Running from Obasanjo's own Shadow: Cleaning the Nigeria's Augean Stable
The current efforts of the Obasanjo administration in Nigeria’s crackdown upon corrupt political actors, no matter the nature of its selectivity and noxiousness, would have ordinarily merited great appraise. However, that is not yet the case. It is becoming glaring that “corruption” is an ideological tool of perpetuating self-interests in deluding and distracting the nation. We have seen this happened before. Even the late despotic tyrant, General Sani Abacha, presented such a face when he went against people and institutions he termed as corrupt, with virulent antics and rhetoric that sent many to Alagbon close confiscating their properties. Today, we know that Abacha, moral or economic reformist as some sectors of the Nigerian media labeled him them, was just a bandit with a thievery hand and consciousness.
Today, even President Obasanjo has shown how his lack of imagination and power to reorder the Nigerian social and political systems has become his greatest challenge. Thus, he runs far away from his own shadow, trying to allow the Brits to do Nigeria's dirty laundry. In such an attempt, he comes cheap, scripting his argument against a corrupt Nigerian that the Nigerian judicial system should amply deal with, predicating his argument on the tenor of the present war on terror, knowingly the West’s present worst nightmare. Unfortunately, he has forgotten to note that even for the First World leaders pillorying the war on terror, it is no longer such an easy sale at home, for their internal (domestic) audience and populations.
Only time will fully reveal the legacy of Obasanjo and only history will deliver a veritable verdict on his intentions and actions. That time is not yet now, so until then, it seems that President Obasanjo is running away from his own shadow, his past and his inaction, especially regarding his pigeon-holed sanctuary that protects some of Nigeria’s known criminals and corrupt persons. For instance, only recently, Chief Uba, the man at the central of the Anambra-Ngige political saga has been restituted by the ruling PDP after suspending him and Ngige, after an incident that almost truncated the democratic dispensation.
Few weeks past, President Olusegun Obasanjo decried the state of the local airline operators in Nigeria. Frantically, he called these operators very corrupt. However, this is not the first that of his making such insinuations, as he had in the past also made similar claims regarding the foreign oil companies. What was interesting about his tirades, one of which he is surreptitiously renowned, was that not enough with his bad-mouthing he threatened to hand-over the domestic aviation industries to his protégé in the West. This is not surprising given that the former Nigeria Airways, Nigeria’s national airliner ended up dead only to be resurrected in another form and shape by the British Virgin Airlines. Thus, with President Obasanjo, it is fast becoming the trend that the British are his allies in doing Nigeria’s dirtiest job of keeping sanity. In the past, such mode of acting would be termed “colonial mentality.” But today, I wonder whether it is just a mode of on-going neo-colonization or a fruit of globalization.
Today, Nigerian newspapers woke us up to the fact that the President has written to the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair decrying the manner in which the Bayelsa Governor, Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha slipped into Nigeria from his British granted bail, following investigations and allegations of money laundering in that country. One of the things that amaze one is not just the fact that the Governor was reputed to have dressed as a woman and deceitfully escaped the nose and nuzzling guns of the Brits Metro Polices. The Scot Yard folks have another problem on their hands, and I guess that given their messy affairs in the case of the Brazilian national killed in the aftermath of the terrorists’ invasion of Britain’s subway in the summer, this Nigerian case has presented how vulnerable they are in keeping acute surveillance in this age of terror. Yes, Obasanjo’s letter is saying much the same, inflaming sentiments that touch of the western raw nerves, but much to his own satisfaction and interest.
Else, it is surprising that a President of such country, like Nigeria cannot keep security and law in his own land but wants another national leader to do his dirty job for him. Much since 1999 what has he done proactively to deter corruption? Rather, what we have seen is the creation of redundant laws that no one keeps. For instance, when he first came to power in 1999 he made a law debarring the use of siren, but today no one obeys such laws. Abuja and Lagos, every Nigerian urban, and even rural space today is inundated and serenaded with hopeless deafening siren blasting the serene environmental bliss with unmanageable noise. It is even laughable that he had done all within his power to protect some and sonorously go after others in this war against corruption. Many military officers still parading themselves with political relevance and salience were and remain ruthlessly corrupt walking the streets strutting their shoulders in megalomaniac strides of virulent and abusive arrogance. Babangida is one such example that has been offered sanctuary by Obasanjo. Many others exist.
President Obasanjo as the Chief Executive of Nigeria has continued confusedly to haunt and hunt some while leaving others as golden fish. Without using his political capital and tools of negotiation, he has not been able to use the legislative arm of government to achieve and produce purposeful legislations that would hamper corrupt practices, while bringing past actors to book. The power of Prime Minister Tony Blair, the power of the courts in Britain is not divine revelation or Deus ex machine constructed. Rather, they are the product of the imaginative and negotiating abilities of individuals to change the texture of their society for the better. Obasanjo’s letter is as bad as the action of Governor Alamieyeseigha, a man who escaped from justice with means that we are yet to know. Another vital point here is relevant, namely that like Obasanjo and his fellow erstwhile military cohorts, it has been affirmed that Alamieyeseigha is a product of the Nigerian military, because I read recently he was a Squadron Leader in the Nigerian Airforce. His audacious risk to run away from justice in London is not any different from what Babangida had done in the past, in the case of the Dele Giwa case, It is not different from the way some of the retired Military leaders in the past, Buhari and Babangida among others refused to appear before the “Truth and Reconciliation Panel” under the leadership of Justice Oputa and Fr. Matthew Kukah. In the heydays of the Abacha era, General Musa Bamaiyi defied the Nigerian judiciary.
Thus, that President Obasanjo has to trust foreign political authorities and courts rather than his own Nigerian judiciary points to something profound and symbolically significant. He shows that he is presiding over an 'appendange nation.' The 'appendage nation' is an elongation of sectional interests. In this the imperialists and the neo-imperialist class interests emerge. Obasanjo is a product of such interests. Even when he could hardly make it to Sandhurst, returned to Nigeria while other members of his Nigerian military class moved ahead in their military training, he remain grateful to the British for saving his career and giving him a start in spite of his personal impediments in military scholarship. Thus, the convergence of both his personal appreciation to the Brits (and westerners in general) and his own military class interests are all colliding in very interesting ways.
This bestial military class was a product of the British and remain its monstrous elongation, a leperchin that continues to afflict our national lives with bad memories. Thus, the Nigerian military is our collective nightmare, and its products are giving the nation a bad image. Both Obasanjo and Alamieyeseigha are a product of that establish. Even, he Obasanjo in fostering esprit de corps has allowed monstrous beings to parade the land, and together they destroyed the Nigerian judicial systems through "settlement" and umerited political judicial appointments. Thus, many Nigerians do not perceive that the judiciary can hand over any respectable judgment today. How can they? We saw how the judiciary was used to truncate the valid elections results of the late Nigerian President-elect, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola. Even recently, when almost everyone knew that the 2003 elections was widely rigged, the Nigerian supreme court, last year December handed a judgment that it was fair and that Obasanjo's had a clear mandate. Later in 2005, even Vice President Abubakar Atiku had begun to chant how the ruling PDP rigged election. Late in 2004, even President Obasanjo noted how he was privy to the rigging of elections in Anambra State, but in his euphoric sense of party bandistry he refused to do anything. But that was no news, as many election observers had noted that in many parts of Southern Nigeria, especially in the East there was no elections. Observers of the Catholic Justice and Peace, who first alerted the nation to such notorious rigging were molested and silenced. Many priests were threatened with assasinations merely to keep them silence. Cheap blackmail presided over by the Chief of Aso-Rock.
This military class (cabal used to be a word of the past) continues to manipulate and arm-twist the judiciary, as they had often and always done. The case of Ken Saro-Wiwa reflects such an instance, indicative of how manipulated judicial officials consciencelessly act according to their masters' script. Ibrahim Auta, did just that in ensuring the judicial murdering of many fine and and dedidated Nigerian, the Ogoni nine and their leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, whose only crime was to cry out against injustice within their Nigerian contraption.
Even more glaringly, the case of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and the mode of his sentencing by the Justice Okoro-Idogu in 1985 notably documents the tale of such manipulations. Yes, it was the same legal institution that in 1979 ensured the enthronement of the pre-approved Presidential candiate in that year's election, when two-third of nineteen states amounted to twelve states plus Kano NPN votes. Therefore, Obasanjo having helped to preside over the death of a reputable Nigerian institution, one which he helped to manipulate is now grumbling, beaten to his own orchestration both as a former military leader and as an ambivalent political leader of a redundant state, called Nigeria. He helped to diminish the relevance of our judicial system and now he has to deal with it.
Symptomatically and symbolically, President Obasanjo knows from the depth of his heart that the Nigerian judicial system is also corrupt. Not too long ago, there were a series of serious allegations leveled against the current Chief Justice of Nigeria regarding bribery. True or not, we know that in the days of Babangida despotic roaming and roaring, these supreme court justices were mouth-sealed by the gifts of Mercedes cars. Now, the agent of justice in the land is the Economic Crime Commission (EFCC), an agency of the Presidency, that now colluded with foreign government in pursuing selective justice and victimizing the opposition to President Obasanjo. Who would so soon sleep in the land, when all too apparently Sergeant Rogers is back into the army, after his heinous crimes? Now, the EFCC seems to become a reincarnation of the mode of operations of former Abacha's right man, El Mustapha and their murderous cohorts. How history replays itself, even now President Obasanjo is drumming the talking drum of self-perpetuation, Babangida and Abacha style! How can a nation that tread its own constitution underfoot not be corrupt?
The fact remains, and crucially, that the claims of the military to possession of a superior moral order has become punctured many times over, depleting any further claim to any level of national superiority. The Nigerian military remains corrupt as the nation that gave birth to it. Alamieyeseigha, like Obasanjo, Buhari, and Babangida are among the many lepers produced by that institution. Alamieyeseigha is just another mirror of the monsters that we know from our collective past and present. It is that deceptive institution that is trying frantically to match under-foot the rational imagination of Nigerians, and their sense of repulsion, calling into being another attempt at a self-succession bid, in the name of the transmogrification of a despot over the national psyche and will, in the name of a power-lust and craving that has been the hallmark of our military class since the time of Gowon.
It is time that we know who the real corrupt Nigerians are. Yes, one corrupt Nigeria used his privilege in Aso Rock to ensure that an Alhaji Salisu Buhari, who forged his academic credentials and falsely represented himself for office, is walking free and even recently appointed to the board of a state corporation. His unemployed son without sources of known income bought over half a million house in New York, but the EFCC has not yet come after him. That corrupt Nigerian once wore a military uniform. Another corrupt Nigerian is the head of the ruling party, he abused office through acts of nepotism by appointing his wife, son, and friends into corporate boards, and he continues to act arrogantly as if he is a saint. That man too wore Nigerian military uniforms. Another Nigerian sponsored terrorist acts against a fellow Nigerian by caging him in a diplomatic luggage in far away London. That Nigerian sponsor of terrorism was an erstwhile military leader, and a recent presidential candidate of an opposition party. The Nigerian military class remains the poison cankerworm that has penetrated our national constitution, eating us alive. It is now time to act, for enough must be enough some