OBASANJO IS THE CANCER OF NIGERIAN POLITICS
If you think that he is gone, he comes back in a different form or in a different location. This is true of metastatic cancer as it is true of Chief Lieutenant General Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo. Anything unsavory in Nigerian politics has his fingerprints on it. From the time he was reluctantly forced to succeed the assassinated General Murtala Mohammed in 1976 to the present day, he has bestrode the Nigerian political landscape as a Corruptor-in-Chief (C in C), compared to Commander in Chief (C-in-C). A Nigerian President takes the C-in-C more seriously than other countries’ Presidents do. Nigerian Presidents, who cannot discharge a loaded gun, have been seen dressed in the garbs of Field Marshals to emphasize their C-in-C role.
Nigerians got rid of Obasanjo in 1979. He had installed Alhaji Shehu Shagari, using the infamous twelve two-thirds rule. Using this rule, two-thirds of 19 states are twelve two-thirds states and not 13 states. The correct procedure is to have a second round of voting as in many democracies such as France. Obasanjo set a precedent for manipulating elections in Nigeria. He also set a precedent for a military ruler to step down after a democratic election. Everyone cheered despite the electoral manipulation.
Obasanjo retired and using the Land Use Decree, which he promulgated as a military dictator, he garnered large tracts of land in different parts of the country ostensibly for farming. He faded into the background from 1979 to 1999. The military regime of General Sani Abacha imprisoned Obasanjo for allegedly plotting a coup d’état. He was in prison when General Abacha died under mysterious circumstances. Subsequently, he was released along with several co-plotters.
Joining the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and with the strong backing of the retired military generals, he was installed to assuage the Yorubas. Alhaji M.K.O. Abiola, a Yoruba, the widely acclaimed winner of the June 1993 Presidential Election, had died during a meeting with American officials, following the death of Abacha. During Obasanjo’s eight-year rule, Nigeria never generated an extra watt of electricity, 300 billion Naira was allocated to the road sector, and no single kilometer of road was constructed. The refineries continued to be mothballed and refined petroleum products were imported at inflated prices. The difference between local and foreign prices of refined products was paid to political cronies as oil subsidies. This was and continues to be a huge cesspool of corruption. Various sectors were shut off to the competition. Alhaji Aliko Dangote was given a monopoly over the cement sector. Ibeto Cement was shut down. This was a continuation of the monopoly that Dangote held in the cement, sugar, flour, and salt sectors during the long military interregnum. These commodities are the oxygen of any economy. No wonder Dangote is a billionaire in dollar terms. Obasanjo introduced the most expensive cellphone system to Nigeria riddled with corruption. Econet, a pioneer, was hounded out of the business for refusing to pay kickbacks. MTN recovered its capital expenditure in 3 years – a world record.
Agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) were established to hound and silence opponents. During his presidency, he enacted laws that sold off choice government properties owned by all Nigerians to his cronies under the guise of privatization.
His personal Senior Domestic Assistant, Mr. Andy Uba, was installed through rigging as the Governor of Anambra State in 2007. On his asset declaration form, he was worth over one trillion Naira. In eight years, the personal assistant of the much-celebrated anti-corruption and transparent President Obasanjo went from zero to one trillion Naira. Andy Uba was immediately deposed by the Election Tribunal as Peter Obi still had three years on his tenure.
The transparency champion, Obasanjo, built a University, a Presidential Library, and greatly expanded his Otta Farms during his eight-year tenure. The scheme was the following: I give you a contract, and you donate to Obasanjo’s causes. American presidents do not build libraries, universities, or run businesses while in office. Nigeria runs an American Presidential system.
The re-election of Chief Lieutenant General Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo in 2003 was riddled with electoral malpractices. He had a long-running battle with his Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was supposed to succeed the caretaker Obasanjo, after his first term.
A great legislator, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, was hounded out of the office of Senate President and later killed by tear gassing during a rally with Muhammadu Buhari. To add more maggots to the festering wound of corruption, Obasanjo wanted to buy a third term by compromising legislators. He was thoroughly rebuffed. On leaving office, Obasanjo was surprised to discover that a lack of electricity, no potable water, bad roads, and long gasoline lines existed in Nigeria. What a farce!
There were several high-profile political and non-political assassinations during Obasanjo’s reign from 1999 to 2007. Obasanjo’s chief law officer, Mr. Bola Ige, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, was killed in his residence. Other notable figures assassinated during Obasanjo’s tenure include Igwe F.F.B.C. Nwankwo, Chief Marshall Harry, Ogbonnaya Uche, Barnabas and Amaka Igwe, Ayo Daramola, and Funsho Williams, a gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State.
Obasanjo’s lack of decorum is so legendary that he will engage musicians, schoolchildren, market women, politicians, or anybody in verbal pugilistics, sometimes using foul language. Nigerians, with a penchant for the macabre, will encourage Obasanjo with shouts of Baba! Baba!!
Obasanjo installed Umaru Yar’adua as President with Goodluck Jonathan as Vice President. President Umaru Yar’adua had one foot in the grave, so Obasanjo had to reassure voters by placing a phone call to the candidate from a campaign rally in Ibadan. During the staged conversation, he uttered the famous “Umoru, are you dead?” question. Goodluck Jonathan never ran for any election in his personal capacity and always joined a ticket as vice or deputy. Umaru Yar’adua was Governor of Katsina State, and Goodluck Jonathan was Governor of Bayelsa State, having succeeded Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha. Yar’adua rebuffed Obasanjo’s effort to control him. A trend continued by Goodluck Jonathan after Umaru Yar’adua’s death in 2009. If Obasanjo cannot control you, he will destroy you, as Goodluck Jonathan will discover.
President Jonathan was comfortably elected in 2011 after completing the last two years of Yar’adua’s tenure. Obasanjo’s effort to control Jonathan was rebuffed. Jonathan brought back Dr. Okonjo Iweala, the economic whiz, who separated from the Obasanjo regime under mysterious circumstances. Obasanjo was incensed. He got his chance by sabotaging Jonathan’s re-election and installing another sick President – Buhari. President Buhari is currently receiving care for an undisclosed illness at the government’s expense at a secret London hospital.
Obasanjo, to dissuade people from voting for Jonathan and the PDP, tore his PDP membership card at a publicly televised event. Instead of drawing opprobrium, he was cheered by the gullible Nigerian public. He understands their psyche. In most countries, he would be widely and roundly condemned for biting the hand (PDP) that fed him (Presidency) for eight years. That was the signal for mass defections from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC)! Muhammadu Buhari won and has thrown the economy into a downward spiral as he did during his short-lived reign from 1983 to 1985 as a military dictator.
Currently, Obasanjo has been having a series of clandestine meetings to influence the choice of Buhari’s successor. The cancer keeps on returning.
In conclusion, Chief Lieutenant General Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo is so clean and transparent that he did not win the Mo Ibrahim prize given to clean retired African leaders. That says a lot about his anti-corruption stance.