Obasanjo’s ogbologbo solution to fight corruption
For the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to succeed in its fight against corruption, it should carry out thorough investigations of corruption cases and also hire the services of ‘ogbologbo’ lawyers. An ‘ogbologbo’, is a Yoruba word which means ‘seasoned and experienced person. These were the submissions of the former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, when he hosted journalists at his hilltop residence in Abeokuta.
Those who know the former President very well can attest to his self-styled bluntness in propagating staged melodramatic episodes that last longer in mind than its reality. It is an undiluted truth that as a man who has rigmaroled the corridors of power in Nigeria, he knows and understands very well the piece of land called Nigeria. Obasanjo has remained strong in the nation’s politics, moving majestically anywhere he thinks of, watching the rots he assisted in creating and dishing out piecemeal desiccated solutions whenever he feels attention would be engendered. He is always a major of the dramatis personae in the shows he often dedicates to his enthusiastic followers. In short, he would have won many awards as the protagonist of his own didactic verbiages.
He was a president, like Buhari, who came to power when all eyes: global, regional, national and local, were on Nigeria. He would have been, if he cared, the Mandela of Nigeria, coming into power at the right time when democracy was practically reborn in the country. In the dire quest to strike a deal for rotational presidency, he was drafted in from near absence. The land was fertile for him to till and feed, grow and sustain the Nigerian people. And he did his best. No sincere compatriot can query his efforts. He could not have done otherwise because having been left with only about 20,000 naira after having tasted grandeur and freedom in the military, the Nigerian commonwealth was too much for him to control. And he did what he could do and managed to hand over to an unstable Umaru. Before then, he was able to mortgage national assets, sold some to loyalists and acquired others by proxy. But only few doubt the sincerity of Obasanjo in tying Nigerians together, including the Igbo whom he love with approximate authenticity.
Sometimes people do not take him serious because he prefers the Ali Baba to the Hollywood. But he is such a simple man who can engage you in absurdities even while delivering scholarly written official speech. I used the word ‘simple’ because as a man who later became a student of theology, he had realized that the world was too harsh to follow it harshly. If one must succeed, it is risky to rush except if it entailed conversion of commonwealth to private warehouses and for personal aggrandizement. Why not, after all Nigerians were, during his eight year lordship, the happiest people on earth, suffering all sorts of pandemic, lack, international humiliation and sluggishness.
A recall to the past shows that Obasanjo was a man favoured by God and Nigerians from all angles. He was handed power on the platter of gold after decades of military (mis)handling of the nation’s commonwealth. Before the year 1999, Nigeria was reckoned amongst failed states because of the successive military juntas. By 1999, he was made the president and he toured many countries before he was sworn-in. I was lucky he addressed us as students in Egypt and appealed to us to come back home after studies to join hands in developing Nigeria.
By implication, that opportunity of heading a new era under a democracy required not sophisticated efforts to make a difference. But Obasanjo gradually revealed the (mis)conception that he was a Nigerian to the core, with the penchant to pleasure, unabated freedom and relative preferences. Corruption of the highest order continued, political gangsterism flourished and poverty was wonderfully reactivated. And so the eight years passed without fixing anything tangible in the key sectors: education, power, health, infrastructures and social amenities. However, I must recognize one area that was sacrosanct – the unity of Nigeria.
So, Obasanjo’s comments on corruption often receive stiff criticisms. Obasanjo claims not to be satisfied with the way President Buhari’s EFCC is fighting corruption and losing cases. For him, corruption cases are lost for a number of reasons prominent of which was engagement of outside lawyers and not the ‘ogbologbo' lawyers inside the circle. Secondly, investigations are not thorough. Thirdly, the judges have displayed lack of commitment. There must be the Salamigate methodology to succeed. “So it is a chain: investigation, prosecution and the judiciary. If there is weakness along this line, chances are that corruption cases will continue to be lost”, he said.
“If I am a lawyer,” he averred, and I want the opponent to win a case, what I will file will be `wishy-washy. And if I file a `wishy-washy’ case, the opponent will see the loophole and he will get out of it. I believe that it is important.”
Obasanjo accused church leaders of corruption at a lecture of Victory Life Bible Church International while speaking in Abeokuta on the theme, “The Role of the Church in the fight against corruption in Nigeria”. In a swift reaction, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state described Obasanjo’s administration as the most corrupt in Nigeria. The special assistant to the governor on public communication and new media, Lere Olayinka, advised Obasanjo to desist from accusing people of corruption in Nigeria. Fayose faulted the claim that some church leaders in the country were encouraging corruption politicians and also celebrating people with questionable source of wealth.
Fayose queried how Obasanjo got his large wealth despite he was a pauper before he became president. He wondered how Obasanjo, under whose tenure, Nigeria witnessed the Haliburton scandal could be sermonizing about corruption. “Isn’t compelling state governors to make donations to the personal project of a serving president part of corruption’, he queried further.
Fayose claimed that Obasanjo was the father of corruption in the present day Nigeria, through the introduction of ‘Ghana-must-go’ politics, saying that it was under his administration that sacks of money were displayed on the floor of the House of Representatives as bribe money given to some Reps members to impeach the then Speaker, Ghali N’abba. The third term saga, amongst others, also threw up integrity question on the part of the former president whose influence in Nigerian politics cannot be undermined anyway.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja