Obasanjo: Is He An Anti-Graft Agent?


World leaders who assembled during the 100th International Labour conference in Geveva, Switzerland, in June, got some not-so-edifying insights into Nigeria’s war on corruption. They heard from ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo how Nigerian politicians at independence in 1960 made it a tradition to inflate contracts by 10 percent as ‘a way to make money for their political party’; how the 10 percent contract inflation rose to 20 percent and sometimes 25 percent and at a time, it grew so large that when you are given a job, you don’t just care to do it but share the money and how oil became doom rather than boom.

Obasanjo pointedly declared at the forum that the current Nigerian government lacked the capacity to curb corruption.

“I have not seen that will of persistency and consistency in Nigeria because the people that are involved in corruption in Nigeria are strongly entrenched and unless you are ready to confront them at the point of even giving your life for it, then you give in and when you give in, that is the end,” he said.

Obasanjo, who claimed the credit for establishing two anti-graft bodies, regretted that successive administrations failed to consolidate on his achievement in the war on graft.

The two agencies are the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences, ICPC.

No doubt, the ex-president was right in his observation on the cause and dimension of public corruption in Nigeria, having been given the opportunity to rule Nigeria twice first as military head of state (1976 – 1979) and as elected president (1999 – 2007). It’s assumed that Obasanjo knows Nigeria quite well and his statement cannot therefore be ignored.

However, the questions begging for answers in the mind of every Nigerian are: is Obasanjo an anti-graft agent? Why does he have to go to that extent by commenting in that manner at an international forum on the issue of corruption in Nigeria? One needs not to think twice before concluding that the anti-graft agencies Obasanjo claimed to have established was created to witch-hunt his political enemies, those who did not support his view, amongst them were Tafa Balogun, former IGP, Bode George and many others, and not for the betterment of Nigeria. We need not forget that his fight against corruption was selective.

President Obasanjo, permit me to remind you since you might have forgotten, that during your administration, Nigeria’s corruption index was very high. Sir, it was during your administration that the implementation of capital budget was averaged a mere 30% even when hundreds of billions of naira appropriated each year had been purportedly released by the Federal Ministry of Finance.

During your administration, Transparency International, the global coalition body against corruption, described Nigeria as the third most corrupt country twice (2004 – 2005) and in 2006, the fifth most corrupt country in the world.

Sir, what would you say about the do-or-die politics made popular by your government? “In place of democratic competition, struggle for political offices are waged violently in the streets by thugs recruited by politicians who use their power to undermine basic human rights and enrich themselves at the expense of Nigeria’s impoverished populace,” according to the 2007 report on Nigeria by a global non-government organisation, the Human Rights Watch.

What can you say, sir, about the money allocated for Sango overhead bridge, Ota which you failed to complete before the end of your tenure? What happened to the N16 billion allocated to the power sector but up till now, Nigeria generates only 2,800 megawatts?

The aviation sector under your administration is nothing to write home about. Sir, many lives, future leaders were lost during your administration to plane crash because proper maintenance of airport facilities was not carried out. There was a serious setback in the education sector during your eight years in power, yet you claimed at that international forum to a fighter of corruption.

Sir, perhaps you failed to remember that the height of corruption under your administration was reached by the infamy of the flawed 2007 general elections described as the worst in Nigeria’s history. Baba, your statement on Nigeria at that forum further tarnished the image of our country and perhaps you did that out of self-glorification. As an elder statesman, you shouldn’t have made such an unguarded statement in the presence of world leaders.

Kudos to former Ghanaian President John Kuffuor, who, at the forum, never ascribed any glory to himself but admitted that “what Africans are suffering from is dearth of leaders that will use laws not personal power in authority – leaders that are not dictators.”


•Oladele Damilola Moses writes from Lagos.

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