Who will ask Obasanjo to shut up?

By Shehu Dikko

I promised to shut up and take a long break but since I had asked Obasanjo to disappear and he won’t, I thought I should dart in with some justification as to why he really ought to be told to shut up and disappear, and, for me, personally, also to say to him: you can’t fool me. It is a slightly revised version of a comment I offered in another discussion. It should explain itself.

Thanks for sharing Dan Agbese’s 2000 article about Haroun Adamu’s probe of the Petroleum Trust Fund. It seems that people are digging.

Buhari didn’t run the PTF. He left it to somebody who allegedly came from his circle of friends and family, and went to sleep. It was alleged to have been run just like any old inept Nigerian government venture. No difference whatsoever. Its officials allegedly took bribes, awarded overinflated contracts and the like. As a result, one of the men on the board of the PTF, the late Group Captain Usman Jibrin, who would have none of it, decided to resign. Buhari stayed put.

I also see you paying attention to Obasanjo’s self-serving talk. Not many are seeing the self-serving disposition right now but it is to the credit of Jonathan that he has actually grown the balls to refuse to continue to take dictation from him. If truth be told, it is easier to point to where Jonathan has spent money in his four+ years than it is to show what Obasanjo did in his first term.

Let us be concrete. Obasanjo faced turbulence, Sharia riots, Odi. Obasanjo failed to punish the perpetrators of the Sharia riots, that served to embolden others including the Haramites; he was high-handed in dealing with Odi, that served to further militarise.

Jonathan has had to deal with the consequences of Obasanjo’s failures in addition to the BH which is now a problem with a serious destabilizing foreign dimension. This has provided a very tough environment for government.

Worse still owing to the circumstances in which he came into office and the sense of betrayal felt by the many northerners who consider their turn to rule as having been hijacked, as well as his failure to properly reach out to the disgruntled, he has been unable to win the confidence and support of influential sections of the North.

This failure is what I foresaw in 2011, and warned that it could lead to division. That North is also suffering from another problem which is a direct consequence of the Babangida privatisation programme which was accelerated and completed by Obasanjo.

I have a problem with the privatisation of vital social services but that is irrelevant here. Recall the old days. There was a time when people looked forward to Board appointments, First Bank, NITEL and the whole battery of other huge government owned enterprises.

Membership of those boards afforded people the opportunity to use their influence to serve the interests of their immediate communities, and because of the Federal Character principle, this patronage was widely spread but always what were seen to be the choicest positions were invariably occupied by northerners.

Federal Character also ensured that there was a spread of offices of those companies occupied by local employees thoughout the country. That disappeared completely under Obasanjo. The persons who bought the privatised companies were mainly persons from outside the North, ditto those who stepped up to fill the vacuum created by the disappearance of NITEL who have only been driven by market considerations which cannot overlook employee competence.

It’s not been noticed by many but the handful of companies bought by northerners, like Nigerian Ropes and Steyr, have floundered or have been comatose since they acquired them. For a North used to widescale patronage, it has been hard to deal with new realities, which is why so many there are intent on doing whatever they can to ensure a return to the old comfort.

One new reality from which there is no escaping is that Jonathan has actually shown a commitment to making and fulfilling promises which is why he has been running for re-election on his record, something which Obasanjo did not do in 2003.Obasanjo could not have done so. He built a stadium in Abuja, and its Games Village. That’s it.

He channeled a lot of money to power generation. The rest of the time, Obasanjo was away from his desk on extended visits abroad. He left Atiku to run the government. Obasanjo and Atiku were later to build their own private schools and universities.

By contrast, Jonathan has built new government schools and universities; built a major new railway line, Kaduna-Abuja, for the first time in a hundred years; built a road between Abuja and Lokoja that is the finest in the country; is building a metro line in Abuja; empowerd Innoson Motors of Nnewi to manufacture transport buses that are visible on our highways. All these are things he committed to doing in the aftermath of the oil subsidy saga, and he has managed to do them despite the major challenge of BH.

I have not dismissed the view that aspects of the complex BH problem are the work of persons working to return to that which they had grown accustomed. But what’s your general take on the election campaign so far? I honestly fear it may all end up being of only “academic interest.”The stakes are very very high. There are operators with ugly records who will stop at nothing. There is trouble on the horizon. I have sent out warnings. I hope they are heeded.

*Dikko lives in Abuja.


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