Skip to main content

Obasanjo Is The Most Corrupt Nigerian-Gani Fawehinmi

May 31, 2007
Finally, Olusegun Obasanjo is on his way out after eight years as Nigeria’s president. Could you assess his tenure?

Eight years of self-centred disposition, eight years of wayo, eight years of deception, eight years of creating a few rich people, eight years of anti-masses programmes, eight years of deliberate junketing all over the world, eight years of make-believe, eight years of dictatorship, eight years of lack of coherent policies, eight years of so much wealth coming to the hands of government out of which Nigerians received aggravated poverty and economic pain.

When Obasanjo first came to power in 1999, many Nigerians had high hopes that they would get rid of dictatorial tendencies which characterised military rule, but unfortunately, we had a tyrant in democratic toga. We expected that the provisions of the constitution vis-à-vis the welfare of the people and their security would be the focus of the government because Section 14, sub-section 2b of the Constitution says that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary focus of government. Alas! it was not to be under the government of Obasanjo. Take security for instance. He opened up the insecurity of this country in November 1999 when he gave orders to shoot on sight in Odi. And more than 2500 Nigerians were slaughtered because, unfortunately, 13 policemen were missing as a result of the protestation of the Odi people in Bayelsa State.
You saw the killing in Zaki Biam in Benue State. We saw him give an order in Lagos State to shoot the OPC on sight and we protested. And since he gave the signal that human life counted for nothing, police followed the queue, extra-judicial killings became the agenda of the government. Every respectable human rights organisation abroad rated Nigeria very low in terms of extra-judicial killing. Thousands of Nigerians were slaughtered without a recourse to the judicial process by the police and other security agencies, to the extent that it became the culture of Nigerians to ritualise human lives. Legs, hands and other parts of human bodies became a common commodity in markets and dead bodies were being picked here and there, headless. That was Obasanjo’s regime and what human dignity meant for that regime for eight years.
For welfare, Nigerians have never had it so bad in their millions. Instead of government to give employment, it became the stock in trade of this regime to send workers to the unemployment market by all sorts of epithet with ignoble description such as down-sizing, reducing the labour force and so on. Unemployment became unbelievably rampant to the extent that workers approached the doors of government offices with trepidation, thinking they would be sacked any moment. Security of employment became nil in government services. In the private sector, profit motive was taken to a most ungodly level. Sack became a culture of the private sector. Whenever the private sector wanted more profit, they resorted to showing workers out without adequate recompense and this was aggravated by the so-called economic reforms of General Obasanjo where the heritage of Nigeria was sold, not even to the highest bidders but to the favoured bidders, contrary to the Constitution of Nigeria.
The major sectors of our economy were placed on the building blocks of rapacious entrepreneurs, many of whom are in government, using proxies to purchase government properties, courtesy of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, and contrary in Section 16, sub-section 4 of the constitution which says that the major sectors of the economy shall be managed, operated and run by the Federal Government of Nigeria, solely and exclusively.
But today, the major sectors are being sold. The latest example is the refinery in Port Harcourt, one of the four refineries in Nigeria. For eight years, Obasanjo did not build a single refinery to ensure a total reduction in the costs of petroleum products. Instead, Obasanjo, contrary to the Constitution of Nigeria, sold and he is still in the process of selling even in the dying days of the regime, the major sectors of our economy at give-away prices. Look at NITEL, another government investment that is relevant to the welfare of Nigerian people, it is still in the same mess. Our constitution says that economy of the country should not be operated in such a way that wealth would be concentrated in a few hands, but we are now having the very opposite of what the constitution says should be done. A company emerged, called Transcorp. There was no Transcorp before Obasanjo but Transcorp emerged from the bowel of Aso Rock, founded with the collaboration, connivance and conceptualisation of General Obasanjo to the extent that he owns 200 million shares. According to him, it will be the pillar of the private sector emerging in Nigeria. There is little difference between Transcorp and General Olusegun Obasanjo, except that a few favoured friends were brought into Transcorp. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, the Director-General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange who is supposed to be a public officer runs the Transcorp with General Obasanjo. Both public officers contravened the code of conduct in the 5th and 3rd Schedules of the Constitution. Behold! General Obasanjo was never taken before the Code of Conduct Bureau for this. I protested to the Code of Conduct, I protested to the National Assembly, nothing came out of it. Here is a man who abused his office, set up a company to acquire the heritage of Nigerians. Today, Transcorp has acquired Nicon Hilton, and it has acquired NITEL. If this is not corruption, then I don’t know what corruption means.
To me, Obasanjo is the most corrupt Nigerian and I will never agree with anyone who says Obasanjo is not corrupt. We see it everywhere. This man was in prison for three years and his Ota farm which was in bankruptcy then was almost sold. They were thinking of how to sell most of his properties. Today, Obasanjo’s farm is rated as one of the richest in the world, all in a space of eight years that he governed Nigeria. If that is not corruption, then I don’t know what corruption means. If that is not abuse of office, then I do not know what abuse of office means. I protested to the National Assembly, I protested to various organisations, that look, under the Code of Conduct, Nigerians are entitled to go there and ask for all the declaration of assets of any public officer, on conditions that may be prescribed by the National Assembly. We asked the National Assembly to give us the conditions so that we can exercise our rights to know what had been declared by Obasanjo and others, including members of the National Assembly. But till today, they never gave us those conditions. So, Nigerians don’t even have access to the assets declared by the public officers. No public officer’s assets can be examined.
This regime will go down in history as the most corrupt regime in the history of this country in the sense that no regime ever made so much money as was made under Obasanjo’s regime. It got to a point that the price of one barrel of crude oil was fetching $70 and Nigeria at that time was producing 3,150,000 (three million, one hundred and fifty thousand) barrels per day. As we talk, the Federal Government is making more than N200,000,000 (two hundred million dollars) everyday, including Sunday. The more money the Obasanjo regime made the poorer the Nigerian people became. And the more money the Obasanjo regime made, the richer a few people became, including Mr. President himself.
Yes, there was a battle against corruption. A young man emerged like an oasis in the desert, called Nuhu Ribadu, under the auspices of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which I have often described as a positive accident in this regime. Positive accident because Obasanjo did not plan to fight against corruption because he is corrupt himself. But because he was under pressure from international organisations, like Transparency International that wanted some sort of actions against corruption, he was forced to bring about EFCC. He brought a young man named Ribadu, he never expected that Ribadu would perform that good. So, Ribadu’s performance is an oasis in the desert of corruption. What we are now hoping is that Ribadu, after May 29 will look at the records again, will look at the complaints of Nigerians, including mine, against Obasanjo. For example, his library took me to court. His library which he launched on May 14, 2005 at Abeokuta garnered N8.5 billion. [Femi] Otedola gave N250 million; [Otunba Mike] Adenuga N350 million; [Aliko] Dangote, N220 million; consortium of banks N1.9 billion; consortium of oil companies N2.4 billion and so on. These oil companies we talk about, for eight years Obasanjo was the Minister of Petroleum Resources apart from being the head of state. No oil block was ever given to anybody without the connivance and approval of General Olusegun Obasanjo. He was more active as an oil minister than Mr. President. So there must be more than meets the eye. I will therefore want Ribadu to dust all files, to look at all records and do a thorough investigation into the administration of General Obasanjo, into the personal fortunes of Obasanjo, into the family fortunes of Obasanjo and into Obasanjo’s fortunes all over the world. And let us come with the correct analysis and truth about Olusegun Obasanjo. So that when the facts are all gathered and known, Ribadu will then take the matter to court and charge Obasanjo for corruption and abuse of office. So that the truth will be told about this man who pretended so much.

I am appalled, because if not for the feud between him and Atiku we may never have known that Atiku was messing up with the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF. Obasanjo cannot say that he did not know that Atiku was stealing the PTDF, established in 1973, meant for the welfare of our country by training our brilliant students in the universities with the fund. A fund meant for the improvement of our petroleum technology, a fund meant to ensure that the sons and daughters of poor parents who have the intellect can engage in research work. But alas! this fund was used, not only to pay lawyers, but to establish just one company alone. Now, Atiku dipped his hand into it, Fasawe dipped his hand into it and Mr. President dipped his hand into it for personal reasons. We want to have the full story of PTDF and other agencies of government.
And above all, we want to know more about the NNPC; how such a company can make so much wealth and people are just dipping their hands into that wealth at the expense of the progress, welfare and security of the Nigerian people. So these are the challenges for the EFCC and my friend, Ribadu. The man I respect so much. I believe he could be the President of this country. The man I know that is passionate about his job, the man I know that is not corrupt. These are the challenges for him.
Therefore, on May 29, Obasanjo has to be investigated along with other people so that we can have the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We want to know all the assets, we want to know the whole farms that are scattered all over the country. Is it Mambilla? Is it Cross River? All sorts of places. We want to know how these assets came into the pockets of our leaders.
We want to know how our finances were used. We want to know what happened in the states. So much money was poured into electricity. Olusegun Agagu was former Minister of Power. And others after him. Why are we still in darkness? Why is it that the government inherited 3,525 mega watts of electricity in 1999 and now we are operating with less than 1,225 mega watts after spending billions of tax payers’ money. The jamboree in Abuja, COJA. We want the facts on COJA. There is a lot of work for Ribadu now that Obasanjo is gone. The best of Ribadu is yet to come. He is a man I trust that would do this job and I have no doubt in my mind that many governors and others in Aso Rock, including the President and his deputy, will be brought to justice.
Is anybody still in doubt about Obasanjo’s legacies? Look around us? Look at our universities; it is a tale of poverty. Shelves are empty, no books. Laboratories, empty, no equipment for experiment.
Twenty years ago, UNESCO decreed that not less than 25 per cent of the budget of every country, including Nigeria, should be given to education. But the highest Obasanjo went was 11 per cent. Obasanjo does not care about the education of Nigerian


OBJ Is A Failure

 Ebun Adegboruwa, a Lagos-based lawyer, in an interview with OLUSOLA OLAOSEBIKAN brands President Olusegun Obasanjo a failure

Could you briefly assess President Olusegun Obasanjo vis-à-vis his administration?
Normally, we would have started from 1976. But from 1999 till date, it is an administration that came to fritter the resources of Nigeria, an administration that came to squander the confidence of Nigerians, an administration that came to impose a culture of violence and lawlessness, a culture of official corruption. But I think on the other hand too, economically, it was a regime that came to empower its own friends, captains of industry whom he promoted to appropriate the collective wealth of the people in the name of commercialisation, privatisation and all the rest. So, economically, yes, he has assisted and upgraded the welfare of his supporters who have taken over.
 In some other areas like the GSM, yes, he introduced the GSM. But unfortunately, he was unable to monitor the success of the GSM to the extent that it has become a liability on Nigerians, such that the phone is no longer affordable. So, if you want to assess General Olusegun Obasanjo, you’ll look at all the facets of Nigerian life. Talking about education, the universities are dead now.  And there are close to 50 private universities in Nigeria now. Two of them owned by General Obasanjo and one by his Vice President, ABTI University in Yola. So that, in education, what the government has done is to kill public interest, so as to make it lucrative for private institutions which are milking individuals. What has happened is that the children of the rich are either attending London School of Economics and Political Science, Harvard University, London University, Cambridge, or they are attending Covenant University or Bells University or Igbinedion University or ABTI. So, the ones that the masses can afford, the Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Ibadan, the University of Maiduguri, are dilapidated. It is no longer productive for you to think of taking your children there because a programme that is meant to take four years, by the time you calculate all manner of frustrating programmes that the government has installed in these institutions, it becomes difficult to graduate. Even at the secondary level, the system has been destroyed such that it becomes no longer advisable to patronise these schools, except you opt for the British-American International School, Lekki International School and others. So with this structure, poverty will certainly be on the rise. Because if your child cannot go to school, it automatically means that the best he can get is technical employment, whether as a manual labourer or an apprentice. He becomes like a slave to the children of the rich who are able to afford education and the rich will continue to dominate those who cannot afford education. In the area of aviation, just go to any airport in the country, you’ll experience what I am saying. I took an aircraft from Abuja or Lagos sometime ago and we almost died. We were hovering around in the air for close to 30 minutes, we could not land in Lagos until the pilot was almost crashing into a helicopter. And that is the story of aviation in Nigeria. You remember how many crashes we have suffered. There’s no airport, currently in this country that you can go to and say your flight will leave at the appropriate time. Flights are cancelled and delayed indiscriminately, the planes are terrible. This is just the airport.
Go through the roads and it’s another disaster. Just take a trip from Lagos to Benin, you’ll see what Nigerians are going through in terms of transportation. So you see that there’s no facet of Nigerian life that the government has improved. I mean, the military regime of General Sani Abacha was generating 4,000 mega watts in his wicked days in this country. Under Obasanjo we got to a stage where we could not produce 500 mega watts.
 So, this government has taken us backward. Generally, we have not seen any significant improvement in the life of the ordinary man. The President was certainly running a government of crisis. Either they kill Bola Ige today and it will be in the papers for the next one or two months. And as Nigerians are trying to get used to that, you hear it is the Niger Delta. Before you go and settle that one, another crisis has come up.
So, we were just in that kind of situation from 1999 till date. The President was actually running a government of distractions. Scandal was the hallmark of the government. Even in the National Assembly, the man succeeded in planting crisis. Up till now, you know he has refused to sign the Freedom of Information Bill simply because he wants them to call it Right to Information Bill. This is somebody whom we placed in a position of trust, but he wasted the opportunity. He sees himself as somebody wiser than Solomon, braver than David and more knowledgeable than Jesus Christ. As far as Nigeria is concerned, he believes there’s nobody who can compare with him in wisdom. But we must come to the irresistible conclusion that Nigeria went backwards in the time of President Obasanjo.
But the external debt settlement is said to be a plus for the administration...
When you talk about debt recovery, who is not owing? Even America is owing. So why the rush to pay debt when your people have not eaten?  And, in any case, why did Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala leave the government? Was it not because of the various scandals that trailed the so-called debt recovery? I didn’t think it was necessary to rush to pay that money. Then, number two, if you use such resources to empower and develop your people, it would have been acceptable.
Is it not now that the President is leaving office that he is awarding contracts of N500billion and mobilising immediately? We underestimated him. He will continue to wear Bushmen dresses and continue to behave like a farmer and a jester, whereas he was scheming frantically to acquire wealth. Fani-Kayode said that he realises N30 million every month from Ota farm. A place that was almost moribund by the time he came back from prison!



OBJ Believes He Is God’s Greatest Gift To Nigeria

Akin  Oyebode, former vice chancellor, University of Ado-Ekiti and Professor of Law at the University of Lagos speaks with SYLVESTER ASOYA on President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure

In a few days, President Olusegun Obasanjo will cease to be Nigeria’s president. What are the prospects of life outside office for him?
He is not yet out of office. He is still in office and also in power. I agree with you that he has a few more days yet to vacate the position of President

and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. But the way he has been posturing in the last couple of days, for me suggests some withdrawal symptoms in the sense that it has now dawned on him that power will soon pass him by. And somebody who has been used to dominating his environment, calling the shots and being celebrated and saluted as Baba suddenly becomes impotent. It is not a situation he loves to be in if you know the persona of General Obasanjo. In his interaction with human beings, you will notice that most of his friends have abandoned him or he has abandoned them. So he is not too happy with the prospect of a lonely retirement because he is used to being in the news.
Now, he is just a former head of state. He had it before in 1979 when he handed over, but he believes that he is the greatest gift of God to Nigeria. Remember he once asked: “How many presidents do you want to make of me?” And he has this Myasthenic complex, he believes that God gave him only one instruction, which is, to rule Nigeria.
I won’t say to govern. He came like a ruler, an emperor. So, this sudden loss of power is affecting him. Once you’re no longer in power, you will miss the courtesies, the foolery of hangers on, and jesters. Now he is banished to the anonymity of Ota Farm. Although he still wants to be relevant and he has rejoined the association of former leaders. I think I understand his predicament, but he should be rest assured that there is life after retirement and that it could have been worse. So he should look at it with a sense of deja vu. He has nothing to worry about.
Afterall he said that if given another chance he will do everything the same way he did it which is completely unrepentant. Again, that for me, smacks more of bravado.
Definitely he is in discomfiture and he is trying to paper over the cracks by giving us the picture of a wholly-together person who has damned the consequences.
President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure will remain an issue for debate in the years ahead but as an academic, how would you rate him?
It is a mixed bag. He tried to do something about a few things like corruption. I’m saying that in terms of impressing the world that we are doing something about corruption, Obasanjo has moved us a few notches. And we used to be one of the least developed countries despite all our oil fortunes. We have now moved up.
But when you look at the index of the UNDP, we still have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and one of the highest maternal morbidity rate. Now, when you look at infrastructure, the roads have collapsed, Nigeria can’t guarantee power supply for 24 hours in any part of the country, common water is not available.
We still have Mai ruwa, people who sell water in gallons, in this country. Look at the urban squalor and the rural poverty. Really, Nigeria is a basket case. Of course you can be smiling that we have over 43 billion dollars in foreign reserve but have you ever seen a man who has so much money in the bank and he is starving himself? There is a problem. Look at fuel, Obasanjo increased fuel prices more than 11 times. I can’t believe it.
He just wanted to punish the people. I don’t understand. He is either a sadist or we ourselves are masochists, there are no two ways about it.
The living conditions of Nigerians have been battered when you sum it up in the Nigerian economy. There is no hiding the fact that our lives have really gone under. Is it the exchange rate? How much was it when he came it? How did lecturers run away from Nigeria? The foreign lecturers could no longer stay here because the home remittances could not keep them in business. So they went elsewhere.
So, I am saying that anybody who wanted to resume, rediscover or re-invent Nigeria, should approach the matter differently. I will concede that General Obasanjo succeeded in identifying some whizkids to prosecute his programmes because leadership is the ability to determine goals and identify those who would actualise those goals. No leader can progress more than the men and women around him.
But I say that the blueprint was faulty. And he also had an over bearing persona, he was breathing down the neck of those whizkids.
Obasanjo’s personality, this domineering figure of Baba who knows best did not enable this guys to thrive. Look at the Foreign Affairs ministry, he had no foreign minister; he was minister of petroleum. He even told his advisers that he was not bound to take their advice. If you know it all, then why have advisers? When he talks, he leans on the podium. He likes tutoring other people. You can see the way and manner he has been talking down on academics, trying to humiliate them. He must know that academics are international commodities.
But he is a proprietor of universities. His interest is not in running the public universities because he does not have interest there. When I joined this university three decades ago, we had an international faculty. We had students from Ghana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Gambia, East Africa. All sorts of students came to read Law here.
But in last eight eight years, perhaps the only foreign students we have are refugees.


Andrew Young, Obasanjo’s Friend

As an international wheeler dealer, here is what makes Andrew Young tick

For years, Andrew Young, the civil rights leader, has been deeply involved in this country (Nigeria) through the lobbying and consulting firm he heads, GoodWorks International. Its motto is: “We do well by doing good.”
But the question of what exactly GoodWorks is or is not doing here has turned Mr. Young and his firm into something of a lightning rod, as Nigerians prepare to elect a successor Saturday to this country’s president, Olusegun Obasanjo, whom Mr. Young has known for 30 years.
“We believe that the relationship between GoodWorks International and Nigeria is foisted on juicy financial benefits to the former,” said an editorial earlier this year in a newspaper here, This Day.
For his part, Mr. Young, the former congressman, United Nations ambassador and mayor of Atlanta, dismissed such comments as sniping by opponents of Mr. Obasanjo’s party, which is expected to win the weekend election.
But there is also little question that Nigeria has been very good for GoodWorks; thanks in part to Mr. Young’s long ties to Mr. Obasanjo, his firm in Atlanta has earned millions of dollars here over the years through a network of business dealings that extend far beyond lobbying.
As business has gone increasingly global, many consulting firms based in the United States, like GoodWorks, have increased their operations abroad, taking on assignments in developing nations like Nigeria where power and wealth are frequently concentrated in a few hands. And consulting experts say it is common for United States firms that lobby for foreign governments in Washington to also have business interests in those countries.
A look at GoodWorks’ activities in Nigeria, based on interviews and documents, provides a window into how embedded such lobbyists can become in developing economies.
Along with lobbying for Nigeria, for example, GoodWorks is paid to represent many major companies like Chevron, General Electric and Motorola that seek big contracts from the Nigerian government.
In addition, executives of GoodWorks have stakes in Nigeria’s oil industry, the country’s main source of wealth. And several years ago, the firm’s chief executive, Carlton A. Masters, started an American company with close relatives of President Obasanjo that bought an expensive Miami property with Mr. Masters’s money, Florida records show.
It is not illegal for lobbyists simultaneously to represent foreign countries and companies seeking business from them. And they are not barred from having business interests in countries they represent in Washington.
Mr. Young and Mr. Masters also said in recent interviews that they had been scrupulous in avoiding conflicts between their governmental and corporate clients. They added that their clients who have won contracts in Nigeria have done so fairly, by outbidding competitors.
“We don’t pay anyone under the table, and we don’t accept any kind of questionable payments or relationships,” Mr. Young said. “We don’t work with people where there are questions of integrity involved.”
For Mr. Young, the involvement of GoodWorks in Nigeria is also one of the lesser-known chapters in a long, celebrated and at times controversial career.
Last year, for example, Mr. Young, who first became known as a top aide to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., resigned as a consultant to Wal-Mart after he said that Jewish, Arab and Korean store owners had “ripped off” black communities by “selling us stale bread and bad meat.” He subsequently apologized for the remarks.
GoodWorks has also generated controversy here. Two years ago, for instance, one local activist filed a complaint that, among other things, criticized Mr. Masters for his role in fund-raising for a $50 million, American-style presidential library named after Mr. Obasanjo that is being built in his hometown north of this chaotic and desperately poor city.
Also in 2005, the Nigerian leader was the host for Mr. Masters’s wedding at the official presidential banquet hall, an event that drew outcries from Mr. Obasanjo’s critics.
Several activists in Nigeria said in recent interviews that they believed that Mr. Young had decided simply to profit here from his legacy rather than use it to help a country that remains beset by problems of political corruption, crumbling infrastructure and failed school systems.

“Andrew Young has never been interested in these issues,” said Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer who is also president of the West African Bar Association. “He is just here making money.”
Mr. Young said that while some people still viewed him as an “activist trapped in the ’60s,” he had decided long ago that he could effect more change by attracting private investment to places like Nigeria that needed it.
He also said that the Obasanjo library, which is being underwritten by donations from local politicians and companies, would benefit all Nigerians by serving as a conference center.
“For 40 years of my life, I was on the outside seeking change,” he said. “I realized that I could be more effective being on the inside implementing it.”
GoodWorks, which Mr. Young and Mr. Masters helped found in 1996, has also lobbied in the United States for Rwanda and Turks and Caicos Islands. Mr. Young declined to disclose the firm’s revenue but said that the vast bulk of it came from its operations here.
A spokesman for Mr. Obasanjo, Uba Sani, said that the Nigerian government was pleased with GoodWorks’ performance, describing the firm as “good friends of Nigeria.” And Mr. Masters said much of the recent criticism of GoodWorks was coming from those who did not want to see the firm’s lobbying contract, which expired in April, renewed by Nigeria’s next president. After eight consecutive years as president, Mr. Obasanjo is barred from running again.
GoodWorks’ dealings in Nigeria reflect Mr. Young’s relationship over three decades with Mr. Obasanjo. And like much else in Mr. Young’s life, it is a relationship filled with a mix of drama, ideals and opportunism.
The two men met in the late 1970s, when Mr. Obasanjo, then a general, first served as this country’s president, one in a long line of military figures who ruled Nigeria.
“Obasanjo and I kind of hit it off immediately,” said Mr. Young, who was the United States ambassador to the United Nations at the time. “We were mainly concerned with democracy.”
Two decades later, the names of Mr. Young and Mr. Obasanjo, who was no longer in public office, appeared together in a United States Senate report about the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the rogue financial institution.
The report criticized Mr. Young for, among other things, trying to obtain a bank loan to help Mr. Obasanjo start a farm equipment company for which he would have worked as a consultant.
That deal never went forward. But in the mid-1990s, Mr. Young found himself urging Gen. Sani Abacha, then Nigeria’s president, to release a number of political opponents he had jailed, including Mr. Obasanjo. In 1999, the year after his release, Mr. Obasanjo was voted president in democratic elections.
Mr. Young said he believed that his old ally had since reshaped the country for the better by eliminating entrenched corruption and raising the quality of life.
“There isn’t anything that’s happened in Africa worthwhile, almost since 1960, that he hasn’t been involved in,” Mr. Young said.
Some activists credit Mr. Obasanjo for certain improvements, like taking some steps to increase the transparency of how this country’s oil wealth is distributed. But they added that he has allowed Nigeria’s infrastructure to disintegrate further while a small group of insiders has grown richer; electrical blackouts are routine and highways are so bad that short journeys can take hours.
Mr. Masters said that GoodWorks, which became Nigeria’s lobbyist in 2001, had worked with officials there to reduce the country’s international debts. But unlike some lobbyists for foreign governments, the firm appears to have done little to influence American policy toward its client. For instance, GoodWorks said that it had “no recollection” of a single instance in which it represented Nigeria in talks with any federal overseas development agencies.
Instead, the firm, apparently in keeping with Mr. Young’s philosophy, has focused its energies on business development in Nigeria and representing companies before Mr. Obasanjo’s government.
Mr. Masters said that GoodWorks typically received a “success fee” equal to 1 ½ percent of a contract’s value, a fee that can lead to big payouts. In 2005, for example, G.E. Energy, a GoodWorks client, won a $400 million contract to supply generating turbines in Nigeria.
The company, a subsidiary of General Electric, said in a statement that it had a “standard sales representative agreement” with GoodWorks, but declined to elaborate.
Mr. Young said that GoodWorks has started small companies here that employ Nigerians. But the company also has other local business interests. For example, the head of the company’s Nigerian office is the major shareholder in a local energy company, Suntrust Oil, which won a lease during a 2002 government auction of offshore fields that did not interest major energy companies.
While Mr. Young, 75, still serves as the firm’s public face, it is Mr. Masters, in his late 50s, who spends much of his time traveling through Africa and the Caribbean. Along the way he has made his own connections.
In 2001, for instance, Mr. Masters formed a Florida company, Sunscope Investments, with Mr. Obasanjo’s brother-in-law and his wife, that purchased a Miami condominium for about $750,000, Florida public records indicate.
Asked about the issue, Mr. Masters said in a written statement that he had put up the money that Sunscope used to buy the property. He added, however, that Mr. Obasanjo’s relatives had quickly lost interest in the venture and had not profited from it in any way.
Florida records indicate that Mr. Obasanjo’s sister-in-law, Yamisi Abebe, remained an officer of Sunscope until last year, when the company was dissolved and transferred its interest in the condominium to Mr. Masters for a nominal sum.
One lobbying expert, Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan group in Washington that monitors lobbying, said that given Mr. Masters’s multiple lobbying roles in Nigeria, his decision to involve President Obasanjo’s relatives in his business dealings was troubling.
“It looks like hell,” Mr. Lewis said.
Mr. Masters stated he had done nothing wrong.
This weekend’s election will decide whether Umaru Yar’Adua, the candidate of Mr. Obasanjo’s party, will succeed him. If he does, it is far more likely that GoodWorks will remain Nigeria’s lobbyist than if one of the opposing parties is elected.
“We’ve never gotten involved in politics,” Mr. Young said earlier this year. “We’ve tried to stay friendly with everyone.”
– Courtesy, New York Times. Published: April 18, 2007 .



googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('comments'); });

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content1'); });

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content2'); });