Obasanjo’s Megabucks Of Darkness And Other Tales

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Let us start on a rewind mode. The period is just around February and March, 2006, before the defeat of the third agenda. I had written about the place of the immunity provision in the constitution, in the game plan of the gangster presidency of General Olusegun Obasanjo. Given the reality of the crimes which Obasanjo had perpetrated against the Nigerian people, it had become a do-or-die affair that certain individuals must at all cost become governors of Nigerian state. These individual included the impostor, Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Uba and Liyel Imoke.

 

Obasanjo, an inveterate schemer, was never going to leave anything to chances. Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Uba was the instrument used to control the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as well as the ‘Independent’ Electoral Commission. So large did that nonentity loom over these institutions, that Funsho Kupolokun at NNPC and Maurice Iwu at INEC used to genuflect to the near-illiterate Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Uba, because he was the voice of the oracle himself, Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo’s dirty linens were the exclusive preverve of Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Uba, and together they needed the “covering fire” (as military men say) of immunity, which power confers, either as vice president of Nigeria, that Obasanjo initially proposed for Nnamdi ‘Andy Uba, and when it did not fly, the governorship of Anambra State. That was the main reason for the maneuverings which earned Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Uba his fraudulent governorship for a few weeks before the clown was thankfully dismissed by Nigeria’s courts to the relief of the majority of the people.

 

The same thing went for Liyel Imoke. That man was at the heart of the spending spree that was ostensibly expected to solve the problems associated with power supply in our country. There was a logic defying element to the longevity of Imoke in the corridors of the Obasanjo presidency. The more money spent, the worse the power situationbecame, yet with every rumoured cabinet reshuffle, you could bet with all the water turning the turbines of our dams at Kainjim Shiroro and Jebba, that Imoke was likely to be the one minister to survive. His longevity as minister was as legendary as his incompetence. In the end, Liyel Imoke inherited the governorship of Cross River State, in a sweet-heart deal that was brokered by Obasanjo. The essential content was to protect the power supply expenditure of the gangster president. It was pulled through, with the massive rigging which the PDP perpetrated in Cross Rivers, as in other states, in April 2007.

 

The rewind mode became necessary today, in view of the scandalous revelations that we have witnessed in the past couple of days, as the House of Representatives Committee on Power and Steel began a public hearing on the power sector over the past eight years. At the beginning, President Umaru Yar’Adua had indicated that the sum of $10 billion was poured down the power supply drain, to the utter shock of the Nigerian people. But the Speaker of the House of Representatives said the actual amount was $16 billion. The background was the promise which Obasanjo made, that power supply would increase from around 1.700 megawatts to 6, 000 megawatts. Eight years down the road of the pious declaration to achieve “regular, uninterrupted power supply”, as quoted by Doctor Okey Ndibe, this week things have become very scandalous. As we all now know, under a voodoo presidential steering committee which comprised of Joseph Makoju, Foluseke Shomolu, Liyel Imoke and Funsho Kupolokun, the due process of competitive tender was conveniently subverted in the name of power supply. It was within this elaborate process of scam, that the German firm, Lahmeyer was given a N600 million contract, paid a sum of N370 million without doing a single thing, while Obasanjo, true to his delusions as the “father” of the nation, was said to have given out contracts like confetti to contractors. In the end, so many contracts were issued out, and the nation harvested megawatts of darkness, from the absolutely incompetent, and utterly corrupt, Obasanjo regime.

 

So far, some of the people that have appeared before the Committee on Power and Steel, included LIYEL Imoke and Dr. Olusegun Agagu. From behind the barricade of governorship immunity, Olusegun Agagu, on being told that 34 illegal firms were given a total of N6. 2 billion worth of contracts, posited that it was the duty of the bureaucrats in government to verify the status of the companies. Imoke also told had the committee that he had no knowledge of how some of the contractors handling the NIPP were paid between 6- and 100 percent of the contracts sums without evidence of performance. It is important to remember that Imoke also spoke with the assurance of the immunity he enjoys as a governor.

 

I was at the National Assembly last week and in fact attended the session addressed by the governor of Lagos state. My host, a member of the House from Kwara state assured me that what has been revealed over the past one week was merely a tip of the iceberg of criminal rot with Obasanjo left behind after his disgraceful exit in May 2007. It is instructive to note that the sitting of the committee on Tuesday heard the Director General of the Due Process office, Engineer Emeka Eze, directly contradicting the statement of Liyel Imoke, that the due process office certified the sum of $3.54 billion released for the NIPP projects. “For the 3.54 billion NIPP projects. Being a presidential intervention, they didn’t come to us for payment. We did not certify any project for payment”, the Engineer told the Committee.

 

As I sad earlier, Liyel Imoke spoke with the confidence of knowing that he has the sandbags of immunity from prosecution to hide behind. It was perfected by Obasanjo, as part of the package to cover his hind place on exit from power in May 2007. The choice that faces the regime of Umaru Yar’Adua is a clear one. He must institute a judicial probe of the regime of his benefactor, Olusegun Obasanjo, because that is the only way he can convince the Nigerian people that he is genuinely sworn to the defence of the oath of office which he took in the controversial circumstances within which he became president of Nigeria. The Obasanjo regime as constructed as a huge project of fraud and brigandage. This mach we have argued on this page overt the past week have given us an aperture to view just a fraction of the crimes which Obasanjo has committed against this land.

 

The past week of revelation also helps to put into a context, the do-or-die battles of the Obasanjo presidency and beyond: to achieve a life presidency with the instrument of third term; the effort  to ensure that  Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Uba, Liyel Imoke and Olusegun Agagu became governors to be able to earn the immunity from prosecution and prevent their talking about the corrupt enrichment of Obasanjo and his cronies; the manipulation of the PDP constitution to make the BOT chairman the most important office held by Obasanjo himself and finally, the desperate effort to ensure the continuation of garrison democracy’ through the appointment of his candidates as the chairman and national secretary of the party respectively. It is fair to say that the past few weeks have not been very good for Obasanjo, apart from the revelations about the power sector. A gradual demystification of the man is unfolding before all of us as new forces emerge within the PDP, giving new shape to the politics of the next few years.

 

Bukolar Saraki, Gabriel Suswan and Rotimi Ameachi, governors of Kwara, Benue and Rivers respectively, have become the symbols of the new assertiveness of the governors and of the determination to give PDP a new push, away from Obasanjo’s authoritarian control. What the context of the PDP will be like is not clear, but it is important to point out that each of these young men had a reason to fight the authoritarian complex which Obasanjo had instituted within the party. Obasanjo had opposed the choice of Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje who was the candidate for secretary of the party from Kwara State; and despite his outward posturing before the race for the PDP posts, Obasanjo had always hated the Saraki clan and was always looking for a way to either humiliate them or at the very least, reduce their political control in Kwara State. It was part of thet agenda, which saw Obasanjo’s rehabilitation of Chief C. O. Adebayo from his near-poverty and empowerment as minister. The calculation was that an empowered C.O.Adebayo would then build a political base to end the hegemony of the Saraki clan in Kwara. Unfortunately for Obasanjo, Chief Adebayo spent far more time becoming rich, then to put all his heart into the construction of an alternative political platform in Kwara State. It was therefore not in the interest of Bukola Saraki to let Obasanjo get his way over the secretaryship and even the chairmanship. Bukola Saraki had the advantage of being chairman of the Governors’ Forum and he did a brilliant job of mobilization, which alienated Obasanjo’s candidates. It was vintage Bukola, because his ability to earn party secretary position has enhanced his profile in Kwara State especially, and also given his political profile a positive nudge, on the national scale.

 

As for Governor Gabriel  Suswan, he has been very consistent from his days in the House of Representative, as one of the truly able young men of Nigerian politics. He opposed the third term agenda and he made one of the most brilliant speeches during the debate on the floor of the House, against  the effort by Obasanjo to subvert the nation’s constitutional order. He could never be in the good books of Obasanjo and it is testimony to his political staying power that he was able to earn the seat of governor of Benue State, even after the unambiguous position that he expressed in the House of Representative. It was therefore a continuation of his democratic credentials, to team up with his colleagues from Kwara and Rivers States to be the arrow head of the defeat of the candidates chosen to ensure the continuation of garrison democracy and the authoritarian Obasanjo tendency within the PDP. Governor Rotimi Ameachi of Rivers state was a victim of the worst manifestation of the politics of the Obasanjo gang. He was therefore also fighting a battle of his lifetime, in working for the defeat of Obasanjo’s candidate at the convention.

 

But what is clear to me, is that the defeat of the candidates preferred by the gangster despot is rather like half-scorching a viper! A half-scorched snake is a very dangerous thing to have around. Many commentators have written about the sadness which Obasanjo wore on his face at the scene of the party convention; he has been humiliated, by the maneuverings of the governors. He did not get his candidates into position, and in the case of the secretary of the party, he got what he vowed will not happen: hand over the party to a candidate the Saraki clan nominated and canvassed for. Unless the governors have an agenda which promotes inner-party democracy within the PDP; an agenda which helps the party to grow as a lving and vibrant organization where ideas can be freely canvassed and debated; a partywhcihc recognizes the right to dissent, then things will not be much better than they were under Amadu Ali and other foot soldiers of authoritarian lawlessness. If the effort is to break from the previous ways of doing things, then the governors have to work with T-21, the Integrity Group and other tendencies sworn to a more democratic attitude within the PDP.

 

I have my fears about the “new” direction within the party, if ever there was one. The new chairman, Chief Vicent Ogbulafor has spoken that he will be 101%loyal to President Umaru Yar’Adua as if that is really what is needed to ensure a successful political life. That mindset betrays an inability to comprehend the enormity of the task which the party faces, in the effort to renew itself and find relevance that people can trust in Nigeria’s quest for democracy consolidation. A colourless party apparatchik, who did not canvass for vote, but was plucked out of an anonymous retirement, would seem to be far more beholden to his benefactors, than being an agent for meaningful change that the PDP actually needs. It is in the sense, that I can understand the anger at the heart of the statement credited to Alhaji Amnu Bello Masari, former Speaker of the House of Representatives and one of the leaders of G-21, recently. Ogbulafor has replaced the preferred candidate of the garrison democrats, but is he likely to be just another puppet-on-a-string, in the tragicomedy of PDP politics? Time will tell; but the indications are not very optimistic. In the meantime all those who helped to defeat Obasanjo’s candidates, must continue to look over their shoulders, because the wounded snake was not killed, and it can still bite.!

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