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On Obasanjo’s perspective on corruption

By Olu Okunrinboye   |   16 May 2017   |   4:00 am

Obasanjo

I read the corruption bombshell from the past president Olusegun Obasanjo recent speech as I was about to close my page on the Nigerian corruption saga. I also assumed that President Muhammadu Buhari has opened a new chapter of his holistic agenda to move the country forward. Recently, Obasanjo was quoted to have said: “The national situation is worse than what I met on the ground in 1999.” Our former president is entitled to his opinion which we may not all necessarily agree with.

I have read many comments by those opposing his views on this issue. However, I wish the elder statesman would be allowed to show the whole world his documented data for making such comparison and also the efforts he made to eradicate corruption when he held the nation’s baton of leadership as Head of State under the military regime and president under a democratic government.

My contribution is to proffer reasonable suggestions based on documented efforts of other countries that experienced similar corruption malaise in the course of their developments. Mc George Bundy, a U.S. National Security Adviser to former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, once said: “I had a part in a great failure. I made mistakes of perception, recommendation and execution. If I had learned anything I should share it.”

Conversely, Obasanjo, whose works I have read with passion over the years recently said: “Our generation has failed us.”

May I go down the memory lane to emphasize that history has a way of repeating itself. In April 2000, there were concerted efforts made to meet the then President Obasanjo on the need for a national summit based on the report of Malarialogists from Harvard University, Andy Sielman and Awash Teklehaimanot, from WHO (World Health Organisation), and others, who visited Nigeria to demonstrate the burden of malaria on economic development and opportunities for its control. Nothing came out of this report until Dr. Gro Harlem Brundt-Land, the then newly appointed Director-General of WHO remarked: ‘‘If you want to get someone’s attention in Nigeria about the health crisis in the country, show them the money.” And when the earmarked aid money was waived in the nation’s face, the summit was organised. Thus, the essence of Macroeconomics and Health (CMH) was established.

Similarly, in the same year, the U.S. Department of Energy stated that Nigeria’s state-owned oil company reported a loss of $14 billion because of crime and corruption. In the same year, “some of the said lost cash found their ways into bank accounts of military and business elite that have for long been in the corridor of power and controlled the nation’s resources.” In 2004, Obasanjo ordered an intensive investigation into the allegation that a Halliburton subsidiary paid $180 million in bribes to some Nigerian officials in the 1990’s and during that process, Nigerian military officers who bullied their way into power stole much of the nation’s oil wealth.”

We must collectively admit that Nigeria’s problems are due to bitter pills of corruption and mishandling of the nation’s resources by our so-called leaders. Before the advent of President Buhari’s government, the Swiss authorities once declared Nigeria as a “Criminal Enterprise” while stating that Nigerian leaders are the most corrupt when rated with other leaders in the modern history.

In his book, Break Out Nation, Ruchir Sharman said: “Nigeria has been infamous for some of the most corrupt regions in Africa.”

George Owell once said: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

However, it is unfortunate for Obasanjo to make excuses whatsoever if he was trying to exonerate himself. He was accountable to the nation during aforementioned period of his rule for whatever operational excesses and leadership shenanigans that transpired under him. It will be in the overall interest of the country if all efforts are geared towards supporting the incumbent president in his fight to control corruption in the nation.

Corruption is described as a ‘serious elephant problem’ around the world. Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception (CPI) and the World Bank’s 2011 control of corrupt and good governance indicators were meant to find lasting solutions to corruption and institutionalisation of good governance. We cannot continue to mount media attacks on Buhari except we do not want the nation to grow. His approach to fighting corruption through institutional investigations and systemic prevention is in the right direction.

As a well-recognised leader, Obasanjo must take a fair share of the blame for the present socio-economic imbroglio because of his involvement in nation-building. However, the major concern of this writer is to advise him, as a frontline and internationally recognised leader, to stop trading blames. Rather, he should advise the current president to stop giving unnecessary excuses to justify non-performance but strategically proffer reasonable solutions to the malignant economic challenges staring our dear nation in the face. Nigeria needs intense tactical approach and result-oriented policies that can upturn the old corruptive order and as well usher-in notable development in all ramifications.

Buhari may be slow in deciphering solutions to ensuing national challenges. We must admit with due respect that our leaders have limited management exposure and according to my grandfather they often learn on the job.

Buhari is operating under an extraordinary stressful condition occasioned by political discordant and dislocated national ideological sequence that calls for dispassionate approach to identifying extraordinary remedies that can placate the situation. The immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan, was deemed by the whole world the major hope to effect a positive change in the nation because of his young age and level of education. Ironically, he played to the gallery and fell into the wrong hands of malignant looters who scooped the nation’s resources like a slot machine.

Only a few days ago, the sum of $50 million was discovered to have been deliberately, criminally and neatly stacked away in a private home. How can our dear nation be rescued from this hydra-headed monster of corruption which has not only hindered our collective development but also debased or disparaged the national socio-political hegemony?

Okunrinboye is based in Washington DC.




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