The allegation against Obasanjo was that his son was involved in lifting oil and grabbing federal contracts all over the place under his father’s administration.
Throughout the eight-year tenure of former President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, I was (and still remain) his most strident critic. But not without reasons. Yet, when desperate rivals accused the same Obasanjo of nepotism and corruption, I was virtually the only one who defended him in this column under the headline “If Gbemiga Obasanjo, why not?” I was informed by some of Obasanjo’s aides that the man was surprised and tremendously relieved.
This incident is being recalled in view of a similar allegation against President Muhammadu Buhari by desperate rivals. To be fair, Obasanjo, on this occasion (at least so far), has been circumspect instead, as he is won’t, of rushing to join the mob in propagating the allegation against Buhari, lest he (Obasanjo) would have been reminded of his own experience. The allegation against Obasanjo was that his son, Gbemiga Obasanjo, was involved in lifting oil and grabbing federal contracts all over the place under his father’s administration. There was no way of confirming the allegations, if at all that was necessary. Instead, the real issue was the constitutional right of an offspring of an incumbent President to earn a living during his father’s tenure. More specifically, must any Nigerian be rendered unemployed by the mere fact of a member of the family heading a government? For how long? Throughout the tenure?
Obasanjo couldn’t have sought my assistance to defend himself or his son. But I had to defend the poor boy’s (Gbemiga’s) right more as my son. The argument was straightforward. If foreigners lift oil and grab contracts, a Nigerian citizen (Gbemiga Obasanjo) was even more entitled to right of first refusal, since a Nigerian cannot be rendered inferior in status in such matters to favour a foreigner. The argument went further that, even against fellow Nigerian competitors to lift oil or grab federal contracts, Obasanjo’s son would bid on equal basis provided (and strictly provided) he, Gbemiga Obasanjo, was not allowed a cent’s discount on the price of oil, like $49.99 against $50 dollars for others. As for contracts, the submission in this column (in favour of Gbemiga Obasanjo) criticism would be justified only if the accusers could prove that former President Obasanjo influenced or even directed the minister concerned to award the contract to his son (Gbemiga Obasanjo). Otherwise, Obasanjo was entitled to all rights and privileges of a Nigerian citizen to earn a living, legitimately. Obasanjo was, therefore, advised to walk tall and ignore the critics.
Obasanjo was an incumbent President on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) when the allegation was made. It is now not easy to recall if ever the PDP criticised their man throughout the controversy. It is, therefore, an irony that the same PDP today is accusing President Muhammadu Buhari’s “family” members of buying shares in a telecommunications company, 9Mobile and Keystone Bank. At first glance, the impression created was that those being accused were Buhari’s immediate family members. So far, it is not even certain the PDP allegations are true. But we may, for purposes of argument, assume the allegations are true and that those involved are even Buhari’s brothers, sisters and children. In which case the very same argument in this column over 10 years ago in defence
of the right of Obasanjo’s family members (irrespective of their blood tie to former President Obasanjo) to earn a living legitimately and within Nigerian laws, will apply in defence of Buhari’s family members.
It should be noted that this is merely on the assumption that those being accused by PDP of involvement in massive investment in shares. Nigerians not related to or around President Buhari daily exercise their legitimate right to invest in shares. Must fellow Nigerians, merely on account of being related to or around Buhari be ineligible to enjoy the same right to invest in shares? It is election time and we can only laugh at the desperation on display.
The PDP should be more serious on this controversy. The party made the allegation and carries the onus to prove everything beyond reasonable doubt, especially by filing concrete facts with the EFCC, since it seems PDP’s grudge is that those being accused bought the shares at all. It is even noteworthy that the shares were paid for and that is an improvement. We were in this country when our national assets of various types were misappropriated into a hurriedly formed conglomerate, which in turn greased palms with two hundred million shares gratis for each of their benefactors.
General Buhari was out of power for 30 years (1985 to 2015). Could it be that, for that long period, his family members or those around him were not gainfully employed or not every joining their fellow Nigerians to invest in public shares? When the allegations were made, general expectation was that the new shares investors would
be identified as erstwhile “nobodies” until Buhari got to power in 2015. It was, therefore, amusing that those being accused of investing in shares were widely-known and recognised businessmen/major contractors/ multi-billionaires at home and perhaps abroad decades before Buhari returned to power. These were Nigerian contractors who fairly competed with foreign contractors in the development of Abuja as the new Federal Capital, right from the beginning in 1986. I was in government and today testify to that.
Must such self-made Nigerians be ineligible to invest in public shares or be faulted merely for being close to President Buhari? The allegation by the PDP that public funds formed major part of the shares investment remains what it is – mere allegation, until proved beyond every doubt. It is, however, instructive the beneficiary companies have critically reacted to the allegation. Meanwhile, Nigerians retain their right to invest in any publicly quoted company. Is there any proof that President Buhari influenced 9Mobile and Keystone to sell shares to only his (Buhari) or those around him? It is also the right of any such company to sell to or reject shares offer from anybody.
And if 9Mobile or Keystone Bank felt intimidated by the closeness to Buhari of those offering to buy shares, that is not Buhari’s headache, just as in the case of ministers under Obasanjo who might have panicked to favour Gbemiga Obasanjo in the award of federal contracts.
Meanwhile, have there been any complaints by other potential shares investors in the two companies against being marginalised by those close to Buhari?
Very soon, hypocrites in Nigeria and abroad may soon hijack the discussion that what is involved is a question of morality. And who are the preachers? Mainly elites including those on campuses. One of them was appointed head of our electoral commission, where he lasted barely six months in those days of political upheaval. Within that short period, from the first release of funds, he bought himself a generator not less than 40KV for his house, not in Abuja but his village. On being dismissed from office as part of the on-going political upheaval, he went away with the generator. If Muhammadu Buhari got himself a generator at his Daura home, these same elites would descend on him for allegedly not sharing in the hardship experienced by ordinary Nigerians on poor power supply.
Have you heard anything on the colossal theft of public funds at JAMB for the previous 16 years before Buhari’s administration? If this same JAMB could collect more than N7 billion within the last two years, what happened all along? It is all quiet at EFCC on this matter. Elites are the worst hypocrites on matters of public morality.
A British Prime Minister, Oxbridge educated, introduced legal aid purportedly to assist the poor in society. It was later exposed to be a conduit pipe for his wife, a Queen’s Counsel, to become a multimillionaire, in the name of defending human rights.
In any case, this shares investment is straightforward. Those making the allegations must prove that public fund was involved in the purchase of the shares. Such proof must go far beyond merely calling on EFCC to investigate or that money meant for purchase of arms for soldiers was diverted. As a former British Prime Minister once put it, “you either put up or shut up.”
Postscript: Any belief in these emergency Washington-based organisations? They hardly exist. Where are those, which in the past (Washington-based crooks) who conferred honour of Banker of the year or Woman Banker of the year in Nigeria? Ten thousand dollars will do the job. And they are ever Washington-based only to intimidatingly garb credibility.
The vampire in Sudan
He is refugee from law. Or so he has been declared by the International Criminal Court sitting in Hagne, Netherlands, which ordered his arrest. Last time, he had to hurriedly depart South Africa where he had gone to attend an international conference at the end of which he was to be arrested and handed over to the International Criminal Court.
The man’s offence was crime against humanity when tens of thousands of Southern Sudanese were massacred on his orders, all in the name of forcefully preventing them (Southern Sudanese) from seceding. Of course, he was day-dreaming as the United Nations intervened and upheld the rights of Southern Sudanese to self-determination. That should have taught him the necessary lesson. While still being held accountable for his crimes against humanity in Southern Sudan, and while restricted to remnant Sudan, he remained blood-thirsty and, in the absence of Southern Sudanese, he has turned against those he incited in the past to massacre the Southerners, such that in the past three weeks, not less than 40 Sudanese protesting against him have been fatally shot by his armed thugs.
The protesters were all out against newly imposed high prices on everyday foodstuff. Disturbingly, other African countries, including Nigeria, are looking the other way. This man is wasting his time. Whether he likes it or not, the come is coming to become. It is a question of time.
Africa always consumes its vampires, wherever they exist.