One of Obasanjo’s gravest scams was his diversion of the nation’s resources to wangle a constitutional amendment that would have enabled him to own the presidency unto death. It was no secret that billions of naira was spent to bribe legislators into assenting to the rape of the national will. In the heat of the illicit campaign, each reluctant legislator was reportedly offered a bait of N50 million.
Jigawa State’s former governor, Saminu Turaki, has told the EFCC that, at Obasanjo’s behest, he put in over N10 billion of his state’s income in the third term war chest. Turaki specifically named Andy Uba as the man who picked up the money on behalf of the former president. Uba rushed out with a tepid refutation, implying that Turaki’s fertile imagination had run away with him. I’m sorry, but I found Turaki’s claim more convincing than the denial.
In fact, Turaki was far from being the only governor to make a foolish, imprudent investment in the dud that was third term. Many other governors, seduced with promises of getting automatic third term berths, also dipped hands in their state treasuries to support a crooked proposition. Obasanjo and his aides threw slush funds into a diseased political project, but the former president could neither find the money nor the inclination to repair the Sagamu-Ore-Benin expressway—perhaps the most heavily used highway in the nation.
In the past, with Obasanjo still in the saddle, the EFCC had chosen to feign ignorance. The commission pretended not to know that the whole third term charade was sponsored and sustained through corrupt inducement. It is time the commission got cracking, and got to the bottom of this mess. Obasanjo’s depraved pursuit of third term in the face of unmistakable national opposition brought the nation dangerously close to anarchy.
Obasanjo’s major contribution to Nigeria’s political experience may well be as a chastening, cautionary tale about the limits of power. Though gifted with a great outpouring of goodwill in 1999, Obasanjo chose to fritter away his fund of goodwill in pursuit of self-aggrandizement. At each dramatic turn he placed himself on the wrong side of public expectation. He consorted with thugs and more than a smattering of criminals. Then, as he faced the certainty of his exit from office, he began an effete attempt to rig history. He declared himself founder of modern Nigeria. He even suggested that, without him as our perpetual guide, Nigeria was lost.
He has lived long enough after leaving office to grasp the low regard in which he’s held in and outside of Nigeria. Any praise that’s come Yar’Adua’s way so far owed precisely to his reversal of Obasanjo’s policies and renunciation of the ex-president’s odious style. Last week, few Nigerians used a flattering word while speaking about Obasanjo. The delusive founder of modern Nigeria has turned into Nigeria’s chief villain.