Situating PDP’s Apology Without Restitution – Punch
IN its bid to regain relevance, the Peoples Democratic Party has apologised to Nigerians to forgive it for its mélange of “mistakes” during the 16 years it was in power. The party’s national Chairman, Uche Secondus, said in Abuja that the penitence was based on “imposition, impunity and other wrongdoings.”
But nothing could be more vacuous, deceptive and villainous than such posturing. His insincerity evinces markedly in those “other wrongdoings” he shied away from mentioning. They matter most, defined the party while it was in power and vitiated it in the public imagination. Indeed, the apology is a damning indictment of the major political parties. In fact, the entire political class has failed Nigerians so far.
A plea for the remission of transgression is not a tapestry of equivocations and half-truths. Restitution is inexorably linked with any genuine penitence; and without this done, the apology will rank as a spoof or caricature. For the records, the PDP was in power from 1999 to 2015. That saw Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan bestride the Presidency. However, the political baton changed hands when Jonathan lost to Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress in the presidential election of 2015.
On PDP’s watch, public funds were raided with reckless abandon. Between 2004 and 2014, N2.6 trillion Service Wide Vote was spent without appropriation. And in aid of the N2.5 trillion fuel subsidy heist, which burst in 2012, the Accountant-General’s office made 128 payments of N999 million each within 24 hours in January 2009. Legislative enquiries unfurled these. Only public protest compelled a downward review of the fuel subsidy to N971 billion per annum. Some of the bandits involved fled the country, while no official effort was made to legally punish other felons around until recently.
The 2005 and 2014 political conferences, which would have reconfigured the country, were a huge waste. There was no implementation of recommendations because of the selfish motives that underpinned them. Indeed, they find perverse significance in the national babel of the moment. Economic development and service delivery were elusive. An audit by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative of the N994 billion in special funds that covered 2007 to 2011 stated that they were neither remitted as statutorily required, nor applied to stimulate the economy. For instance, a serving senator, who was also a governor, abused the N1.8 billion Ecological funds allocation to his state. He donated N100 million to the South-West PDP for 2003 electioneering.
More irresponsibility stood out in how the Natural Resources Fund of N783 billion provided for the solid minerals sector development was despoiled. This villainy enhanced Nigeria’s status as an oil dependent economy. Its full impact was evident in the global crude oil prices crash from mid 2014 to the current average price of $63 per barrel. This is less than 50 per cent of price during the boom years that Jonathan’s administration squandered.
The $2.1 billion for arms procurement, which its apparatchiks turned into spoils of war and how a former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Lamido Sanusi, was believed to have been removed from office to make the bank’s vault vulnerable will continue to rankle. If $182 billion was stolen from Nigeria between 2000 and 2009, according to the Global Financial Integrity, a US-based group, in its report, then nothing could be more emblematic of party’s years in power as an era of the locust.
Just as the daily carnage in Nigeria hardly benumbs anymore, not a few are inured to how oil revenues were mismanaged as the party bestrode Nigeria. It is a scandal that oil revenue figures from the CBN, Ministry of Finance and the Auditor-General’s office conflicted most of the time during the period in question. The rot was further exposed in Federal Government’s hint of its desire last year to file charges against some international oil companies for the $17 billion worth of undeclared crude they lifted between 2011 and 2014. The so-called Strategic Alliance Contracts during the Jonathan government gave out oil blocks without the company paying taxes and royalties totalling $3 billion, according to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Power sector privatisation in 2013 was a ruse after the government injected billions of dollars for its upgrade without result. It was nothing more than a classic dubious state-arranged economic disaster. The farming out of generating and distribution companies to cronies and fronts, which had neither the technical nor financial capacities to run them, has plunged Nigeria into the abyss of darkness. Therefore, the derivable gains from this economic stimulus – job creation, real sector growth and wealth creation – have been lost.
The Petroleum Industry Bill, the key to sanitising the downstream, recently passed, was held up in the National Assembly since 1999 by dirty politics.
Nigeria has, since the Fourth Republic, failed to get its elections right because of the garrison or do-or-die mentality foundation the party had laid. This found full expression in the 2007 polls dismissed globally as the worst electoral farce ever recorded.
When service to the people is not the motivation for seeking public office, but access to the treasury, militarisation of the electoral space becomes an addiction. Its morbid upshot is typified in the murder of a serving Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Bola Ige, without a trace of the killers. Harry Marshal and Aminasoari Dikibo, a National Vice-chairman of the party, among others, were all killed in similar circumstances.
It should not be forgotten that $62 billion was in the country’s Foreign Reserves in September 2008 as crude oil price peaked at $147 per barrel during Yar’Adua’s presidency. Under that of Jonathan, it averaged $100 per barrel while he also inherited a buoyant Excess Crude Account. But how Nigeria became suddenly like a fish out of water shortly after the 16-year bazaar demands that people should be held to account.
However, the APC might have regaled Nigerians with how PDP members looted the national treasury. Instructively, former PDP faithful dominate its membership. Among its governors, in the Senate and House of Representatives, they are dominant. Some are facing trial for their abuse of office. In fact, there is really no difference between six and half a dozen. That is the tragedy of Nigeria’s political party system.
The APC should, therefore, stop trading words with the PDP on the list of suspected looters just released, and add the known looters too within its fold. Equity and sincerity of purpose in the anti-graft campaign demand just that. Trials of public officials globally for tampering with the public treasury underline why those who haemorrhaged ours should not go unpunished, no matter their political suasion. The objective should be to recover all looted funds, bring looters to justice and enthrone accountability in public administration, not insincere apologies from any political party.