By Ebere Wabara
LET us, in this prefatory, establish an incontrovertible fact: there is hardly any Nigerian that is not corrupt! At different levels and in various circumstances, corruption is innate in us, right from conception. At the risk of overgeneralization, no top government functionary, politician, public and private sector players, professionals and artisans—even the clergy!—can exonerate themselves from unwholesome indulgences. The credo is: play smart and do not be apprehended. One and all, young and old, do it: the only difference is the nature/scope of the criminalities and the platform! Leadership and corruption have nothing to do with age.
This is not to say, however, that we should condone such reprehensible propensities because of their commonality. The essence of man’s existentialism is to strive after perfection and conquer our environment. The point to be underscored is that only persons of impeccable character should have the moral profundity to point the finger at the thievish clan. Not a man of questionable antecedents hallmarked by pretentious stupefaction.
If anyone should haughtily pontificate on corruption in Nigeria, certainly Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is the least person to do so because of his pedigree in and out of government. How much was Obasanjo worth when he came out from incarceration in 1998 that he is today a multi-billionaire? Nigerians should ask questions—it is our docility that is making the roguish cabal in this country to outlandishly fiddle with our patrimony.
Last week, Obasanjo took his regular swipes at Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, DSP Alamieyeseigha, James Ibori, Lucky Igbinedion and the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Salisu Buhari, declaring that they all lack youthful integrity and symbolize leadership failure. This charade from the former president has become so monotonous that there is hardly anything newsworthy about it. It is unfortunate that some newspaper editors still dignify the bullish and rustic Ota farmer with precious space for sterile and vacuous postulations instead of devoting such pages to multifarious developmental issues.
Lest I am misconstrued, I am not dismissing the controvertible point against Obasanjo’s victims. The truth of the matter is that Obasanjo is probably worse than these fellows! The pot cannot be sermonizing on the blackness of the kettle. Of all of them, including their accuser, there is no saint. I am surprised he left out another of his regular butts, General Ibrahim Babangida, from the latest tirade.
Eighty-year-old Chief Tony Anenih, a chummy of OBJ, as Works Minister, was given N300 billion by the disastrous Obasanjo government to fix Nigerian roads. It is no secret that a large chunk of that money went into the prosecution of campaigns by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the balance to your guess! The result: all our roads today are unsafe at any speed!
How can anyone forget the abuse of office Obasanjo committed when he used his office as president of this country to coerce fabulously opulent Nigerians to donate to (or, ‘invest’ in) the building and equipping of his multi-billion naira private library in Ota. All the ‘big boys’ jumped over one another to demonstrate their loyalty, financial commitment and expectations from a vindictive president. I am sure that was where President Goodluck Jonathan borrowed a leaf for his village church during its recent fundraising in Lagos. In sane climes where propriety and ethical conduct mould public officials’ behaviour, both Obasanjo and Jonathan would have been impeached and made to face the full wrath of the law for their felonious acts.
Corruption comes in different shapes. When a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, there can be no greater corruption before man and God. A marriage breaker is also a corrupt person—it is not only when money exchanges hands that corruption has taken place. It comes in copious ways. Sexual perversion is just one of the forms.
Which other type of corruption is greater than Obasanjo’s genocidal and unilateral interventions in Odi and Zaki Ibiam where the entirety of families, communities and flora and fauna were wiped out on the wicked orders of Obasanjo? For a man who is used to fatalities, precocity of life does not mean anything to him hence his reputational callousness.
At this point, it is pertinent to note that Obasanjo had a golden opportunity to make a difference in this country but ended up squandering it! And instead of keeping dignified silence, he is still kicking up dust and mudslinging all those who had the guts to look him in the eyes and challenge his iniquitous dispositions and invidious inclinations.
In apparent confirmation of the clay-footed efforts at combating corruption by the Obasanjo administration, Transparency International (TI), the respected global watchdog on issues pertaining to corruption, consistently listed Nigeria among the 10 most corrupt nations in the world throughout his tenure!
Apart from, possibly, members of Obasanjo’s kitchen cabinet and sleaze beneficiaries, the TI ranking could not have astounded most Nigerians because the magnitude and dimension of corruption under the nose of Obasanjo was so scandalously benumbing. Even without the global watchdog saying it, most Nigerians knew full well that corruption was so endemic during Obasanjo’s tenure that it became a way of life. In fact, the more wishy-washy attempts his government made at fighting the scourge, the more cases of corruption were recorded: Halliburton, Siemens, Willbros, Jefferson scam, et al. And government at the time did not help matters with its kid-glove handling of established cases of corruption.
Obasanjo’s attitude towards battling corruption was so weak, unserious and reeked of duplicity. Those who bled this country through all sorts of nefarious activities were (and still remain) friends of Obasanjo. There is no doubt that other nationals look at us with scorn and relate with us like everyone here is a criminal. This explains why our countrymen and women are quarantined whenever they travel out. Obasanjo laid the foundation for such ghettoization.
Official pronouncements and behaviours in Obasanjo’s tenure entrenched corruption in Nigeria after Babangida’s years of clownish generosity. The situation was so deepened that it has become almost insurmountable. Those in authority and power seemed to be at their wits’ end—hapless, confused and almost clueless on the way out. Indeed, not to be corrupt in Nigeria attracts a toga of foolishness! In local parlance, it is regarded as a national cake and must be grabbed by the few who have no business with morality or sanctimonious preachments on the need for propriety.
The question is: what are we doing to curb the ogre of corruption? It is not enough to make puerile declarations without any visible commitment to addressing the menace. For now, we have not begun the fight against corruption. That is, sadly, the truth of the matter. The first step is to get top corrupt persons in and out of government jailed for life. Until this is done, we will not sit up, but the only challenge is that we do not have enough prisons to accommodate the platoons of corrupt Nigerians awaiting interdiction!
It is annoying for Obasanjo and his megaphones to issue rebuttals and condemnatory speeches whenever any occasion presents itself. The Ota executive farmer and the few beneficiaries of his misrule can only escape the looming eternal damnation by taking remorseful steps. Let us responsibly confront the corruption monster instead of monstrously indulging in dialectal acrobats with critics and imaginary foes.
Atiku & Co. could probably be building on the massive corruption substructure laid by the technician from Ota. The interesting thing is that they seem to be erecting eye-popping super layers using their inimitable brains and entrepreneurial endowments unlike their daft and judgmental principal! Probity here is a mirage, just as corruption is not necessarily a function of age—all generations have a predilection for it.
Somebody should let Obasanjo know that there is no nexus between age and good leadership. Both the under-50 and his senile peers are evidentially all culpable of dysfunctional leadership.
In the concluding part of this essay, in a fortnight, I will x-ray the Obasanjo failed presidency between 1999 and 2007. This man, an epitome of vain-gloriousness and a bombastic symbol of self-conceitedness, cannot be a saint. This is hoping that Obasanjo’s futile effort at flawless heroism is not coming from his inept Ota Leadership Forum!
ORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo reaffirmed his penchant for denigrating imaginary foes, especially oppositional stalwarts, when he mounted the podium last month in the University of Ibadan.
Multifarious reportage quoted him as saying “that his generation led the way with purposeful, progressive, visionary leadership marked by accountability and probity while the younger generation of leaders failed to continue with the good legacy his generation left.” This is sheer leadership delusion. What examples and legacies did Obasanjo leave? Those who had been at the helm of affairs of this country were mostly members of his generation. What referential values can be attributed to all of them? Can Nigeria ever have a Nelson Mandela, a hero with an inspirational aura?
As I pointed out in the first part of this article a fortnight ago, 76-year-old Obasanjo used the occasion to demonize the birds of a feather with him while deceptively portraying himself as the only saint among the rank of erstwhile public office holders. In his keynote address entitled “Leadership in Africa’s Quest for Sustainable Development”, Obasanjo, in an obtuse self-glorification, futilely drew a phantom nexus between leadership and age and finally lampooned the under-50s for leadership failure. In his sociological novelty, he exculpated his peers from any leadership faux pas!
Obasanjo’s submissions at the forum smacked of illogicality and preposterousness because leadership failure in Nigeria and indeed in Africa has nothing to do with age or generational incompetency. Both the young and old had abused office and are still on it such that in the past three years no African leader has won the Mo Ibrahim Africa Leadership Prize! Lack of integrity has no relationship whatsoever with age. The Obasanjo eight-year (1999-2007) presidency institutionalized corruption and ineptitude which have crystallized into a national ethic.
This platform is not a solicitous mechanism for any of the persons Obasanjo pointed the finger at as they are all enveloped in improprieties, just like most other Nigerians in and out of public ecology. The challenge is: which former or present public official in Nigeria is not lacking in integrity—before, during and after Obasanjo’s inglorious era? Obasanjo’s military (1976-1979) and civilian tenure lacked vision, integrity and accountability hence the eras are regarded as Nigeria’s locust/wasted/worst years, contrary to his erroneous beliefs and grandiloquent self-deception!
It may interest the Ota farmer to note that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) did not prescribe any age limitation other than the age of consent which is 18 years for public office holders. Only a technician will be so amnesic as not to recollect this basic component of the Laws of the Federation. So, whether an under-50 Salisu Buhari or a 90-year-old Robert Mugabe, attitudinal disposition, character inclination and official conduct are idiosyncratic matters that are not synergetic with age. Good leadership is essentially service to humanity—not the obscenity of crass accumulation of primitive wealth and rudderless governance. If anything, there is indeed a proven correlation between gerontocracy and poverty of leadership in Nigeria, Mozambique and indeed Africa.
It will amount to sweeping generalization to postulate that because a few youthful leaders fumbled, other leaders of the same age bracket failed equally or are likely to fail. That kind of befuddlement is tantamount to a hasty conclusion, illogicality and pedestrian rationalization. Such queer judgmental pessimism questions the proponent’s state of mind.
The point is: what are we doing to tame the monstrosity of corruption? It is not enough to make puerile declarations without proffering solutions to the menace. For now, we have not begun the fight against corruption at all. That is, sadly, the truth of the matter. The first step is to get top corrupt persons in and out of government jailed for life after substantial recovery of their ill-gotten wealth! Until this is done, the country walks on the precipice, but the only challenge is: who will do it and when without constraints of permissive primordial sentiments?
It is petrifying that Obasanjo delivers suffocative homilies and calumnies whenever any occasion presents itself. OBJ and the few beneficiaries of his misrule can only escape the looming eternal damnation by taking remorseful steps. Let us responsibly confront the corruption monster instead of indulging in dialectal acrobatics with critics and perceived enemies.
Atiku & Co. could probably be building on the massive corruption substructure laid by the technician from Ota. The interesting thing is that they seem to be erecting eye-popping super layers using their inimitable brains and entrepreneurial endowments unlike their daft and judgmental principal! Probity here is a mirage, just as corruption is not necessarily a function of age—all generations have a predilection for it. Just by the way, where did Obasanjo get money to establish The Bell’s group of schools, among other billion-naira investments just like his accused co-travellers?
Somebody should let Obasanjo know that there is no affinity between age and good leadership. Both the under-50 and their senile counterparts are evidentially all culpable of dysfunctional leadership.
The Obasanjo presidency between 1999 and 2007, instead of having redemptive value, plunged Nigeria into a seemingly intractable descent. This man, an epitome of vain-gloriousness and a bombastic symbol of self-conceitedness, cannot be a saint. This is hoping that Obasanjo’s futile effort at flawless heroism is not coming from his ceremonial Ota Leadership Forum! Obasanjo’s leadership charlatanism and mediocrity are enough to make him keep some measure of silence instead of loquacity and removing all doubts as regards senility!
Apart from systemic corruption and decadent leadership, what else did younger generations inherit from Obasanjo? Are there not supposed to be critical linkages between past and present governments? The constitutional and political crises we have in Nigeria today were perpetrated by Obasanjo’s military autocracy which vitiated our constitution to enthrone oligarchy. This General should stop monitoring elections and giving bombastic preachments amid sterile pontifications on leadership at seminal events. I blame the mischief-makers who invite him to such cerebral occasions! Obasanjo’s delusional fantasy, blissful self-exoneration and justificatory verbiage on his blighted tenure testify to character frailty.