Time played a game with me. It treated me with disdain. It robbed me of incalculable motives. Time came so fast and chased us away. To my astonishment, I never knew it would speed up so fast. And I had planned to accomplish so many things. I had planned to reform Nigeria so that successive governments will step on solid foundation and move our country forward. My intention was to set Nigeria on a global and regional pedestal which will be not only envious but worthy of emulation. I had wanted Nigeria to be formidable in world affairs, internationally recognizable and widely listened to by other global players.
I started by sermonizing to the international community. I patrolled and throttled Four-Points of the world in an attempt to sell our image. That was the reason I needed a presidential jet. I met presidents of many nations, economic professionals and bodies, and I pleaded with them to invest in a New Nigeria. I kicked of this global campaign on good notes.
But I wasn’t given the opportunity to actualize these dreams for Nigeria. Detractors fought my agenda with impish zeal and zest. They worked against me and my government. Trying at all times to defocus my government and derail our track.
Take for instance the War of the Chrises. That gave me sleepless nights. The man, Ngige, Okijarised my consciousness and, at one point, debased my reputation in my cove. Those I led began to see me as not really potent as I purported. They began to ‘try’ me. That boy, Ngige, was a thorn, not only in my flesh, but equally a bug under my scrotum. My intention was to transform Anambra to become our own China. I wanted to make Onitsha an Export Free Zone. And make it the Dubai of Africa. But Chris Ngige fought against my plan. He was not for us. If Ngige was smart enough, he would have joined us since he couldn’t beat us. Our camp was made up of so many artillery soldiers who had seen, fought and won battles. I had wanted to build a world class airport that could have competed with J.F.K. in Nnewi. That could have been a channel for internalization of the whole Eastern region including some parts of the Niger-Delta.
Remember, the Great Zik of Africa was from Anambra. Alex Ekwueme, second republic vice president, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, the literary iroko in the name of Chinua Achebe, the god of computer, Philip Emeagwali, all these timbres are from Anambra. So if Ngige was not obstinate, I could have worked in tandem and sync with him to make his name ineffaceable in Anambra. But he chose to trade punches with the master pugilist himself.
When I imposed a state of emergency in Anambra, I exercised my constitutional power. It was vested on me as the president and commander-in-chief to restore peace and tranquility in all states of the federation. Remember we are not in a confederation where individual states have their separate autonomy. All the states report to the federal government. And the federal government was under my tutelage. I was the Gulliver in Lilliput. And that means I had to dictate for others.
However, Ngige was not the only black sheep. There were others.
I institutionalized the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (E.F.C.C.). That commission had the mission and vision to cleanse and scrub our stinking and corrupt stable. It had my mandate and support. That commission was the best thing that had ever happened to our country. Now we can track corrupt governors, ministers, captains of industries, fraudsters who siphon and ship our money. That Youngman, Nuhu, I mean Nuhu-Ribadu, was upright. He worked as a patriot. He symbolizes a true and selfless Nigerian. If I have the chance to lead Nigeria again, he will work with me. Nuhu represented a flawless cop.
The E.F.C.C. was one of my tools to take Nigeria to where I’d wanted it to be. But when the commission swung into action my detractors were spurred into motion. I knew how they lobbied against the commission. I knew how they fought for the removal of Nuhu. Nuhu fought Ayo Fayose, Joshua Dariye, Fabian Osuji and that Inspector General, what was his name again… He tackled the so called big fishes. He fought the high and the mighty. The records are there. He even was acknowledged by, I think, the World Bank to help them in curbing corruption. Is that not a plus to our nation?
Apart from what Nuhu did in E.F.C.C., it was almost erased by the constant clashing of Niger-Delta youths with oil companies. These Egbesu Boys wanted to rubbish my regime. In fact they stiffened my programs for the area. That area should have been our own Qatar or Oman. My vision was a total transformation of the area. I wanted to expand all the major and federal roads in Niger-Delta. I wanted to put a Teaching Hospital and a Federal School of Technology in that area. I wanted to electrify the entire length and breath of this oil producing area. My mind was set on doing and accomplishing these goals before I vacate Aso Rock. But these boys with their leaders did not create a livable condition for social and environmental development. They were often asking for settlement before any sort of construction begins. They were waylaying and disrupting oil workers and activities. They stopped the flow of cash and revenue thereby strangulating economic buoyancy.
Asari Dokubo rose as their Chief Liberator. He did not do his history lessons. If he had, he wouldn’t have challenged his chi. He had a closed brain- if he’s endowed with any at all. Instead of choosing the part to progress he chose the ring-road to no place. But that tells the thinking of these young men from this given area. They buy the erroneous belief that one can always get things by garagara moves.
But with one distraction came an attraction. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was the product of my endeavor. Whatever our country is fiducially was her handwork. And this achievement will carry us on if sustained. She brought her World Bank dexterities to the home front. She sacrificed family to serving her nation. She volunteered her time and gave her best. This is not time to pipe my trumpet. Let history do the roll calling.
Dariye (Plateau State), D.S.P. (Bayelsa State) and Fayose (Ekiti State) wanted to paint me black. The trio put governance to shame. I was shocked. Investigations exhumed monumental scandal and fraudulent activities by these men. They traffic money and looted state treasuries. They reduced the integrity and honor of their offices to rubbles. The three governors shamelessly stole away taxpayers sweat and squandered it without pity. I felt pity for Nigeria. I paused. I reflected. I pondered. I wondered when we will learn lessons from the past. I wondered what our children will say of us. I asked myself what footprints are we leaving on the sands of time.
Though we had the majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, I came to smell some rots in the chambers. Most of them were hawks. They had sharp claws. And with these claws they pilfered corruption. It was corruption proliferation in the upper and lower chambers. It was nuclear corruption. I have never seen such even in military regimes. I never knew I circled myself with crooks and nincompoops. It was later I discovered most of them were drug peddlers and fraud god-fathers. But my hands were tied. You know what I mean? It was tied, Allah.
This was why I worked against senate presidents and house speakers. They colluded with the bad boys. And they were not subservient to constituted authority. Instead of playing boys, they played men and that was why Evan Enwerem, Pius Anyim, Adolphus Wabara, Chuba Okadigbo, N’abba had to go. In a democracy, the three arms of government are never in isolation. The essence of checks and balances is to secure and strengthen the government. Checks and balances translate not into extortion and distortion of government. But the Senate and the House turned it into a marketplace of sorts. Words were traded. Money changed hands. Gifts were exchanged. All were in a spirit to undo one
another. If I had the veto I would have sacked all of them at a go.
I wish vox populi carried the day. The people wanted me for a third term but no one agreed.
That is by the way.
I have no regret for serving my country for eight years. But I wish my tenure was extended. If I’m given another opportunity to serve I will because it seems I forgot my wallet in Aso Rock.
I saw all the media wrote about my government. But I learnt a lot from their criticisms. I came out stronger. At least I was able to communicate to Nigerians using my frequent and monthly media briefing. It was an effective tool. But some of the media moguls and practitioners capitalized on my magnanimity to attack my government. They did not pity me even in my mourning period. Those guys are wicked. They kept firing their salvo. The sound of their machine guns increased further. But you know in life, where there is no sin, forgiveness won’t be necessary. I think they performed their national duty as the watchdog.
During my administration, I wanted to give Nigerians an accident free aviation industry. This is why you didn’t have so much flight accidents and incidents. Never mind the Port-Harcourt and Abuja accidents. It happens once in a while. We are not God. No one is perfect. But you see I had to keep changing Aviation ministers because I wanted the best for that ministry. But things must happen. According to one of my Ijaw friends, “church is life” (he actually wanted to say “such is life” but because he has “accent” he said “church”). May Ifa bear me witness.
Oh, you think I don’t have Ijaw friends? Despite Odi Operation, I still have them as my friends. This means I performed perfectly in that region.
When I banned importation of certain goods like shoes and some clothing and sugar etc, they said I did so because my late wife, Stella, (may her soul rest in peace) was interested in the first two and Dangote in the last. But I had the interest of the nation at heart when I placed the ban. Nigeria was and still is a consuming nation. We consume all sorts of rubbish so far as it is labeled made in obodo oyibo. So when I discovered this I had to stop it. At least I provided the leadership. And you know I don’t have to be at the ports to monitor the contents of container A or B. I have my agents there. We have the Customs and the Ports Authority staff. And no incident of importation of any of these banned items was reported to me. So I assume I performed creditably well on that.
There were speculations that I was not in good terms with my vice-president. Let me postpone comments on this. Any comment now might jeopardize the democratic process which I single handedly laid its foundation in Nigeria. And I will not want to destroy my house.
In fact the generality and life span of my tenure was sumptuous. Life for Nigerians was better than what it used to be. People had access to affordable health care. Drugs were available. And this reminds me of the heck of a job Dora Akunyili did with NAFDAC. Dora sanitized the Food and Drug industry in Nigeria. Before I took over power, people were dieing without knowing why. But we discovered it was because of the fake drugs and contaminated food and drinks they were taking. So I asked Dora to make sure this was curbed from its roots. And this lady did not fail me. Remember she was almost murdered by those who operated these illegal cartels. And this was another plus to my administration.
Faith was restored in our banking system. You will recall that so many Nigerians lost millions of naira in their bank accounts because so many banks liquidated. But Soludo Charles came and “soludofied” our banking system. With mergers our banks now compete with other regional banks and they now do offshore banking. This is another big plus. The list continues.
I assembled the best crop of Nigerians. I had the best political team. I had the best professionals in various fields. I drew back fleeing Nigerians and invited host of them in Diaspora. I changed the political climate, made it conducive for participation by all and sundry. Before, many Nigerians abroad had the awe of getting openly involved in partisan politics. But all changed due to my initiatives and ushering in a level playing field. Politics, during my administration became an all-inclusive game. Politics distanced itself from exclusivity which used to be its trademark. It was pass mark all the way for my administration.
Another pain was labor. Oshiomole pushed me too far anytime petrol price was increased. We weren’t increasing this thing to benefit Obasanjo or a few corporate interest but for the generality of Nigerians. Again, we responded to the international oil market. We could not isolate ourselves from the other players. We had to play the game according to the rule. But come to think of it, if Nigerians could buy a sachet of “pure water” for 10 naira why can’t they buy 1 liter of petrol for more. Haba!
Fellow country men and women, look out for my autobiography in a few weeks from now. In it you will see what we did and what we planned to do and the opportunities we missed. It is called “My Legacy: What Obasanjo Did Not Forget in Aso Rock”.