Gradually but surely, the chicken is coming home to roost. Apart from corruption that characterized privatization as revealed by the recent Senate investigation, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has received his latest moral shelling yet from his former boy, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who served as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In a recent diplomatic cable accounts brought to light by Wikileaks, the former chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was quoted as saying that, while Obasanjo was busy jailing others for corruption, the former President “was cleverly covering up his tracks.” In other words, Obasanjo is cleverly corrupt! But Ribadu’s heaviest bombshell was that corruption under Obasanjo’s administration was worse than the alleged stealing linked to the late General Sani Abacha’s regime.
This damning revelation is the biggest challenge to Obasanjo’s hypocrisy. As rightly observed by Ribadu, while Obasanjo established the EFCC and ICPC, the former President was allegedly infected by the same corruption virus that he set out to cure. It is a case a doctor afflicted by a disease he was trying to cure! Although Obasanjo’s hypocrisy on the anti-corruption crusade was public knowledge, the revelation by Ribadu has finally blown off the mask from the face of the former President. On the strength of the Wikileaks diplomatic cable accounts reporting a meeting between Ribadu and former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, it is now clear that Obasanjo himself undermined the anti-corruption crusade through his own double standard. It is also now clear that Ribadu knew the former President was corrupt, but had to look the other way to save his seat as EFCC Chairman.
One is particularly attracted to the revelation by Ribadu that corruption under Obasanjo was worse than the situation during the military administration of the late General Sani Abacha. Nigerians were told by Obasanjo that Abacha had emptied the national treasury through large-scale official thievery. But what happened corruption still continues to grip the nation, despite the fact that Abacha is no more in power? What happened that, despite the billions of dollars recovered from the Abachas by Obasanjo’s administration, massive stealing still continued under a “born-again” President? Again, where did all these billions of dollars coughed out by the Abachas go? Until he left office on 29th May 2007, former President Obasanjo didn’t convincingly tell Nigerians where the Abacha billions were invested to improve national infrastructure or the socio-economic conditions of ordinary Nigerians.
Nuhu Ridbadu knew what he was saying because he was a witness to power and incredibly close to Obasanjo who had also used the former EFCC chairman to fight or disgrace his perceived political adversaries, especially those opposed to his infamous third term agenda, which crashed on the floor of the Senate on May 16, 2006. Ribadu had to protect Obasanjo, despite his apparent private conviction that his boss was a clay-footed moral giant! Despite repeated petitions against Obasanjo’s alleged corrupt activities, Ribadu was not keen to touch any complaint pertaining to his boss, even after leaving office, which automatically ended his immunity.
A case in point was the petition against Obasanjo filed by the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), led by a Lagos lawyer. In the petition, the anti-corruption organization wanted explanation about how the former President became a multi-billionaire after becoming a President, in contrast to the fact that he was “stone broke” when he was drafted into power in 1999. General T.Y. Danjuma was the first to use the phrase “stone broke” to describe Obasanjo’s pathetic financial predicament before coming into power. CACOL particularly wanted the EFCC to investigate by what magic a man saved from bankruptcy by friends before he came to power could have become a billionaire overnight after being elected a President. The former President was worth only N20,000 in 1999, according to his assets declaration record at the Code of Conduct Bureau. The anti-corruption organization expressed open frustration at the EFCC’s apathy to their petition.
According to Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, N1.2 trillion was devoured by monsters of corruption from 1999 to 2007. Yet Gen. Abacha was not on the scene when this epic white-collar robbery was being committed against Nigerians by their so-called democratically elected leaders. Nuhu Ribadu’s acknowledgement that corruption was more devastating under Obasanjo’s administration should be a revelation to the fans of the Ota farmer, who were converted to the view that Gen. Abacha was the worst evil of corruption Nigeria had ever experienced. With Ribadu’s Wikileaks confessions, Obasanjo should not only apologize to the Abachas but also to millions of other Nigerians who he deceived with his so-called anti-corruption crusade.
While purportedly fighting corruption, the former President was using the same method to execute his selfish agendas such as the attempts to remove independent-minded National Assembly leaders, like former Speaker Ghali Umar Na’Abba and the use of public funds to mobilize support for his ill-fated third term ambition by bribing lawmakers. Despite the badge of corruption he hung on Abacha’s neck, Obasanjo refused to declare his assets publicly when leaving office, arguably because his new-found wealth is inconsistent with his financial status in 1999. A recent report released by Transparency International written by former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, raised questions over how the Otta chickens farm could have made over 250,000 dollars monthly income. It is public knowledge that Otta farms were in ruins when Obasanjo was in jail. Even former Special Adviser to Obasanjo on Public Communication, Chief Femi Fani Kayode told Nigerians that Otta farms were making N30 million every month to convince Nigerians that his boss didn’t make money from government. What he didn’t tell Nigerians however, was that Otta farms had virtually collapsed and struggling to survive before Obasanjo became a President in 1999. Therefore, Campbell’s revelation was only in line with what Obasanjo admitted about the unbelievable profitability of Otta chickens farm while he was in office.
Although the constitution doesn’t compel a President to declare his assets publicly, moral duty demands that Obasanjo should go the extra mile to convince Nigerians that he could convincingly defend his new incredible wealth by subjecting his assets to open scrutiny. After all, he takes the credit for establishing EFCC and ICPC. Therefore, if a man has nothing to hide, he shouldn’t have anything to fear in making his public life an open book. Nuhu Ribadu has dealt a mortal moral blow on Obasanjo and it is, therefore, high time the former President came out to defend the sources of his current stupendous wealth eight years after leaving office. General Abacha may not be a saint. Despite the vilification of corruption against him by enemies, his performance record in five years was still by far better than those leaders who had more oil revenues but failed to perform to justify the resources available to them.
ALIYU MOHAMMED DANBABA
No. 68, Kado Estate, Abuja
Email: [email protected]