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Chinua Achebe: Why IrejectedNigeria's 2004 national honors fromObasanjo's government

NIGERIA: Senate prez Wabara's ignominous fall;Obasanjo fires education minister for bribing senateleaders

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston,CLASSmagazine
USAfricaonline.comand TheBlack Business Journal

ABUJA, 23 March (IRIN) - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo hasfired Education Minister Fabian Osuji for bribing the leader of thesenate and six other members of parliament to smooth the passage ofhis annual budget. He has also strongly criticised Senate PresidentAdolphous Wabara for accepting the bribe, pavingthe way for his likely downfall. He is reported to have put in hisresignation as Senate president.

Obasanjo, who is on a crusade against rampant corruption, went ontelevision on Tuesday night to tell the country that the educationminister withdrew 55 million naira (US $410,000) from governmentcoffers, which he shared out between Wabara, five other senators anda member of the House of Reprentatives, the lower house ofparliament. "Fellow Nigerians, it is a disheartening event that thenumber three man in the government hierarchy in the country isinvolved in this sordid matter," Obasanjo said, referring toWabara."It is an action that violates all known norms of goodgovernance, progressive leadership, integrity and credibility," hesaid. Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and leading oilexporter, is regularly ranked one of the world's most corruptcountries.

In a statement issued after the speech, members of the House ofRepresentatives said they shared the president's anxiety aboutcorruption but they cautioned against sweeping comments and trial bytelevision.

"The war against corruption should not be against the NationalAssembly as an institution," the members said. Others named in publicby Obasanjo in the bribery scandal were John Azuta Mbata, chairman ofthe Senate Appropriation Committee, Chris Adighije, chairman of theSenate Education Committee and Shehu Matazu, head of the educationcommittee in the lower house.

The two other senators accused of pocketing bribes were BadamasiMaccido and Emmanuel Okpede.

Obasanjo said Nigeria's corruption watchdog, the Economic andFinancial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had uncovered the scam. The bribemoney "will be kept and used as exhibit" in a forthcoming trial ofthose accused of corruption, he said. In January 2003 he fired LabourMinister Hussein Akwanga over allegations that he took bribes fromthe French company SAGEM that enabled it to win a contract to producenew identity cards for Nigeria's 126 million inhabitants.

Akwanga and three other senior politicians charged with him arecurrently free on bail pending the conclusion of their trial.

The influential Guardian newspaper said on Wednesday that Wabarahad handed in his resignation as head of the senate with effect from5 April, the day that parliament returns from its Easter recess. ButWabara's spokesman Henry Ugbolue denied the report. "To the best ofmy knowledge the Senate President is still in office," he told IRIN.Wabara admitted in a statement at the weekend that he had facilitatedan encounter between the education minister and a parliamentaryeducation committee in December 2004 to help Osuji win approval ofhis budget "in the interests of the education sector". But heshrugged off any notion of impropriety. "At no point at the meetingwas any form of monetary demand made from the minister and at nopoint did the President of the Senate ask the minister to give moneyto anybody," Wabara said.

Nigerian newspapers have previously alleged cabinet ministers werebribing legislators to win approval for their budgets without toomuch scrutiny.

The president said in his speech that these allegations were beinginvestigated. Although the drive to wipe out graft has been a majorplank of Obasanjo's two-term presidency, allegations of governmentcorruption remain rife. The international corruption watchdogTransparency International ranked Nigeria third to bottom, just aheadof Bangladesh and Haiti, in its 2004 Corruption PerceptionsIndex.

(Three former senate presidents have resigned over allegations ofcorruption or due to direct power conflicts with two of those sinceObasanjo, a former military ruler, returned to power as an electedhead of state in 1999. The formr senate presidents were Chief EvansEnwerem, late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Chief Pius Anyim)

Obasanjo told the nation in his televised speech that a formalreport (on Wabara's dealings on this issue) would be submitted to theIndependent Corrupt Practices Commission, which has powers toprosecute corruption cases. Wabara also appears to face imminentremoval as senate president. Obasanjo said that a report was alreadybefore the body for "necessary action".

Meanwhile, Senator Kanti Bello (ANPP/Katsina North), criticizedwhat he describes as Obasanjo's double standards: "I don't condonecorruption but why should the president be anxious to prosecutelawmakers while former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, hasnot been prosecuted even though evidence are clear that he stolebillions of naira."


Haba,Obasanjo, please spare us some of this emotional blackmail! Who putWabara there in the firstplace?

By Ishaq Modibbo Kawu (Daily Trust newspaper,Abuja):

March 23, 2005- "Nigerians had started yawning every time "crusader"Obasanjo re-iterated his commitment to a corruption-free process ofgovernance. The reason was simply the huge credibility deficitObasanjo'sgovernment has consistently run, since his election in 1999. Therewere too many examples of corruption at the heart of the hypocriticaland quixotic tilting at the windmill of corruption. The monster ofcorruption seemed to have successfully entrenched itself, almost likean ancient pagan god, that was propitiated in the various levels ofNigeria's ruling elite. I'll take one example; the infamous DefenceMinistry Permanent Secretary, Makanjuola, who stole N400m from hisministry. It was General T.Y. Danjuma, who blew the whistle on thisexecutive thief. A challenge was thrown by that patriotic act of T.YDanjuma, because the story that has continued to make the rounds isthat the thief Makanjuola is infact, Obasanjo's cousin...

Obasanjo said inter-alia in his broadcast that "we have never madeshy of our undiluted comments to eliminating corruption from ournational life because it compromises national development,contaminates collective morality and values distorts nationalplanning, corrodes integrity and discipline, and destroys thefoundation of creativity, innovation, and democratic structure anddevelopment." The sentiments are superb, but facts are stubbornthings, and the facts of Obasanjo's rule in the past six years, donot vindicate him and his lofty sentiments.

For example how elastic is his conception of corruption? Does thatinclude the forgery of the Electoral Act? Is it corrupt not toimplement budgets as he has consistently refused to do since he cameto power? Is it an act of corruption to spend monies withoutappropriation? Is it corruption to emasculate other arms ofgovernment, stifle the separation of powers and cast an authoritarianpall on the democratic process in the country?

It will be interesting to find out from Obasanjo if his definitionof corruption includes acts of impunity, such as taking away DeltaSteel Company won 'fair and square' in open competitive bid by aNigerian company. Then giving away the company by Presidential fiatto an Indian company? Obasanjo should also let us know if hisdefinition of corruption takes in the messy SOLGAS deal at Ajaokutaor the PENTASCOPE scam at NITEL. Obasanjo was also 'disheartened'that 'the number three man in the government hierarchy in the countryis involved in this sordid matter'. Haba, Obasanjo, please spare ussome of this emotional blackmail! Who put Wabara there in the firstplace? A charlatan that did not win an election in the first place ordidn't you write a congratulatory letter to Elder Dan Imoh, whosemandate was traded away in order that Wabara; colourless , tasteless,philistine and quisling, can be made the President of our nationshighest legislative body? An act of vengeance by Obasanjo, tounderscore how imperial his presidency has evolved in the years since1999, but especially after the charade of the 2003 election. Theimposition of Wabara as Nigeria's number three citizen is areflection of the flaw in the president's own persona; that inabilityof absolute power to condone dissent, and of an old African chief,groomed in the rural tyranny of a peasant society who made good as amilitary dictator. This ex-dictator is suffused with a messianicstrain, was imprisoned and humiliated, discovered religion a-new inadversity and walked almost directly from prison to power, as theconsensus choice to lead Nigeria, by a military constituency directlyresponsible largely for the ruination of our country. This sequenceof events steeped president Obasanjo in his subjective idealism,philosophically, as being the indispensable source of all wisdom ofstatecraft.

This is the background that will make him impose a character likeAdolphus Wabara on Nigeria."

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Impeachment process shows Nigerian democracy "is alive... being tested." Nigeria's president retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the impeachment process shows that "democracy is alive, is being tested, and being tried.... What they (the legislators) have tried to do in the democratic way, which is not easy, would probably have been done by taking arms or by -- with bullets. So, but with democracy, of course, some people feel that this is the way this should be, and then I have an opportunity to defend myself. There is discussion. There is dialogue. There is a decision. There is fairness." He made these comments when he appeared on Tuesday September 17, 2002 on CNN International to discuss the issues of impeachment facing him, the allegations of corruption, abuse of the constitution and deployment of soldiers ina civilian environment which led to the "massacre of civilians" in Odi (Bayelsa) and Zaki Biam (Benue). On the charges by international human rights organizations and Nigerian media that his government has been involved in actions which have led to the deaths of thousands of Nigerians, the retired General gave a surprising answer. He was asked that "as many as 10,000 people, it's being reported, have been killed in Nigeria (in) communal rivalries, and the number is believed to be increasing. And people are saying that although President Obasanjo has done a lot of good for Nigeria, you're accused of not -- accused of failing to halt that spiraling violence."

Obasanjo: Let me say this to you, when you put the question of 10,000 -- 10,000 people dying in Nigeria, of course, for a population of over 120 million people...." But Founder and recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), Chido Nwangwu, who appeared on the same program as as a CNN International analyst (Africa) pointed out that "when (President Obasanjo) answered that in a country of 100 million that 10,000 people are said to have died, as if that was a small number, that in itself reflects a disconnect with the concerns of Nigerians. The second one is that when the risk is civil disagreement, the police are required to intervene in the country. And the deployment of the armed forces of Nigeria requires at least some consultation, however modest, with the parliament." Nwangwu, former member of the editorial board of Nigeria's Daily Times continued that "the third factor that is equally important to underscore is that the armed forces of Nigeria moved in for a punitive action rather than just containing a civil disagreement." He noted in backgrounder "it was revealing and interesting interesting discussing Nigeria's issues with its leader - under the current circumstances of an increasingly out-of-schedule elections and the gathering storm of an impeachment process by a majority of the members of the National Assembly, predominantly by Obasanjo's party members." See rush transcript of the CNN International news program.

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