Celebrating Disaster in New York


Moses Ochonu



President Obasanjo is incorrigible and shameless. While new revelations were issuing forth from Abuja about how he and his cronies have been squandering billions of naira on their vanities and on hedonistic pursuits, Baba was in New York celebrating what some are calling a successful tenure in office.


Compounding the outrage that every reasonable Nigerian should feel at such a criminal display of presidential insensitivity, Mr Obasanjo’s African-American friends, organizers of the celebratory event, seemed to have suggested that they would nominate the president for the Nobel Peace Prize! How comical!


 Who are these people kidding? Was this event designed to dilute and push off the headlines the impeachable offences and allegations that were meticulously articulated against Mr Obasanjo at the recent PTDF hearings? Are Mr Obasanjo’s foreign friends and local lackeys so smitten by the former’s mystique that they can, without a guilty conscience, lend themselves to what amounts to a celebration of disaster? Where is the outrage? Where is the patriotic anger that is a natural aftermath of the kind of revelations that are daily being made regarding the corruption and misrule of the Obasanjo-PDP axis of our political establishment?


 Someone said that in the final analysis every country deserves the kind of leadership it gets, and I am beginning to agree. The convenient, willful, and sometimes negligent inattention to presidential misdemeanor lends validity to such a conclusion. How does one explain the fact that in the middle of such a monumental dredging up of Aso Rock filth, the president could take off with an air of impunity and without public outcry for a New York praise-fest?


 As to the occasion itself, what can be more shameful, more criminal, and more despicable than a gathering of a clique of favored presidential associates and sympathizers for the declared purpose of pouring undeserved encomiums on arguably Nigeria’s worst leader in history? How does one wrap one’s analytical mind around the perfidy of hearing or reading glowing testimonies of unprecedented presidential accomplishments when one knows that, by all indicators of progress and development, Mr. Obasanjo’s presidency has taken Nigeria on a time-travel back by at least 30 years? It is criminal culpability on the part of those who feted Baba to carry on such an incestuously insensitive conversion of empty praise when they know in the inner recesses of their hearts the tragic empirical truth against which such a conversation must be juxtaposed.


When the full accounting of the malaise engineered by Mr. Obasanjo is done, the ignoble conduct of Carlton Master, Andrew Young, and other American enablers of dictatorship, corruption, and incompetence will not be footnoted in obscurity. They will be part of the main text.

One eye-witness of the New York charade observed rightly that the president’s foreign friends appeared to be thanking him for almost eight years of unrestricted access to diverse largesse and influence in the Nigerian economic and political landscape. They also appeared to be signaling their intension to corner such access under what they hope would be an Obasanjo-anointed government in 2007.


A roll call of the organizers of the New York event raises both ethical and moral concerns. Andrew Young and Carlton Masters already have a reputation as president Obasanjo’s dealmakers and fundraisers. Indeed, we know from the investigations of Mr. Sowore Omoyele, the indefatigable New York-based Nigerian journalist, that Mr Carlton Master’s involvement in the Obasanjo presidential library project resulted in several spectacular ethical violations that may rise to the level of felonies in his own country, the United States.


Andrew Young has been a regular fixture on the Abuja power circuit since 1999. He has parlayed his personal friendship with Mr. Obasanjo into all kinds of influence peddling, some of which should constitute fertile grounds for serious post-Obasanjo investigative undertakings.


Compromised and totally beholden to Mr. Obasanjo, these foreign friends of Aso Rock have been unable to demand from Mr. Obasanjo the type of ethical and administrative standards that they know to be civilized and desired by Obasanjo’s Nigerian subjects. More than that, we have been told that Mr. Obasanjo’s failed third term constitutional amendment may actually have been initiated at the goading of his self-interested foreign friends.


The exchange of favors and recognition has been very mutual. We are, after all, saddled with a president who craves validation at every turn, especially from foreigners. We have a president who refused to govern for the first two years of his presidency, preferring to travel around the world to seek the vainglorious and contrived diplomatic validation of foreign lands. His two years of attention-seeking globetrotting is still an African record. The empty and false accolades that Andrew Young and his people routinely shower on Obasanjo have helped satiate Obasanjo’s appetite for foreign recognition, keeping him in Nigeria for much of the year. But in satisfying Obasanjo’s juvenile desire for acceptance and validation, these pretended foreign friends of Nigeria have helped produce and nurture a monster who now values what they tell him more than he appreciates the problems, clamors, and aspirations of his countrymen. In telling Obasanjo lies about his place in history and about his non-existent accomplishments, these people are criminally occluding the immense suffering than Nigerians have been subjected to under Mr. Obasanjo—suffering which loudly negates the spirit of the celebration in New York. Suffering which calls for sober reflection, pathos, and pro-people activism, not cacophonous celebrations.


We have also been told that Chevron is one of the main sponsors of the New York event. This scandalous piece of information is analytically interesting as it raises the specter of further—and continuing—executive complicity in the tax-evading, officials-bribing corporate irresponsibility of Chevron and other foreign oil companies operating in Nigeria. When Chevron pays for such lavish celebratory charades, donates generously to an unconstitutional fundraising for building a school and a library for Obasanjo, and openly displays such a despicable image of partisanship, it has taken sides in a volatile struggle for the soul of Nigeria. It has sided with incompetence, corruption, and dictatorship, the troika of evils that characterize Mr. Obasanjo’s tenure in office. Chevron may get the byes and concessions it desires in the short-term, but such ethical horse-trading is bound to backfire.


Finally, one must ask what the president and his foreign friends were celebrating. Were they celebrating the recent revelations that Mr. Obasanjo and his cronies turned the PTDF into a cash cow for personal projects and profit? Were they celebrating the Obasanjo-ordered massacres at Odi and Zaki-Biam? Were they celebrating the unprecedented level and insecurity and the failure of Obasanjo’s government to provide basic human security? Were they reveling in the knowledge that basic social infrastructures are in worse shape than they were in 1999 when Obasanjo became president? Were they celebrating Mr. Obasanjo’s hypocritical and highly selective war on corruption whose most remarkable insignia is the convenient bypassing of corrupt acolytes of Mr Obasanjo on the way to harassing the latter’s opponents and inconsequential expendables? Perhaps they were celebrating Mr. Obasanjo’s transformation from a bankrupt chicken farmer in 1999 to a billionaire in 2006.  Or Mr. Obasanjo’s illegal purchase of 200 million naira shares in his government’s favored corporate front, Transcorp. Or the rumored acquisition of several “privatized” government corporations and companies by Mr. Obasanjo’s late wife.


They may have been celebrating with perverse relish Obasanjo’s role in the Anambra political crisis and in the enthronement of Mr. Adolphus Wabara, the ex-president of the senate who never won an election. They were probably celebrating Obasanjo’s undemocratic imposition of Mr. Yar’Adua on the PDP. Or the monumental failure of the recent voter registration exercise, which has sparked fears of a botched 2007 election. Or the failure to intervene in the unconstitutional removal of Oyo State’s Governor, Rasheed Ladoja, in deference to a chummy self-confessed thief of government funds, Alhaji. Lamidi Adedibu.


Were they celebrating the fact that under Mr. Obasanjo, Nigeria’s aviation sector is in shambles and has taken in its collapse hundreds of promising Nigerian lives? They may have been congratulating Obasanjo for managing to transform the ruling PDP into a personal political estate. Or for presiding over a period of unprecedented political assassinations, the most prominent victims of which were, curiously, those who stood opposed to the dictatorship of the PDP under Mr. Obasanjo. Perhaps they were celebrating Mr. Obasanjo’s achievement of third term through the back door—the recent PDP constitutional amendment which virtually assures Obasanjo of overarching power if he hands over to a PDP government in 2007.


If Mr. Obasanjo’s foreign friends, Nigerian sympathizers, sycophants, and overly generous or naïve observers think that the events and issues listed above warrant a celebration then we should probably follow this “successful” New York event up with similar celebrations in major cities of the United States and in world capitals. Such celebrations should be sponsored not just by Chevron but also by Shell, Agip, Eni, Conoco, and all the corporate exporters of value from Nigeria, who have been the only beneficiaries of Mr. Obasanjo’s disastrous presidency.