Obasanjo Does Not Own Nigeria

Abimbola Jones, a public affairs commentator, believes that though former president Olusegun Obasanjo has given his best to Nigeria, he needs to realise that the country does not belong to him alone...

When Senator Iyabo Obasanjo, daughter of the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote a vitriolic letter to her father some time ago reminding him that he does not own Nigeria, many of us thought she was a bit too harsh on the old man. Iyabo had, in very strong words, dismissed the former president as an irresponsible father, megalomaniac, liar and hypocrite. It is not that Iyabo said anything new that the public does not know about her father. Even then, some of us thought that coming from a daughter - estranged or beloved - that was way too harsh. But in recent times, Obasanjo himself is beginning to justify his daughter's public expression of her opinion of her father.

Just a few days ago, Obasanjo continued in what has become his favourite pastime, the public bashing of one of his political sons, Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president while addressing participants in Abeokuta at a programme "First Green Legacy Moments with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Leadership and human Security in Africa". This programme, which we understand was put together by the former president's shop, Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, in conjunction with the University of Ibadan, had in attendance undergraduate students of Nigeria's premier university of Ibadan, Obasanjo's own private university, the Bells University of Technology, Crawford University as well as their vice chancellors, and students from select secondary schools in Ogun State. This was the forum that Obasanjo chose to obfuscate facts and wrongly accuse President Jonathan and his government of failing over power supply.

The former President, according to newspaper reports, had blamed the governments after his, specifically, the Yar'Adua government and the Jonathan government, for failing to implement his administration's initiative of the National Independent Power Project (NIPP). As always the former president went on and on regaling the young impressionable students and, of course, some of the adult audience who should know how he alone has built up the country right from his military presidency and to his second coming as a civilian. That was typical of Obasanjo who believes that he alone knows Nigeria and he alone can save Nigeria. Well, there is nothing wrong if the former president derives joy by telling his audience and whoever cares to listen of his unrivalled patriotism and missionary zeal in the service of the fatherland.

Yet what is unacceptable especially from Obasanjo, an elder statesman, iconic personality and former president, is the passing of barefaced lies to younger people looking up to him, as facts. The former President knows full well that he was lying when he repeatedly stated that the present administration has abandoned the NIPP projects. He was equally not telling the whole truth when he is aware that the country is generating more power now than any other time in the nation's history. It is undeniable that the late President Umaru Musa Yar' Adua probably hesitated on the NIPP projects. Those who knew him readily agree that it was in the character of the late president, to be sure about probity, accountability and due process in anything he was involved in. He inherited the NIPP project from Obasanjo and all kinds of fuzzy stories of corruption were flying around and Yar' Adua was never the kind of person who would compromise accountability for speed. He wanted to make sure that Nigerians were not fleeced all in the name of tackling the power challenge through the NIPP projects.

But it is really intriguing that Obasanjo forgot to tell the young ones listening to him that after the initial lull under Yar' Adua, the Jonathan administration more than his own era has achieved milestones in the power sector. It is equally unfortunate that Obasanjo failed the younger generation listening to him (although the vice chancellors and Professor Akin Mabogunje know the truth) that his NIPP project is defective in design and execution by failing to take into account, the supply of gas to the newly-built power stations across the land. How to get gas to power those plants is one of the challenges that the Jonathan government is dealing with today but Obasanjo would rather obfuscate that fact in his self-praise.

It is understandable anyway that an Obasanjo who still believes that he is the best thing that has happened to our country will never give credit to anyone who has out-performed him in any sector. That is why former President Obasanjo failed to tell the young people around him that President Jonathan by liberalizing the power sector with the privatisation of the power generations and distribution and the consequent unbundling of the former PHCN, took the decision he and previous leaders were afraid to take.

Instead, the former president is insinuating corruption and nepotism in the privatisation in the power sector. Maybe Obasanjo has forgotten that he carried out the massive liberalisation that took place in the communications industry, the downstream sector of the oil industry, the ports sector and the Nigerian economy as a whole and Nigerians are aware, how cronies of the former president bought up Nigeria. Nigerians equally know who the real owners of the port terminals in Apapa concessioned by Obasanjo are.

The same Obasanjo who, while granting licenses for ownership of private universities, found it convenient to sign one for himself is now accusing Jonathan of selling the power sector to his friends.

It is time Obasanjo came to terms with the fact that a new Sherriff is in town. There is no doubt that the former president has given his best to this country but he must also realise that he does not own Nigeria - just as Iyabo had rightly noted.

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