Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Presidential Endorsement Of Plundering Of Public Funds
Dan Azumi Kofarmata
November 23, 2005
Recently I advised President Obasanjo against being hoodwinked and outsmarted by State Governors into endorsing fraudulent white elephant projects that have littered the landscapes of our States all over the country. This I did when it became public that President Obasanjo was scheduled to visit Sokoto State for official commissioning of some State and Federal Government projects respectively. The visit was scheduled for Sunday November 20, 2005 to Tuesday November 22, 2005. The rest is now history.
Recently, two former U.S. ambassadors and friends of Nigeria Messrs Ambassadors Cohen and Jitter warned that President Obasanjo’s consideration of a third term would be “immoral” and “could undermine the President’s stature”. Similarly, President Obasanjo’s commissioning of Sokoto State government’s projects during his official visit to the State can be said to be immoral and have also undermined his stature as an ardent believer in accountability, transparency and a stickler of due process in public finance. The reason for making this rather unfortunate harsh judgement against President Obasanjo is not difficult to glance.
First, let me build my case to buttress the point I made above. When the sad news about the sudden death of the First Lady Chief Mrs Stella Obasanjo was announced, I immediately said to a friend of mine, that some shameless politicians; particularly those who for one reason or another, are not in the good books of President Obasanjo will soon cashed-in and attempt to make political gains out of the tragedy. I was particularly thinking of Governors Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto State, Orji Kalu of Abia State, Dariye of Plateau State, Boni Haruna of Adamawa State, James Ibori of Delta State, Chris Ngige of Anambra State and even the then London-detained D. S. P. Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State. The reason for focusing on these named Governors is not difficult to glance; especially for those familiar with the rather not too friendly type of relationships between these named Governors and President Obasanjo.
I was easily vindicated when Governor Orji Kalu made public his condolence message to President Obasanjo over the sudden and sad death of his “Mama” First Lady Chief Mrs. Stella Obasanjo. I need not to reproduce what he said here as it is abundantly available in the public domain. Next, was Governor Boni Haruna; he named a public facility in Yola, Adamawa State capital to immortalise the deceased First Lady, Chief Mrs. Stella Obasanjo. Others will soon follow these exemplary gestures. She deserved all the respect and honours for a departed soul. May her gentle soul rest in perfect peace. Amen.
I then told my good friend to wait and see what the “Jackal” (the name we fondly use to describe Governor Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto State) of Sokoto State will do. I tried to convince my friend that Governor Bafarawa will out do all these early rushers; rushing to make an impression before President Obasanjo. As days and weeks went by, my friend laughed me off. He bluntly told me that I should bury my head in shame. My friend even challenged me demanded that since I failed in my judgement, I should consider paying him some amount of money as penalty. However, I reminded him that we are still observing the month of Ramadan (Muslim Fasting period). That was how I escaped paying the penalty. I told him to wait for a while as there is still time before I can finally concede defeat. Hallelujah! Obasanjo’s visit to Sokoto State is now my saving grace and I am finally vindicated. The “Jackal” has finally done it and in grand style.
Bafarawa named a Technical college in his village after President Obasanjo; the President he generally considers as his arch political punching bag in his quest for self promotion as the Garkuwan (Shield of the north against Obasanjo’s perceived marginalisation) Arewa. For those who do not and or may not understand what is going on here I would like to seek for your patience. It is all grand politics of deception. President Obasanjo has again, shown that he still has some learning to do about deconstruction of politics of deception which is one of the characteristics of the so-called New Breed politicians. I decided to pay a visit to Sokoto on Saturday, November 19, 2005 to see for myself some of the projects to be commissioned by Mr. President. I was particularly curious about the magnificent and majestic 900 million naira flyover constructed over the federal dual carriageway leading to the Airport and then changed to a single trunk lane all the way to Lagos. In Hausa language we say Gani ya kori ji (meaning: Seeing is believing).
I reserve my comments on what I saw with my very eyes. The reason being that, I may be wrongly accused of bias against the “action” Governor of Sokoto State (Dr.) Attahiru Bafarawa (Garkuwan Sokoto), whom I understand, does not tolerate any criticism against his administration. I therefore leave it to others to pass judgement on these projects (not that I am afraid to voice my opinion) that President Obasanjo was so overwhelmed that he challenged other Governors to come to Sokoto and see and emulate Governor Bafarawa on how public funds are well and judiciously spent in constructing fly-overs in the State capital. Ironically, Sokoto town is considered as one of the State capitals with the least motor traffic volume and density in the country. One curious observer like me said to me that the money squandered on the fly-over could have been spent in providing basic health services, education etc to the majority rural poverty stricken and illiterate (both Islamic and Western types of education) populace of Sokoto State. I still refrained from passing any further judgement.
On examining the impressive itinerary of the visit, I noticed that Mr. President was scheduled to visit the former popular Polo Club to commission the Super luxury private estates of Umaru Kwabo and other top notch ANPP stalwarts. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Sokoto town, the real estates in this part of the city are the best edifices any one can find in Sokoto State and beyond. They are likened to Oasis in the desert. Don’t ask me how the former Polo club became the private landholdings of the new landlords and how the money used to construct the Las Vegas-type of real estates came about. I think Sokoto State indigenes are best suited to ask the questions and or provide the answers. Also, I understand that the Bayelsans have started asking Governor Dr. D. S. P. Alamieyeseigha questions and are eagerly awaiting answers. We are slowly but definitely getting to the Promised Land.
I should also remind us of other messages that Governor Bafarawa wants President Obasanjo to market for him. Many State Governors are not happy with the rankings assigned to them by the National Planning Commission when it conducted a national survey of the States recently. Sokoto State is one of them. In fact, not long ago, the State castigated Prof. Ayagi’s National Economic Intelligence Committee’s (NEIC) for ranking it very low when it conducted a performance ranking of State s nationwide. In fact, Sokoto State Government accused Professor Ayagi of bias against the State (see http://www.sokoto-state.com/news29.html). By this august visit, Governor Bafarawa is now assuming that President Obasanjo has exonerated him and Sokoto State from the ranks poor performers and poor performing States. After all, Presidential pass mark is by far, higher and better than the ratings from Office of the Economic Adviser to the President/National Planning Commission.
The next message Bafarawa wants to convey is that Mr. President has cleared him of any wrong doing as far as the issue of ownership of a mansion in London allegedly purchased by the Governor not long ago. May be the mere presence of Obasanjo in Sokoto State and the hurricane of praises showered on Bafarawa by Mr. President are enough evidence to support and buttress this belief. I hear that Governor Bafarawa even tendered publicly, a Bank “Cheque” containing hefty balance in billions of naira in the Sokoto State Government Accounts Mr. President to see. This is the highest level of commitment to accountability, transparency and adherence to due process in governance. However, how I wish it was the London-based Hart Group Ltd, the accounting firm that is currently auditing the accounts of the NNPC that rendered the Sokoto State Government Statement of Accounts that was presented at the occasion. I would have recommended Governor Bafarawa for the proverbial and controversial “third term” in office with immediate effect.
Also, I would have loved the Governor to go the extra mile by providing Mr. President and Sokoto State citizens’ information on how the contracts were awarded, which companies were awarded the jobs etc. Making this information public and easily verifiable will be the hallmark of accountability, transparency and due process. Both President Obasanjo and Governor Attahiru Bafarawa failed this very simple test of probity.
The war against corruption under President Obasanjo is fast losing its steam as his perceived selectivity and inactions on some alleged and established cases all have created and contributed to the present atmosphere of cynicism and disbelief in the minds of many Nigerians and foreign governments. The third term hidden agenda is making it even worst. Moreover, accepting to commission projects (State Government-owned or Federal Government-owned) of highly questionable integrity in terms of desirability and probity weakens the whole moral grounds for waging anti-corruption war. Worst still accepting and or allowing projects of questionable integrity to be named after Mr. President and or his late beloved wife make the whole thing nauseating.
Before I am misunderstood, my choice of Sokoto State and Governor Attahiru Bafarawa as the case studies for this analysis is for reason of currency. Most of the States Governors are as guilty as Governor Attahiru Bafarawa on most of the issues raised and analysed in this article.
I end this analysis as usual, by offering my candid advice to President Obasanjo. Mr. President should stop endorsing and laundering the malfeasance of State Governors (and his own Ministers as well) by officiating in the expensive commissioning of ill-conceived, badly designed and executed projects which more often than not, collapse few days/weeks/months as the case may be, after the marrying making was over.
Mr President, your unnecessary fraternisation with dubious State Governors and some tinted ranking politicians of your party and the alleged pursuit of the so-called “Third Term” hidden agenda are daily undermining the credibility and moral high grounds of your lauded anti-corruption war. You are also undermining your stature as a statesman and incorruptible African and world leader respectively.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.