By Joachim Ezeji
It amazes me why the Nigerian government, especially the Federal Government of Nigeria often gets clay footed when things that matter are on the table and instead prefer to play outright politics over them. Living in Nigeria since my birth and being a participatory citizen and an effective contributor to issues on its development, I have come to see Nigeria as a country that often raises your expectations and then get it dashed without apology.
Issues that have crept up into my mind these last few days has been those of IBB over allegations of corruption and mismanagement of $12.4 billion in the Dedicated and Special Accounts while he was in power. Another was the Mike Okiro report that revealed that Obasanjo shared the sum of $74 million USD between 2000 and 2001 with his Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, as well as Funsho Kupolokun and Gaius Obaseki, who were successive heads of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation during the government’s early years.
Both cases are interesting indeed based on the fact that they both relate to corruption, a persisting national malaise. However, while President Goodluck Jonathan appears set to probe IBB, he tends to be keeping mute over Obasanjo. But interestingly, the same Goodluck Jonathan was at the head of instigations on asking Prince Vincent Ogbulafor to quit over allegations of corruption while in office as minister.
Newspaper reports had it that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN) had revealed that the Federal government would set up a committee to ascertain whether on the basis of the Okigbo report a criminal charge can be sustained against former military president General Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida (rtd) over allegations of corruption and mismanagement of $12.4 billion in the Dedicated and Special Accounts while he was in power.
The government made the commitment in a letter dated 12th May 2010 with reference number HAGF/PG/2010/Vol1; and personally signed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. The letter had read in part “I acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated 5th May 2010. I appreciate your effort in making available a signed copy of the Dr Pius Okigbo Panel Report, and as appropriate, I shall set up a Committee that will confirm the authenticity of the said report and also review the allegations and recommendations contained therein with a view to ascertaining whether these allegations can sustain a criminal charge. While we shall keep you informed of our effort in this regard, I would like to thank you for your concerted effort in sustaining the fight against corruption in our society.”
On the other hand, the Okiro report revealed that during that same time span, Obasanjo and the ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party, also pocketed $5m from the Halliburton slush funds. Other major beneficiaries included General Sani Abacha, who got $40 million in 1994-95; Ibrahim Aliyu, $11.7million in 2001-2002; former Minister, Dan Etete, $2.5 million in 1996-1998; Abdulkadir Abacha, $1.8 in 1998; and M. G. Bakari, $3.1 million
Among the more startling of the revelations in the interim report, the panel stated that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President of Nigeria from May 1999 – May 2007 met Stanley and then Group Managing Director of NNPC, Gaius Obaseki, in Abuja on 11th November 2001 to negotiate pay-offs in respect of Trains 4&5. On 20th December 2001 Obaseki reportedly met with Chodan and Stanley in London over lunch in furtherance of discussions. In March 2002, TSKJ won the Train 4 and 5 contacts for $3.6 billion USD and that allegations are that Gen. Obasanjo may have received a minimum of $4 million USD as pay-off. With reference to Obasanjo, the report noted: “Panelists are currently examining documents before the invitation of former President Obasanjo.”
The face of emerging politics makes these revelations more interesting. Mr. Jonathan from all indications is no longer pretending over his position or what to be expected in the political months ahead.
While President Jonathan is hobnobbing and frolicking with his Godfather former President Obasanjo, he remains blind to the evils of Obasanjo and deaf to the advice of well meaning Nigerians that he should at least keep Obasanjo at arms length. But on the other hand, he seems willing to scare IBB out of the 2011 Presidential race via the purported probe of the $12.4 billion in the Dedicated and Special Accounts while he was in power as reported in the Okigbo report.
Already, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor has long been sacrificed based on political calculations of those who insisted on it. Still unsatisfied, Jonathan from all indications as well as machinations of Obasanjo is still plotting to sack the entire national working committee (or executives) of the PDP. Till this plot succeeds, a replacement for the former chairman, Ogbulafor would be delayed.
The political calculation from the way things are going seems to be to uproot all weedy grasses that would make Jonathan’s presidential aspiration a rough ride, hence foreboding a do or die election come 2011.
From the look of things all ready, I can posit straight away that Mr. Jonathan has already lost all credibility and would certainly fail Nigerians come 2011. The so called promises of a free and fair election would be another mirage as much as Jonathan continues to plot alongside Obasanjo on how to win the Presidency in 2011.
While Nigerians overwhelmingly clamored for the sack of Maurice Iwu as INEC chairman, President Jonathan kept mute. From close observations, that was a difficult task for him because he understands very well that Iwu is his party’s (PDP) hatchet man. However, it only took the intervention of the USA government before Jonathan unwillingly got rid of Iwu. If Jonathan was sincere and committed to electoral reform, why is he finding it difficult to name a replacement for Iwu as at this time? Perhaps, he waits for Obasanjo to give him a name. Also, why the continuing inertia on the part of Jonathan to state his stand on the Uwais report?
As somebody who has risen into office based on the insistence of the civil society on doing things right when late President Yar Adua was abroad for medical treatment and a vacuum existed in the Presidency, the least Jonathan can do is to be dillydallying over issues that are at the very heart of the civil society, such as electoral reform, but he seems not ready to do just that because his own political survival would go kaput.
I hope Nigerians will remember that it was this same Jonathan who found it most difficult to publicly declare his assets when Late President Yar Adua did his within a matter of days of taking office. Jonathan exhibited the greatest inertia to publicly declare his. But when he did, what did we see, a man who has from a background of deputy director in OMPADEC to stupendous wealth within just 8 years of coming to power as deputy/Governor of Bayelsa state.
I have no doubt in my mind that Jonathan would fail Nigerians and by so doing would lay the foundation for bumpy and turbulent political days ahead. The civil society should not be caught napping, let’s all be at alert as Mr. Goodluck Jonathan cannot be trusted!