Monday Discourse 190
Our Most Corrupt Government
Let me start this article from the bottom, by putting its conclusion first: That when the history of this country will be written at any date after 2007, I do not entertain any doubt that objective historians will find no difficulty at all in labelling the present regime the worst government in the history of Nigeria.
I think with barely two years to the end of the administration and with impossibility of the messiah to perform miracles, hardly would anyone accuse people holding an opinion similar to mine of rush judgement. To build a premise that will justify it is the easiest job that could be assigned any bricklayer of logic. Governance has many aspects; in building our premise we are limiting ourselves to corruption and incompetence. Rule of law does not exist. I heard Bola Ige, Okadigbo, Marshall Harry and many others say so from their graves.
I am writing this article before 2007 because some people, many of whom I hold at high regard, are beginning to be fooled by Obasanjo’s recent camouflage as a crusader against corruption. The most corrupt police boss, Tafa Balogun, is brought to court in handcuffs and tears; a minister of education is sacked over the TV screen, and arraigned in court along with him former Senate President, some senators and members of the House of Representatives; another minister is fired, this time without the salad of TV broadcast, over auctioning at dismal rates properties of the government to highly placed individuals in government such as the Vice President and Minister of Finance (I wonder what happened to her World Bank gospel, perhaps she forgot it in New York); also to come in some few weeks are some ministers, the culpability of whom was tipped by the President. With all this, who will deny this regime the credit of orchestrating the best theatrical display since 1984?
We enjoy watching the show, no doubt, and we are always excited if the thieves at the helm of our affairs throw one of their own into the ocean for the sharks to swallow. However, we fail to be gullible and be carried away by something that is coming too late, too abrupt, and too baseless to qualify for our support or to serve as the fountain that will quench our thirst for good governance. A donkey cannot race as a horse could do.
No regime in our history has squandered opportunities and resources as did this government. There is none whatsoever. Looking back at previous governments, did any of them come to power when the country was so hungry of good leadership, so much so that the country decided to abandon its traditional balance of power for the sake of progress and stability, so much so that it brought a convict directly out of prison and handed to him the saddle of leadership? Who, other than Obasanjo, ever got the leadership of his country, twice in his life without working for it, or putting it more precisely, who harvested twice a crop he has not planted? In the 1976 he came to power after the assassination of his superior who nearly sacked him if it were not for the timely intervention of Awoniyi; and in 1999 he again came to power after the assassination of another Head of State?
It is interesting to note how he characteristically handled both opportunities, especially as it regards corruption. In 1976 not long after assuming office as Head of State he reversed the anti-corruption campaign of Murtala and laid the foundation for building the greediest and the most corrupt crop of military officers. At the end of the regime, not less than three generals have amassed colossal amounts of wealth that will become to target of their immediate and distant juniors and set the looting of public treasury an enviable style of governance. The three are Obasanjo himself, Danjuma his Chief of Army Staff and Shehu Yaradua, the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. For the first time, we had a group of leaders who will die stinking rich. They retired from the army with business estates that could only be matched by only one or two civilian surrogates, people like Abiola. The above are people who tutored the likes of Babangida and Abacha in the art of “don’t cry for Nigeria.”
This is the true history of Nigeria. These are the multi-billionaire generals. Sometimes, I wonder what this country would have become if these names had used their talents to promote Nigeria, rather than their pockets. But it will never be. They have firmly gripped the throat of this country, suffocating it for thirty years. And it appears that they are not ready to let it free until it drops dead or death overtakes them.
Even at their death, as men, the evil they do will live after them. They have, in the course of those three decades, admitted into the academy of corruption thousands of younger Nigerians who will perpetuate their legacy. Such disciples have been filling their bellies of greed with whatever stuff will cross their way while in office. Think of the thousands of military officers and civilians who served as governors and ministers from 1976 to date, the majority of whom served to steal. They are still active and influential. Then think of the future, is there any basis of hope in it? The source of this predicament will easily be traced to the derailment of Obasanjo in 1976.
In 1999 when he became President, we thought, in our usual naivety, he will constitute a government of redemption, since he has confessed to be a born again. He failed us right from the start by constituting his team from the old rotten vanguard. Some people then suggested that they brought him to power, so he needed some time and reason to flush them out. Unfortunately, most of them remained with him throughout his first tenure. Some, like the Minister of Works, Tony Anenih, who spent over N400 billion on invisible roads, are very much around him.
Thus he promised to fight corruption but failed to take a single step throughout his first tenure to actualise it. That tenure ended with no parallel in our history in areas of incompetence, corruption and degeneration. Transparency International then rated Nigeria as the second most corrupt country in the World and said 56% of the corruption was taking place in the Presidency, i.e. on the desk of Obasanjo and his subordinates!
One can hardly compare Obasanjo’s government with that of Shehu Shagari, its immediate kin in comparative politics. Looking at the projects which Shagari’s government executed in every state of the federation, one wonders why in most states not a single substantial project of the federal government could be cited. Yet, never did Nigeria earn higher than what it earned in the last six years when actual earnings have always exceeded budgetary projections. It is clear, from the absence of projects, that the money end up swindled.
Someone may contend that Babangida and Abacha regimes were corrupt. Yes. No one doubts that. In fact an element of corruption could be found in every kingdom except that of God. The issue here is comparative, it is that of degree. Babangida in the first place has never fired a word against corruption. Here I found him to be the most honest leader. He made no pretence, unlike Obasanjo. Did Babangida promote it? Many would say yes, and I agree with them. The same thing with Abacha, whom we are told has stolen nothing less than $9billion. Yet, if we scan the records we will find out that those governments have earned far less than what this government is earning and, more importantly, they have numerous projects which their lieutenants will be quick to point at. After all, Obasanjo, like Abacha, needs to leave the scene first before we know the degree of wealth he and his family have stolen. It is then that Nigerians will subject him to a litmus test. The Americans are not playing the game the Nigerian way. Let them leave Obasanjo’s son alone. The time for investigation and revelations is coming.
The performance of Obasanjo should better not be mentioned. In fact Obasanjo and performance are standing at the two most distant poles in the universe. Take for instance the only dual carriageway in North, the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano highway. While Babangida built it in almost a twinkle of an eye, Obasanjo could not repair it even in six years. When his government made up its mind to undertake the repairs, as it did for many other roads, it threw away due process and gave the contracts to contractors, majority of whom have only three tools: digger, shovels and wheel barrow, having absolutely no experience in road construction. The roads, by so doing, are further dilapidated and wobbled. Where is Obasanjo’s equivalent of DFFRI or PTF, if I may ask, which though not without their pitfalls, nevertheless left behind motorable roads and facilities that Nigerians continue to enjoy nationwide?
And how many hundreds of billions has the government been sinking into NEPA without any success in sight? Is it not a shame that in spite of this, the output has dwindled to levels never experienced in the history of this government? Obasanjo’s incompetence syndrome is simply endless.
Moreover, who among our past leaders was ever caught bribing the National Assembly, or forging electoral law, or appointing one of the biggest thieves in the country as Inspector General of Police? In whose government have we heard of bunkering ships disappearing? Who among them entered a nolle proseque to free his uncle standing trial for theft of over N400 million? Whose son was put under surveillance by American authorities? Who arranged and supervised the most corrupt election in our history, in desperation to remain in power for additional four years? Who among them declared to the world that he is making N30million profit out of an agricultural outfit that was in shamble when he assumed power? And who asked him to make the declaration public? And what else is he making from other outfits? Or was the declaration made in preparation for the present campaign against corruption, now that the regime is coming to an end? Well, it is not time yet for revelations. We are not in a hurry.
In line with what many writers have advised before, that Obasanjo has never kept a promise, I strongly doubt his commitment to carry his anti-corruption campaign beyond vendetta and political expedience. I am increasingly coming to believe that what we have seen recently is a light shower, as al-Hariri would say in the epilogue to his Assemblies, which precedes a heavy downpour. The downpour will be Atiku and, likely, Babangida, with more certainty placed on the former. The two must prepare for an eminent consumption by the monster they created: Babangida sold him to the Nigerian ruling elite in 1999, while Atiku and Anenih masterminded the rigging of April 2003 elections. If they are rewarded by emasculation, it will be to the delight of Nigerians who were deprived the voice of their votes.
In conclusion, I pray that this period become the peak of our corruption after which a sharp decline will be witnessed. That though the storm has been heavy in the last six years, we will be most grateful if God stops it instantly in 2007. May there be no government in future that will compete with the present one in being our worst government.