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Obasanjo, Unemployment And Revolution In Nigeria: A Case Of A Man Biting The Dog!

From all indications, Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, must be having butterflies in his stomach regarding the question of “revolution” and Nigeria’s lack of immunity from a possible contagion.

From all indications, Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, must be having butterflies in his stomach regarding the question of “revolution” and Nigeria’s lack of immunity from a possible contagion.

On Monday 5th December 2011, the ex-President – while speaking at a workshop in Abeokuta, Ogun State – warned that: “There is the possibility of having the Arab Spring in Nigeria if similar conditions, hardships and  unemployment which gave birth to it are not addressed.” Earlier in June this year, the former President, in his address to the 100th International Labour Conference, warned that: “the situation in the Middle East may occur in some African countries including Nigeria, if leaders do not take urgent actions to check the unemployment situation.”

In view of the alarming frequency of Obasanjo’s evangelical message on “unemployment” and “revolution,” it has become necessary to beam some useful searchlight on the messenger if only to help us appreciate the relevance and validity of his message. The fact that unemployment has assumed a frightening dimension in Nigeria is quite obvious even to the blind. In general terms, the climate for social existence has become so strangulating and the standard of living so distressing that Nigerians have come to symbolize Franz Fanon’s depiction of the  “wretched of the earth.”
However, we need to remind ourselves that unemployment which we so often decry does not simply occur in a vacuum, neither does it emerge by sheer historical accident. Unemployment, when properly contextualized, is basically the logical result of governance failure. When such failure is so acute, deeply entrenched and consistently replicated by successive political regimes, unemployment ceases to become just a social problem but acquires the character of a festering, insidious pandemic. And that is precisely what has happened in the case of Nigeria.

Today, Nigeria is literally sitting on a keg of gunpowder in terms of an abysmal unemployment level because of its singular misfortune of having been governed by successive regimes of political leadership that are chronically deficient in any credible national vision, malnourished and starved of a sense of patriotism, highly bewitched by malignant corruption, and suffering from endemic moral kwashiorkor.

There can be no better illustration of the relationship between unemployment and bad leadership than the sordid, horrific, despicable events which transpired during the autocratic reign of former President Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007. It does not matter whether you are talking about the country’s collapsed refineries, aborted power projects, comatose manufacturing sector, or even the mindless cannibalization and virtual destruction of “privatized” national assets - all of them have their tap roots firmly embedded in the actions (or inactions) of the former Head of State while he was in office. Some clarifications will be in order at this juncture: Following the ongoing deliberations by the Senate on the probe report of the commercialization and privatization activities of the Bureau for Public Enterprises, most Senators are openly calling for Obasanjo’s prosecution for practically spearheading the rot that was perpetrated by the Bureau. In one occasion, the Senators were stunned when Senator Shola Adeyemi (Ekiti North) told the Senate how the son of former President Obasanjo allegedly brought the Indian company that bought the Ajaokuta Steel company which later embarked on mass looting of the company’s assets back to India. Today, Nigeria is importing the same steel from India.

One of the privatized companies, for instance, where Nigeria lost huge sums was the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, which was built at a cost of 3.2 billion dollars, but was sold to a Russian company for 130 million dollars. A more crying example is the story of Volkswagen located in Lagos State. The company was acquired in 2005 (under the regime of Obasanjo) and was supposed to be turned around by now so that it can begin to produce vehicles. Alas, the Senate Committee that visited the company lamented that: “what we saw there was a mighty complex that had massive warehouses full of vegetable oil, fertilizers, imported sugar, rice, etc. There were 50 trucks at the time we visited the company, off-loading vegetable oil. The containers found in that yard were more than those at the Port. The purpose of privatising Volkswagen was completely forfeited.” As a Parliamentarian had remarked: “A former leader of this country (Obasanjo) who under oath, swore to defend the Constitution and the laws of this country, is the same person, who, in an imperial manner took decisions to issue executive directives and approvals in contravention of the processes that are enshrined in the Privatization Act, signed by himself.”
If the revelations of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on privatized companies under the regime of the former President are shocking, Nigerians should brace up for more startling revelations as the House of Representatives – through its Committee on Housing and Habitat – begins its investigation into the prodigal sale of government property which Obasanjo approved under the “monetization” policy. For, according to Hon. Abdullahi Dan Alkali ([PDP, Kebbi West), “no ministry, parastatal or government agency can categorically account for the proceeds occurring from the sale of the property.”

In the light of the above atrocities committed against the people of Nigeria, especially, from 1999 till date, does former President Obasanjo have any moral authority or legitimacy to be lecturing Nigerians on the subject of “unemployment” and its association with “revolution”? Perhaps, the ex-President needs to be reminded that by his singular action of presiding over (and effectively supervising) the systematic parcelling and transference of the collective inheritance of Nigerians to a bunch of incompetent cronies, allies and impostors, he has acquired a notorious distinction as the most outstanding contributor to Nigeria’s frightening unemployment crisis. And by taking delight in insulting the battered sensibilities of ordinary Nigerians with his new-found, constant reminders about the magnitude of unemployment and the imminence of a revolution in the country, the former ruler is invariably engaging in the vanity of diverting attention away from the problem to the symptom, and from the culprit to the victims. I believe Nigerians are wiser.

Finally, now that the ex-President has made the issue of unemployment and revolution his topical fantasy, I would be inclined to enrich his preoccupation by adding a third variable: which is the adoption (by Nigeria) of the Chinese formula for tackling political corruption through  capital punishment - by beheading the offender. If so adopted, I equally suggest that the former leader demonstrate his seriousness about the revolutionary transformation of Nigeria by being the first to submit himself for trial on account of alleged corruption. At the end, let’s see if there will still be any head on his shoulders to insult us and mock our precarious existence as a result of the horrendous legacy of bad governance that he and his party has bequeathed to Nigerians.

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