LET us play a little catch up. Cast our minds back to may, 1999. Olusegun Obasanjo has just been sworn in as president of a new democratic government, with the whole world hailing his coming. The country just got out of the grip of the iron rule of Sanni Abacha and the interregnum represented by the Abdusallam Abubakar regime served as a fore runner to a truly democratically elected government. The Abacha regime had driven Nigeria into a pariah state and foreign developed countries were not keen on doing business with us. That set the template for Obasanjo’s first assignment; restoring Nigeria’s goodwill amongst the international community.
The manner Obasanjo chose to do this was globetrotting. So began a government of gallivanting. In his book, The Absentee President, Chief Gani Fawehinmi summarised Obasanjo’s travels thus: “In three years of his presidency, Obasanjo has travelled out of the country 93 (ninety three) times for a period of 340(three hundred and forty) days. Many of the disasters that have befallen the nation during his presidency took place in his absence”. According to Gani, that was one year absence out of three years, not including those wasted on domestic travels. He spent much time travelling than staying at home to tackle the urgent and pressing needs of governance. Far away from the activities on ground, Obasanjo lost focus and by the time he came back to reality, he realised that he was not on the same wave length with his vice president. There began another struggle between the two which distracted them from real governance, culminating ultimately to the disarray of PDP, nay the nation today. So, when Obasanjo talks today, he is so oblivious of the role he played in bringing this country to this sorry pass.
That is not even the issue here; all the gallivanting and junketings, all the meetings with world leaders, of what benefit were they to Nigeria? None. Instead, we witnessed another round of neo colonialism, where our economy was left in the hands of big businesses and interests, major assets of the country were sold to friends, both foreign and within – Delta steel and many others. While Obasanjo dined with world leaders and Nigeria’s oil was being stolen and sold abroad, what did our foreign friends do? Nothing. Some will argue that the travels enabled the debt concession of the Paris Club and some again will ask, at what price? On the whole, those trips by Obasanjo between 1999 and 2002 were just a waste of the hard earned resources of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Coming down to the present, since President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in May 2015, it has been one foreign trip after another, reminiscent of the Obasanjo years. You cannot say that President Jonathan left Nigeria a pariah nation. In fact, as recently as September 24, 2014 he addressed the United Nation 69th General Assembly and until he left government in May 2015, he was still engaged in shuttle diplomacy with neighbouring heads of state on the matter of Boko Haram.
Buhari must stay at home and ensure that the nation is in stable condition in all ramifications before embarking on foreign trips. History has shown that the West is not to be relied on. They are full of promises, with many strings attached. Obasanjo depended on them, he even gave them Charles Taylor but Nigeria got nothing for his efforts. Jonathan had a good relationship with them but when it came to the nitty gritty, they betrayed him. They refused to sell vital weapons that will help the nation defeat Boko Haram insurgents and for what reason? Because Goodluck Jonathan refused to endorse their Gay rights. So they framed it up as human rights abuses, blackmailing Nigeria before the entire world which culminated in the recent insult from US congress man Leahy on our military men.
That is the situation we have found ourselves, the country will never move forward unless we adopt home grown solutions. Depending on America and her European allies will only result in a game of musical chairs, where one keeps going round and round. So much motion, no movement forward. They will soon begin to exert pressure on President Buhari to endorse Gay rights and if he refuses, they will begin their subtle blackmail and that will be the end of all their promises. We have seen it all in the past, promises to repatriate stolen monies, crude oil thefts, laundered funds and support against Boko Haram are all gimmicks. They are only good at promising with conditions, nothing goes for nothing. Buhari must brace up and concentrate on finding only homemade solutions like the Chinese and Indians have done
I read Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s and his committees are resorting to foreign firms to come and do forensic audit in various government accounts, another waste of resources. What is in that account? Let the people there account for it and if they cannot, the government should take appropriate actions, there is nothing new, go through NEITI past audit and the rest of them, very soon you will hear that these foreign firms are friends of committee members or through a third party friend.
The solution to the whole accounts issue is the Nigerian attitude. Work on changing the attitudes of Nigerians through the appropriate institutions and you will see wonders. But, you cannot change attitude positively if your programmes are so manifestly biased against a section of the country, if appointments only favour a particular group and if probes are directed only towards a particular party. You cannot change attitude positively if you are saying one thing and seen to be doing another. That has been our burden and the present government has not departed from this trend judging from what we see and read in the media.
Our solution is not abroad, carry the people along with sincerity of purpose and fairness, they will help build the nation to a viable position.We have the resources and the human capacity to go with it. What is remaining is the will.
How it plays out ultimately depends on Mr. President.
Mr. Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, writes from Lagos