President Buhari’s dishonest integrity was on display as he reeled out distorted facts, half-truths and outright lies when he venerated late military dictator Sani Abacha and vilified former President Olusegun Obasanjo alongside all his other democratically-elected predecessors. While receiving a delegation of the Buhari Support Group, under the leadership of his lifelong ally and current comptroller-general of Customs, Hameed Ali, Buhari said, “I don’t care about the opinion you have on Abacha but I agreed to work with him and we constructed roads from Abuja to Port Harcourt, Benin to Onitsha and so on. We also touched education and health’,’ in veneration of Abacha and vilified Obasanjo thus: “One of the former Heads of State was bragging that he spent $15 billion on power in Nigeria. Where is the power?’’
Buhari’s veneration of Abacha, who headed the most notoriously rogue military junta in the history of Nigeria on the basis of construction of a few roads and some other interventions in health and education can only be compared in bizarre absurdity to an Angela Merkel praising the memory of Adolph Hitler on the basis of his pioneering role in the establishment of German network of super highways, the autobahn. Apart from his unprecedented plundering of Nigeria’s commonwealth, Abacha also terrorised the Nigerian people, Gestapo-style, in the worst case of brutal human rights suppression by any government before and after his in the history of Nigeria. Similarly, Buhari’s re-echoing of the false allegation against Obasanjo that he stole 16 billion USD on a failed power expansion project can be likened to the uninformed rumour that was made popular by Afro Beat legend accusing him [ Buhari] as minister of petroleum resources of stealing 2.3 billion USD ‘’oil money’’ from NNPC.
Buhari’s poor governance style with consequent lack of tangible achievements in nearly three years was brought about among other things by a combination of lack of understanding of basic statecraft and his arrogance of ignorance. Like his claim about Obasanjo’s 16 billion USD failed power project, Buhari’s statement at the meeting that ’’I challenge anybody to check from Europe, America to Asia; between 1999-2014 Nigeria was producing 2.1 million barrels of oil per day at an average cost of 100 USD per barrel and it went up to 143 USD’’ is as far from the truth as the moon from the sun. The consistent rigidity with which Buhari peddles these false allegations underscores his arrogance of ignorance.
It is not true that oil prices averaged 100 USD per barrel 1999-2014.The Obasanjo administration inherited a crude oil price of record low of 17 USD per barrel in 1999 and didn’t exceed 70 USD by 2007. Between 2008 and 2010 oil prices fluctuated between 94 USD and 77 USD with exception being the months of June and July when crude oil sold for all time high of 130 USD and 145 USD respectively. Crude oil prices only steadied at the 100 USD benchmark between 2011 and 2013, when prices hovered about 107 USD and rising as high as 109 USD in some months. 2014 saw the beginning of a steady decline of crude oil prices from 96 USD to $49 in 2015. Therefore the cumulative average of prices of crude oil under the period in review is about $61 and not the fictitious $100 that Buhari throws around. While the past administrations could have done much more to meet the expectations of Nigerians, it amounts to shear dishonesty to discountenance their modest achievements under the period in review. Contrary to Buhari’s claims, available fact suggests the Obasanjo administration and its successors achieved far reaching milestones in terms of physical infrastructure with these modest earnings than he is ready to admit. In addition to raising minimum wages by over 100 per cent and expanding the size of the public sector work force through mass employment of Nigerians, The Obasanjo administration constructed thousands of kilometres of roads across the country while it initiated a revamping of the rail sector. To the eternal credit of the Obasanjo administration, the master plan of the federal capital territory Abuja was substantially restored with massive infrastructural expansion that distinguished it as one of the fastest developing capital in Africa.
The Obasanjo administration reformed primary education through the Universal Basic Education initiative which increased children enrolment into elementary schools in multiple folds. Obasanjo’s accomplishments in health care [NHIS] housing [NHF] and tertiary education [TETFUND and PTDF] are reference points in institutional corporate governance today. Human capital development and far reaching institutional reforms that positioned Nigeria as a destination of choice for Foreign Direct Investments in Africa were carried out by the Obasanjo administration. Obasanjo instituted the war on graft and corruption by the establishments of EFCC and ICPC. All these achievements are despite the fact that the Obasanjo administration in 1999 inherited a depleted foreign reserve of 3 billion USD and huge debt of 30 billion USD. However, by 2007, Nigeria witnessed a phenomenal turn around when the Obasanjo left a whopping 43 billion USD in foreign reserves and 35 billion USD in excess crude account in savings. In addition, Obasanjo successfully exited Nigeria from the clique of debtor nations when he paid 18 billion USD as counterpart funds to a league of creditor nations and institutions to get the balance written off.
On power, it is neither true that Obasanjo neither spent $16 billion nor that he achieved nothing. The bogus figure of $16 billion emanated from a controversial national assembly inquest into the power sector. Whereas, $16 billion was projected for the holistic transformation of the power sector by the Obasanjo administration, less than $4 billion was actually expended according to available records. The power sector in 1999 when the Obasanjo administration came in was in a very poor state. As a result of long years of neglect by successive administrations, the various power stations in Jebba, Shiroro, Kainji, Egbin, afam and Delta could only generate a paltry 1,500 megawatts.
The first step taken by the Obasanjo administration to improve power supply was to successfully revamp the existing power plants that resulted into increased output of 2,500 megawatts bringing the total output available to Nigerians from the national grid to 4,000 megawatts. Further expansion of power infrastructure saw the Obasanjo administration conceptualization and initial execution of ten power plants across the country with capacity to generate 12000 megawatts of electricity. These projects were funded from the savings of the Obasanjo administration from the excess crude account. Out of the estimated cost of 10 billion USD, only about 3.7 billion USD was expended as the time of the complete procurement of the first phase of power plants in 2007.
Throughout his political sojourn in the wilderness of the opposition, Buhari gained fame for his strong incorruptibility credentials and his fiery criticism of his predecessors/rivals for plundering the nation’s common wealth. He attributed the nation’s underdevelopment to the scourge of corruption, which he claimed left Nigeria in deficit of basic infrastructure, no savings but debt over hang. Nigerians believed in him to salvage the ugly situation and got him elected on his fourth attempt on the ballot in 2015. That Buhari who regaled the nation about the looting exploits of his predecessors/rivals went to the’’ CBN governor with my cap in hand and asked if we had savings. He told me we had only debts, no savings’’ means that his accusation of massive looting was actually a false alarm. Even though available facts goes contrary to Buhari’s claim of inheriting empty treasury, his often melodramatic theatrics about his shock at the extent of lootings renders his age long accusation of his predecessors/rivals as deliberately orchestrated lies to gain political advantage. The Buhari administration inherited a foreign reserve of $25 billion and an excess crude account of $2.4 billion, contrary to the claim that there were no savings.
That Buhari is venerating Abacha five months after taking delivery of his over $300 million looted fund from Swiss authorities while expecting another of his $500 million from the United States, calls to question his [Buhari] understanding of corruption as much as about any other issue of governance. It is discernable from Buhari’s statements that he didn’t quite pay attention to details of government dealing throughout his opposition years in order to be adequately informed. This lack of proper information of issues of governance is responsible for the elevation of fake news and hate speech to presidential levels as Buhari continues to wallow in arrogance of ignorance.