This part two of the series will address former President Obasanjo’s REAL, as opposed to CLAIMED, achievements.
To chart a new direction, Obasanjo (as President-elect) set up the Presidential Policy Advisory Council (PPAC) headed by Lt. Gen Theophilus, which recommended a lean government, fewer personnel, reduced overhead costs, 24 ministers and 12 Ministers of State, minus First Lady’s office. Instead, Obasanjo appointed about 52 ministers. For his second term, he had 40 ministers, plus 13 Special Advisers who were of ministerial rank and enjoyed the same perks of office. Thus the effect on the nation’s coffers was that of 53 ministers. So much for a lean government.
PPMC had recommended that (Universal Primary Education) UPE be compulsory and like secondary and technical schools, be tuition-free. There was to be free health-care for women during pregnancy and up to post-natal care. Obasanjo disdained them. Not even child immunisation was comprehensively pursued. The terrible result is that Nigeria remains a health-terrorist nation; the festering nest and incubation dish for wild polio.
On Defence/Law Enforcement, the PPA recommended: “Give Top priority to public safety and security of life and property. Rationalise strength of armed forces, and increase police strength from 130,000 to 250,000. Revamp military hardware and refurbish equipment.
Yes, Obasanjo increased police strength from 130, 000 to about 300,000 but life and property became more insecure. Even the murder of his Justice Minister and Attorney General (Bola Ige) in 2002 remains unsolved, like the murder of many politicians such as A.K Dikibo and Harry Marshal. The National Assembly rushed through a Supplementary Budget in 2002, with all secrecy, providing N300 billion for armaments, to keep the military in top fighting shape. The Senate-leadership had returned from the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, where Obasnjo had signed the top-secret Supplementary Budget, which was never discussed on the floor of either of the two chambers of the National Assemby, but was given to Obasanjo explicitly at his request, so as to maintain its secrecy, and the then Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim told one of his aides: “file this, and ensure that it does not get into a third hand”. When I saw the document, I could appreciate Anyim’s extra-care over it; there was high tension between Nigeria and Cameroun then; troops were amassed on both sides of the border, around the then disputed Bakassi Peninsula and an outright break of real hostilities were not unexpected.
Not a penny was spent for the purpose though. Thus, when the military’s fighting prowess was tested against Boko Haram, about a decade down the line, the military appeared was out-gunned.
The PPAC report had yearly targets. Thus, in 1999, government was “to restore, improve and expand Federal Urban Mass Transits (FUMT), vigourously address the poverty question and with speedy and radical measures”. Unfortunately, by the end of Obasanjo’s eight years in office, the FUMT headquarters was in ruins, the project very, very dead.
Year 2000 was to witness “aggressive development of Federal Roads and Highways,” “revitalization of the Nigerian Rail Transport system”. Instead, across the nation, leprosy further attacked the roads that were never repaired despite hundreds of billions of Naira budgetary allocation to the Works ministry.
The dualisation of the less than 100-kilometre Onitsha-Owerri road, the contract award of which Obasanjo used to flag re-election campaign in 2002, remained unfinished all through the four years of that second term. For the “revitalization of the Railway system”, on August 30th 2003 (three months into Obasanjo’s second term) Obasanjo’s Transport Minister, Mr. Abiye Sekibo formally pronounced the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) dead, while visiting the Zaria, Kaduna state-based Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT),
Sekibo also lamented the non-allocation of even a brass farthing to the Railways in 2002 and the allocation of N120 million to the entire Transport ministry, for the last half of 2003, which he said averaged N21 million monthly.
Yet, in 2005, Obasanjo began throwing money at every problem to justify the need for his continued stay in office as the country’s messiah; he woke up from slumber and began to talk about increasing electricity generation and enhancing rail transport. His Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala asked Nigerians to expect power generation of 10,000 megawatts (MW) by end of 2007 after 19 integrated power projects would have been completed; a big lie!
The “Mother Of All Lies; Vision 202020; Nigeria’s becoming the world’s 20th most robust economy by year 2020 came in 2005. It did not occur to Nigerians that the country that would be knocked off from that perch was, please wait for it, SWEDEN, BELGIUM or SAUDI ARABIA, depending on differing indices. Yet, all that hoopla ensued when Goldman Sachs published its Global Economics Paper No: 134, listing Nigeria among what it called the Next 11 countries: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam, to come after the First 11 termed the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) which had in 2003 been projected to become the world’s leading economies by 2050. Yes, 2050 if they got certain indices right! And Godman Sachs warned on page 11 that “only Korea and Mexico are serious candidates that are large enough and plausible enough to lay claim to a BRICs-like impact”. It added: “Nigeria, Bangladesh and Pakistan all score poorly. Nigeria’s standing, in particular, highlights the large amount of work needed if it is to have a serious claim in achieving the potential growth outlined in the NEW 2050 PROJECTION”.
Did you notice the operative date? 2050! But Obasanjo went ahead with the Vision 20-2020 National swindle. Third Term was in full swing and any lie could do; and such lies poured out as torrentially as the River Niger flows. $13 Billion electricity project, rail reforms, school reforms, etc, all went on simultaneously. Even the National Confab which Obasanjo had called an anathema was organised. Yet, Nigeria got no tangible benefit from any of them.
Tony Eluemunor, former Aso Rock Correspondent, adapted this from Chapter Two of his unpublished book “The Audacity of Hypocrisy”.