Reading through very recent media reports on comments made by leading political figures, anyone would stumble onto statements made by Orji Uzor Kalu. The former governor of Abia state made one single comment that sent me thinking deep and trying to get a vision of his mindset. I ended up in a mental state of partially sharing Kalu's frustration at the glaring spirit of defeatism staring him in his naked face. I was able to figure out the exasperation in Kalu's composure. A sense of helplessness that greets a daylight robber when he is made to face the music while other big-time crooks hang out on the sideline wielding the smiles of joy and gloating smirk. A terrible irritation indeed!
Orji Uzor Kalu made just this statement: "I am surprised that by now the so-called EFCC and ICPC are coming to a state like Abia when the total budget of the state in eight years is just one parastatal in the Federal Government. One year budget of a parastatal in a Federal Ministry is the total budget of Abia in eight years. I think the right thing to do is for the Federal Government to institute a different body to try this case, to try ex-president Obasanjo."
While Governor Kalu does not admit stealing any state fund under his care, he went a long way to emphasize that he was a millionaire in the days preceding his governorship that he needed no state funds to get rich any longer. Mr. Kalu even quoted how many jobs he was able to offer Nigerians. No doubt charges of financial impropriety filed against him are neither cooked up nor are there no Nigerians that can provide a long list of suspected misappropriation on his part.
In a honest paraphrase, Orji Uzor Kalu expressed nothing else than his failure to understand the rationale behind running after far smaller thieves in the form of state governors managing funds that are way lesser than the annual budget of just one Federal parastatal while the big-time thieves running the Federal capital and its institutions are left untouched. The truth that many comments have so far, been made and the fact being self-explanatory that a thief will always remain a thief ÔÇô big or small ÔÇô are reasons enough for the avoidance of details on this aspect of our discourse.
Felt beyond the skin and down through the flesh till deep in the bone, anyone would sympathize with the ex-Governor and understand his frustration.
This is indeed, an issue that hits the raw nerve of the lame duck government presently running the nation from the federal capital. A lame duck government with due and comprehensible reasons for maintaining the status of standing still! True to it, it is a daunting task to take on Olusegun Obasanjo without standing up against political dilemmas of sort.
In dealing with President Olusegun Obasanjo, everyone is faced with a largely uncultured leader, who achieved a great deal for his country. This is a man who negotiated debt forgiveness and paid off the rest of the country's major debt with improved oil revenues that he could also well have stolen. This is a leader who laid the groundwork for independence in telecommunications by engineering the construction of Nigeria's own satellite launch. Let us forget for once the rejuvenation of the banking sector, the airways etc. There are a lot more achievements that are simply groundbreaking and attributable to the labor of this ex-President's government. It is distressing to observe critics and sworn enemies simply denying these achievements and focusing solely on his perceived evils that are also all too numerous.
Olusegun Obasanjo is largely uncultured because he gives no damn about decorum and mutual respect. Open and unguarded insults and abuses on his fellow man were all too common in a larger than God fashion
Many of Obasanjo's enemies are people who were either denied political appointments or denied the opportunity of stealing public funds. No doubt, such persons will be doubly aggrieved when they not only perceive but (perhaps) also openly see how this same President steals the public funds that he denied them the opportunity of stealing, while he even goes after them and disgrace them publicly as enemies of Nigeria's progress. These enemies in fact, are always all too happy and pleased when they find any little fact to lay their hands on to disgrace the ex-President in public view.
It is therefore highly understandable that the present government is extremely reluctant to bring General Olusegun Obasanjo to any public dock for the sole purpose of disgracing him before many of his sworn and unforgiving enemies.
Alas there comes a time though, when decisions have to be made. Times when priorities have to be defined!
For all the achievements in the world, no ruler has the right to steal from the coffers that were trustfully kept under his humble watch.
In a furious reaction to one of my recent essays on the ex-President, one compatriot wrote to give me a list of concrete questions on perceived financial wrongdoings on the part of the ex-President. The reader asks: 1. Why were 200 million Transcorp shares given away at ridiculously low rates? 2. How was Otta farm miraculously transformed from a scrap yard in 1999 to a state of the art farmyard today? 3. How were $10 billion spent on electricity while there is nothing to show for it? 4. How were N300 billion spent on roads that are worse off today? 5. What were the underlying guidelines for the allocation and revocation of oil blocks? 6. How were N754 billion worth of oil contracts awarded only in the twilight of the regime? 7. Why were secret accounts operated without the knowledge of the National Assembly? 8. How did Andy Uba transform from a Massage Parlor operator in Los Angeles into one of Nigeria's wealthiest men within a spate of 8 years? 9. How were steel rolling companies sold to parties that did not participate in the bidding process?
While answers to some of the questions above can hardly go any step close to the proof of corruption, they may at best, uncover administrative improprieties. Given the shrewd and crafty manner of Olusegun Obasanjo as we have come to understand in the past few years, I would indeed, not be surprised at all to figure out that there is absolutely nothing available to nail him on. While bank credits may have solved very many issues from farm refurbishment to the acquisition of several private companies, questions may however, be asked if a head of state may not end up compromising his exalted position by being too hugely indebted to private economic interests. There is no doubt that many banks will be all too happy to grant a President as much loans as he requires. It should be recalled that several co-politicians at lesser level were often ending up making gifts of stolen money to the President for one favor or the other.
However, answers to some other questions will indeed, go a long way to quell anxieties and speculations about the activities of the ex-President.
Orji Uzor Kalu, who is himself closer to the corridors of power than myself and many of my readers put together remarked that about 79% of corruption occurs at Federal level while the remaining 21% can be sought at state level. No doubt the Governor had more tangible and near-irrefutable questions to ask the regime of President Obasanjo since he "wrote several petitions to Ribadu on corruption against Obasanjo. Ribadu never investigated any of the petitions."
Precisely this point it is that brings us to the illusionary issue of high expectations on Nuhu Ribadu and his exceptional anti-graft commission. Many Nigerians like Orji Uzor Kalu seemed to have basked in the unforgivable illusion that Nigeria was operating a traditional democracy of several centuries as in the United States, in which the President may appoint a Special Investigator, who would be free to investigate any issue within his scheme of reference including the President himself.
Nigerians simply lacked the wisdom to detect the courage and boldness in the man Ribadu and nurture this element in utmost tranquility until a period that would have been fit enough to carry our democracy forward at least, in the field of investigations across the board. What Nigerians were and are still very good at is the so-called "Gra-gra" mentality of knowing it all and wanting to have it all in one fell swoop.
In the end, we succeeded in trimming down and decimating one viable human weapon that we had at our disposal that would have led the nation through a major distance in curtailing the perpetrators of evils that we seek to eradicate.
Thank goodness even Orji Uzor Kalu has now come around to admit in all openness that Nuhu Ribadu started well and did a good job. It is so strange how people now come around to state that Nuhu Ribadu played politics because he refused to commit suicide by moving into Aso Rock in handcuffs to arrest the serving President, who was his boss and employer. A clear goal incongruence that sets expectation in diametrical opposition to reality!
And when Nigerians start to bash, they usually know no "stop!" Not even at a point when the web was slowly beginning to strengthen and tighten up did some critics recognize Ribadu's slow and cautious movement in all directions. Hardliners would settle for nothing but Ribadu's head. The likes of Orji Uzor Kalu believe it is injustice when corrupt officers are arraigned for public disgrace while the higher ones at Federal level remain untouched. And of course, a friend of Governor Kalu it was who taught the world in public lecturing of sort, of the difference between equity and justice. That equity is not evenly served on all criminals at the same time should not mean that a lesser criminal is not getting justice for his lesser crime because the higher criminal has not been arraigned. The powerful forces at the corridor of power finally made it through and Ribadu was criminalized for being cautiously courageous.
One question will ever loom though: is it really true that no single financial wrongdoing can be established against the ex-President? It may be one thing to be unable to establish a case of outright corruption and looting of public treasury. It will definitely be another issue when nepotism and favoritism take center stage as the circus-hall charges from Gbenga & co. currently indicate!
To the enemies of the ex-President too, the question will always ever loom: what do they all stand to gain from this mob-type call for probe? If a probe is finally installed and President Olusegun Obasanjo publicly disgraced even in a manner worse that the current diabolical charge of incestuous conduct, would the mob be satisfied and get a holy audience with God in heaven?