The First ’419? President By Sonala Olumhense
As time marches on, it becomes clearer just how tragic the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo really was. In a speech last week, he dismissed Nigerian leaders who were not good enough. Everyone but he.
And then he dismissed Nigerians for not finding him to have been exceptional. If Nigerians were yet to find a leader worthy of commendation after 53 years of independence, he declared, “Then we are jinxed and cursed; we should all go to hell.”
No, Chief, I humbly disagree. Only dishonest and unpatriotic leaders qualify for perdition.
Obasanjo was wielding his weapons in front of a captive crowd at the University of Ibadan. He cited as very bad boys such people as Atiku Abubakar, who served as Vice-president in his administration; Salisu Buhari, a certificate-forging former Speaker of the House of Representatives recently appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan into the Governing Council of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; and former governors Bola Tinubu, Deprieye Alamieyeseigha, James Ibori and Lucky Igbinedion.
“Abacha, my predecessor got $750m. Through our lawyer in Switzerland we recovered $1.25bn and the lawyer still said there is probably still another $1bn to be recovered…”
Actually, Abacha was not Obasanjo’s predecessor, except perhaps in duplicity. In between them, in temporal terms, there was one Abdusallam Abubakar.
But Obasanjo, The Hypocrite, has no commitment to facts or to History. Not once, during his imperious History lesson last week, did he refer to the bad seeds he sowed or the waters he poisoned or the children he starved.
But his are the shark-infested waters in which we now sink, and for as long as he tries to write the history of Nigeria to suit his bloated ego, we must never tire of reminding the world of the true story. Here are just 10 elements:
• Obasanjo, The Hypocrite, benefitted the most from the elections of 2003 and 2007, which local and international observers complained were rigged.
• Obasanjo was his own Minister of Petroleum Resources throughout his tenure, without accountability, and it was during that watch that the dirty practices now being unveiled by various probe panels started.
• In the famous case of Works Minister Tony Anenih, The Hypocrite complained he had budgeted N300 billion for roads during his first term, but he never asked “Mr. Fix-It” about the money.
• Obasanjo saw no contradiction in using the Petroleum Trust Development Fund as his own ATM.
• Obasanjo brags about recovering up to $2.5 billion from Abacha alone; he never says anything about how the money disappeared.
• Obasanjo has not said one word about the injustice of Anambra’s horrendous Okija Shrine or the report of the federal high-level panel that he suppressed.
• Obasanjo says nothing about the assassinations during his tenure that included the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Bola Ige.
• Obasanjo says nothing about the Haliburton scandal, for which various reports have indicted him, or about his so-called “anti-corruption” agencies, which only targeted his enemies.
• Obasanjo’s economic reform, NEEDS, died within months of being launched, and he never mentioned it again.
•Obasanjo spent between $10 and $16 billion under the ruse of an electricity scheme; some of those he paid allegedly did not even clear a patch of land.
All of this is despite his arriving in office in 1999 swearing he would be different. At his inauguration, he told Nigerians: “You have been asked many times in the past to make sacrifices and to be patient. I am also going to ask you to make sacrifices, and to exercise patience. The difference will be that in the past sacrifices were made and patience exercised with little or no results. This time, however, the results of your sacrifice and patience will be clear and manifest for all to see…I will give the forthright, purposeful, committed, honest and transparent leadership that the situation demands…”
Never has more sordid falsehood been uttered.
When the 2003 rigging was completed, he returned to the microphone at his inauguration and said, “I have repeatedly called for moral rectitude, and I will continue to repeat the message. I simply refuse to accept the cynical view that Nigerians prefer chaos to order. I cannot endorse the view that Nigerians are innately corrupt…We all have a stake in Enterprise Nigeria and each of us stands a better chance in getting optimum dividends if, instead of asking “What’s in it for me”, we ask “what’s in it for Nigeria…”
But Obasanjo, The Hypocrite, saw nothing wrong with establishing Transcorp and using it to enrich himself. He saw no contradiction in his cabinet approving moneymaking schemes for him.
Later, somebody asked General Victor Malu, a former Chief of Army Staff, to assess Obasanjo’s government. “In few words, it is the worst government that I have seen in this country,” the General replied. “And I am 58 years old. I have never seen a government that is so reckless in everything. It disrespects the wishes of the people, disobeys the rules or the constitution, disobeys court judgments, including the Supreme Court. I don’t think it has happened before.”
How insufferable was Obasanjo? In a speech at the 11th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja on June 1, 2005, he lamented that “past administrations fostered a culture of corruption and mistrust and thus encouraged undeserved stereotyped information and inaccurate judgments about (Nigerians) as a people and nation.” His government, he swore, would remain committed to creating “a culture of integrity, dignity, confidence and trust.”
But that was the very same day that his government approved seven new private universities from 145 applications. One of them: Obasanjo’s Bells University.
Obasanjo boisterously invokes such names as James Ibori, Tinubu and Igbinedion, but conveniently forgets that in 2006, he ignored a report he had commissioned and refused to prosecute 15 indicted governors, including those three.
The Hypocrite similarly forgets that his domestic aide used the presidential jet to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars, for which he was convicted in the United States.
Every objective evaluation demonstrates that Obasanjo is responsible for the kleptocracy that runs Nigeria today. What is even worse is that as a parting menace, he committed the greatest treason of all: handcuffing his country to a spineless, incompetent and compromised cabal he knew would asphyxiate it. And he turns around to blame it.
Still, The Hypocrite is right on one account: the Nigerian tragedy is also about followership. “If we talk about good leadership you should also talk about good followers,” he said.
Nigerians are atrocious followers. We are cowards and sycophants who would rather feed mud to our children than fight for the right to food. At the event, for instance, Vice-chancellor, Isaac Adewole shamelessly swallowed the baloney Obasanjo had just spilled all over Nigeria’s oldest university, and then questioned the nation’s political prospects in 2015.
Equally stunning, not one student was reported to have walked out, slamming doors in disgust.
Obasanjo is Nigeria’s first 419 leader, and he knows it. But he is counting on the Nigerian people, especially the youth, remaining too distracted or too scared to rise to their feet and say, emphatically and in unison: “NO,” “ENOUGH” and “NONSENSE!”
It is time. Our mumu don do!
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