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Obasanjo, Fashola and unending blame game

IT has been sixteen months of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration which translates into exactly one third of a tenure of four years. Buhari therefore has only two-third of his tenure left, but it is yet to dawn on the administration and its supporters that the focus should be on what the government has done over this time, not on what the Jonathan administration did or failed to do.

We have heard sundry issues being raised as alibi for obvious non-performance, ranging from the candid to the ordinary and ridiculous. And it will amaze you these ludicrous excuses come from such people as former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Power, Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola and Engr. Segun Oni who recently spoke on causes of the recession.

For instance, Oni, a former PDP Governor of Ekiti State that was thrown out of office through a controversial judicial process traced to a leader of the Action Congress, one of the precursors to the APC and now a Chieftain of the APC, claimed that but for Buhari, Nigeria would have collapsed completely. While defending the President over perceived poor performance on the economic front, Oni maintained that only Buhari has the ability and capability to govern Nigeria. Buhari is definitely our President and we voted for him because we believed he has the capacity to govern the nation. But it then bothers on the ridiculous to voice out the drivel, that out of two hundred million Nigerians, Buhari is the only one with the magic wand to fix the problem of this country.

No doubt, one of the greatest problems of leadership in Africa is subservient followership and praise singing. We deify our leaders so much that they begin to see themselves as infallible beings or super humans. This mentality makes people in authority not to aspire to improve on the quality of their leadership. This is one leadership question in Africa that is yet to be answered. Why is Africa still backward while we praise our leaders to high heavens every day?

Is our culture of praise singing not inimical to our progress as a continent? Granted that praise singing is a part of our culture, but then is it not better to reserve this strand of our DNA for our traditional institutions such as our chiefs and traditional rulers who we believe represent the deities?

In the same manner, Fashola while speaking at the Wilson Centre, Washington DC on Tuesday 20th September, justified the blame game, by blaming recession on “stomach infrastructure” of the previous administration. We all know that the issue of “stomach infrastructure” came up in Ekiti State as a campaign tool. But let us be very frank about this. How will the fact that the local authorities bought rice for citizens of Ekiti State lead to recession?  Even if we stretch the argument to postulate that the Federal Government also distributed rice to some citizens, there is no way any intelligent government official would conclude that it was the cause recession?

If Fashola a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a “Super Minister” in the Buhari government can go to the United States of America to allege that Nigeria is in recession as a result of “stomach infrastructure” then we are in trouble as a nation. This is because to solve a problem, you must know the cause. A medical doctor cannot prescribe treatment without proper diagnosis. If a house is cracking, a structural Engineer must know the cause before he can salvage the building. If Fashola, a “Super Minister” does not know what makes nations go into recession, then we are still galloping in the dark. Can Fashola and his cohorts look into how we got into recession in 1984/85 and how we got out of it?

The likes of Fashola and former Governor of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi who is now minister of transport ought to tell President Buhari how they fought tooth and nail to prevent savings by the Federal Government. They should tell Buhari how they funded protests and demonstrations from public purse against the Federal Government’s deregulation efforts. I am very happy that Fashola and Amaechi are part of this government and are reaping the good harvest from the seeds they sowed. Experts believe that if the deregulation had succeeded, President Buhari would have inherited an economy with more than $60b Foreign Reserves.

Fashola has also been crying over what he calls the huge debt owed to contractors at the works ministry. He should know that Government is a continuum and no government has ever succeeded in settling all contractual obligations within its tenure, especially when the jobs are still on going. If it were so, Lagos State would not be under its current N500 billion heavy debt accumulated under Fashola. This is the highest state debt profile in the country, even when Lagos harvests the highest yield in internally generated revenue. Again, hasn’t the Governor of Lagos Akinwunmi Ambode stoutly carried on with governance, without allowing himself to be distracted by the dust raised by Fashola’s scandalous N78.3million website and shocking N139 million expenses  on just two water boreholes?

Recently, former President Obasanjo entered the fray by revealing that he blamed Jonathan for including toothpick on the list of goods to be imported. He also claimed that he warned the Government two years ago that too much money was being spent and that the economy was going to face challenges.

There is no doubt that since falling out with Jonathan his hatred for his younger colleague now knows no bounds. A man of high drama and theatrics, Obasanjo has taken the issue of demonising Jonathan as the cause of recession to new levels, while always projecting himself as the infallible messiah. But he is only self-serving because Nigerians have not forgotten the threat his third term futile bid posed to our hard-won democracy, as well as the ignoble roles he played in promoting corruption.

Let us examine the issue of “whistle blowing” on the economy. If Obasanjo blew the whistle two years ago as he claimed, that means the whistle was blown in 2013 or 2014. According to Obasanjo, the Government of the day ignored the whistle. Obasanjo claimed the Government was spending too much money even when the fact remains that Federal Government did not spend up to 80% of the budgeted funds in 2013 and 2014.

The allegation that the Government did not listen to him that the economy was facing challenges was in deed typical, self-serving and far-fetched. If Obasanjo noticed that the economy was going to face challenges in 2013/2014, he should be reminded that the Government noticed it in 2011, hence the bid to complete the deregulation of petroleum products in January 2012. Even though Obasanjo started the deregulation process when he was in office, he did not support Jonathan’s efforts.  He did not sue for restraint when the main opposition parties came heavily on Jonathan. The likes of El-Rufai were flying in the air instigating demonstrations across the country. One expected elder statesmen like Obasanjo who are knowledgeable on economic issues to support the Government but they all melted away. Some even supported the demonstrations.

Maybe Obasanjo did not know that the economy was facing challenges then. It took him another two years to know and blow the stale whistle on an issue the Government had been working on for over two years.

Obasanjo’s toothpick blame is another egocentric vituperation. Obasanjo alleged that he saw toothpick on the list of items President Jonathan approved for importation. I must say that I followed up on Government activities then. There is no doubt that toothpick importation is frowned at by many Nigerians but Obasanjo raising this now and linking it with the recession is simply mischievous.

It would be recalled that the Federal government under President Jonathan set up a committee chaired by Minister Aganga to look through the items that had been on the nation’s import list and to delist those items the country must encourage local production.

It is instructive that the items, which included toothpick,  were those inherited from the Obasanjo’s administration. If Obasanjo had stopped the importation of toothpick, it would not have remained on the list. If the Aganga led committee for one reason or the other left toothpick on the list and President Jonathan did not see it, a former President is not expected to celebrate such omission, especially when he also left the item on the list when he was in power. It is utterances like these that continue to make President Buhari blame the previous administration for every wrong thing. Now even biographers have been recruited to vilify Jonathan. Please let us disengage the reverse gear so that this Nation can move forward.

Obasanjo knows how voluminous the list is and how difficult it will be for a sitting President to go through it line by line. . Even then, it has to be seen to be a blame game taken too far for President Buhari to have insinuated in his Independence Day speech that Nigeria was a pariah State under the Jonathan administration. There is no doubt that this is an obvious falsehood and it has been so classified by different segments of Nigerians.

For a sampler, Nigeria joined the United Nations on the 7th of October 1960. From 1960 to date, Nigeria has been admitted into the UN Security Council only FIVE times.  It should be noted that two out of the five were happened under Jonathan’s five years’ tenure as President. Can a pariah State be admitted into the UN Security Council? Let us see if President Buhari will secure a seat in the UN Security Council in his first four years.

We must stop playing politics with serious issues that affect our nation. Gen. Babangida once said that Nigeria economy does not fit into any theoretical concept. It may be so because even the professionals discuss economic issues with biases. Their tone of the analyses of the economy of the nation depends on who they want to blame. If they are against Government, then the Government will be responsible for everything but if they are pro-government then they will have to look for where else to lay the blame. In such situations, the immediate past Government fits in very well.

For us to get out of recession and grow the economy, the President must assemble experts that can tell him the truth, not praise singing politicians who do not have anything to offer.  Some countries are in recession but the ordinary citizens do not even know. The blame on “stomach infrastructure” and toothpick importation will not lead us anywhere as a nation. Obasanjo sold a number of public assets to all manner of people and companies and what did we do with the money.  We are not moving forward as a nation because we spend more than 90% of our time and energy engaging the rear mirror and fighting the past for political gain. Let us for once look forward and move on.

The vicious and continuous attack on Jonathan makes some of the young people especially in the social media think that Jonathan has been in power from 1960. Jonathan was the President for just five years, May 6th 2010- May 29th 2015. What special thing did Obasanjo do in his eight years?

I do not intend to use this medium to enumerate what the Jonathan administration did but one thing is clear. He had a robust economic team that worked hard to make Nigeria the biggest economy in Africa with a GDP above half a trillion United States dollars. There was social stability that encouraged foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country. The political environment was calm and INEC conducted the best and most credible elections ever in Nigeria. The world acclaimed Jonathan and commended Nigeria.

What is the State of the Idependent National Electoral Commission (INEC) today?  It is no secret that INEC now has a Chairman and another Super Chairperson Amina, Bala Zakari, who is personally supervising fraudulent elections.

Under the Jonathan’s administration, farmers received fertilizers and other imputes. The entertainment industry was encouraged to create jobs for the youths. Twelve conventional Universities were built to create space for the Nigerian youths who had taken over the Ghanaian Universities. Youths were encouraged to establish their own businesses through the “YOUWIN” and Nagropreneur programmes. Twenty thousand kilometres of roads were tarred. The narrow gauge rails linking Kano-Lagos, Lagos-Ibadan, Port-Harcourt-Enugu-Maiduguri were rehabilitated. The Kaduna-Abuja standard gauge line was completed. All these in five years.

Now even biographers have been recruited to vilify Jonathan. Please let us disengage the reverse gear so that this Nation can move forward.

*Mr. Sufyan Mohammed, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Yola, Adamawa State.





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