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Obasanjo: Three Years of Motion no Movement
By NKEM EKEOPARA
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.com and NigeriaCentral.com
Most objective analysts of Nigeria since May 29, 1999, will point to the many failings of the administration of Obasanjo. From the much touted privatisation program now bungled and terribly smeared with corruption, to the incessant power outages, from excessively expensive GSM telephone that is hardly accessible due to poor and unreliable network, the story then as at tomorrow the exact day Obasanjo is three years in Office, is one of dismal failure. The Federal road network remains death traps particularly in the South-South, the entire Southeast of the country inhabited by oil producing Igbos and the riverine Delta. The fact Nigeria is a failed Nation State in terms of its capacity to serve the core interests of its citizens, especially under Obasanjo, is no longer in doubt - except in the unending distortions and spin from his kinsmen/apologists such as Reuben Abati of The Guardian of Lagos..... Perhaps, Obasanjo's greatest and most visible failure in the last three years is in the area of security. And here I am referring to both the security of stomach ensured through abundance and reasonably priced foodstuffs and the security of lives and property, through proper policing. With garri, one of the staple foods of Nigeria now being imported from neighbouring Benin Republic, because of lack of vision by this government in all sectors of the national life of the failed State that is Nigeria and the unresolved murder of Bola Ige, Obasanjo's former Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
May 29, 2002, turned exactly three years that the current democratic experiment in Nigeria was mounted. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It questionably prides itself as the "Giant of Africa." On May 29, 1999, the world watched with interest as the former Maximum Ruler (then) General Olusegun Obasanjo was installed as President after an election his opponent, Olu Falae described as a 'Farce' and actually contested the result in the court, I believe up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria and lost. As is the fashion in Nigeria where failure is celebrated and indeed if you want to remain a part of government there, all you need to do is fail and fail again, Obasanjo's government led by his Information Minister, Professor Jerry Gana still smarting from a brazen attempt to muzzle the press through the back door, would roll out drums and in great gaiety celebrate "democracy dividends." I have deemed it fit to look at the three years of Obasanjo's second try at leadership.
First, let me recall a certain June 8 evening in 1998. While I read the Kuwait Times, a mentor of mine, an African of Igbo extraction and a BP Petroleum Engineering consultant to Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), Dr O. E. Ibe stopped by to see me. After some pleasantries, I turned on the TV to the CNN. Suddenly, to our amazement, we saw: "Breaking News: in Nigeria, Nigeria's Maximum Ruler, General Sani Abacha is dead."
We received the news with both trepidation and relief. Then I quietly reached an archaic Mac 230 I had then and opened for him to see the verse and message I voiced early that morning. Was my honoured guest shocked? No. And this is emphatically so. The reason being that he knew me to be reflective on the affairs of Africa nay Nigeria and in our regular conversations on Nigeria in particular and the 'charade' at the time, I continued to maintain that Abacha's scheme was a human plot. And that all human plots have no security and enduring guarantees. So, it came to pass!
I gave the story on June 8, 1998 because it was that day that Abacha died. June 8, bequeathed Nigeria arguably a milder military dictator, General Abdulsallam Abubakar. Abubakar followed after some deadly power play as revealed during Oputa Human Rights Violation Commission (HRVC) inquiry by Kanuri-born Major Al-Mustapha, former ADC to the late Head of State and now very famous for making some Nigerian Army Generals of Yoruba extraction kneel down, wail and wilt before a Major! And the big one being that the eventful June 8, 1998 eventually gave birth to May 29, 1999, when the former Maximum Ruler and current president, retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo was formally inaugurated as the President of what some Nigerian politicians refer to as a the Fourth Republic even when these politicians carry on as Lords in their supposed Republic. Is there any surprise the government orchestrated CNN bashing led by a band of media miscreants, Obasanjo apologists and ethnic bigots like Reuben Abati of The Guardian newspaper, Lagos? Pity!
May 29, 2002, is a benchmark for Nigeria as regards what USAfricaonline.com Founder Chido Nwangwu described appropriately as Nigeria's "quasi-democracy march" set within dangerous "quasi-militaristic attitudes." Nwangwu drew this importnat distinction during his March 2002 debate on CNN International's Q&A program with Nigerian Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, and Africa Action's Prof. Salih Booker. The program was hosted by Jim Clancy.
Most objective analysts of Nigeria since May 29, 1999, will point to the many failings of the administration of Obasanjo. From the much touted privatisation program now bungled and terribly smeared with corruption, to the incessant power outages, from excessively expensive GSM telephone that is hardly accessible due to poor and unreliable network, the story then as at tomorrow the exact day Obasanjo is three years in Office, is one of dismal failure. The Federal road network remains death traps particularly in the South-South, the entire Southeast of the country inhabited by oil producing Igbos and the riverine Delta. What about the fiscal and monetary failures that has encouraged some economic experts like Professor Sam Aluko to argue that the reviled Abacha managed the economy better than Obasanjo is currently doing? Come to think of it: has Nigeria not sold more oil at a much more higher price than Abacha did and yet Naira, the Nigerian currency is dipping daily against other major currencies of the world? Can one really deny the Alukos of this world their arguments when things like 'round-tripping' unheard of during Abacha have gained currency in the Nigerian financial sector now? Is there not some sense of desperado prevailing in the banking sector now, I mean fears of Bank failures?
However, it has not all been failures for Obasanjo though. His government has managed to excel in the acquisition of Presidential airplanes with which Obasanjo runs the country from mid-air while his supposed constituents are flying aerodynamically propelled 'coffins' operated by private hands because their National Carrier, Nigerian Airways is moribund. Perhaps Obasanjo has also recorded another success in establishing more Federal-owned Radio and Television Networks throughout the length and breath of Nigeria. This he has done and continues to do in spite of the shouts of privatisation, deregulation and liberalisation purportedly sweeping the land. It does not take any stretch of imagination to know that this is a strategic step to strengthen his unreasonable resolve to retain power at all costs in 2003.
Perhaps, Obasanjo's greatest and most visible failure in the last three years is in the area of security. And here I am referring to both the security of stomach ensured through abundance and reasonably priced foodstuffs and the security of lives and property, through proper policing. With garri, one of the staple foods of Nigeria now being imported from neighbouring Benin Republic, because of lack of vision by this government in all sectors of the national life of the failed State that is Nigeria and the unresolved murder of Bola Ige, Obasanjo's former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, one continues to wonder what the key responsibilities of government and governance are in Nigeria under Obasanjo. The case of Bola Ige and the apparent attempt being made at a cover up really is a huge hit on this their so-called democracy. Indeed it does portend a great danger for Nigeria for if the heartless plotters and murderers of Bola Ige, a big man in Nigerian parlance, cannot be found and brought to justice, what hope is there for poor folks who fall victims of this sort of dastard acts? It is for this reason that one feels that people like Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka who is reported to have claimed that he knows the killers should go beyond punditry pronouncements to provide conclusive clues to finding the planners and executors of the gruesome act and appropriately dealing with them through due process.
Objectively, it is for these poor leadership showings of Obasanjo and his team of yesteryears men of no credible and authentic achievements that some of us feel quite strongly that it is high time the former military dictator stopped embarrasing Nigeria with mediocrity and intemperate leadership; some say, the worst Nigeria has witnessed since the extremely unstable colonial construct called Nigeria came to be 4 decades ago.
In the last three years we have seen motion without movement. One demands that Obasanjo should stop taking Nigerians of all extraction for fools and deceiving the entire world. This is, truly, not time to celebrate non-existing democracy dividends. Rather, it is time to move the country with very many unwilling partners to a national dialogue to address the well-known fundamental issues, in particular the unjust structure skewed against many of the nationalities. It is time to debate and solve the resource control palaver emasculating the minorities in the South.
That Nigeria is a failed Nation State in terms of its capacity to serve the core interests of its citizens, especially under Obasanjo, is no longer in doubt.
Ekeopara, an engineer, wrote this commentary, exclusively, for USAfricaonline.com, NigeriaCentral.com and USAfrica The Newspaper. Archiving of this essay on another web site is not authorized; only web links are allowed.
May 28, 2002
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