Of Tambuwal, Sanusi and Obasanjo By Eze Onyekpere
Nigerians have been inundated with recurring and recycled allegations of failure and wrongdoing against President Goodluck Jonathan who occupies the highest office in the land. Three prominent citizens in the last couple of days have levelled grave allegations against the President. The allegations range from encouraging corruption to incompetence in the discharge of the duties of office, cronyism, mismanagement of the fight against the Boko Haram insurgence, etc. The other allegation is a call to action on the President to probe the disappearance of billions of naira that should have been remitted to the Federation Account. In all these, the media have been awash with analyses and responses to these allegations.
First, it was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who alleged that the President is paying lip service to the war against corruption and seems to be encouraging corruption rather than taking steps to reduce same. He cited the non-implementation of the recommendations of the reports on the probes of fuel subsidy, pension scam, the Security and Exchange Commission and the aviation bulletproof cars saga. The Speaker complained about the setting up of endless committees which eventually obfuscate very straightforward crimes and hide them under a carpet which is now bulging with many unimaginable crimes. The second was the allegation by the Central Bank of Nigeria that the sum of $49.8bn has been outstanding and unremitted into the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation between January 2012 and July 2013. The letter was written to the President since September 25, 2013 but got leaked to the press in the last couple of days.
The third which was apt tagged a biggest bombshell came from former President Olusegun Obasanjo who in a public letter accused the incumbent of failing on almost all the parameters of being a successful President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Obasanjo raised issues about the mismanagement of the economy, political and social life and the degenerating security situation in the country. Specific allegations on the training of snipers and having about 1000 Nigerians on the presidential watch list also featured in the letter. He was particularly irked about the deepening polarisation of the country along the traditional fault lines of religion and ethnicity and the perceived second term ambition of President Jonathan despite his promise to serve only one term. He accused the President of subverting judicial due process, shielding criminals, elevating nepotism and brewing factionalisation of the Peoples Democratic Party.
There is a certain level of coincidence between Tambuwal’s accusations, the CBN’s leaked letter which had been sent to the President since September 25, 2013 and the Obasanjo letter. They all came within a space of a couple of days. Was the timing by the three deliberately orchestrated? Is this mere politics or is there substance to the allegations? My first take is that these issues are important and Nigerians should not take their eyes off the ball. They should continue to demand increased transparency and accountability within the confines of their own mobilisation. The struggle should not be tied to any individual or group of individuals no matter how highly placed. Tying our struggle for a better Nigeria around characters who have interests that do not necessarily coincide with those of the majority will rubbish our struggle in the short, medium and long terms.
With the exception of one or two issues, there is nothing new in Obasanjo’s allegations which are not already in the public domain. But the tone of Obasanjo’s letter shows a man who has lost out of a power contest and is made to watch a show from the fringes of the sidelines when he thought he should have had a throne at the ringside. Notwithstanding, it is imperative that the President still responds to the allegations and set the records straight if there are counter facts to contradict them. It bears noting that it is the same Obasanjo that set the tone for the transgressions he lists today against Jonathan. He never allowed the democratic tradition to be nurtured and strengthened in the PDP and Nigeria as a whole. The general elections organised under his watch were charades especially those of 2007 where he conspired with Maurice Iwu to ridicule the concept of democracy and elections. Till date, he has not owned up to not allowing the votes to count despite the fact that late Yar’Adua whom he handpicked as President acknowledged that all was not well with the political system.
In the PDP, there were primaries to satisfy all righteousness while he chased away the founding members of the party including deregistering some of them. Nigerians have not forgotten the Chris Uba debacle in Anambra State where under Obasanjo’s watch, arson, murder and looting were committed in broad daylight by men without masks and he looked the other way. He spent over $16bn in the power sector with no results. So, for heaven’s sake, why is Obasanjo sounding sanctimonious with another preachment when we are all living witnesses to his deeds in power? Also, Nigerians will not forget in a hurry his contributions to the economic, social and political rot that has befallen Nigeria. What about his third term agenda and the promise he made to serve only one term which he reneged on? Yes, a popular maxim urges us to face the message and forget the messenger but we need to be spared the outright insolence to our intelligence by someone who from all indicators had been, is and will continue to be insincere. It is only his personal interests that govern how he appreciates the polity. If Goodluck Jonathan grants him his heart desires today, he will sing a new tune tomorrow.
For Tambuwal, he needs to understand that the National Assembly is not leading by example and as such cannot be the galvanising and mobilisational point against impunity in governance. If the legislature starts by cleaning up its house, reducing its yearly budget and becoming more transparent and accountable, it will be like the proverbial high priests who sit on Moses’ seat. We will then follow it, do what it does and says and we shall jointly fight corruption in high places to a standstill. For the allegations from the CBN, it is clear that all is not well with the accounting procedures of the NNPC. Every agency that has alleged corruption in the NNPC is met with a standard template, “surprising ignorance” of the procedures of the oil behemoth. The idea that the operations and accounting procedures are not known to any other persons except the Group Managing Director of the NNPC and the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, indicates that the procedure is fundamentally flawed and needs to be changed. Today, it is the ignorance of the CBN, the other day, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative was ignorant. Pray, is the NNPC the personal estate of these two persons to be managed at their whims and caprices? This clearly brings to the fore the need for the legislature to expeditiously pass the Petroleum Industry Bill to bring about the needed reforms to the oil and gas industry.
Finally, Nigerians, let us continue the struggle for accountability and transparency with or without individuals who may have special interests that may not necessarily coincide with the interest of the majority.
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