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.
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?