Nigeria as a country has no single data that can be said to be genuine, original, reliable or dependable, particularly if they come from government, local, state or federal. In most cases, they are either recycled, concocted, distorted, stale, fraudulent or non-existent. This makes it the more difficult to ascertain the volume and magnitude of expenditure incurred for all forms of ceremonies by citizens of Nigeria.
But even then, it is severally acknowledged and widely too, that billions of naira, perhaps trillions are spent annually on ceremonies, cutting across all the cultures in Nigeria.
Year in year out, the world over, various forms and shapes of awards are churned out to “deserving individuals,” especially writers, authors, actors, actresses, musicians, corporate bodies, communities, politicians, etc all for one “outstanding” performance or the other.
It is in appreciation of that that I am strongly inclined to nominate former President Olusegun Obasanjo for the worst cumulative leadership award from 1999 to date, in view of the following verifiable reasons.
When by a sheer misfortune, Obasanjo descended heavily into our political arena with the status of a ‘coupist’, and wearing the badge of state pardon, technically bankrupt with no political home, he met our currency, the naira, relatively stronger and exchanging at N80 to an American dollar. Since 1999, its value had been dwindling by the minute and by 2005, it was exchanging for 147 to the dollar. For all practical purposes, this made it difficult and impossible for those within the confines of legitimate income to break-even or survive.
Obasanjo hates criticism no matter how genuine, well intentioned or constructive, perhaps due to his training and upbringing. The best way he always reacts to criticisms is by referring to those doing them as “cynic” or people who breeds thieves, instead of checking his avoidable old-age derailment, make-beliefs and delusion. He is the only ruler in the history of Nigeria who openly poured invectives on clergies who dared admonish him on the Lord’s commands.
Other citizens that didn’t wear religious garb were flogged publicly by him at any slight loss of temper, in spite of the fact that there are more than adequate laws in our statute books to check perceived offenders.
Similarly, when Obasanjo was president, a duly elected governor was abducted, harassed and insulted by a set of juvenile miscreants in Anambra state and the only comment he made was that the crisis was a routine family squabbles that had neither legal nor democratic solution.
Under his messianic leadership, Obasanjo made Nigerians of all tribes, cultures, religions and other influences, to become substantially much more suspicious of and hostile to one another more than ever before, even though to his eternal credit they became united by hunger, poverty, general insecurity with clear uncertainty of their collective future.
Obasanjo, through his anti-people and anti-God educational policies, strangulated federal high institutions by having their grants deliberately withdrawn or slashed substantially. He also went further to force them in privatizing all courses, wherein students paid consultancy rates as in all fees in addition to forcing them to pay room rates at Abuja-rate. He prefers to fight the academic staff openly instead of engaging them in dialogue.
Against all democratic etiquettes and in spite of his claim to religious morality and ‘born-againsm’, Obasanjo connived with some selected law makers and fraudulently introduced an unknown clause into the Electoral Law and was even deceptively appealing to Nigerians for patience while assenting to the doctored law. The same confused old man that expects Nigerians to see him as a transparent leader and a father of all. During Obasanjo’s administration, Nigerians witnessed more ritual killings, selected high profile murders, selective justice, industrial Labour strikes, forced detentions than under any government.
In spite of the trillions of Naira that accrued from 1999 till he left office, Obasanjo deliberately and willfully refused to implement any appropriation acts because he seems not to have faith in the laws of the land in addition to having infinite disdain on the Nigerian people and their “representatives”. In compliance with his masters’ command and in his bid to take Nigeria to the comity of “civilized” nations, Obasanjo swallowed on behalf of all Nigerians the deadly privatization pill, hook line and sinker which saw him selling our common patrimonies not necessarily to the highest bidder, but in most cases to the lowest under questionable circumstances.
And to make matters worse, he introduced oligopoly into the banking sector by insisting on 25 billion capitalisation which clearly restricts entry and forces exit.
From 1999 to 2007, on his directives, orders and instructions billions of Naira import duties and concessions were extended to companies mostly belonging to the people of his tribal extractions or political affiliates thereby short changing all Nigerians, denying the rest of the much-needed revenue and giving further trade and commercial advantage over the rest of us. A clear case of robbing Peter to pay Paul because Paul has no wide mouth he would have used to cry foul even when none exists.
He presided over the spending of billions of Naira executing a fraudulent I.D. card project. He sanctioned further billions in hosting the so-called All African Games at a time when Nigerians were and are still facing increased hardship and worst of all the list of all contractors who handled the games contract reflect nepotism and sectionalism. He authorized yet many more billions to host a ceremonial commonwealth heads of government meeting whose wealth is not common.
He squandered further billions in conducting the most fraudulent election in April 2003 whose fraudulency was acknowledged by both local, regional and international monitors and observers. He constructed a stadium using billions of Naira at inflated sum even as World Bank officials confirmed the same inflation at a time when doctors, nurses and federal civil servants were on national strike for non-payment of their legitimate entitlements.
Finally, and in view of all these reasons and many more not mentioned for want of space, that Obasanjo did from 1999 and doing till today has forced millions of Nigerians to remain unemployed, further millions homeless, additional millions diseased and sick, uncountable millions hungry, in distress and uncertain about their future and that of that of their children and dependents.
With him presiding over public structures are decaying, industries collapsing with nobody safe at home, in the office, on the highways, at banking halls and even at worship centres.
In normal societies, people who spearheaded and masterminded the above absurdities would have automatically qualified for psychiatric evaluation and assessment and would have mostly likely ended up in an asylum. But Nigeria is not a normal society and the best anybody can say is that Obasanjo is the worst Nigerian leader from 1999 to date and should be conferred with an accolade, prize, gifts, investiture and special honour for deploying excess guts, courage, and audacity in bringing majority of Nigerians to the current stage of despair, despondency, stagnation, indignity and uncertainty in the midst of plenty.
Shehu is Chairman/CEO, Dailogue Group Limited, Kaduna.