Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Recently, I had a discussion with a Nigerian who argued that Nigerians were wasting their time blaming Yar'Adua for their woes. Instead, he passionately argued, Nigerians should look closer at former President Olusegun Obasanjo who handpicked Yar'Adua to be President and whose failures as President will have long lasting ramifications on the country. After reading the recently released Chatham House report, Thirst For Oil, in which the group compared the experience of Asian companies in the oil sectors of Nigeria and Angola, I cannot help but understand why anyone would want an investigation into the 2-term Obasanjo administration.

While Obasanjo was President, Nigeria became the "first African nation to settle with its official lenders" when it arranged to have most of its debt erased by the Paris Club. Nigeria went on to create a plan that allowed it to pay off its debt. Obasanjo was also very skilled at bringing talented, well respected Nigerians back home to work for the federal government and make changes such as the current World Bank Managing Director, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Ironically, during this same time period, Obasanjo managed to spend millions in the oil sector even though oil production and electricity generation failed to increase.

Although the Chatham Report will not shock the average Nigerian or those who follow Nigerian issues, it managed to provide concrete examples of the former President's dereliction of duty to citizens. It details the way Obasanjo used certain oil regulation processes to make many of his friends extremely rich. Even worse, in the quest to bring in Asian companies, Obasanjo offered them lucrative contracts without creating contractual means to enforce the contracts, signifying that these contracts were simply a way for him and others to skim off the top, damning Nigerians to an inefficient oil sector that lights the homes of millions in Cameroon and Ghana but not Nigeria.

This is not the first time that evidence has highlighted Obasanjo's quest to circumvent the laws on the books to suit his own needs. It seems that he felt above the law, and believed that he alone could transform Nigeria. Consequently, his hand picked successor, Yar'Adua was able to position himself as a supporter of the 'rule of law', in direct contrast to Obasanjo. This duality to Obasanjo - doing some good things for Nigeria while being inherently corrupt - simply illustrates that Nigerians have been cheated by those who should have worked in their interest. The only question remaining is when will Obasanjo be investigated for the corruption directly linked to him? He currently is working hard to rebrand his international image, what with trips as an AU observer of the last South African elections (2009) and working with the UN as a mediator in the Congo. And, it seems that his charm offensive is working abroad and maybe even at home.

In a country with a significant punishment problem, where officials known to have stolen from public coffers roam free (e.g. James Ibori), where former presidents who looted the nation's coffers praise their fellow conspirators that are known thieves (e.g. Babangida's attempts to rewrite the history of Sani Abacha), one can only hope that one day, the Nigerian people who have directly suffered as a result of corruption and greed will eventually have justice and know the full extent of the disrespect they have been shown by their 'leaders'. And, as for whether Obasanjo did more harm than good, only the history books will answer that question.

UPDATE: A Nigerian court recently declared that Yar'Adau's revocation of an oil contract between Nigeria and South Korean company was illegal.

From the Archives:
- Nigerian Legacy of Obasanjo
- Nigeria Power Scandal: Authority Stealing
- Third term Agenda: Any Regrets?

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13 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

webround said...

off to read the report

io said...

Oba ma sanjo e lewon. we just have to keep at trying to make the country better and put the right people where things would get done.

io said...

Oba ma sanjo e lewon. we just have to keep at trying to make the country better and put the right people where things would get done.

Anonymous said...

With all his faults, I think the guy is more good than harm.

Dotun Olowoporoku (from Facebook)

Anonymous said...

Of course, the culpability of Obasanjo in all these mess cannot be ignored. That Yar 'Adua is there today, with all its accompanying corruption and warts, is due to Obasanjo. So, he must take the blame. Obasanjo also knew what he was doing, so it is not as if, he did not. he knew the consequences. But does he care? No.

Akintokunbo Adejumo (from Facebook)

RE-EntrePOD said...

an old saying is "only a pot can call a kettle black".
basically obasanjo named yar adua to keep his head off the chopping block. keep your enemies close and your friends are easier to watch.

just an observation

Kunta said...

I my opinion, I think Obasanjo tried. Now I don't know if he did all he could have done or not but in a way, he tried plus he had a team that where either scared of him or truly love to make a difference.
I will not be able to address the issue of corruption because I cannot confirm anything and I do not have facts to back myself up.
I think the problem with most Nigerians is that 'we' were hoping that he will change things miraculously and we will all live happily ever after. Maybe
He made his mistakes but… who doesn't?
I think it is high time we started seeing the building of the nation as a general effort...
Maybe...just maybe if we start in our homes, it'll affect our neighbourhoods and from there to our cities...

Naija o ba'je o.

PS: Thanks for stopping over at my spot... You'll see me around here more often.

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about them but that's why I'm here. But what I do know is they are all more bad than good. They're "efforts" are far from enough. This is not the type of job you can go home and have your 8 hours of sleep every night. There are school children who do more work and are capable of more efficient planning. Though running a nation is hard if they put as much creativity into their work as they do trying to extort money we'd all be in a better place right now with depts paid and plenty excess money to chop afterwards if they really wanted to. Abi that's what the English MPs do...

Dojaa said...

I think Nigeria has a long way to go yet, I will not be reading the entire report as they usually upset me.
I think any one person will struggle to turnaround a very bad situation like the one Nigeria has fallen into over the years, change will be gradual and it will be a collective effort.

townncrier said...

I think we've become too fixated with the past,especially on this OBJ matter.Early on you pointed out some positives about the old man;they were very significant.Let Yar'adua learn from those and add to his own good ideas, then we all will be better for it.We had guys like Ribadu and El Rufai.Today it is Sanusi and Fashola.If we can keep producing our 'Obamas' consistently,surely the future would become brighter.

tobenna said...

OBJ did more good than harm.
Enough of what he did rightly or wrongly and focus on what is happening NOW.
What is Baba Go-Slow up to?
Nothing as usual?

Beauty said...

Obansanjo on BBC Hardtalk and Ribadu on PSB show are excellent references.

Seyi said...

Obasanjo was a hypocrite. And I will regard him as one of the most corrupt leaders Nigeria has ever produced. He was quite "smart" though. Unlike his predecessors who blatantly looted the treasury, he used his position to enrich himself. At the end of the day, corruption is corruption!

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