The Nigerian press has of late been inundated with bold headlines that have in the main strived to demonise former President Olusegun Obasanjo and paint him as a plain thief that stole the nation blind during his second coming as Head of State,[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]1999-2007, especially over the country’s power sector. There have also been banner headlines calling for the probe of the Obasanjo presidency. Some even hint that the man should be sent back to prison for these and other purported sins and excesses.
The recent news reports that the Buhari government might be considering probing Obasanjo’s handling of the Nigerian power sector during his time as civilian Head of State have evidently led to some of these commentaries. It has definitely provoked this write-up. I say provoked because the proposed action underlines and validates earlier claims from many quarters that Buhari’s so-called anti-corruption war has very little to do with actually curbing corruption in the country. In other words, that the so-called anti-corruption war is largely a device for political repression, blackmail and intimidation of members of the opposition parties as well as gag well-meaning neutrals who nevertheless want to voice their disappointment at the Buhari government and its misrule, and to help point the way forward for Nigeria.
It is indeed curious that Buhari never uttered a word against Obasanjo or moved against the man all through his three years in office as president until Obasanjo dared to amplify only but a few of the sad and negative attributes of the Buhari government. It is obvious that had Obasanjo remained silent and said nothing about these disturbing facts, Buhari would never have deigned it necessary to attack or investigate Obasanjo in the manner he now seems to have chosen. In effect, the action goes to substantiate the notion that Buhari’s anti-corruption war is self-serving and a ruse for witch-hunting those who are not in his good books.
We note for the avoidance of doubt that Obasanjo’s general exertion on the country’s electric power industry has been nothing but patriotic and impactful. Between 1976 and 1979, Obasanjo built up the new generation of power plants that have sustained power production in the country. After Obasanjo quit office as military Head of State in 1979, no other power plant was sited or established in Nigeria for 20 years until Obasanjo’s came back to power in 1999 as civilian president of Nigeria and began once again to revamp the sector and to build new power stations across the country.
Most of the power plants now being commissioned by the Buhari government since 2015 are actually power stations initiated, designed and contracted out for construction by the Obasanjo government (1999[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]–[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]2007). These new power plants are not the brainchild of the Buhari government even though Buhari’s ministers are now happily beating their chests with loud but false claims that they are the ones that have improved power supply in the country. In effect, this government is actually basking in the glory of what Obasanjo’s renewed exertion on the power sector is beginning to produce. In this regard, it would appear that the threat being directed at Obasanjo may after all be another case of biting the fingers that have cushioned the path of the present Buhari government of Nigeria. These days, we hear that generation of power is no longer the real problem but distribution of what is produced. And that it is the latter task that the Buhari administration needs to work on in order to get the power so generated to homes, offices, markets, factories and other such places around the country.
There is another worrisome aspect of the noise over Obasanjo’s handling of the power sector during his time. And this is a recurring and now routinised aspect of the Buhari government’s approach to serious issues of corruption in the country. The government has a penchant for blowing hot air and demonising people over such issues even before actually investigating such alleged misdeeds, arraigning the people involved in the courts and obtaining court verdicts before going to town to pronounce the involved guilty.
I am not in a position to defend Obasanjo or prove to the contrary that he is being maliciously labelled or affronted. But I think that Obasanjo’s traducers should try to credit us hapless Nigerians with some intelligence. I mean they should not expect us to swallow line, hook and sinker their weighty claims without any iota of proof that the man truly took the nation for a ride during his now expired presidency. The official position, going by the stance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is that Obasanjo did not abuse and enrich himself while in office. The Commission avers that all attempts it has made in the post-Obasanjo years in government to trace the so-called Obasanjo ill-gotten wealth have all ended in a cul-de-sac; hence the clean bill of health it issued on Obasanjo’s sojourn in the presidency or his handling of the nation’s financial affairs and the power sector in particular.
This clean bill, it would appear, seems actually supportive of the notion that Obasanjo did not quite abandon his famed style as military Head of State in the seventies during which he tried to build-up the national economy by establishing a strong national airline, shipping line, etc with fleets of healthy operational crafts and vessels as well as producing more power stations, dams and what-have-you. Incidentally it has been argued, the sorry state of these national institutions as at the time of Obasanjo’s second coming as civilian Head of State in 1999 was so dismal that the man became so distrustful of Nigerians that his government became almost a one man show, to the chagrin of many; accumulating many detractors in the process.
Obasanjo’s disdain for the broad Nigerian elite is partly evident in the way some of the failed or delayed contracts awarded during his presidency, especially in the power sector, were managed. It appears that even the employment of consultants to monitor and supervise the contract works was completely and irreverently by-passed due apparently to a lack of trust on Nigerian consultants to perform their duties diligently.
Given the above scenario, especially the EFCC’s position on the issue, I think it is downright unconscionable that Obasanjo’s political opponents should continue to advance a contradictory viewpoint without any attempt whatsoever to prove their point. Big money, like goldfish, has no hiding place especially in today’s world. It is well-known that such monies can easily be traced to banks and other business outfits where they may be domicile even by some of us ordinary citizens. I would say that with a budget of a few hundred thousand dollars, literally anybody can hire private detectives to uncover the hiding places of such loot in and outside the country. So, what is stopping Obasanjo’s detractors?
My point is that given the resources available to government, Buhari and his regime should be able to do their homework and provide Nigerians with concrete evidence and documentary proof of their claims instead of haranguing the citizens with half-truths and possibly outright lies, just to launder the poor image of this administration and to drive opposition and constructive criticism underground.
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