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The 16 Billion Dollars Question!



Ekiti: The Bigger Man!

President Muhammadu Buhari is often accused of aloofness, reticence and mutism. But whenever he speaks seldomly he hits the bull’s eyes. Today, three years after historically defeating the then incumbent PDP to mount the presidential horse he is an embattled Head of State from all indications. The opposition to his APC administration is mounting in different quarters. When he came to power in 2015 no one had known then that three years down the line many Buharists (‘Buharideens’ if you like) —including yours sincerely — would experience an irredeemable disappointment. Many of us that had ‘campaigned’ for him prior to the 2015 presidential poll are feeling generally despondent given the failures in the system.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo drew the first blood when in early January this year he characteristically released an open ‘letter bomb’ to President Buhari. In the widely-circulated missive featuring pungent denunciation and unsolicited advice against any re-election ambition OBJ highlighted what he claimed were the ‘sins’ of PMB. The letter generated a national controversy given its far-reaching conclusions. President Buhari, known for his integrity, never bothered to offer any official response — obviously hit hard by the literary missile fired from a familiar source. Instead Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, had issued a lenghty rebuttal on behalf of the APC government.

Obasanjo, ever an opportunist and hypocrite, had since intensified the attacks at every given opportunity, at home or abroad, taking down the Buhari regime in a brutal no-nonsense manner. On one occasion he had dismissed the APC federal government as a “failure” asking the Aso Rock lord to concentrate on meeting the challenges of governance rather than (always) blaming the past administrations for every ill in the society.

However, some weeks back, apparently having heard enough, President Buhari broke his silence and lambasted the Obasanjo regime for wasting billions of Dollars on electricity projects that were nowhere to be found! While addressing a Buhari Support Organisation led by the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali, who visited him at the State House, Buhari was reported to have said: “One of the former Heads of State between that time was bragging that he spent more than 15 billion American dollars, on power. Where is the power? Where is the power? And now we have to pay the debts”.

Days later Obasanjo hit back. In a statement he issued through his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, he accused the President of “ignorance” adding that he was relying on “the unsubstantiated allegations against him by the then leadership of House of Representatives over the project”. He declared that he has addressed the issues of the power sector and the allegations against him on many occasions and platforms including in his widely-publicised book, ‘My Watch’, where he exhaustively stated the facts and reproduced various reports by both the EFCC and the Ad-Hoc Committee of the House on the Review of the Recommendations in the Report of the Committee on Power.

But going by the recent muscled intervention by the President himself in which he indirectly accused ‘Baba’ of profligacy over the $16bn expenditure on power Buhari must have decided that the time was auspicious enough to demystify the Ota god and put him in his right place. They were once best of friends united as it were by the Nigerian ‘unity’ project. OBJ was one oi the most eminent Nigerians to have risen early to back the Buhari candidacy as President against the then incumbent ‘godson’ Goodluck Jonathan. Today, things have irreconcilably fallen apart between them. Obasanjo has since mounted a pan-Nigerian movement (now turned into a political party) to give hint that he meant business of democratically unseating the man from Daura. The old soldiers are at ‘war’!

Looking objectively at the OBJ hardline position against Buharism one could conclude that the Abeokuta-based ex-President was playing politics of survival. But analysing further it could be speculated that his much-vaunted ‘love’ for Nigeria (patriotism) was the major reason pushing him to the ‘rebellion’. Yet having known Obasanjo for whatever he is worth politically in Nigeria selfish motive may not be ruled out in his determined effort to send Buhari back home against his wish. We are watching and following the battle of wits with rapt attention.

The ‘war’ of the Generals was made even more interesting when the former controversial Aviation Minister under the OBJ regime, Femi Fani-Kayode, joined the fray by intervening publicly via twitter. Obviously he was set to defend his former principal while regretting what he claimed had happened during ‘Babacacy’. According to FFK: “The greatest mistake that President Obasanjo made was not to prosecute and jail President Buhari for looting PTF funds….I saw the report and it was shocking….Billions of dollars had vanished….Obasanjo summoned him and showed him the damning report….Buhari begged like a baby….Sadly Obasanjo let him off the hook”.

Following that bombshell of a revelation, however, the Buhari camp wasted no time hitting back. The spokesman of the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation for the 2019 election, Barrister Festus Keyamo, tweeted: “The real greatest mistake that OBJ made as President was the appointment of some crackhead into his cabinet with the hope they would stop sniffing the stuff… Apparently, that didn’t work, hence years later they’re still on the stuff and recalling things about PMB that never happened”.

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Fani-Kayode had been accused in the past of doing drugs but no one is sure now if the addiction has endured. But beyond the verbal fire-for-fire between the PMB and OBJ acolytes the future of Nigeria is what is of utmost concern to us as patriots. Obasanjo and Buhari have both benefitted immensely from mother Nigeria while some of us have gotten nothing. When we hear or read about the staggering figures looted or mismanaged we shudder and weep for the motherland, abused and raped!

Olusegun Obasanjo is an elder statesman who have seen the good, the bad and the ugly epochs in our national (hi)story. He was born when Nigeria was in good shape in the mighty hands of the British colonial Lords. He became an accidental Head of State in the late 70s (following the gruesome assassination of the beloved General Murtala Mohammed) when Nigeria was relatively strong economically. He even hosted with pomp the renonwed FESTAC in 1977. In 1999 he bounced back to power post-prison as an “elected” civilian President.

The Aremu of Ota came out of the Abacha gulag in late 90s broke and broken! Broke financially and broken psychologically. When, however, he was imposed on us by his military constituency as our President (post-June12, post-Abacha and post-Abiola) he seemed to have forgotten his prison experience. Today after spending eight giddy years in Aso Rock Obasanjo has reportedly become one of the richest Nigerians! He did some good things in power (like the GSM revolution and the establishment of the EFCC) but what he did wrong far outweighed his good deeds.

Obasanjo fought corruption cosmetically and selectively — himself an embodiment of corruption! He overthrew unconstitutionally some elected state Governors! And forced the impeachment of Senate Presidents! He created a cult of personality woven around the ‘Baba’ persona. He brooked little or no opposition. And disrespected some men of God. He displayed despotic tendencies as he sought desperately to extend his tenure to an illegal third. We remember how some Senators had stormed the Senate chambers with some loaded Ghana-must-go bags filled to the brim with hard currencies claiming that OBJ had bribed them in order to achieve third term in office!

Today the Nigeria of yesterday (nay yesteryears) they destroyed is still haunting them. They have realised that the future greatness of our country could only be guaranteed by the youths hence his insistence on the radical need for a generational change at the centre. But we do not need an Obasanjo to tell us about the urgency of now as far as piloting Nigeria to a new heights is concerned. The youths know better! Yes, we know much better!

The following posers are necessary for us to know where we were coming from and where we are headed. How much does it cost really to power a country infrastructurally? How much did it cost some African countries with stable power supply (Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tunisia, South Africa etc) to electrify their countries? To make power failure a thing of the past did they possibly spend up to sixteen billion Dollars? Please, we are talking about 16 billion American Dollars here and not 16 billion Naira or sisteen million Dollars!

For us, therefore, it amounts to deception of the century for any sane mind to claim that 16 billion Dollars was spent on power without any commensurate production or generation of energy. If 16 billion Dollars was truly spent on power as the OBJ gang are claiming then we would have since seen the generator generation dwindle in size and scope. To electrify the neighbourhoods in Nigeria (connecting every nook and cranny to the national grid) has become as hard as (if not harder than) penetrating the impenetrable Bermuda triangle or visiting heaven in flesh and blood!

As long as he refuses, like a demi-god above the law, to provide satisfactory answers to hard questions about the billions of Dollars he spent on power (more on darkness than light anyway) then we reckon that Olusegun Obasanjo, despite his characteristic imperial grandstanding, stands condemned; he remains as guilty as Lucifer in hell! And against this backdrop, therefore, justice and restitution must be made to prevail in this national monumental scandal.


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