When former President Olusegun Obasanjo took a hike in Aliko Dangote's jet to Jamaica on Thursday, June 14, he promised to return to Nigeria by the weekend. The weekend came and passed without Obasanjo’s return. Now Saharareporters has learned that the ex-president's immediate family also slipped out of the country as the strike loomed and it became apparent that detained Niger Delta militant Asari Dokubo was about to be released.
The ongoing nationwide strike that has paralyzed all sectors of the Nigerian economy was triggered by a last-minute increase in the value added tax (vat) as well as a hike in the price of fuel announced by Obasanjo the last week of his tenure.Umar Yar’Adua, Obasanjo’s successor from a massively rigged “election,” is reportedly upset that the former president saddled him with the VAT and fuel hike fiascos. Yar’Adua has made concessions on the VAT and reduced the price of fuel from 75 naira to 70 naira. A source close to him said he was willing to altogether cancel Obasanjo’s increase in fuel prices, but he is under pressure from the World Bank and IMF not to appear weak.
Saharareporters was informed that Mr. Obasanjo’s trip to Jamaica had been planned as an “official state visit” that ought to have kicked off as soon as he departed power on May 29 2007. However, the uproar that attended the massive rigging of the 2007elections forced the Jamaican government to cancel the trip to lessen any embarrassing domestic or foreign fallout.
Jamaica was not willing to attract the censure of Western nations whose observers adjudged the April polls as the worst in history.
Since the trip was now scaled back, the Yar’Adua regime was reluctant to release the official presidential jet to the ex-president. One source told Saharareporters that Obasanjo’s trip to the Caribbean island nation was linked to an oil refinery that the ex-president is said to be building in Jamaica. On assumption of office in 1999, Obasanjo had restored oil sales (officially 30,000 bpd) to the tiny island of Jamaica on the condition that the Jamaican government allowed his fronts led by Mr. Carl Masters of Goodworks International to supervise the sales of the oil.
Jamaica does not currently have a refinery; as a result, the Nigerian crude is sold in the international markets by Transfigura, a controversial Dutch company. Transfigura was recently named in a toxic waste scandal in the Ivory Coast. Though oil has been selling for between $68 and $70 per barrel in the international markets, Jamaica is only paid $12.20 officially, out of which ex-president Obasanjo is given 15% through Mr. Carl Masters of Goodworks International.
From all indications, Obasanjo may not be in a hurry to return to Nigeria as long as the strike lasts. Nor is he likely to venture out to the United States or any European nation for an extended visit. He is said to be aware that officials in Western nations regard him as a pariah. A visiting professorship that was once being arranged for him at Lincoln University has been cancelled.
Other international agencies that promised him board appointments have since backed away following the universal condemnation of the April 2007 election that he is widely viewed as having mismanaged. “Baba is trying to keep a bold face,” confided a source close to him, “but it is clear to us that he is feeling the effects of his isolation. He can’t believe that some of the people he put in positions, or enriched, are not calling him.”