Sunday Trust online

If the dead could speak! - 1

Who fired the first salvo?  Was it the Obj bombers, comprising el-Rufai, Ezekwesili, Fani Kayode et al? Or can we say the Jonathan bombers played into their hands with the plethora of mistakes and missteps, the comedy of errors and mismanagement that has become the hallmark of governance in Nigeria?  All we know is that the Nigerian public space was set alight by brickbats.  But to a dispassionate observer, one person is left carrying the can, and indeed, that person should not, but for the fact that he is dead and buried.

Ezekwesili delivered a scathing lecture to the last set of graduands at her alumnus, UNN.  For someone who is seen to have been close to government for at least a decade now, and a believer in trickle-down economics just like the rest of those who run our economy today, many were taken aback.  Much more the protectors of the current regime, who would like to be called ‘Today’s Men’.  It is very interesting to note that Oby was as angry as just about the rest of us who don’t know “how things work in government”, and that she was probably tired of late night meetings with government people (even with her ‘sister’ Auntie Ngozi), so much that she would make such an excoriating speech.  She was so angry that she allegedly made a mistake like any layman.  In her words, “The Yaradua/Jonathan government wasted $67billion” that was magnanimously saved by the government she served, on what she called ‘Tragic Choices’ of expenditure.

In the first place, what is a Yar’adua/Jonathan government?  Why would they not let dead people rest?  We have had a proper Jonathan government for at least three years now.  The moment Yar’adua went on his last medical trip, Dr Jonathan became the defector ruler of Nigeria, even if he was lacking in the area of competence or moral high ground.  The hoopla about a certain “cabal” and all that brouhaha about not having been declared and sworn in as ‘Acting President’ has now been proven to be absolute bunkum.  There was one of those Jos Crisis when Yar’adua just departed for Saudi Arabia in 2009, and the then Vice President Jonathan, commanded the Army to move in, and they obeyed! But since the so-called Doctrine of Necessity was invoked, till date, I see no reason why any reasonable person will talk about a Yar’adua/Jonathan government. Auntie Oby should have informed us, how much Yar’adua “wasted”, and how much Jonathan is “wasting”.  And she should have equally told us, as a Harvard and World Bank Alumnus, and in the spirit of specificity, how much they also “wasted” in the Obasanjo days that is now being painted as Nigeria’s Golden Age, which it was not.

One must agree with her about the issue of Tragic Choices anyway. Tragic Choices are the decisions that a tragic country reaches consistently.  They are the results of a kind of blindness and madness that afflict people who come to power in such a country as ours.  They are borne out of the inability to remove primitive culture from government, to separate religion from the state, to separate the self from the office, to understand what service is all about, to appreciate where we truly stand as a people in the comity of nations, a failure to develop any sense of urgency, or any degree of focus, or any idea about sacrifice and delayed gratification.  Tragic choices are borne out of a failure to stop all the chest-thumping and self-deception, or to maintain any degree of self-discipline.  They are decisions taken by rulers and administrators who have chosen the path of ignorance; the type of decisions taken by civilisations heading for collapse! Tragic Choices made of late include the budgeting of N16 billion to build VP Mansion, N150 million to renovate one VP Guest House, N4 billion to build African First Lady Mission House, N23 billion to throw a centenary party (so-called private sector, more later), N7.5 billion for Abuja City Gate, N2.2 billion for Presidential Meeting Hall/Banquet Hall, and of course the billions we spend yearly sending our citizens to go and boost the tourism of Saudi Arabia and Israel!

The Tragic truth is that these Tragic Choices have always been in government and that since the return of democracy, under Obasanjo, whom Oby, el-Rufai and co would want us to worship, these tragic choices went into overdrive.  Government has only grown larger, greedier, more insensitive, more bizarre, more self-serving and more destructive since 1999.  Many now reminisce about the relative discipline that the Military Governments offer.  If not for anything, there would be no National and State Assemblies, and such monies as are used to maintain them, will go elsewhere.  Obasanjo, whose history almost equates with the history of Nigeria – he wrote the national anthem, the pledge, etc, and has governed this country longer than anyone living or dead, contributed immensely in creating this Frankenstein Monster, so no one should make him – or themselves - look like Cherubs and Seraphim.

Of all the Obasanjo bombers, only one has shown immense grace, and that is Professor Chukwuma Soludo, who now comes up each week, with illuminating positions in his Thisday Column.  This man is a bag of intelligence and someone whom one will be privileged to learn from.  Whereas he was a Central Bank Governor and made his fair share of mistakes, he is of more value to the country, outside government today, where he is offering his knowledge as to the ramifications of problems besetting our country.  In his last but one column, titled ‘What Obasanjo/Yar’adua Told Me’, Soludo describes how Obasanjo interjected in a prayer point he made, and told himself and Oby, to go back and get involved in Anambra politics.  He also wrote about how Yar’adua made that a reality, and pledged his total support, because according to Yar’adua, Soludo was far too precious to the country not to keep being involved in public service. I agree today, given what I read each week from Soludo. Alas for Soludo, Yar’adua left the country, never to be seen again, and the Godfathers made his life hell! The rest is history.  Soludo wrote about a Yar’adua who cared to see a great Nigeria, despite that Yar’adua removed him from his position as CBN governor.  He did not hold a grudge.

How does that compare with el-Rufai, who wrote in his new book that when Yar’adua was asked to bring a list of those who will succeed him, he produced a list with the name of his wife being Number 1, and his two sons-in-law, Yuguda and Dakingari following, with that of Senator Bukky Saraki providing some mild diversion!  Fani Kayode, twice a Minister in this country, also weighed in on the Oby issue, and in many ways, tried to blame the waste on Yar’adua alone, all in a bid to escape his ongoing prosecution by EFCC. Fani wrote in the same Thisday Newspaper in his article titled “Let the $67billion Debate Begin”… “…Obasanjo… after leaving $45 billion for the Umaru Musa Yar’adua administration to build on in 2007, we still only have that same figure of $45 billion left in our foreign reserves today. Worse still, this was after it had plummeted to a shameful $30 billion under late President Yar’adua.”

CBN figures reveal that the reserves hit an all-time-high of $66 billion under the much vilified Yar’adua.  And Fani and friends conveniently forgot that crude oil prices fell from $147 to $34 because of the Global Financial Crisis which became the Great Recession.  Nigeria had to quickly liquidate a lot of its reserves to pay back crazy ‘foreign investors’ who massively exited our stock market, leading to its crash. More next week.

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