For too long, Nigerians have allowed a rampaging egomaniac, possessing average capabilities, below average morals and a totally dead conscience, to dominate the public space. Since 1999, he has denounced every administration except one (his own), excoriated everyone except one (himself), and now, after muddying the waters of our contemporary politics, he is hell-bent on dictating to Nigeria who should be accepted as leaders and who should be rejected. This man is former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The second part of this series showed that Obasanjo failed in following the developmental steps that the Gen T.Y Danjuma-led Presidential Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC) prepared for him. Yet, Obasanjo has remained a demagogue! On page 634 of Volume two of “My Watch”, Obasanjo wrote: “As at 24 may 2007, I did an update on 160 items of our stated goals and objectives varying from infrastructure, agriculture, oil and gas, to railway development, and our assessment was very satisfactory”. Should we really accept Obasanjo’s assessment? No is my answer: after the last Federal Executive Council meeting in Obasanjo’s first term, Gen Danjuma, the out-going Defence Minister, said: “we failed. We did not grow the economy, we did not grow jobs”. And the same Danjuma headed that PPAC that produced the report on which Obasanjo granted himself superlative pass mark! So,Obasanjo has been deceiving Nigeria .
Yet, why would Obasanjo lie? My answer is why not? No journalist ever raised the issue of the PPAC report except me. No opposition party ever referred to that PPAC report throughout the campaign; none. Characteristically, Obasanjo, a fanfare-enchanted President, received the PPAC report amidst great ceremonies in April 1999, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, a month before his inauguration. He vowed to run a lean government, have no First Lady but just a wife, that there would be no indiscriminate use of sirens, so his wife was barred from going with a convoy and sirens. Same too for his ministers, he said. He promised to generate 4000 megawatts of electricity in 2007 and 10,000 in 2007. He promised much more; on rail transportation, education, health, security of life and property, etc. Then, after leaving office, he said in Bornu state; he was not made President to provide infrastructure, but to keep Nigeria united.
In his speech at Nigeria’s 39th Independence Anniversary, October 1, 1999, Obasanjo promised: “…what remains is to indicate how our actual conduct can be measured and judged. To this end, I have recently approved a White Paper, based on the recommendations of PPAC. This paper will soon be made public and shall constitute our operational guidelines.”
Unfortunately, the promised White Paper was never made public, neither were Nigerians given a glimpse of its content. Thus, with no known targets with which to measure his performance, Obasanjo simply muddled through, focusing mainly on events that caught his fancy, especially if they trained international attention on him.
As Obasanjo flagged off his re-election campaign at the International Conference Centre, Abuja in April 2002, I asked him: “You and several top PDP members have said you have performed wonderfully well. But to really assess you, do you not think that one needs to see the road map prepared by that Committee headed by Gen. T. Y. Danjuma? In your 1999 Independence Anniversary speech, you promised to publicise it”.
Obasanjo: “PPAC report? You mean you have not seen it”
I: “Put together, I have spent over three months of my life searching for it”.
Obasanjo: “Then look for it. It is there, somewhere.”
At this point, a large part of the audience began to murmur its support for me as I fought off the physical attempts from several persons in the campaign and security groups to snatch the microphone from me.
I: “Mr. President could you please say exactly where I may find it for I have been searching for it without success.”
Obasanjo: (As the support for me continued to grow, especially as several correspondents began to ask the security agents not to snatch the microphone from a newspaper reporter, an impatient Obasanjo turned to his spokesman, Tunji Oseni) “Okay, collect it from Tunji Oseni”. Then unable to mask his anger, he turned to the head of his campaign publicity team, Mr. Akin Oshuntokun and said, “whether you are a chief, Dr. or whatever you call yourself, I don’t want to take any more questions. This is the last question”.
Throughout that campaign period, the PPAC report was never an issue, yet I asked the question at a televised programme. Up till now, it has not become one. But this is an example of how the mass media, though acerbic to other leaders, have treated Obasanjo with unusually soft gloves. The report was designed to jump-start the economy, enhance the rule of law and supremacy of the constitution. So, Obasanjo was not alone in his failures; there was followership and journalistic failure of epic dimensions.
Does Obasanjo agree that he failed woefully? In his Monday August 22, 2006 speech: “PDP: Passing On The Torch” Obasanjo gushed: “I am sure you are hearing what I hear everywhere when people marvel at the phenomenal changes that have taken place since we came in 1999, when they ask how these can be sustained to avoid reversal of what has been achieved”. That shows that Obasanjo never appreciated how dastardly he dashed Nigeria’s dreams through his inept leadership.
Yet, having messed up Nigeria since 1999, must we allow him to also mess up the future? Having imposed a sick and dying President Umaru Yar’Adua and failed Goodluck Jonathan on Nigeria, after demonizing his political enemies by assassinating their characters, after using the EFCC as a personal terrorist group, he is preparing to team up with others to form the much-talked about mega-party. People of goodwill should distance themselves from this man who has no genuine friends as he always backstabs them. He is incapable of being a team player as he denigrates and denounces one and all. And most of all, he has nothing to offer. Or going by the PPAC recommendations: what has he offered Nigeria since 1999? Sorrow, tears and blood. Please, add lies, character assassination and hypocrisy to that list.