By Dele Sobowale
Nobody expected Buhari to provide intellectual leadership as President. Even as one of his most ardent supporters in 2011 and 2015, it was clear to me that he was not equipped for that role. The emergence of Professor, SAN, Yemi Osinbajo as Vice President gave us hope that some mental rigour will be introduced into policy making and public pronouncements by top Buhari government officials. But “what does corrupting time not diminish..?” (Horace 65-8BC). Our formally erudite scholar in three years has chosen to descend to the level of his boss – who we know has only a disputed School Certificate to his credit.
The Buhari/Osinbajo administration is now thirty-nine months old. And, instead of going about telling Nigerians about solid accomplishments, the two have substituted blaming previous regimes for claiming credit for demonstrable results. That is bad enough. They have both laced all their utterances with deliberate half-truths and even absolute falsehoods. Apparently, decline in scholarship at the Law School started much earlier than we thought. Of the two, Osinbajo is the more baffling. A man under 65 should not be suffering from the forgetfulness which is the prerogative of those on the way to the graveyard – like most people above 70. But, VP exhibits all the signs of ageing early and that is not good for Nigeria. A future President should rise above pettiness.
A few weeks ago, Osinbajo characteristically took a wide swing at all the previous governments in Nigeria – especially the Obasanjo/YarÁdua regime, the IBB/Abacha junta and Jonathan’s government. Just as has become his second nature now (or was he always like this?), he left out the Buhari/Idiagbon Gestapo, 1984-1985. Liars start by adopting selective recall of events. We know that. To begin with Osinbajo was just a little over 21 when the Obasanjo/YarÁdua government handed over to civilians. Buhari was a part of that regime from 1976. The VP should ask his boss if he served a worthless government as Minister of Petroleum Resources. He should also ask Buhari what was the major achievement of his government in 1984-5 – other than signing draconian decrees into law. Those who live in glass houses should not be hauling bricks at those outside.
“The ninety-ninth metre is still halfway there in a hundred metre race.”Japanese Proverb.
However, of all those the VP assailed, the one that merits defence in comparison with Buhari was Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB – the man most of us love to hate. Perhaps it is because Osinbajo thought that nobody will rise to the man’s defence that he picked on him. It was a mistake – as will be demonstrated shortly. The fact is IBB made a last metre error on June 12, 1993. If he had handed over to Chief M.K.O Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the Presidential election, he would be a hero today and not a villain.
From the standpoint of comprehensive economic, political and social reform IBB’s eight years in office remains the best of all time. To begin with, he had world-class Ministers and Special Advisers and he took on many challenges with courage and vigour. Compared to his cabinet which included Professor Jubril Aminu, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Prince Bola Ajibola, SAN, Chuks Okongwu, Dr Kalu Idika Kalu, KIK, Professor Gambari , Major-General Mamman Kontagora etc, the amateurs serving Buhari now cannot possibly hold a candle. Since Osinbajo has raised the question about legacies let me use three of those eminent Nigerians who worked with IBB to set the record straight – Kalu Idika Kalu , Ajibola and Kontagora.
KIK was the father of the Value Added Tax, VAT, and I was one of his disciples when the proposal was made. KIK fought in the government, I did battle in the media. We won. It was as unpopular as anything ever advanced in a country where people were allergic to paying taxes. But, KIK was a World Bank economist and as an economist myself, I knew that Nigeria could not continue to live on oil money. Even the man who was chosen as the first Director-General, DG, of VAT, one Mr Sukogi, in an interview with me at Abuja doubted if VAT would ever yield N5 billion to the Federation Account. He laughed when I told him it will generate over N100 billion per annum eventually. Today, VAT delivers over N100 billion in some months to Buhari’s government. That is close to N1.2 trillion this year alone. That economic legacy alone places IBB heads and shoulders above his current detractors. Add to that the deregulation of the banking sector which gave rise to more banks and financial institutions; NEXIM, private airlines and DHL, private television and radio, etc. No need to list all of them seriatim.
Prince Bola Ajibola left IBB’s government to serve as Justice of the World Court. That tells you all you need to know about the quality of the man. Nobody will ever invite Malami to serve as Clerk of that Court, That is also enough for you to know the sort of incompetents toying with our lives.
When the mind turns to infrastructure, any honest observer of Babangida’s regime must surely remember Major-General Maman Kontagora, the Minister of Works, who completed more structures than any Minister before or after him. He faced the enormous challenge of carving a Federal Capital out of the wilderness of the FCT while at the same time overseeing construction in other parts of the country. One of his greatest legacies was supervision of the completion of the Third Mainland Bridge which was started by the Shagari administration before it was booted out by Buhari and co. Buhari not only ignored it, he even ordered the monorail started by the civilian government of Governor Jakande stopped and thus set back the development of Lagos State for decades. What can one expect of a School Certificate holder?
IBB saw the future and completed the bridge which had librated Lagos commuters from fate worse than death. Just think of the chaos Lagos experienced when the Third bridge was closed for three days last month and you must pray for IBB. Kontagora accomplished in three years more than our own “Omo Eko” will accomplish under Buhari even if given eternity. It is not Fashola’s fault. He works for a leader who should join others in Old Peoples Home and who takes forever to decide obvious things. The next time Osinbajo finds himself on the Third Mainland Bridge, he should find a convenient place to park his car and kiss any part of the bridge; then offer a prayer to IBB. He and his boss might never leave such a legacy.
Like most Nigerians, I blame the former Military President for June 12. But, unlike others, as an economist, I also commend him for his efforts on several revolutionary initiatives which still impact our lives today. One day a balanced review of IBB’s era will be written but undeniably IBB was a builder; Buhari has been destroying what others built without replacing them with his own legacies.