Who is the Kettle and Who, the Pot? Obasanjo or the National Assembly


Kabiru Muhammad Gwangwazo


Thursday March 24th þ2005. “. . . some members of the National Assembly are inviting people to question them on what they have done . . . or to defend their budgets or investigate what may not be their business, no one should fall for the antics of using that guise to engage in acts of bribery and corruption. . . Membership of the National Assembly, I believe, is a sacred trust and responsibility . . . such trust and responsibility must not be violated, abused or compromised through the sale of this sacred mandate for personal material gain . . . We must not continue to tolerate limited service delivery for the astronomical cost of maintaining legislators . . . I will leave no stone unturned to achieve such a stature for the National Assembly.” - General Olusegun Obasanjo, March 23rd nationwide broadcast on his Education Minister’s alleged bribery scandal.

Out of thirty-nine generally chunky paragraphs laid out in Daily Trust newspaper (of Wednesday, March 23, 2005), General Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President’s hurried nationwide broadcast of Tuesday March 22nd, had twenty-two paragraphs solely devoted to rubbishing the National Assembly, one of the tripods on which the current democratic experiment rests. Rubbishing and where possible totally exterminating “the opposition” as in Zaki Biam and Odi is not new to old soldier Obasanjo, grudgingly turned civilian democrat. The Daily Trust headline (“Legislative arm wallows in corruption – Obasanjo”) thus aptly captures the essence and focus of the PDP President’s national TV and radio broadcast of the previous evening. He read the speech just on returning to his Abuja base in between his many ever so common foreign and local junkets. He must have been either just back from Namibia, or London, or quite possibly Germany were he had just a few days back confirmed the “pressure” on him to go for a third term and “claimed” -- just like he did in 1999 -- that he wasn’t keen at all on yet again occupying the nation’s No.1 seat; or most probably from the Argungu Tourist Resort, as the Annual Fishing Festival that he just couldn’t miss was then on in Kebbi, the home state of his ANPP Governor pal, Muhammadu Adamu Aliero. One is never quite sure where Obasanjo is or where he is coming from, be it within or from without Nigeria.

Anyway if he was from Argungu, it is not so surprising, as his pal from our very own ANPP, Governor Aliero had been so pleased with Obasanjo’s “victory” two years ago that he participated in the PDP President and his Vice’s “victory” cake cutting even as his (Aliero’s) Party, ANPP, was busy contesting the election and agonizing on exactly what line of action to take at the dawn of what the ANPP and its Presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari had been lampooning as PDP’s daylight robbery of the 2003 elections. Reading through the address and seeing the way Daily Trust editors justifiably went to town with the Obasanjo anti-corruption broadcast, posting five different stories and a picture, all on its first page, of the same Wednesday edition, from the very same address, apart from the full text on page three, and follow up stories on page two I almost choked on the whole scam. I say scam, looking at the accuser -- not the accused -- and the man’s weird political history, which in fact is not even so ancient as to warrant poring over well-thumbed tomes in Libraries. His -- that is Obasanjo’s -- political history is so common, so recent, so current and public that one doesn’t need to even say it out loud. For everyone knows it. That is what made me, as OBJ’s American pals would say, almost ‘wanna puke’ with disgust. Yes, this once we must grant that he has done a good job, nailing his own Minister the unlucky varsity don, Prof. Fabian Osuji, who was the man’s appointee in the first place. But then, don’t you ask me about the sense of judgement of the appointer! The unlucky Minister’s nailing is clearly one fortuitous opportunity for Obasanjo to dance on what he seems to assume is the untimely grave of a forever silenced and quiescent National Assembly. A great opportunity to get back at these pests who refused to see it his way when he wanted to call a National Reform Conference; a Conference that he convened even against their very wild protestations. Not a one to easily forget or forgive a slight this imperial President, General Olusegun Obasanjo had been smarting from the cohesive tongue lashing of the National Assembly drawing Obasanjo’s and the nation’s attention and more importantly OBJ’s foreign friends to the illegality that he was trying to foist on the nation. OBJ knows that his foreign friends are not quite generous with reciprocity, no matter how subserviently and obsequiously you try to cuddle up to them. Yes, they insist on you serving them. But when you ask for anything they are hardly ever there for you. Like they have been doing to him all these six years (ignoring atimes, obviously with reason, abusing) “Elder Statesman” Obasanjo as he junkets around the globe asking for debt forgiveness for Nigeria. They even refuse to pay back those monies he claims were stolen from the public treasury by his arch-enemy Late General Abacha who almost succeeded in silencing him forever using the coup attempt gambit that Obasanjo perfected in his days as military dictator after Gowon’s government had been ousted. What is more these foreign friends even went to the extent of using the very anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), that OBJ and pals set up before his latest foray into national politics, to rubbish his image, ensuring that he would never ever again return to the Pantheon of the Greats that he had (obviously inadvertently) been let into on account of his loudmouthed criticism of all governments, after his ‘76/’79 tenure; this was before he got hooked by IBB and co., who had then been under the obviously erroneous impression that OBJ was one malleable and pliable putty they could do what they wished with in a 1999 reincarnation. It was then that they returned him to his rightful (real lowly creature) level at home aboard the PDP political machine. And here “The (other) Man (in Obasanjo had) Died” giving birth to a very Nigerian Man, the Obasanjo of the PDP. The Obasanjo who was spawned by the military-political establishment of the dependent neo-colonial Nigerian State. The Obasanjo who was willy-nilly thrust upon the nation at the highly corrupt and corrupting ill-famed Solomon Lar led, Sunday Awoniyi midwifed PDP National Convention of Jos for the 1999 Presidential election. A national election whose outcome was predetermined by the prearranged emasculation of the then two opposition parties, APP and AD. All shenanigans facilitated by an unholy use of bags and bags of Mint fresh notes. Let loose on Nigeria’s polity, OBJ, has since his first taste of blood in Jos, grown by leaps and bounds to become one of, if not, the most obvious culprit in perverting the course of democracy and that of the transparency he so glibly pays lip-service to in Nigeria, using all means, fair and foul. It was OBJ, remember?, who facilitated the appointment of the first Senate President Evan (Evans?) Enwerem using the then newly introduced politics of Ghana-Must-GO (GMG); and it was the same OBJ who tried to use GMGs to stop the poor Senator’s removal by colleagues who couldn’t comprehend the difference between Evan and Evans, one of whom was certainly not qualified to be called “Distinguished” Senator let alone President of the Distinguished Senate because of links to some unsavoury past deeds. Yet again, it was OBJ, who having bided his time for a while toppled the Late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, allegedly using very many hefty GMGs, if reports from the hallowed Senate’s Halls are to be believed. With his boy Anyim Pius Anyim firmly on seat as President of the Senate and the Senate operating as a very obedient lapdog of the Executive Obasanjo was clearly comfortable, having gotten the kind of Military Dictator Legislatures that he had been hankering for and had never had even in his days as Military head of state between 1976 and 1979, what with him then only being a primus inter pares, many atimes clearly kowtowing to the superior “power” of Generals Yakubu Danjuma and Shehu YarAdua and the many other Generals and Colonels then in the Supreme Military Council. It is obvious he had been quite envious of the “success” of the unfettered dictatorship of succeeding military heads of state. He must have been terribly jealous of General Buhari’s dictatorship that was able to, by a mere press statement, close borders and change the nation’s currency, or even retroactively execute drug barons to please OBJ’s friends, The Western World. OBJ must have been hoping for the day that he would do with Nigeria the way he pleased like IBB did in his days with all the nation’s monies and windfalls, giving out of our common patrimony to whom he willed. Whether to splash it on buying Jetta saloon cars (the IBB Spirits) for military officers, or on building political party secretariats for the two toy political parties he created, the SDP and NRC, toys that ended up gobbling him up, forcing him to flee (“step aside”, he says) to Minna. Or even paying the bills for an Obasanjo candidature for a vacant UN Secretary–General’s seat, that the gap-toothed IBB did to placate a nuisance of a former boss who had been such a thorn in his side. Knowing that the only check to his unbridled use of power can only come from the National Assembly, on his disputed reelection, one of the first things OBJ did was to seek out a Senator who was not even a Senator in the first place to be crowned the Senate President as a means of making the National Assembly as much a laughing stock as the Executive Arm, led by a President that all international observers (those foreign OBJ pals again) confirm did not win the 2003 Polls to start with. So OBJ worked to enthrone then 55-year old Adolphus Wabara (Abia State South Senatorial District), a second-term Senator and elder brother of Marc Wabara, Chairman/Chief Executive of Hallmark Bank, a staunch moral and financial supporter of OBJ. Senator Wabara was from take-off battling internal PDP problems regarding his questionable nomination while still facing the ANPP candidate for the same Abia South seat who was in court to reclaim his allegedly stolen mandate. He was in fact only saved and allowed to have a shot at the Senate Presidency by the celebrated Justice Egbo Wilson Egbo, who has now been mercifully axed by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for obvious reasons. Despite all he has done to have a malleable National Assembly, like IBB’s two toy parties the National Assembly keeps straining at its leash realising that it has a life all its own derived from the 1999 Constitution and its Montesquist thesis of separation of powers. So OBJ decided to teach his boys at the Assembly a lesson for daring to see the ugly possibilities that could emanate from his National reform Conference; for opposing plans for the National Reform Conference, which was certainly initially not convened to make the fundamental Constitutional changes that most clear headed Nigerians had been apprehensive of, but rather to simply serve as the legitimating tool for the obviously illegal and clearly unpopular Obasanjo Presidency that had by the beginning of this year hit its lowest ebb. By attempting to spike the Confab the National Assembly, his boys inclusive, clearly angered OBJ. Forgetting that the Man never forgets or forgives a slight. So seizing the opportunity of his Education Minister’s indiscretion, now like the patient vulture OBJ feels it is time to feed on the carcass of the National Assembly, to finish it off, such that his national reform conference can very easily orchestrate the public support he requires to dilute the Assembly’s influence in a new constitution that he may attempt to now foist on us, even if constitution making was far, far from his mind when he got the conference going. The Political Reform Conference was merely a ploy at coaxing recognition for OBJ’s illegal government from Nigeria’s hungry ill-focused elite, most of whom had hitherto been forced to accept the reality that in the 2003 elections Muhammadu Buhari of the ANPP was the clear winner. Even an Appeal Court Justice confirms this in his ruling. It is also to garner such recognition from the Western world whose own observers had written off Obasanjo’s government, a position they are forced to stick to with the tales of the very many scandalous revelations from Africa’s largest Political Party, the PDP that has not been able to retain one national chairman for any length of time since its take off. Such fantastic PDP stories include the many on Governor Chris Ngige and his patron saint, Chief Chris Uba, the very many on the national police Chief and his billions of naira, the very many others on other Governors and how PDP “captured” their seats for them. Or indeed on the (s)election of candidates from Katsina to Abia or from Taraba to Kogi, or indeed from wherever to wherever. The Conference is thus clearly OBJ’s way of covering up all these and the ineptitude of his administration that has failed woefully in even gauging what kind of people to select for plum national assignments, a major trait of his first term that he has carried over to the present term. It was his government that appointed his cousin Dr. Julius Makanjuola, to the post of permanent secretary, Ministry of Defence in his first term, where he ripped off the nation to the tune of more than N400 million and he is still a free man. It was in his first term that he gave Bola Ige free reign at the Power Ministry to get NEPA going, and NEPA is now probably ten times worse than when General Abdussalami, not even Abacha, left the seat for OBJ. And there is nothing of the billions sunk into the job. So too did he appoint Akwanga, Shata, and Afolabi, OBJ’s close pal to rape the national ID Card project and they did. What sense of judgement! The Conference and now the brouhaha over this so-called revelation of the scandals at the National Assembly will surely cover up Obasanjo’s recent very lavish abuse he poured on Muslims and their leaders who called on him at Aso Villa to complain of marginalisation with facts and figures. Not just in the lopsided arithmetic at OBJ’s Reform Conference, but also on all fronts in the current national schema.

It will well cover up the foot-dragging that will surely be the lot of disgraced Police Inspector-General, Tafa Balogun’s case. And why not, Alhaji Mustafa (Tafa) Balogun after al surely knows where all the bones were buried during the course of the last General Elections. And he is not likely to bow out as easily as that pest of a former Minister, Bola Ige, whose death is still very much a mystery, even when a Deputy Governor got impeached when fingers appeared to be pointing in his region, only for him to be jailed, bailed and “appointed” a Senator of the Federal Republic on Obasanjo’s very own south western PDP machine; in the Senate of the National Assembly that Obasanjo is now lampooning.

All these remind one of the tales of a kettle calling a pot black; or even the more unbelievable one of an armed robber calling a pickpocket a criminal! Of course that is not to say one is encouraging corruption, or saying that it is wrong to catch thieves because there may be bigger thieves about. No.

No. It is just that it grates with one that this Physician is looking to heal himself, (as in “Physician Heal Thyself”) only and only when he has an axe to grind with his patients.

(Kabiru Muhammad Gwangwazo, a Kano-based journalist with PYRAMID MEDIA LIMITED., is a former Chairman of ANPP in Kano State)