December 27, 2007
11 mins read

One of the most wonderful ways for a journalist to conclude an outgoing year is to lap up the juicy details of a major scandal, such as the one around Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, also known as Mrs. Damilola Akinlawon, daughter of the disgraced despot Olusegun Obasanjo. We lived through a tortuous eighth years of preachments from Obasanjo about his determination to fight corruption; he even went through the histrionics of a television broadcast to denounce a sitting Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, on the eve of a Commonwealth Summit, to score a cheap political point on the international areana. But as with practically everything he did, Obasanjo was a calculating opportunitunist, who preached one thing to the Nigerian people while he jealously provided an ambience for a very corrupt feathering of his own nest and as the recent revelations have shown, even those of his children.

Maybe some people taken in by Obasanjo’s preachments might have been surprised by the new twist to the  Obasanjo story, with the revelations about his daughter, Iyabo Obasanjo- Bello a.k.a. Damilola Akinlawon, but for those whose who have followed us on this page over the past four years or so, the revelations only help to consolidate what we have said about the disaster called Olusegun Obasanjo, which was inflicted on our country over the past eight years.

But back to the present; and the so-called former “first daughter”,Iyabo. The details of the recent scandal are well known already. The nut and bolt of the story is that Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello benefited from a N3.5 billion power project contract; she travelled to Austria to sign the contract papers while still a commissioner in Ogun State, posing as Mrs. Damilola Akinlawon. But the relationship between the parties to the deal became soured over a disagreement on money sharing and control of the Nigerian branch of the company which was registered to handle the power project comtracts.

As the deal got murkier, the Austrian firm petitioned the presidency and the EFCC to complain about what is referred to as Obasanjo-Bello’s fraudulent, corrupt and criminal nature”. It claimed that the impersonation was carried out while Obasanjo-Bello was “serving as a commissioner with the Ogun State Government”, alleging that she “fraudulently”presented herself as Mrs. Damilola Akinlawon while entering a contract to float a company which bid for contracts in the power projects embarked upon by the government then headed by her father, according to THE NATION newspaper of Thursday, December 20, 2007. The Austrian firm. M.Schneider GMBH&CO went further in the petition that Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello was involved in the fraud with the ”sole consideration of shielding her father, former president of Nigeria, from being perceived as having breached relevant laws in the award of power projects indirectly to her daughter”. The company urged the EFCC to investigate with a view of  ascertaining whether Nigeria’s laws were broken by Obasanjo-Bello “acting either for herself or on behalf of the then President”.

Further revelations by THE NATION, in its Friday December 21, 2007 edition, pointed to the fact that Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello might have used her mother’s maiden name to coceal her identity in the N3.5billion contract. That same edition carried Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello’s defence of her actions, in respect of the unfolding scandal. “I know Prince Awofisayo”, said Iyabo, “sometime ago, he invited me to be part of a business he wanted to do. Some of the proposals work, other times they don’t. Prince said I should not worry, that he would fund the entire project. I told him since I was a commissioner, it could raise issues of conflict of interest. We agreed that I should use a different name, yes, because in law there is nothing wrong with that… It is true that I used a pseudonym… The truth will come out someday. This is pure blackmail. Because their business relationship had gone bad now, they now want to drag me in an unnecessary controversy. This is unfair. They are trying to use the media to destroy me because I am Obasanjo’s daughter, I cannot do anything again in this country? I am a PHD holder by dint of hard work. Does it mean I cannot even do anything again with my life without people trying to make a big issue out of it?

I have followed the details of the reactions which trailed the emergence of a scandal that Nigerian newspapers have come to describe as IYABOGATE. The opposition Action Congress(AC) party “expressed shock” at the N3.5 billion contract scam, and it called for “an immediate probe” of the other related contracts and the entire eight years of Obasanjo’s administration. Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party’s spokesman, “demanded thatObasanjo-Bello’s role in the huge N27billion contract awarded to Vamed Engineering Ltd, of whichAwofisayo is chairman, to refurbish 17 teaching hospitals in the country, should be investigated”, because it was linked to the issue of the controversial power project.

Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello’s defence of her actions smacked of naivety and arrogance, which ignored the underlying current of disgust for her father and his disastrous eight years incompetent government, including the prominent role she played in that regime. It is that which has come to haunt her big time! Former Petroleum Minister, Professor Tam David-West was reported to have urged her to resign from the senate “to save whatever honour left”. A professor of Law, Itse Sagay(SAN), said her decision to use a false identity for the deal, contravenes all known laws of contracts, such as a practice promotes corruption in public places. Professor Sagay argued that it was clear that Iyabo was dragged into the deal to use the influence of her father to secure the contract.Acording to Sagay, “all parties involved in the contract knew that Iyabo was behind the contract, the whole thing was only concealed from the public. Definitely, she was only interested in collecting the 10percent. It is an offence to use  your influence to obtain s; it violates the law of the process”, according to Professor Sagay.

Another Senor Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Wole Olanipekun, was particularly angry about Iyabo Obasabjo’s weak defence that she “had worked hard” all her life. “How many businesses did she get before 1999? How many partners came to woo her?… That she confessed to using a false name is enough evidence. I agree she has a right to fair hearing, but she should stop insulting our sensibilities with her story of PhD and hard work”.

In matters like this, I often enjoy wonderful bites from the writings of Doctor Okey Ndibe. Writings on the back page of DAILY SUN of the Christmas Day edition, Doctor Ndibe said Ms. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello a.k.a. Mrs Damilola Akinlawon, that “in a display of shamelessness worthy of the man who sired her, Ms. Obasanjo-Bello owned up to a Nigerian newspaper that she used false name. Why? Because she was at the time engaged as a commissioner in Ogun State. She knew that her public office precluded her from directly engaging in or profiting from private business, so she went for a nomenclatural mask. The act of misrepresentation alone stinks. Now unmasked, she unabashedly insists that there is nothing wrong with signing business deals with a false name. Which moral universe does this woman inhabit? Her ethical obfuscation may make sense of her father, a man who hardly flinched while profiteering from office, but is repugnant to morally enlightened citizens. Her shadowy behavior is compounde by revelations that her company received billions of naira in energy sector contracts awarded in line with transparent procedures? At any rate, if senator Obasanjo-Bello had played an innocuous game of adopt-a-** with a group of friends, no reasonable person would have protested. But to sign business deals with a fake name- with the intent of evading legal detection- is quite another, most serious, matter”.

Now is there any point to add to the above?..Hardly, except to begin to put Nigeria on notice, that this act of “shamelessness” in the words of Doctor Ndibe, shoukd preclude Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello a.k.a. Mrs Damilola Akinlawon,from continuing to enjoy a place in the haloed precint of Nigeria’s Senate, if found guilty of all the allegations that recently surfaced. She must be thrown out of that place, before she spoiols the integsity of that institution, the way that her father soiled Nigeria in eight years of a calamituous presidency. But may be I am a bit too hasty in my preference, since the EFCC has promised Nigerian to wade inti the matter. It is imperative to remind Malam Nuhu Ribadu that is a case trhat might tdetermine the perception of the Nigerian people, about the ultimate relevance of the EFCC. This is because people rightly or wrongly, have a feeling that the EFCC is very reluctant to examine issues related to Obasanjo and his entourage.

If we now go back to the beginning, it is becoming ever clearer to Nigerians now, why Obasanjo staked his entire political life on the gambit of a third term agenda. Obasanjo, an invertebrate coward, was so scared of the possibilities of exposure of the criminal rot that was at the heart  of the presidency. While given to preachment about the need to fight corruption, Obasanjo systematically milked his position to cream fabulous earnings to make the transition from a near-bankrupt ex-convict to amulti billionaire proud owner of  huge farms, a university, a presidential library, stock holdings in TRANSCORP and through that, owner of our national strategic assets such as NITEL, oil blocks and a grand Hotel. The third term became a “do-or-die” thing for that shameless dictator, because *****protect the loot and needed to continue to facilitate****machinery of nepotism which he constructed in eight years in our country. tHe revelations around Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello a.k.a. Mrs. Damilola Akinlawon, are just a tip of an ice berg. We shall see even more in the weeks and months ahead. The call for probe of the regime of eight years of incompetence, corruption, impunity, nepotism, theft of national asstes all laced with an arrogant air of infallibility is becoming louder with each passing day, it can only be a matter of time before the vindictive, cruel but cowardly despot gets his day in court. I have always stated that Obasanjo will return to Yola prison, wherefrom he came to inflict pain on the Nigerian people. It will be a fitting end to amost despicable career for a disgraced despot.

But the tale has not ended, because in the words of Obasanjo, we have country on our hands, of anything goes. Last week, the SATURDAY SUN Newspaper of December 22nd 2007, reported that Nnamadi ‘Andy’ Uba, Obasanjo’s Special Assistant on Domestic Matters has been named as the arrow-head of a committee to broker peace between former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. Obasanjo has faced a gradual narrowing of the political and human relationship space, just a few months after he vacated power in May 2007. It is part of the make up of the men to believe he has the right to certain privileges including the privilege to disgrace people and be forgiven. Otherwise, it sounds incredible that Atiku Abubakar will be the target of reconciliation efforts, if the SATURDAY SUN is to be believed.

Obasanjo is making a desperate gamble that Atiku Abubakar was what the Americans call a sucker inthe past, and was likely to be again. I say this with the benefit of the experience leading to the PDP convention of February 2003. Obasanjo was very unpopular with the majority of the governors who controlled the delegates to the convention, and these were rooting for Atiku Abubakar. Obasanjo sensed the hopelessness of his own situation, and without the NNPC and INEC, and he must surely have his unravels, the man might suffer collateral damage at elite. Please accept my very best wishes for the batting an eyelid, went on his knees in front of Atiku Abubakar. Overwhelmed by emotions,Atiku Abubakar fell into Obasanjo’s trap, lifted the threat against the despicable tyrant and he lived through four harrowing years as avice president shorn of all responsibilities but hounded over all manners of accusations. It took tremendous will power and a courageous determination to save his own political life, for Atiku Abubakar to salvage something from the political process.

When news of this spurious peace making effort broke, I made several efforts to reach prominent people on the Atiku Abubakar side of the divide to guage their feelings about the effort. However, I have not confirmed anything just yet, but it is imperative to remind Atiku Abubakar that he would be making a major mistake to even contemplate a peace deal with Obasanjo. The truth is that the despot has his back to the wall and the world around him is crumbling fast! He is not likely to retain his position in the PDP, after the convention; hence his desperate search for survival, through the disingenuous machination of peace meetings. Obasanjo is far too damaged; he is absolutely unpopular and is held in utmost contempt that in real terms, he has become a political leper. Atiku Abubakar and other sane members of thepolitical elite would do well to avoid contagion, otherwise, they will also be mortally damaged. And to imagine that the controversial Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Uba is said to be the leader of such a peace- making effort! Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Uba can never be part of any sane political process, because he is one of the problems associated with the years of locust that Nigeria faced during the eight years of Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime. Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Uba was the instrument which Obasanjo used to control the NNPC and INEC, and he must surely have his own day in court, to account for the huge wealth that he is said to have amassed over the past eight years.

Another chapter of national tale is the permanent offensive of Mister Maurice Iwu, the professor heading INEC. We need to carefully deconstruct the man’s style, because it brings into bold relief his postion at the head of INEC. The internet investigative journalism site, Sahara Reporters Dot Com, exposed the controversy around Maurice Iwu’s qualifications a few months ago, but in the typical Nigerian manner, he did not refute the specific allegations, but launched an offesnsive against those trying to pull him down for choosing to serve Nigeria as chief electoral officer. Even when the whole world, including the main beneficiary of the fraud that INEC perpetrated, agreed that the April 2007 polls did not measure up to any credible standards, Maurice Iwu continues to assault our national psyche, by unrepentantly staying on the offensive. He has accused everybody, from the EU to Nigerian journalists of various problems related to the electoral process, but not his INEC. The disgraceful conduct in April 2007, he has even described as the best ever in Nigeria, better than June 12.

Some people have posited that something must be wrong with the man; and I agree. But I think it is a deliberate ploy to take the fight to everybody, to seize the offensive high ground, in order to make everybody beat a retreat. That is a tactic that the man has perfected and deployed through his career in the public space. I had always wondered about the man and his tactics, until the Sahara Reporter story broke; that was my epiphany about the man. Mister Maurice Iwu is on the offensive because his entire life depends on it. If the electoral story unravels, the man might suffer collateral damage at other levels, it is that simple! Let us also remember that Maurice Iwu owes his appointment to the”good offices” of Namdi “Andy” Uba, who the good professors addresses “yes sir”! The dark recesses are well lit now, or are they?

The final tale of this season of goodwill is related to Nigeria’s huge foreign reserve, which Charles Soludo announces with regularity that one could almost set a wrist watch by.  If I am not off  the mark, the reseve sits around the fifty billion dollar mark now, and still counting, It is very fine, because it is the highest in Africa. Fine, except that I am a very naive person, and in my’ naivety, I have always wondered why it is so difficult to appropriate just eight billion dollars of that huge sum, to help construct a modern national railway network. This naive assumption is built on another equally naive  premise that we have a sovereign national control over the foreign reserve that Soludo huffs and puffs about.

THISDAY newspaper of Tuesday, December 25,2007, carried a front page report of the railway project, from Lagos to Kano, that “risks being  abandoned following an administrative row”.The modernization project had been transferred from the ministry of transport .to ~ special project unit in the presidency. According to THISDAY, “this development  has  denied the project any allocation in  the 2008 Appropriation Bill, in what may  effectively slow down, if not kill the project”. A turf war on the control of the project, when stripped of bureaucratic language, is really about who controls the huge kickback that is likely to accrue from the project. The officials are more concerned about their own turf war than about finding a way to help Nigeria actualize its railways dream.This is Nigeria’s fate in the hands of its bandit ruling elite. Please accept my very best wishes for the New year.

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