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EDITORIAL

Obasanjo And The National Assembly

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Since leaving office as the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has been an implacable critic of the National Assembly. He uses every available forum to play on the perceived corruption in those law-making chambers. Left to him, the National Assembly would have been scrapped because, in his opinion, it is constituting itself into a drain on the nation’s resources.

Recently, he alleged that the lawmakers were using constituency projects as conduit to siphon state money into their private accounts. According to him, members of the National Assembly often corner capital projects into constituency projects in order to perpetrate corruption.

This, to a limited extent, in our view, may be true of the motive of the lawmakers as far as constituency projects go. But the criticism of the former president is neither entirely patriotic nor altruistic. Obasanjo has not forgiven that august body for thwarting his Third Term agenda and it doesn’t matter to him if it was the Sixth, Seventh or Tenth Legislative Session.

We are not by any means holding brief for the lawmakers because most of the ill-feelings they are attracting to themselves from Nigerians are deserved. In the assessment of the performance of the lawmakers by Nigerians, a lot is left to be desired.

Even they themselves will admit that, in terms of making laws that will serve public good, this particular Legislative Session has not lived up to expectation. But that does not justify the tendency on the part of the former president to make those elected representatives of the people his whipping dogs at every opportunity.

As the issue of corruption goes, Obasanjo is not in a position to raise his voice to be heard. Recently, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), alleged that he has some nagging questions to answer regarding a whopping N11 trillion spent on the power sector that gave Nigerians darkness in return.

Nigerians have not forgotten the Halliburton bribery scandal that happened right on his watch. His name was actually mentioned as one of the beneficiaries. The foreigners involved in the sleaze are all serving jail terms in their various countries. Obasanjo and his cohorts are walking around as free men and sanctimoniously preaching propriety to the rest of us.

The late former President of Tanzania, Mr Julius Nyerere, as leader of the South Commission, on one of his visits to Nigeria, went to see Obasanjo at his Ota farm. The holy man from Tanzania who, as president, took bank loans to pay his children’s school fees, was benumbed by what he saw in that farm owned by one man whose only source of income throughout his adult life, as a soldier and politician, had been public service. In soliloquy, Nyerere asked if one man could acquire all those in a lifetime.

A visitor to the Obasanjo Presidential Library Complex will be shocked by a public officer’s propensity for primitive acquisition. That structure is enough proof of what the man did with Nigeria’s money put in his care. Most of the structures in Bells University owned by him were built while he was in office. How much was the take home pay of the President of Nigeria to support such huge investment.

The former President may argue that the Presidential Library was built with donations during the launch. That, in itself, was roundly condemned as corruption because he took undue advantage of his office, blackmailed and extorted money from contractors, politicians and other hangers’ on along the corridors of power. How can a man who did such a thing, while in office, that attracted public opprobrium, turn around now he is out of office to pontificate on a game he played so well- corruption.

Obasanjo is not alone in the abuse of the confidence Nigerians reposed in their leaders. He is still alive and that is why he is seemingly out of the reach of the law. We can only speculate on his involvement in the act of treasury looting. The late maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha, if he, too, were to be alive, would definitely be beyond and above the law. Worse, he might also have joined the fight against corrupt enrichment.

In our considered opinion, Obasanjo’s holier-than-thou disposition since vacating Aso Villa is a roughshod ride on the sensibilities of Nigerians. It is akin to eating our corn and throwing the chaff in our face. That is not fair.

It is in the public domain that the National Assembly as presently constituted is a disservice to Nigeria, Nigerians and all they expect to benefit from the system as dividends of democracy. But the inexorable fact is that we don’t need an Obasanjo to point that out to us because he is part of the rot.



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