Thanks for sharing Dan Agbese’s 2000 article about Haroun Adamu’s probe
of the Petroleum Trust Fund. It seems that people are digging but I can
tell you that left to himself alone Buhari cannot device ways of being
dishonest but in league with others, he has never had any problem
partaking in dishonesty. That, in fact, is his current situation.
Any expectation that a Buhari government will make an impact in dealing
with the problem of dishonesty in government is fantasy as I have
consistently maintained. Headline making stories are only a minor
reflection of the scale of the problem of dishonesty. Buhari knows
nothing about relevant policy formulation and it is not a priority for
his current leader, Asiwaju.
Buhari didn’t run the PTF. He left it to the late Salihidjo Ahmad who
came from his circle of friends and family, and went to sleep. It was
run just like any old corrupt Nigerian government venture. No difference
whatsoever. Its officials took bribes, awarded overinflated contracts
and the like. As a result of this, 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.
Obasanjo has zero credibility. Not many are seeing this 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 where 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 the government. Worse, 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 to ensure a return to the old comforts. 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 towards power
generation. Liyel Imoke has yet to account for what became of that
expenditure. The rest of the time, Obasanjo was away from his desk on
extended visits abroad. He left Atiku to run the government. He provided
no account of the proceeds of privatisation. 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; empowered 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.