Transparency Of Corruption: The President’s Library Fund Raising Fraud And Other Matters
Dr. Abubakar A. Muhammad
If there are doubting Thomas’s that still think the current so called ‘crusade’ on corruption launched by no other than Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, the anointed though un-elected ‘president’ of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a charade, the recent event at fund raising for the ‘president’s’ library should have come to them as a rude shock. Time and again objective writers have written several pleas to the Nigerian people to inform them that OBJ is strikingly corrupt so much so that he has come to believe that charges of corruption can only be lodged against those outside the confines of Asorock, the Villa where lamentably over 60% of corruption in Nigeria is perpetrated. Hence his revulsion of truth of the report by the Transparency International that has for four consecutive years reported to the world that Nigeria is a top member of the world league of the most corrupt nations. Not only is OBJ and his entire government corrupt, [thanks to the well measured, selective and punitive actions of the so called Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nuhu Ribadu, one of the arrow heads of OBJ’s revengeful tactics, indeed the recent sales or is it free gifts of the posh Ikoyi federal houses have clearly shown that OBJ’s family are directly enmeshed with the virus of corruption that he has been associated with for a very long time. No one should be fooled with the ‘president’s’ acclaimed corruption project called ‘zero tolerance’. Yes, it is zero tolerance as long as it affects those that OBJ finds to be either no longer in cahoots nor a threat to his corrupt empire that rules not by the Nigerian Law but by his jungle and primitive laws. For if OBJ is yet to believe he is illegally occupying a position he has not won by popular votes, how on earth is he going to accept that official thefts by him and his cronies is corruption? That was why he hastened to raise the extortion funds, even as he is still in office, to fulfill one of his strange dreams of building a ‘presidential library’. The sad irony is that OBJ knows full well that embarking on this exercise after he leaves office will be next to impossible. To put it bluntly, as his current national and foreign contractors, business tycoons, Governors and other contributors to the hefty seven billion nairas for the library would have gone away with their looted money after 2007, OBJ must have concluded that fund raising then would be an exercise in futility. And given the most brazen atrocities he has committed against the Nigerian nation [violations of the constitution; human rights; infringing on workers rights; auctioning of public properties through the BPE project; trashing the National Assembly and Judiciary; destroying the economy and infrastructures; and so forth], one has to believe it will not be too long after 2007 when the current ‘president’ finds his way back into the prison. There may be one exception: that is if another collaborator of his own caliber should succeed OBJ. God forbid!
Olusegun Obasanjo has excelled every Nigerian leader in memory when it comes to double talk. He feels no shame to lie and to do so with gusto. How many times has he shot up his mouth in the air to blatantly lie telling the world that he has restored ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ to the nation when indeed the contrary is true if one measures the unholy treatment Nigerians are subjected to outside their country? May be the ‘president’ and his collaborators for all their illegality ‘are being wooed and respected’ by their western backers who have no good intentions for Nigeria and have all but helped to force the tyrant on us so that they can continue to plunder our resources. It is a sad irony to know that Nigerians are no longer welcome to most of the countries in Western Europe including Britain that was once our colonial master. The recent tightening of the British immigration noose was first and foremost against Nigerians to the point now obtaining a common visitor’s visa to enter Britain is an uphill battle. Why is it that Switzerland is still fighting tooth and nail not to return the $460 million allegedly looted by the former Head of State, General Sani Abacha? Why is the Swiss government putting such ‘stiff’ conditions for return of the money even when that country’s Supreme Court had directed the money should be repatriated? The truth is that due to the cancerous corruption of OBJ’s junta no international government appears comfortable in trusting the Asorock’s gang of thieves. The money, the Swiss rightly insist must be used for the benefit of Nigerians who have for the past six years been without jobs; without school; without good health and without security. This basic demand makes sense and neither OBJ nor Nuhu Ribadu, his handpicked trouble shooter should be on the airwaves making such undiplomatic and ludicrous remarks against the Swiss simply because they insist the money must not be released only to go into the private accounts of OBJ and other looters. But in his characteristic whistle blowing when things do not go his way, OBJ is spitting fire and brimstone against the government of Switzerland whom he blamed for imposing ‘new conditions’ before he could pickup his $460 million check. He wants the world and Nigerians for that matter to condemn the Swiss for refusing to abide by the decision of their Supreme Court to release the money to him. It is double talk to hear him demanding equity when as we all know he has absolutely no regard for the Laws of his country, let alone for him to respect the decisions of the Supreme Court in Nigeria. Why is it his junta continues to deprive the Lagos State its legitimate funds earmarked for the 57 local governments in the State? After all the Justices of the Supreme Court were unanimous in their ruling that withholding such funds shows not only brazen illegality but glaringly contradicts the separation of power between the federal and state governments and therefore jeopardizes the concept of federalism and democratic principles. But without remorse, Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, the Emperor, still refuses to see and to admit his crime against the innocent people of Nigeria who simply happen to live in the State of Lagos. This dictatorial decision by the callous and insensitive ‘president’ is already having casualties with teachers in that State not getting their salaries; schools are closing; while uncollected refuse is naturally breeding epidemic diseases. Is this what OBJ calls the dividends of democracy? It is no wonder the people of Lagos State came out en-masse on the so called ‘Democracy Day’ to stage the “freedom march” and it is a shame the rest of Nigeria did not join them on the streets instead of observing the pathetic jamboree parades hat were stage managed by the ruling class. What a pity!
Let it be known that the sins of corruption committed by OBJ have been variously chronicled that no amount of spinning and cover-up will wash them away and the day of reckoning will come to pass against the wishes of our current dictator. Let it be known that the archives of crimes committed by OBJ and his cronies against Nigerians will see their day in court the sooner Olusegun Obasanjo leaves. And let it be known that OBJ, the convicted criminal and his associates will sooner, rather than later, be made to pay the full price of their fraud, intrigues, thefts, and outright bastardization of the democratic principles that should govern Nigerians to freely choose their leaders, rather than be forced to do so at gunpoint. It is these stated crimes that OBJ has committed to date that may have influenced his about-face to the so called national dialogue, believing he can turn the tides against his certain fate and doom, that is if he can install himself as life president. Some of us may think the idea of a life president for Nigeria is far fetched, but who knows if the American Intelligence has seen it in the offing to warn us the country may break up in 15 years should this self anointed Emperor and Stalin combined be allowed another easy pass to rule without peoples’ mandate.
Remember OBJ’s presumably clarion statement at the opening of the so called ‘national dialogue? Well he obviously intended to deceive everyone when he announced at the opening ceremony for the conference that his government had no hidden agenda. As we heard later from his erstwhile presidential advisor on ‘ethics and good governance’ indeed OBJ was lying to his teeth and the plot for Obasanjo’s dummy constitution busted right on his face. God works with wonders! Mr. Jerry Gana’s explanation that the secretariat of the national dialogue was indeed sent a hard copy of the dummy constitution, late as the announcement came, was also irrelevant and indefensible. The fact is that OBJ’s home grown constitution can be likened with his numerous attempts in the past to flout the existing constitution, all aimed at perpetuating his illegal occupation of the Villa, and if such countless attempts to force himself on the Nigerian people are not the worst forms of corruption, nothing should be. The plotter’s argument was that OBJ needed two more years beyond 2007 to ‘finish up his economic reforms.’ They argued he could not allow anyone to ‘spoil’ the work begun should someone of different caliber succeed OBJ. This is arrant nonsense because all we know is that the man OBJ has the worst record of accomplishment as president and stay as he might for the next decade or so, he will, because of his pathological incompetence end up bringing the country to its knees, economically, socially, and politically as well. What good then is his two more years or even his lifetime presidency? Yet although he is thoroughly corrupt like others and even worse, Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo believes he is ‘clean’ and so he mounts the ‘crusade’ to clean the political stable he had surely helped in building to its rotten state of corruption. He strives hard though deceptively to write off his past and the present I might say. He absolves himself of any past wrongdoing. In his own words: “It is unfortunate that past administrations fostered a culture of corruption and mistrust and thus encouraged undeserved stereotyped information and inaccurate judgments about us as a people and nation.” Yet as we all know it was only in his time that Nigeria had ingloriously earned the un-coveted gold, silver, and bronze medals of corruption. What a great shame indeed! Still, the corruption for which OBJ has made Nigeria famous remains unabated and because of his high profile culpability, his absolute lack of honesty, decorum, and lack of principles, the man OBJ is not capable of winning the war against corruption. Just bare your mind on the saying: “Kowa yace zai baka riga dubi ta wuyan sa [Whoever promises you gown look at the one he wears]. The Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr. Sunday Awoniyi, who was a one time political trustee and mentor of the ‘president’, says it all about the person he knows so well. As an invited guest at the Senators’ forum, the Chairman remarked: “The corruptions you are accused of are merely outward manifestations of deeper corruption. The fountainhead of our corruption is traceable to the spiritual corruption flowing from Asorock. When a man is afflicted with spiritual corruption, he corrupts everyone around him. He prefers to bring near himself, men who are tainted; men who are filthy and morally depraved, and who can easily be blackmailed or manipulated. Spiritual corruption makes a leader keep away from himself, the clean, the bold, the unsoiled, the prudent, the fair minded and the truthful.” Yes, look at those who are around OBJ and you would wonder if the Makaman Mokwa had spent his whole political life observing OBJ. The men around the ‘president’ are filthy fat cats borne and nurtured by him through the wealth he dishes out to them as government largess, patronage, contracts, kickbacks, and sale of our properties under the guise of ‘privatization.’ But the friends of the ‘president’ who are front liners and brokers in the wheeling and dealing with contracts, oil deals, and other juicy businesses that the ‘president’ allocates to them, also help him to do his dirty work. This is in part how they survive by covering his tracts, but then when he finds he has no more use for them he throws them away like the old, dirty rag.
The numerous cases of his victims are mind boggling like that of the one time strong men of the Southwest politics, Chief Bola Ige, Julius Makanjou, and Sunday Afolabi one of OBJ’s ministers of scandals; while Audu Ogbe, Tafa Balogun, Fabian Osuji, Adolphus Wabara, and Mobolaji Osomo of the Ikoyigate are some of the recent victims of OBJ’s uncouth practices. Though these characters were not innocent, the audacity to expose his one time allies, via physical elimination or by any other means necessary for him to survive portrays a dangerous, cunning, greedy, and cannibalistic politician of our time. Who knows who is next in his nest? Is it going to be IBB, or Atiku Abubakar; General T. Danjuma or Mr. Tony Fix it of the 400 billion-naira federal roadgate fame? Will it be El-Rufa’i, over BPE scandals or Christ Uba [OBJ’s anointed son] over Anambra election scandal and rampage; Will it be Charles Salodun, over his 50 million naira ‘gift’ to the National Assembly or Abel Guobodia over the ‘419’ election bribery and fraud [even as OBJ was one of the beneficiaries]? The list of these corrupt and tainted Nigerians who were directly hired by the OBJ corruption machinery is too long, but they are all in the surveillance of their master and he is sure to use them at will to save himself and uphold his dream of a conqueror per excellence. Your guess as to who will be the next victims of this sadistic ‘president’ is as good as mine, but OBJ is only good for OBJ period! That was also how an ailing Ota Farm which in 1999 was on the brink of bankruptcy had suddenly recovered and as we were told it is now running at a profit of 30 million nairas each month even without the president’s physical presence. Ufs! I actually forgot that OBJ was reported to have said that he missed the farm and he was eager to return because ‘he missed his chicken.’ That is also how Mr. President and his family own various businesses, including the lucrative oil markets, in-spite of his foolish and unguarded remark that Gbenga Obasanjo, whom the United State’s Intelligence outfit accused of money laundering: “does not posses 20 million in his account.” Yet one-way Mr. ‘President’ can at least convince some of us that members of his family are paupers, and not wealthy by virtue of the presidency, will be to send his lap dog, the EFCC, to carry out investigation of impropriety, oil-gate deals and money laundering against Gbenga Obasanjo and the first lady; and then against his in-laws who were listed on the Ikoyi Federal Housing sleaze. The ‘president’ will also do himself great good and clean his name when he publicly declares his assets, holdings, and the profits he made from his businesses since the day he took office on May 29, 1999. My prediction is that this is not going to happen, but then the ‘president’ should be assured that like other corrupt leaders of our past, the day of reckoning would come when he would not be in power to muzzle the truth. About the ‘president’ and in a final remark of some sort, Chief Sunday Awoniyi has this to say: “A spiritually corrupt man is instinctively attracted towards impropriety rather than correct conduct. One of the ugliest attributes of the spiritually corrupt is greed: greed for power; greed for worldwide adulation; greed for wealth; greed to be chairman of everything that is chairmanable; greed to be seen to be the author, or originator and executor of laudable projects; failing which the projects are scuttled if he sees that the glory for them can be shared with anybody else. When a man is spiritually corrupt, you cannot put anything beyond him.” If Olusegun Obasanjo, the ’president’ allows himself to be made the ‘chairman’ of the fund raising committee of the national mosque, rather than the rightful leaders like their eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto; the Shehu of Bornu; the Emir of Gwandu, or other revered traditional leaders, it is because of OBJ’s quest for power and adulation in-spite of his well known hostility toward Islaam and Muslims in general; If OBJ continues to disrupt the democratic process whereby the National Assembly decides who should occupy the leadership slots in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and he continues to interfere and ignore the rulings of the Supreme Court it is because of his penchant for power and adulation; If he continues to believe that no one but him can govern this country and he comes up with white elephant projects that are unsustainable and because they are not cost effective have caused untold hardship to the downtrodden among us, it is because of OBJ’s obsession to be seen as the originator of everything and his greed to hold on to power and wealth of the nation. For what good are projects like the BPE that continues to auction our national holdings and resources to the few filthy rich friends around the ‘president’; the poverty alleviation scheme that has only made the poor poorer and the rich richer and more emboldened to steal; the FERMA that continues to be a conduit where billions of nairas have been sunk without any tangible restructuring or rehabilitation of the federal road network throughout the country; and the NEEDS that has caused the economy to be in the state of coma while the real needs of people have been ignored with great abandon. If the man, OBJ, continues to violate our constitution through his back door policy of instituting illegal conference like the ‘national dialogue’; or he abrogates the rights of the Nigerian Labor Union and its conglomerate groups of workers to unite and fight against dictatorship; or he attempts to restructure [scrap] the local government system as provided in the constitution; or he corrupts the members of the National Assembly by bribing them on numerous occasions in order to endorse his illegal bills and wishes; or he collaborates with his political pet, the INEC, to destroy and change our multi party system and allow himself and party members occupy positions they have not won in the ‘419 elections’ of 2003, it is al because: “a spiritually corrupt man is instinctively attracted towards impropriety rather than correct conduct”. And if OBJ continues to play the ethnic and religious cards by pitching one religious group or race against the other through his policies that discriminate against the North and Muslims in particular: “it is exactly because the man is spiritually corrupt and he is unfit to be the president of this great nation.”
The presidential library fund raising scandal, which has also come to be called executive extortion, takes the center stage to show the world the corrupt mind and sadistic behavior of Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo. Contrary to the lies manufactured by the so called friends of OBJ, the fund raising jamboree portrays those who were classical thieves within the current illegal administration of the ‘Peoples Democratic Party’ headed by the OBJ and company, and the alliance of international and domestic contractors; the groups representing Aliko Dangotes, Mike Adenugas, Richard Bransons, Julius Bergers, oil firms, bank consortiums and other business, who within minutes of the fund raising circus coughed out millions of nairas [amounting to 7 billions], as their contribution toward the building of Olusegun Obasanjo library. Remember by organizing this shameful and transparently corrupt activity OBJ has clearly violated the tenets of our constitution section 15 and the Code of Conduct item 6  that prohibits the President, a State Governor and other public office holders from using their positions to direct and or influence [in a corrupt manner] participation by other officials in a private venture like the so called presidential library fund raising. The intent of the constitution is obviously to safeguard the interest of the public by ensuring that elected or government officials do not use their offices to gain material, monetary, political, or other influences and benefits; it is loosely called conflict of interest. It seems very clear to me this latest act of the ‘president’ is sufficient to earn him an impeachment process, but then this is not going to happen with the current crop of leaders we have in the National Assembly, whose members actually embraced the very event that violated the constitution they have sworn to defend. Ordinarily, the building of a presidential library comes long after a president has left office, if we are to go by the American example of the Herbert Hoover Library Association that was established long after the exit of President Herbert Hoover, [1929-1932], the 31st president of the United States and whose example was followed by all the subsequent presidents down to President Clinton, that decided to establish a presidential library. Similarly such libraries and museums that were founded after the former American presidents had clear missions, objectives and goals among which included: the pursuit of historical and scientific research, education, public awareness and enlightenment, peace, global cooperation and so forth, even as the libraries and museums provided accounts of the former presidents’ achievements, values and beliefs. Obviously skeptics like me are bound to ask the simplest question: “What is the singular motive, not even to talk about the mission, objectives and goals for the fund raising of the OBJ library?” The proposed presidential library if it indeed takes off could not have been intended to bolster the image of Nigeria in Africa and abroad, and therefore it is not going to be built out of the ‘president’s love for Nigeria even though one has heard a zillion times this remark from the lying tongue of OBJ. Indeed if the ‘president’ loves his country he would never have engineered to impose himself on the masses, thereby denying them their most treasured value of freedom to elect their leaders, including the president, without hindrance. Perhaps the president’s handlers of the library project want to preserve their master’ record of achievement during his two term presidency plus the military. It is clear while they will have so much to write about, the most striking records are all going to be his absolute and indisputable failures to move this country forward [even at its greatest fortunes], while at the same time succeeding to destroy everything from its economy to infrastructures; from its dignity as a nation to its downfall as the most corrupt and scandalous nation on the face of the earth; from the peoples’ cherished religious tolerance to the most cantankerous and divided religious bigots; from the most secure and peaceful nation to one so insecure, volatile, and rancorous; and from its cherished ideals of social and family values of respect for hard work, family relations, leaders, elders and youths to one of contempt for any values except materialism, greed and graft. The list of these vices the regime of OBJ has created within these past six years is endless and so it makes one wonder why anyone would build a library to protect and preserve these negative images. For one thing is certain about a presidential library: it promotes and preserves the record of the president’s achievements. Alas, while the achievements of the past American presidents on whose names presidential libraries were built are well known, so far the achievements of OBJ are so glaringly negative even as he has two more years to bow out. Just for the records. I guess the president’s role in the ‘419’elections; his illicit political maneuvers within the discredited PDP and the National Assembly; his hundreds of travel sorties Overseas and how he made illegal money to re-bump his ailing Ota Farm [that was almost bankrupt] will be considered positive achievements by his diehard followers eager to change the truth to falsehood.
Mr. ‘President’ could not have the vision of building the library for the purpose of promoting educational culture in Nigeria, one that we all know he does not believe in as a military and civilian ruler. Somehow he does not cherish the idea that education can free the mind and make a nation great like Japan and other emerging nations that use talents not just natural resources to compete within the global village. Yes, OBJ has in his record the building of a private Bell’s nursery, primary and secondary schools, and now Bell’s university. In a similar fashion he has also gave licenses to his other colleagues like Atiku and Danjuma to open private colleges. I for one welcome even the possible mushrooming of private colleges and universities. I am not though in support of opening such schools at the expense of the public schools that are today shamelessly abandoned by State and Federal authorities due to the money squeeze to the extent they cannot function successfully and compete as they used to with colleges and universities all over the world. Unfortunately those in the echelon of power do not see anything wrong with their crimes and culpability in helping to destroy the public schools by their action or inaction; after all, they can send their children, kith and kin to study abroad while they continue to ask parents pay toward the education of their children in our local schools, when indeed the cost for college and university education in Nigeria has, because of the governments’ low funding, become prohibitive even for the middle class families, let alone the jobless parents. Surely, OBJ’s schools were not built because of his idealistic belief in education. The university community in Nigeria, especially the Academic Staff Union of our most prestigious universities will tell you that his administration has already done the most incalculable damage to university education in Nigeria. And now to cap his sin on educational neglect, our schools and universities have already been slated for public auction. While it may not be argued that privatizing schools and universities may improve competition, break government’s monopoly on education and promote educational and academic excellence, the fact remains that for now, the majority of our families cannot afford to compete with the super rich individuals when it comes to opportunities to send their children to private schools. Hence education in Nigeria should for some foreseeable future remain the social service that governments must incur on behalf of its citizens. It stands to reason that OBJ’s hurry toward privatization of schools is ill motivated and I suppose he and other leaders support and impose this doctrine because they see private education as a new venture, it has become the money making enterprise, if you will.
The issues related to the violations of the constitution by the president in the fund raising for his library and his approval of licenses to private schools he and his collaborators own are too complex for me to understand let alone provide useful education on this public forum. Suffice it to say that one of my most respected mentoring social activists in Nigeria, Gani Fawanheimi [SAN] is already taking the bull by the horn, through the court, and the next few months will be very exciting time indeed as we watch to see the argument for and against a sitting president who muscles his way by using his position and influence to organize a fraudulent fund raising activity that goes by his very name and authority, and eventually to his monetary benefit, contrary to the oath he took to defend and uphold the constitution of this great country. Simply put there is no other better way to describe corruption in office. The so called organizers of the ‘president’s reckless and illegal adventure have already argued that the project does not belong to the chief, even though it bears his name while his attendance and that of numerous public and private personalities in and outside Nigeria go far to indicate OBJ’s passionate support of the project. Surely we can argue all we want but at the end of the day it will become crystal clear that the library project belongs to him in words and deeds and hence he has violated the constitution he had sworn to uphold. It is repugnant to say the least that the so called organizers of the library fund raising think they can clear OBJ of any impropriety over the project by linking the ownership of the project to the name, ownership and function of the Bell University as if the university is a separate entity from the other numerous economic projects owned by OBJ, though under pseudo names, including the Ota Farm, and all of which were acquired by Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo while he is actively involved in the running of the state as the executive president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I rest my case.
Dr. Abubakar A. Muhammad writes from the State of Pennsylvania, United States of America.