor Dariye whose legs are shaken in Plateau State, as we speak, many of them are now scared to death that nemesis may soon catch up with them.
The most vulnerable are those of them whose states have recently been classified as oil producing, and are now suddenly swimming in funds that run into billions of Naira from Federal Revenues. Rather than using such funds to build needed infrastructures for their states, they are pocketing the money, using fictitious contract awards that follow no rules at all, other than their own criminally improvised ones.
Ribadu is serving notice to such Governors it is no longer going to be business as usual, and that is good for our country. Governors, Deputies and public officials no longer indulge in taking their looted money abroad to Banks in Switzerland and other places because they no longer feel safe to do that. Through Obasanjo’s fiscal policies, such looted funds are not only traced, but the owners are compelled to forfeit the money and the properties to the Federal Government, which is also good. Obasanjo is doing one hell of a job in this area, and getting very good results. The likes of IBBs must be shaking in their pants, because sooner or later, they know, it would be their turn to explain how they came about their limitless wealth. I can tell you that many Nigerians already nursing the ambition to run for President are now bidding their time before declaring their intention, because they are scared to death that might be an invitation for Ribadu to go after them.
Such criminals are putting a very negative spin on the observation, and blaming Obasanjo for sending Ribadu after them because he does not want to quit force in 2007. It is hard to see why Obasanjo would want to give up the only leverage he has with the international community, by voluntarily handing over power to the civilians in 1979, and the only Military dictator to do that in all Africa. He had become one of the elder statesmen around the world, and he nearly ended up becoming the UN Secretary-general for doing so. If the IBB Government had stood by him like they professed at the time, there was no way Kofi Annan could have beaten Obasanjo as a former Head of State, in the race to serve the remaining balance of Butros Butros Ghali’s tenure. That much I know.
There is no other way to do Politics in Nigeria or elsewhere around the world, if you don’t have money to spend. The only person who had successfully done that before was Obasanjo himself who was taken out of the Dungeon in 1999 and bankrolled by the likes of IBB and Theophillus Danjuma and others to run for election as President. This time around, both the candidates and the bankrollers are scared to death to come out, for fear of being targeted by Ribadu and his Commission. So for once in our history, the bribe givers and the bribe takers have found themselves in the same foxhole, thanks to Obasanjo’s policies.
There could therefore be some method or virtue to what some critics have labeled as Obasanjo’s madness or his often crude ways of doing things. If only the man can fine-tune some of his methods, I have to concede that the man’s ultimate mission has been quite good for our country, all things considered. I still believe his criticism in a few areas is legit, but he is on to scoring a home run on his reform of the Economy and his stance on Corruption, and why we must not relent on it.
I rest my case.