Obasanjo: The Leader They Trust


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Obasanjo: The Leader They Trust




Jide Ayobolu





November 16, 2006


Undoubtedly the bane of the Nigerian State is leadership. Nigeria has not been fortunate to have purposeful and visionary leadership that can help galvanize the country to the pinnacle of socio-economic and political growth and development. The situation is even more horrendous under the military jackboots that are not responsible to anybody but themselves. This is in addition to gross violation of the constitution, mismanagement of the national economy, misappropriation of public funds, and the centralization of a pluralistic country like Nigeria, scant regard for the rule of law, due process, judiciary and constitutionalism. Nigerians had no say in what the military did, as it was everyman to himself God for us all.


So, it was with joy and very high expectation that the Nigerian populace received the government of Obasanjo in 1999. It was thought then that, at least since democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. It will be a government that is considerate and carry out programmes that will ameliorate the deplorable conditions of the Nigeria people and take the national economy out of the woods. It was expected that the government would be concerned about the needs, aspirations, desires, plights, expectations and concerns of the Nigerian people. All these have been nothing but a tantalizing mirage. Not only was misanthropic economic policies pursued, to the Obasanjo’s government that the people amounts to nothing in its estimation. This was the period when there was constant friction between the legislature and executive occasioned by the autocratic nature of President Obasanjo, this is coupled with the ceaseless violation of the various provisions of the constitution and the systematic institutionalization of Ghana-Must-Go as an instrument of political settlement.


It will be recalled that in the first four years of the Obasanjo administration, Nigeria was in the wilderness, as the President kept gallivanting throughout the globe, not minding the multiplicity of encumbrances the country is enmeshed in. He is rather more interested in what the international community thinks about him. This is the real reason that the developmental dividends of democracy have not percolated to the people that actually needs them. Instead of setting goals and targets that can positively move the country, he plays the politics of divide and rule, ethnic sentiment, religious passion, exclusionist agenda and runs a- one- man- show.

In 2003, when he was re-elected and since he started his so-called reforms programmes, things have not dramatically improved for the Nigerian people. The price of petroleum products has been increase 11 times; as a result of the privatization programme hundreds of thousands of people have lost their means of livelihood. In fact, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, over 70 per cent of the entire Nigeria population lives on less than less than $1 per day.


 Indeed, when the economic programmes of the government were put together, it was hurriedly done without wide consultations. Today, in Nigeria many people don’t know what NEEDS is, or what is in the NEEDS document? The various dramatis personae in the Nigerian economy do not know what NEEDS stands for. So, if people are not generally of these basic facts, how can they work in tandem with the government to bail Nigeria out of the protracted economic morass? That is why nothing is working in the country today.



 Today, in Nigeria, healthcare centers are worst than mere consulting clinics, education sector is in a shambles, agriculture is in a very pitiable state as Nigeria imports most of what it consumes, housing is just for the very affluent, roads are in a deplorable state of disrepair, solid minerals development is virtually not existent, power supply is terrible even after when over $1 billion have been expended on the crucial sector, adequate water supply is still a tall dream, yet there is constant water and power supply in Ghana, Benin Republic and Togo, the per capita income, GNP, GDP and industrial capacity utilization are abysmally low. So, what concrete things can the government point to as achievement, if it is telecommunications, for instance, it is a big rip-off, it would be recalled that Nigerians, fought tooth and nail before the per second billing system came on board, ditto the price of SIM cards, there is also the problem of network failures and other connectivity problems associated with telecoms in Nigeria, and we know what obtains in different countries of the world, why is Nigeria different.


It is instructive to note the 1999 constitution which Obasanjo swore on oath to uphold, gave specific instruction as to how the economy should be managed. For instance, section 16(1) b state very clearly that the state shall, “control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity”. Section16 (2) c stipulates that, “the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individual or of a group; and section 16(2) d explains that, “suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizen”. The government has failed to do any of this, yet democracy is predicated on the rule of law and constitutionalism, so what type of democracy are we practicing in Nigeria?


It is funny and laughable that government points to the re-consolidation exercise of banks from N2billion to N25billion, but the fact is that the people of Nigeria have not been empowered enough to stabilize and propel the internal dynamics of Nigeria’s productive force. And, are the banks actually re-capitalized? Again, why has a lot of local or domestic companies’ closed shop in Nigeria? Why has the so-much talked about foreign investment eluded the country?


 Yes, the government of the day makes a lot of noise about having so much cash in the foreign reserve, but these are monies generated as a result of increase in oil prices in the international market, and not because of the propensity of the domestic manufacturing sector to produce massive and compete at the world market. In any case, why stockpile cash, when there are different area of the economy begging for attention? Today in the country, poverty and unemployment are the order of the day, corruption writs large and nothing seems to be working, as the government seems to be bereft of ideas, and therefore in a cul-de sac.


Unfortunately, this is the same government that wants to sit-tight, until the third term agenda was roundly defeated in the National Assembly. Now, the same self-serving government and the Ahmadu Ali led garrison politics want to impose a candidate on the Nigerian people. This is certainly not how to play politics. This government should therefore learn to behave democratically and allow the will of the people to prevail. Also, those at the helm of affairs today should know that whatever has a beginning will surely come to an end one day. And, on the day of reckoning they will be asked or their stewardship. So, in whatever, they do or fail to do, history and posterity is there to judge according. But certainly this is not the type of government and people Nigerians bargained for. Nigerians deserve a better deal. Nigerians have never had a true democratically elected government in the real sense of the word, as the polity has been highly militarized, and without mincing words, this is not the best of times for Nigeria and Nigerians.


It is very germane to underscore the fact that, Obasanjo’s government lacks a cohesive, coherent, articulate, people- oriented and comprehensive economic policy. What it has done since the commencement of its reform programme is to implement policies as churned out by the international financial organizations and donor agencies, however none of this policies can effectively guarantee organic development, what it has done is to encourage the development of underdevelopment, as well as promote capital flight while making the Nigerian economy perpetually subservient or eternally tied to the apron strings of the international finance capital. Yet, the economic term lacks the boldness to tell the President to his face that, the policies he’s making so much noise about is a wrong step in the wrong direction, indeed, it is an ill-wind that blows no one any good.


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