Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

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August 23, 2005

PRESS STATEMENT

COMPOSITION OF NPA BOARD:

OBASANJO VERSUS ALI

According to The Punch of 23, 2005, President Olusegun Obasanjo, through the secretary to the government of the federation, Chief Ufot Ekaete, has suspended the inauguration of the recently nominated and approved Board members of Nigerian Ports Authority. According to government’s statement "The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has directed that the recent announcement of the board of the Nigerian Ports Authority should be suspended pending the conclusion of the ongoing Ports Reform Concessioning exercise. Any inconvenience caused is regretted".

However, according to The Punch report, the main reason for the suspension of the inauguration of the nominated board members was primarily informed by the fact that the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, used his position to nominate his wife, Dr. MN Ali as the Chairman of the board while his son, Ali Ogala Adah, through the same process got nominated as a board member to the Nigeria Railway Corporation.

What are the germane issues raised by this development? There are two main conclusions that can be drawn from The Punch story and government’s statement. One, one can decide on its face value belief the government position. Two, one could also choose to belief The Punch story which, in fact, was first reported in its edition of Saturday, August 20, 2005.

If the government was being honest about its reason, then The Punch "scoop" must have been false. But if The Punch "scoop" is correct, which it is in some respects, then the issue that arises is what does the President intend to achieve with his directive? The straight forward answer will be that the President expects, or will expect, the public to regard his directive as another proof of his determination to fight corruption and abuse of office no matter how highly placed the person involved might be. Before the evaluation of this supposition however it is pertinent to examine government’s directive against the background of what happened on the issue in case.

Firstly, it should be noted that the President has "approved" the nomination of the board members in issue. Therefore coming out later to suspend their inauguration on the spurious excuse of "a pending … Reform Concessioning exercise" is the greatest manifestation of policy incoherence and administrative disorganization at the peak of the highest authorities in the land.

On the other hand, if the suspension of the inauguration of the NPA board was actually due to what The Punch reported, namely that "sources in the presidency said that Obasanjo was ‘terribly scandalized and embarrassed by the decision of the PDP National Chairman to appoint his wife and son into the two boards when there are eminently qualified party men he should have nominated", then, President Obasanjo, as usual, is trying to eat his cake and keep it.

One, this will clearly reinforce the known pattern that there are untouchables like IBB, Abubarka, Chevron, Ali etc in President Obasanjo so-called war against corruption. Two, it means the President, by making occasional scapegoats of a few individuals, he is trying to spread the legend of a courageous anti-corruption crusader while in reality, he has no serious intention of bringing culprits to book, not to talk of having serious intention and programmes to fight the root cause of massive corruption.

The Heart of the matter

One, instead of focusing the main attention on the current ‘fall guy’, Ahmadu Ali, the main point that comes out of this sordid episode is that the prevailing system is synonymous to cronyism and self serving characteristics. For instance, the attention is being fraudulently focused on the fact that Ali used his position to nominate his wife and son instead of "more qualified party men". In reality however, the very system that allows highly placed government and ruling party officials to nominate candidates into choice positions itself is the mother of all corruption and abuse of power.

To corroborate this assertion, the cited Punch edition of August 23, 2005 equally reported that "another party top shots nominated 10 of his kinsmen into the boards". Therefore, even if the appointment of the current nominees are suspended or cancelled, as long as the present elite political system remains, the eventual nominees will of necessity have to be those made by one highly placed personality or another, in and out of government.

In a related exercise, President Obasanjo, early this year cancelled the sales of certain government properties at Ikoyi, Lagos. The main reason for this exercise amongst others was that the then Minister of housing, Mrs. Mobolaji Osomo, had sold the properties in issue, mostly to highly placed serving officials including President’s own wife, Stella, who between herself and her relations bought about 8 of the choice properties being sold in accordance with the reigning privatisation policy.

Of course, the president then used the cancellation as a proof of his "anti-corruption war". We say this because the pertinent issues were not addressed. One, the property in issue individually goes for hundred of millions ofnaira and the purchase property price was paid up front at once!

The pertinent issues therefore are: How did the buyers acquire the kind of stupendous amounts spent on the purchases? What was the rate of their taxes in the past period? To those among them who would readily claim to have secured bank loans for their purchases, what forms of collateral were given to their banks and what was the rate of their taxes on these collaterals over the past period?

In an economy bedevilled with mass poverty, extremely low and profitable industrial, agricultural and business activities, who but plain looters in government and all their relations and cronies can afford to buy these property whenever they are put for sales as dictated by the privatisation strategy?

Therefore, the fact that highly placed, like Ali, who was a former minister way back in the 70s could not make ends meet without using their positions to get things done for their relations shows beyond any reasonable doubt that the current socio-economic system could not be sustained without official corruption and mass poverty.

To end this vicious circle, the working masses need to fight to change the prevailing unjust socio-economic and political order. Under this unjust system, enormous economic and political power is placed in the hands of a few. According to John Locke, a bourgeois philosopher, "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". To therefore destroy the basis of the perennial corruption that dominate the economy and polity today, it is imperative for a working peoples’ government to take over the commanding heights of the economy and resources of nature under the common ownership, democratic control and management of the working people themselves.

If the main resources of society are commonly owned by all, there will be no chance for a few individuals as it is happening under this so-called privatisation order to convert to themselves what belongs to all.

Under a genuine working peoples’ control and management of the commonly owned resources, it will be possible to guarantee decent living for all and as such, there will be less objective basis for individuals to want to corner as much private wealth as possible for themselves in the needles task of having to provide for relations and cronies.

Consequently, we demand the immediate stoppage of the privatisation exercise which, from our experience, so far can only deepen the corrupt processes of the capitalist society. We also demand that all those who abuse and use their positions in a corrupt manner should be exposed, properly sanctioned or tried in a court of competent jurisdiction or whatever is applicable.

We nonetheless hold the position that only a workers and poor peasants’ government, where all officials are elected and subject to recall of their various constituencies, can deal a mortal blow to abuse of power and cronyism which are inherent in an elitist capitalist polity.

 

Segun Sango

DSM General Secretary