To be dragged into issues arising from the campaign trails of the two leading candidates in the presidential contest could be unfair to an octogenarian. He had watched how Herbert Macaulay led the struggle, how the baton was passed to Nnamdi Azikiwe and the eventual emergence of other strong rivals from the ranks, equipped with clear vision for the Nigerian people. The old man saw how Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, Eyo U. Esua, Eyo Ita, Michael Imoudu, Matthew A. Tokunbo, Saad Zungur, Zana Bukar Dipcharima, the inimitable Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and others roused Nigerians from slumber to high-powered activism in all facets of life. And you now want him to comment on issues of a people now being again woken from their stupor of 16 years of PDP leadership by a man whose only tools, at the moment, are his integrity and sincerity, but lacking the backing of high-minded persons of vision and valour, unlike in the past. It is a hard nut for him to crack.
First was the letter, 16 pages, by Olusegun Obasanjo, exposing what he did during his eight-year rule. We know what Obasanjo did when he was President. Yes, Obasanjo brought Scotland Yard detectives to probe the Supreme Court of Nigeria, with Chief Justice Mohammed Uwais as his target. Where were the so-called Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) when that sacred institution was being brought to ridicule? The Court of Appeal found in 2003 that 600,000 fake votes were added to the score of candidate Olusegun Obasanjo in Ogun State alone in that year’s presidential race. And he talks of rigging of election by others.
It was under Obasanjo that the Nigeria Police attempted to topple Governor Chris Ngige in Anambra State without any legal authority. Tafa Balogun, the police boss, was later sacrificed when he disobeyed another order of the kind subsequently.
Obasanjo was the President who conducted the election that the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua personally faulted in 2007. That election brought Yar’Adua to power and he was truthful enough to own up that there was something wrong with it. The world condemned that election.
Obasanjo disobeyed the Supreme Court’s judgement on Lagos State allocation. He disobeyed court orders. There is no repeating the fact that Obasanjo and his Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, sold the nation’s assets in the name of monitisation and privatisation. They and their party left Nigeria beleaguered without electricity and passable federal highways. It took seven hours to travel from Lagos to Abuja during Sani Abacha’s regime, but during Obasanjo’s government it took 14 agonising hours because federal roads had collapsed.
Obasanjo talks of Abacha, but that chap (Abacha) was better behaved and felt more for the people’s needs. He ran a first-rate economy, though being hounded by the West, whose bidding he refused to bow to as a Kano radical. Abacha sanitised the economy and laid to rest the ghost of SAP.
One has seen some frivolous comments from some so-called politicians and one wonders why Nigeria slumped so badly in political thoughts to parade such individuals as leaders. President Muhammadu Buhari presented his vision in 2015 and although some said it was ambitious he promised to make every Nigerian to work for it. He did not pledge free lunch for all, but he explained that it was better to teach someone how to fish than to make one dependent on your catch. It is on this he should be judged.
No country of worth in the world has made it without the sacrifice of labour, self-denial and collective effort to buy the dream driven by the state. So, if Nigerians now have Ekpoma, Ebonyi, Anambra, Nasarawa, Kebbi and Ogun rice, it is forward march for the country. Nigeria now has Wells Hosa Green Farm and many of its type springing up to return this country to those years of yore when it fed its citizens and exported semi-finished agricultural goods. Willie Obiano and many other governors are in this boat of progress motion to feed and export. Why did it not happen in the PDP’s 16 years of rule, part of which Akinwumi Adesina grew rice and other produce in the telephone he carried about containing names of farmers who did not grow any acre of crops? Give credit to Audu Ogbeh and Buhari on rice production.
Buhari is building rail tracks. He has dredged the River Niger for haulage of heavy goods to commemorate Samuel Ogbemudia, who conceived it during Yakubu Gowon’s regime, for which he founded the Central Water Transportation Company jointly with the governments of East Central and Kwara states 46 years ago. Buhari is reviving our steel mills and allowing states to build power plants to fuel industrial growth and agricultural development. Buhari realises the downward trend in education, which can only be changed by good legislation. But the National Assembly has been the worst drawback to Nigeria’s self-fulfillment.
At the time Atiku and Obasanjo approved the selling of prime assets between 2000 and 2007, the organised private sector in Nigeria had collapsed. The UAC declared loss. Dunlop, Michelin, PZ, and other blue-chip multinational corporations moved production out of Nigeria. Pharmaceutical corporations followed and also the textiles sector, with devastating effect on staff turnover and joblessness.
Privatisation is now a dead-letter word in public discourse. Like SAP, it ran its course and garnered hatred in Russia, Britain, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries. It enjoyed no support in Europe and with the Asian Tigers, China, Vietnam, and Malaysia, all being socialist states. Japan, South Korea and North Korea have their own peculiar systems based on their history – loyalty to the Emperor in Japan, loyalty to the state in South and North Korea. Singapore, a city state, is no good example.
Atiku is shouting himself hoarse about attracting investments to 21st century Nigeria. Is he so handicapped in political thoughts? Other countries talk of mobilising their peoples to solve their challenges. And, as usual, he wants to bring people from outside to the detriment of Nigerians. This was how the PDP made Nigeria lazy and poor.
•Lawrence writes from Lagos