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CNNInternational interview with Nigeria'sPresident Obasanjo and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu onDemocracyand Security Issues
Corruption charges and Questions trailObasanjo's Shares in Transcorp
By Anas A. Galadima in Abuja
September 18, 2006: Last week Wednesday, Chairman of TransnationalCorporation, Dr. Ndi Okereke-Onyuike confirmed speculations thatPresident Olusegun Obasanjo holds equity shares inthe company. Her revelation came barely 48 hours after the Economicand Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) raided the Head Office of thecompany reportedly in a bid to 'investigate' the shareholdingstructure and operations of the company.
Okereke-Onyuike told the House Committee on Capital Markets thatthe president had subscribed to the shares of thecompany when it was established. Even though she did not specify theamount of shares held by the president, her revelation confirmedmedia reports that the president owns between 200million to600million shares in Transcorp. Although throughout the nearly twoyears of its existence, there have been strong speculations that thepresident had significant shares in the company, no concrete evidencehad been brought forward to substantiate the claim until about amonth ago when it was reported in the papers that the president hadbetween 200million to 600million shares being held in 'blind trust'in the corporation.
The recent revelation by Okereke-Onyuike no doubt brings toquestion the anti-corruption stance of the Obasanjo-led government.The many privileges and presidential waivers that the company hasenjoyed within the short period of its existence are no doubt inquestion because these waivers were given by the president to acompany in which he is a major shareholder. Transcorp upon inceptiongot approval to build a $250 million (about N33.25 billion) refineryin Lekki Free Port Zone in Lagos.
The facility is expected to be one of the biggest refineries inthe country when completed. President Oluse-gun Obasanjo, whilelaunching the company at the State House Banquet Hall, in Abuja, alsoannounced other concessions to the company, which include a licenseto build an Independent Power Plant (IPP) as well as an exclusiveaccess to government's cassava report for the construction of acassava processing facility. The company bought 75percent shares inNITEL under circumstances which many have described as dubious sinceonly 51percent shares of the company were advertised for sale to acore investor. More so, this was done even after Orascom, theEgyptian telecom company that failed to meet the reserved price, wassaid to have offered to increase its offer to meet the reservedprice.
The revised offer of Orascom was reportedly turned down by thefederal government because it wanted to restart a new sale processthat would enable Transcorp to acquire the company under what theBureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) called "negotiated sale." ButTranscorp is not the only company in which the president has beenreported to have acquired stakes, in the last few years.
During the consolidation programme that saw almost all the banksin the country running to the capital market to raise funds in orderto meet the N25billion capital base, Obasanjo was said to haveacquired significant shares in a number of banks in the country, inmost cases using relatives and aides as fronts, like in Transcorpwhen his shares were held in 'blind trust.' The president is said tohave acquired significant shares in United Bank for Africa (UBA)through one of his aides during the consolidation programme. Areliable source close to the bank told Daily Trust that during one ofthe meetings of the management of the bank, one of the managementstaff asked the Group Managing Director (GMD), Tony Elumelu whetherit was true that the president had shares in the company.
Elumelu was said to have avoided giving a categorical answer tothe question thereby raising suspicion amongst management that thepresident may be a major shareholder in the company. The seeminglyunusual closeness of the GMD to the presidency can only but lendcredence to these suspicions. Besides UBA, the president is also saidto have up to 20 percent stake in Unity Bank following the merger ofFirst Interstate Bank with other banks, like Bank of the North (BON)and Intercity Bank amongst others. Daily Trust was reliably told thatprior to the merger, the president was the majority shareholder inFirst Interstate Bank. In a bid to ensure that it scaled through, thebank along with BON and others were given some waivers by the CentralBank of Nigeria (CBN).
This saw the cancellation of the debts owed by them to the apexbank. Some of the affected banks then began merger talks that led totheir consolidation as Unity Bank. Although Okereke-Onyuike said thepresident has instructed his company to divest its shares fromTranscorp, it remains questionable that the president has shares inthe corporation which the presidency has repeatedly denied.
According to her "Transcorp is not Obasanjo's company. The day itappeared in the newspapers, I personally went to President Obasanjoto ask on which name he had bought the shares so that I could tellNigerians. He said he did not buy, but that he had asked Obasanjofarms to buy but he had asked them to divest. He said he instructedhis son who is managing the farm to divest but he (Obasanjo's son)travelled.
"After 30th September, I will be able to say. If I see the namesof thieves and vagabonds that looted the treasury, I will cancelthem. They will not be shareholders of Transcorp. It is after thisthat names of shareholders would be filed with the registrars,"Onyiuke said. While the president, like any other citizen of thecountry, has the right to own private properties and investments, theway and manner he invests and where he gets the money to do so mustbe put under scrutiny to ensure he does not abuse his office aspresident of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to illegally acquirewealth for himself.
In the last two weeks, there has been heightened tension in thepresidency, following EFCC's indictment of Vice President AtikuAbubakar of corruption and Obasanjo's subsequent reference of thecase to the National Assembly for consideration. One of theallegations against the VP is that he engaged in fraudulentwithdrawals from the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).Last week, Atiku Abubakar provided evidence indicting the presidentand his family of benefiting from the controversial account.
This came barely 24 hours after the president provided financialdocuments exposing Atiku's complicity in the PTDF deal. Atiku allegedthat the Obasanjo benefited from the PTDF deposit in TransInternational Bank (TIB) as well as from campaign funds in theaccount of MOFAS Shipping Line. "The documents available to us, someof which are attached to this statement, shows that the president,his family, businesses, native community and the PDP of which he hasproclaimed himself the life leader, have benefited tremendously frommoney deposited in the accounts he is now dissociating himself from,"a statement signed by Atiku's media officer, Garba Shehu, said.
The VP provided bank documents to substantiate the claims, sayingthat president's Personal Assistant, Mr. Bodunde Adeyanju made over100 sorties to TIB, Abuja (located at Tofa House in the CentralBusiness District) between 1999 and 2004. "The truth of the matter isthat there is a "big linkage" between Chief Obasanjo and OtunbaFasawe contrary to the claims that the president has made. There arecheques worth over N100 million issued to IBAD Nigeria Limited, aconstruction company solely owned by Obasanjo from Fasawe's MOFAS TIBaccounts. There are also payments Fasawe directly made to theObasanjo Africa Leadership Forum and to Obasanjo CampaignOrganization', Atiku said.
The recent revelation by the Chairman of Transcorp and theevidence provided by the VP indicting the president of corruptpractices undoubtedly raises more questions than answers on thefederal government's seeming war against corruption. This no doubtraises the question on whether the much talked about anti-graftagency - EFCC - can really summon the courage to investigateactivities of the president from 1999 to date.
Currently, questions are being asked as to why it took this longfor the EFCC to launch an investigation into the activities andoperations of Transcorp. The ability of the commission to conduct asincere probe into the shareholding structure and operations of thefirm is also being questioned.
As Nigerians wait to hear the outcome of EFCC's probe of thecompany, and other possible dealings of the Commander-in-Chief, thecommission would do the nation a lot of good if it hastens itsinvestigations and tell the public what it has found out aboutObasanjo's Transcorp shares and the sources through which this andother investments were financed.
OBASANJO'S FAILED 3RD TERM POWER-PLAY IS GOOD NEWS TO NIGERIANS,ABROAD AND HOME....USAfricaonline.com and its correspondents in Nigeriaand across the major cities of the U.S are reporting an increasingtally of anti-3rd term phone calls and e-mails from our readers. By amargin of almost 7-2, USAfricaonline.com data show that anoverwhelming majority of the politically active citizenry are happythat Nigeria's Senate halted retiredGen. Olusegun Obasanjo's stealthy, unpopular, behind-the-scenes-winkand nod power plays to secure an "unrequested" 3rd term as presidentof Nigeria (a total of 12 consecutive years).
Many Nigerians still feel disappointed that a man (Obasanjo)who had gained so much from Nigeria would cling so tightly to power,even against the popular will of the people, moreso with age, energyand fresh ideas for a new era not on his side.
Also, USAfricaonline.com review of Nigeria's recent history show thatPresident Obasanjo seems to be moving rapidly into the zone ofill-repute of his former military colleagues who, like him, refusedto leave office when it was time to go. Gen. yakubu Gowon in 1975;Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in 1993; Gen. Sani Abacha in1995, 1996, 1997,1998. More baffling many Nigerians we interviewed recall is thelessons of the excesses of the late Gen. Abach who jailed Obasanjowhile the former schemed to remain in power. For the specialreport by USAfrica multimedia networks' Publisher Chido Nwangwu,click on 3rdterm.
DEMOCRACYWATCH: What Bush Should TellObasanjo.... By ChidoNwangwu (Founder and Publisher of USAfricaonline.com)
His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective ofthe true essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing anddisposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures)this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce,juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of thevitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality ofChi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... itis a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude whiletaking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community.I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, therigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed inmost of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, becauseI share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a briefsentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here,folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle onthe Iroko, may your Lineage endure! There has never been one likeyou!
Ugo n'abo, chukwu gozie gi oo!. ChidoNwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), isFounder and Publisher of USAfricaonline.com (first African-ownedU.S.-based professional newspaper to be published on the internet),USAfrica The Newspaper,CLASS magazine and TheBlack Business Journal. He has served as an adviser to theMayor of Houston on international business (Africa) and appears as ananalyst on CNN, VOA, NPR, CBS News, NBC and ABC news affiliates.
This USAfricaonline.com commentary is copyrighted. Archivingon any other web site or newspaper is unauthorized except with aWritten Approval by USAfricaonline.comFounder.
CLASSis the social events, heritage excellence and style magazine forAfricans in north America, described by The New York Times as themagazine for affluent Africansin America. It is published byprofessional journalists and leading mulitmedia leaders andpioneers.
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Since 1958, Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" set a standard of artistic excellence, and more. By Douglas Killam
Why Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on the Iroko, is Africa's writer of the century. By Chido Nwangwu(First written on March 1, 2002, for USAfrica, updated for Prof. Achebe's 74th Birthday tribute on November 16, 2004, and published in CLASS magazine same month): Africa's most acclaimed and fluent writer of the English Language, the most translated writer of Black heritage in the world, broadcaster extraordinaire, social conscience of millions, cultural custodian and elevator, chronicler and essayist, goodwill ambassador and man of progressive rock-ribbed principles, the Eagle on the Iroko, Ugo n'abo Professor Chinua Achebe, has recently been selected by a distinguished jury of scholars and critics (from 13 countries of African life and literature) as the writer of the Best book (Things Fall Apart, 1958) written in the twentieth century regarding Africa. Reasonably, Achebe's message has been neither dimmed nor dulled by time and clime. He's our pathfinder, the intellectual godfather of millions of Africans and lovers of the fine art of good writing. Achebe's cultural contexts are, at once, pan-African, globalist and local; hence, his literary contextualizations soar beyond the confines of Umuofia and any Igbo or Nigerian setting of his creative imagination or historical recall.
His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective of the true essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing and disposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures) this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce, juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of the vitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality of Chi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... it is a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude while taking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community. I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, the rigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed in most of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, because I share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a brief sentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here, folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle on the Iroko, may your Lineage endure! There has never been one like you!
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In a special report a few hours after the history-making nomination, USAfricaonline.com Founder and Publisher Chido Nwangwu places Powell within the trajectory of history and into his unfolding clout and relevance in an essay titled 'Why Colin Powell brings gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency.'
Powell named Secretary State by G.W. Bush; bipartisan commendations follow.
AFRICA AND THE U.S. ELECTIONS
Beyond U.S. electoral shenanigans, rewards and dynamics of a democratic republic hold lessons for African politics.
Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents."
These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
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CLASS is the social events, heritage excellence and style magazine for Africans in north America, described by The New York Times as the magazine for affluent Africans in America. It is published by professional journalists and leading mulitmedia leaders and pioneers.