Masari’s mistakes, Kachikwu’s naivety
House of Representatives and Constituency projects were synonymous with the unbridled looting of the Nigerian treasury. In 2007 Masari was then Speaker of the House of Representatives and was also close to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. How was the election of Yar’Adua financed? EFCC should not waste its time probing budget “padding”. There was no such thing. The members of the House merely conjured up projects which they added to the budget for their own purposes and benefits. Their action was certainty unethical, and probably criminal.
All this business about the money voted for South-South started with Dr. Ibe Kachikwu’s calculation that $42 billion was sent to South-South and there was nothing to show in the area for this large revenue.
It was believed that PDP levied each minister for the election. Hence the many chicken brained-schemes devised to make money to pay for election. In addition, there is now incontrovertible evidence that billions were dispensed to and by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Head of Service (HOS) and officials of other parastatals who were collecting money in all colours and currencies. Monies were flying all over the place to Emirs, Obas, Ogbuefis, Amayanaos, little potentates, countless thieving sweet-tongued middlemen, who were nothing better than lying bastards, claiming to give money to people for the election. They pocketed most of the money. There were also shameless elders, members of the Board of Trustees, National Working Executive Committee Members, all of whom took money. INEC officials, police, security agents, military personnel, were all falling over themselves to collect money to assuage their rapacious inexhaustible appetites.
Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom states had access to private jets which were put at the service of President Yar’Adua and other PDP candidates during the election of 2007. Millions of naira was also expended by the governors of these states in their ambitions, before the election, to be chosen as running mate, i.e. Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP. The leaders of PDP from all over the country found their way to the South-South states with one request or the other. These governors were generous to a fault and fell for the cheap political praise and plots by their fellow governors and party apparatchiks that they would support their ambitions. The PDP as a party had no money except money which came from the government. But the party had to run the elections – Presidential, Gubernatorial, National and State Assemblies as well as Local Governments. The major part of the money at least for the 2003 and 2007 and even 2011 elections came from the South-South.
Spending political money recklessly and unaccountably was the game in town. I do not know how APC funded its election but I do not think that Lagos, other states in the South West and Rivers did not play an important part in that funding. Contributions from wealthy corporations, foreign and Nigeria, plus contribution from businessmen, may have helped but the state governments played a major role in the funding of the elections.
If money was spent on the Presidential election it would be obtuse to believe that money was not spent for gubernatorial, national and state assemblies: all were cut from the same cloth.
Governor Masari was in the centre of all of this – the reputed No.4 citizen must have known about the shenanigans of his colleagues. The House of Representatives under Speaker Masari continued the hopeless concentration on the base price of oil to determine revenue so that a windfall would be collected at the end of each year solely for the purpose of distributing under the so-called Excess Crude Account. Of all activities at the National Assembly, none betrayed absolute recklessness as the crudity of this aspect of budgeting which showed a complete lack of nationalism in the pursuit of dangerous self-enrichment, and has finally, brought Nigeria to the sorry plight it is in today. Imagine what would have happened had Nigeria put aside as savings all those billions which accrued to the Excess Crude Account? There would be no recession today.
During Masari’s tenure, budget implementation was about 30% yet there were no queries, no answers about what happened to the 70% of the appropriations not spent.
Kachikwu was merely echoing what he had heard some people say, it was not an original thought. The issue of money which statutorily belongs to the South South has been an issue that somehow annoys Nigerians outside the South South. It was usually raised whenever the South South raises the issue of resource control. The answer to this legitimate aspiration is, as it were, the duty of South South to issue a report card to Nigerians on its financial spending, as if the South South was some student who had to pass an examination set by other Nigerians. “What have you done with the trillions of naira given to South South in the past 14 years” – cried a member of the Constitution Review Committee when the issue of revising the derivation formula was being debated. Others claim that 13% of derivation is too much for oil producing communities. But that money, no matter how prudently spent, would still not be enough to cope with the endemic environmental pollution which the oil industry produces. Much of the terrain is soggy swamp land good for nothing now that the oil companies have even destroyed the fishes there. No one who has been in the area can doubt the enervating poverty of the people. A few people make little money there. Most of the money in the area is in the hands of people who are outside South South; oil exploration licences are rarely given to people from there. There can be little agriculture because the soil is salty, swampy or polluted with oil. Is it not surprising that so few of the people from there are rich: they do not own transport companies etc., other entrepreneurial businesses.
Some development no doubt has come to the states. Yenagoa was a small village with one petrol station. It has developed considerably, so has Warri, Uyo, Calabar and Asaba, the capital of Kachikwu’s state. Can we say that Asaba has not seen development? But most of the areas of South South have seen little improvement especially in Ogoni. Most of Bayelsa, all of Rivers, in fact some of the towns are worse off now than before the money arrived.
The East West Road is still not finished after nearly 14 years of construction. The Port Harcourt airport is still unfinished. The road from the Port Harcourt airport to town is a disgrace as nearly all the roads in the South South. There is no drinking water; no industries and the few that were there have been closed. No electricity generally in South South; few tertiary institutions (except Edo); few roads which are in an appalling state of disrepair: I could go on. The cost of buildings and infrastructure is prohibitive because of the terrain; the people are discontented and feel that their area is under military occupation. They see no reason why Abuja could be so developed and not one State in the oil producing area has a town comparable to Abuja. This is the crux of the complaint that each area should control its resources.
Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Let me make it clear, Masari has every right to his opinion. And the vast amount of money voted to the South South, South West, South East, North East and North West should be accounted for. If the leaders of the South-South pocketed the money, condemnation is appropriate but so did the rest of Nigerian leaders unless Masari wore clothes which had no pockets.
Political wisdom was that there would be a Northerner as President in 2007. Hence Musa Yar’Adua was chosen to represent PDP. But who would pay for his election? The job fell on the South-South Governors – some were given titles by the Emir of Katsina. Port Harcourt, Uyo, Yenagoa and Asaba were favourite watering holes of many Northern politicians – and rightly so. As Speaker, he was a member of the PDP caucus, BOT, etc. Nothing passed without his notice and that is probably how he knew that South-South money ended up in the pockets of the governors. But why did he not speak up then when he was in power? When the planes of Rivers and Delta or Bayelsa landed in Katsina – did he not know? Did he not enjoy the flights? I do not know if he was given any money. I do not think so. I have known him for a long time and greed is not one of his weaknesses. But he presided over the greediest group of politicians in Nigeria – forming committees which had little or no purpose but to endear occupants to him and for the committee chairmen and deputies to enjoy unprecedented perquisites.
There are many South-South people who would question Masari’s bonafides because unstated in his outburst is a feeling that the South-South not only squandered good money but squandered money which did not belong to them and which, in a fairer world, would have been divided so that he and his ilk would benefit. Or worse still, that the money which went to the South-South was gift from the North. The money was “given” to the South-South!! You cannot give me what I own.
Did South-South governors behave badly? I think so. But did they behave worse than other governors? Hardly.
Did Masari have a right to point this out, I believe so. But not all rights are expedient. Performing the right of criticism as was done by Governor Masari and Dr. Kachikwu raises questions which in rebuttal are not good for the interest of Nigeria.
The people of Nigeria would claim that the North has ruled Nigeria since 1960 till date, with brief interludes in 1976-79; 1999-2007; 2009-2014. What has the North done with all the money made in Nigeria from 1960 to date? It is an unfair question and will lead to nowhere except to inflame xenophobia which is counterproductive: and may provide the much feared cycle of violence. People in authority should always speak in measured tones, and refrain from using the gutter sniper language of demagogues. Governor Masari and Dr. Kachikwu should know better.
Kachikwu, an International Oil Company (IOC) manager imported into the Executive branch of government would do better to block the avenues which most Nigerians believe the International Oil Companies (IOCs) have exploited to take them for a ride. Moreover, he should also face a growing belief that the cost of operations of the IOCs is far too high and some savings could be made by better efficiency in operations. He should further save more money for Nigeria by cutting the bloated expenditure of NNPC. Efficient operations in these areas would provide greater revenue for Nigeria. Who knows, he might within a year save more than US$42 billion which seems to have stuck in his throat.
But by their remarks, Masari and Kachikwu open themselves to scrutiny. And when this is done, they are, like all governors and ministers of petroleum, pampered, overpaid, spoilt, and petulant and megalomaniac. That is the nature of their job and the way Nigerians see them. Nigeria must grow up.
Dr. Patrick Dele Cole is Officer of the Order of Federal Republic (OFR).