By Dele Sobowale
An army is a nation within a nation…” Alfred De Vigny, 1797-1863. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 14). President Buhari will not probe Obasanjo’s government, not because it will constitute a distraction, as eager propagandists will like us to believe but because of the military tradition of esprit de corps. Once an officer was your superior officer in service, you don’t disgrace him in public. The rare exceptions occur when there is a coup arising out of disagreements among the officers.
That explains why Abacha’s arrest, prosecution, conviction and attempt to execute Obasanjo was such an aberration to the military class. Once, we “bloody civilians” understand that, it should not come as a surprise to us that our President is not too eager to probe the former Military Head of State under whom he served as Minister for Petroleum Resources and who was his superior officer.
However, while Buhari had washed his hands of probing Obasanjo, he had not foreclosed any inquiry into what happened to the nation’s economy between 1999 and 2007. From my reading of the situation, Buhari had simply left the task to others to undertake. At any rate, his trip to the United States during which it was allegedly disclosed that America will assist in tracing some $150 billion of funds illegally transferred from Nigeria did not state that the entire sum was stolen under former President Jonathan.
All the crimes committed by Nigerians in collaboration with Halliburton and Siemens, major multinationals, took place under Obasanjo. So any loot with respect to those fraudulent transactions, still in foreign accounts can only be recovered by conducting a probe of the Obasanjo regime. Without such an investigation, Nigeria cannot lay claim to the funds. Unless President Buhari is saying that we should forgo all the loot sent abroad between 1999 and 2007, he has no alternative but to allow the Senate to do what he, for reasons stated above, cannot do.
In fact, we must ask ourselves two questions. One, if asking questions about our stolen wealth under Obasanjo is diversionary, why are we still pursuing Abacha’s loot which came earlier? Two, supposing any country in the world were to discover billions of dollars of Nigerian money laundered to its banks between 1999 and 2007, will we reject it because Obasanjo’s government is not being probed?
It is possible that such loot can be somewhere if the Senators read Chapter 8 of my book PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED. That section of the book went to great lengths to demonstrate how one of our current self-righteous “saints” went about impoverishing our nation Nigeria. Like others, his membership of the ruling party had sanitized and deodorized him. He, of course has immunity. But, it will be interesting to see if he would waive his immunity to answer questions on his stewardship.
Obasanjo himself no longer enjoys immunity under the law. His partial immunity has been granted by President Buhari – who refuses to go further than Yar’Adua/Jonathan governments as far as probes are concerned. It is a pity that military tradition superceeds national interest in this matter.
But, let me draw the attention of Mr President, his advisers and all Nigerians to the summary of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee, established to look into the disbursement of funds from the Petroleum Development Trust Fund, PDTF, account, which was managed by Obasanjo were illegal in many respects.
Chapter 6, of PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED summarized for Nigerians the findings of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee under Senate President Nnamani. Permit me to quote from page 193 of that book.
“Various amounts were mentioned in the Senators’ submissions which were misapplied (read vanished into illegal ends). As they were all rendered in dollars, it is necessary to reduce them to Naira in order that we might have a proper understanding of the amounts involved and in relationship to the various needs of the people of Nigeria that were ignored during the period under review.
- US1.76 billion = N228 billion..at the time.
- US11 million = N1.43 billion.
- US222 million = N28.86 billion.
- US1.76 billion (N228 billion) drawn down to US142.5 million (N18.53 billion) meant that N209.47 billion was withdrawn without record of benefits to the nation.
The sum total of misapplied funds so far amounted to N268.29 billion; not counting the undisclosed amounts that were denied the PDTF for three years. In the next volume of this series we shall see how the PDTF was milked to the tune of close to N500 billion from 1999 to 2007, while the President of Nigeria [Obasanjo] claimed to be fighting corruption.”
Among the most nauseating expenditures made out of PDTF account was the purchase of a Peugeot 607 for a lady. Former Senator Daisy Danjuma remarked after the inquiries as follows: I was shocked and disturbed at the extent of gross abuse of office, privileges and misapplication of public funds by… the President..” (p 198).
The records of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee are there in the Senate Archives; those wanting to know more about Obasanjo can go and read them. If that does not appall the reader enough, then there is a need to visit page 290 of the same book and read about how an oil block developed with our $2 billion [N260 billion] was sold at $5 million [N650 million].
Who in those unfortunate years – 1999 to 2007 – could have had the impunity to do so much damage?” So, let’s probe his holiness to find out how one can get away with so much and still keep accusing others of corruption.