The Limits of Executive Extortionism


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The Limits of Executive Extortionism




Paul mamza



May 25, 2005



It was Professor Wole Soyinka, the noble laureate, who coined these right words to describe President Olusegun Obasanjo’s excessiveness in Abeokuta, Ogun state (The President’s home state).

The event is the launching of a presidential library named after the President himself and the occasion was witnessed by the President’s Political appointees, Contractors of government, the serving Ministers and governors amongst others. When asked about both the event and the mode of launching of the library, Professor Soyinka said in unequivocal terms “Mind you, Obasanjo is a very transparent man. He did it transparently. It is just the same. What happened in Abeokuta is executive extortionism. What I like about it is, it is open, transparent. But it is extortion all the same”.


The local folks had a clasp of clarity on the leadership respect that when a leader must commit the irreverent, the leader should do it under the cover of darkness and not under the humiliating exposures of sun and moonlights. The leader, they say, transmit the course of his actions or inactions as a louring sky especially when it is in the offensive. Inadvertently the leader’s stars assumed the image of the sky of perfidy he thus created in its exacerbations. Transparent corruption on the part of leadership destroys completely the moral fibre of credible expectations from the followership, more so when the leadership claims to fight corrupt practices. A hidden posture of skilful corruption can temporarily make momentary impact of perceptions but transparent corruption permanently make closures of morality and conceptions with only negative impacts of unseriousness and incriminate finesse.


A courageous and successful war against corruption in Nigeria must follow three paths; the psychological, the moral and the physical in that order. Each path must succeed in order to move to the other; until it reaches the ultimate. The ultimate stage must secure sound foundations of credible and evaluating model offered by the psychological and moral pursuits. When the President clamped down on the cream of former Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara, the former Minister of Education Chief Fabian Osuji and others- being the first declarative war in six years of the life of his regime- the psychological path way was almost muted until the recent carnival in Abeokuta (the launching of the President Obasanjo’s library) where the President used his right hand to destroy what he had psychologically nurtured and pampered by his left hand.


A successful psychological war would have secured the basis for moral justification and hence effect an all- inclusive war against corruption being the physical stage. With the new developments in Abeokuta, President Obasanjo lack the muscles to confront corrupt forces head-on especially on the powerful forces that manifest as a physical forces of corruption scavenging on the available resources of the country, they will defeat the President hands down if the war rages on as earlier initiated in that case the master-puppeteer will become the puppet in the contest of deceit. The late General Sani Abacha’s War Against Indiscipline and Corruption (WAI-C) and Major- General Muhammadu Buhari’s earlier War Against Indiscipline (WAI) would have collapsed impromptu without success at the psychological and moral grounds. But with President Obasanjo’s recent so-called ‘Abacha Loot’, some cynics will question Abacha’s credibility if Abacha were to come back as a leader to initiate the same war.


For a discerning mind the indictment of Abacha is an extension of extortion through blackmail because no one had told us in clear terms his initial legitimate assets and the alleged looted money and to add salt to injury of lack of credible and evaluative process, General Abacha is not alive to defend himself but General Buhari will pass the test of perceptions if he were to come back even with the most vigorous of cynics. At best, the executives extortion witnessed in Abeokuta was a re-enactment of the gory images of the combinational forces of the sheer self- greed of the late Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and excessive show of force through coercion by late Idi Amin Dada of Uganda. In the United States (US) where Nigeria is keeping keen eyes to emulate its model of leadership, Presidential libraries are launched after the President in question vacates office. In this light, a bad history of antecedent will be documented on how a leader uses his office to enhance his private image and gains.


The same President had earlier accused some governors of same offence, which he said was totally irresponsible. The N 7 billion library to be commissioned in two years time by probably the President himself would poignantly put to affirmation the nationwide belief that President Obasanjo says one thing and does the other. Which contractors mindful of success would not donate generously to this project in anticipation of recognition by government which Obasanjo heads? Being the de facto Petroleum Minister, would any oil company worth its salt not identify with intent of favours and patronage by its minister? What about the serving Ministers and governors who wanted to extend hand of friendship and alloyed support? How do we, then tame for instance, a village headmaster who by convictions draws sympathy of his pupils to donate paltry sum of money for the headmaster’s family upkeep and the partial renovation of his thatched house ruined by say a desert whirlwind or a WASSCE student paying the sum of N 5,000.00 to examination bodies to get a question paper two weeks before the real day of examination as recently publicized by the Vanguard Newspapers?


The successful fighter against corruption in Nigeria should not be anonymous. His antecedents must be known, his image must illuminate light over looming darkness and his approach must be objectives. The President Olusegun Obasanjo’s library project should be disbanded in earnest with due apology to all Nigerians and all monies collected, donated to charity homes if the President is sincere about the fight against corruption.


As Professor Wole Soyinka said earlier, an executive Extortionist cannot be a transparent leader and we need a transparent leader in order to initiate and propagate a fight against corruption and conquer the hydra-headed monster that has become the nemesis of the Nigeria State. This is the right time to act fast and in earnest.




Mamza, a Political Columnist with the Leadership Newspapers writes from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria    




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