“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the … public” - Theodore Roosevelt 1918
Did the Nigerian government fritter away $67 billion reserves, including accruals to the Excess Crude Account (ECA), in the last six years? What is the true position of public finances in Nigeria? Who is running one of Africa’s biggest economies aground? These are questions Ms. Obiageli Kathryn Ezekwesili asked the Nigerian government in her recent lecture at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I believe all Nigerians; particularly our media should be asking similar questions and not whether President Jonathan and General Obasanjo have launch together to resolve their manufactured crisis. Let me start out this piece by saying that I am no fan of Ms. Ezekwesili. In fact, during her time as minister of education of Nigeria I wrote several scurrilous letter to her, excoriating her for the mismanagement of government funds by her ministry. However, as Amilcar Cabral once argued any “class suicide” that will advance the interest of the masses should be embraced and foster.
To bring the issue here into focus, Ms. Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Solid Minerals, and Education during the Obasanjo administration and current World Bank Vice President for the Africa region, had delivered a Lecture at the 42nd Convocation Ceremony of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) where she raised issues with the manner the Yar’Adua and Jonathan governments had managed the nation’s foreign reserves left by the Obasanjo administration. She alleged that the regimes mismanaged $45 billion in Foreign Reserves and $22 billion in Excess Crude Account, which they inherited from the Obasanjo administration in 2007.
The current administration response was immediate and swift in condemnation. Rather than address the issues she raised, the regime in Aso Rock, descended on her like a ton of brick, excoriating for having the temerity to question the president. They then resorted to ad hominem attack. In their response, both the minister of information, Labaran Maku and the president’s spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe, attacked Ms. Ezekwesili’s stewardship as education minister, alleging that she received N458.1bn between 2006 and 2007 for the education sector with little or nothing to show for it in terms of achievements. My retort here is when did they discover that the former minister wasted government resources and what did they do about it? Why she was never investigated for such mismanagement? But we all know that this is classic “tu quoque”, a very common fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser. It is a “red herring” since whether Ms. Ezekwesili is guilty of the same, or a similar wrong is irrelevant to the truth of the original charge against the Jonathan/Yardua administration. However, as a diversionary tactic, Tu Quoque can be very effective, since the former minister is now put on the defensive, and I am sure she will feel compelled to defend against the government accusation. My advice to her is to sheathe her swords for the time being, the date and time for that will soon come. I am also encouraged by the fact that Professor Pat Utomi has asked the federal government to apologize to her, but I believe the Nigerian people deserve more than an apology to her. We deserve to know how our resources are being spent, period!
To put a lie to the government ruse, and expose the chicanery of the government, the Nigerian media reported some bizarre line items in the proposed budget of Jonathan’s administration which clearly points to the destinations of the money. In that report published by Punch newspapers on February 4, 2013 titled “Outrage over N4 billion allocation for first ladies’ house”, it states that the government intends to spend amongst others, in this fiscal year, N7 billion to construct two city gates, N150 million for renovation of Vice President’s guest houses in Asokoro, N5 billion for rehabilitation of commercial sex workers. This allocation subsists even while majority of Nigerian primary schools are without books, chairs, tables and roofs. What is more, on any given night, a google satellite image of West Africa will show bright lighted Ghana while the entire Nigeria sky remains in dark. Sadly, the Punch Newspapers report, could not bring itself to link this investigative report to the former minister’s demand for accountability and transparency!
We all know where the mismanagement of the nation’s resources lay and we will be doing our grandchildren a great disservice if we ignore the elephants in the room and chase shadows. The bloated federal government of Nigeria is the root of poverty and mismanagement of abundant wealth in our nation. The only thing that befuddles me in all this is the curious silence of the minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Why has she taken an oath of silence on this issue? I asked because I don’t want her to leave government and then start her own finger pointing. Nigerian people deserve better than the government are giving her. We need to demand that our government provide answers to the pointed questions by Ms. Ezekwesili.
Spokane, WA USA