Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
OBASANJO’S ANTI-CORRUPTION POSTURING WILL NOT HALT TREASURY LOOTING
Some Nigerians may take Obasanjo’s regime as being serious with its current anti-corruption posture, particularly with a handful of government officials publicly exposed and sacked for being corrupt and some arraigned in the court of law for possible prosecution on corruption charges.
The list of the scapegoats in the latest anti-corruption publicity stunt by Obasanjo, the grand master of corruption himself, includes Tafa Balogun, (ex-Inspector General of Police forced to retire over N13 billion illegally acquired wealth), Mrs. Bola Osomo, former Housing Minister dismissed over federal government property sale scandal, Professor Fabian Osuji and Chief Adolphus Wabara, former Education Minister and Senate President respectively, who lost their positions on corruption charges involving N55 million senate bribery to increase budgetary allocation to education ministry.
Before now, the regime had equally arraigned in court, some of its top notchers including the deceased former Internal Affairs Minister, Sunday Afolabi and two dismissed ministers over National Identity Card scam worth $242 million. However, nothing is heard any longer on the case after the demise of the principal culprit, Sunday Afolabi who had been earlier reported to have confessed that substantial part of the stolen money was used to "capture" southwest Nigeria from the Alliance for Democracy (AD) for Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
As expected, the press is awash with praises by government officials at all levels who are themselves corrupt for the anti-corruption stance of Obasanjo in an effort to make mountain out of a mole hill and deceive the public when in actual fact mega corruption with due process continues in the system, in the corridors of power unabated. The whole national drama is a public relations stunt to deceive the international community, the much touted foreign investors and Transparency International, the organisation that last year rated Nigeria the third most corrupt nation in the world!
PRIVATISATION IS MEGA CORRUPTION
Privatisation is the main thrust of the regime’s neo-liberal economic policies since its inception in 1999, apart from devaluation, commercialisation and cut in government expenditure on social services. All anti-poor economic policies determined by IMF/World Bank.
By its design, privatisation programme is to transfer ownership of public properties and investment to mega rich privileged private individuals and corporate bodies at give away prices. The beneficiaries of the unwholesome transactions are mostly government officials, their fronts and foreign partners. The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and National Council of Privatisation (NCP) are the government’s octopus bodies perfected to dispose public property to private hands. And in recent time, the past activities of the bureau under El-Rufai, have been called to question even from the unexpected quarters, the National Assembly with respect to the privatisation scandal in Nitel -Pentascope deal, Ajaokuta Steel debt buy back, Sheraton Hotels which ran into billions of naira. This makes Osomo’s scandal a child’s play. Yet today, El-Rufai is the apple of the presidency’s eye.
The same regime has conveniently looked the other way against all cries that the former Works Minister, Tony Anenih should be probed for squandering over N300 billion meant for federal road construction and maintenance. With nothing to justify the huge sum, the former minister, rather than being probed got promoted as the chairman of the ruling party’s (PDP) board of trustee and a close confidant of the president.
In the recent exposure of the fraudulent sales of 207 choice properties of federal government at Ikoyi, Lagos, five of the beneficiaries were direct relations (brothers, sisters and in-laws) of Stella Obasanjo among other top government officials including serving ministers, governors and senators acquiring properties worth several millions of naira without questioning the source of their stupendous wealth.
The Ikoyi house sale scandal is a vivid example of what privatisation means in the true sense of it - legalized stealing of public wealth. Quoting The Guardian of Sunday April 17, 2005, page 10, one of the affected occupants of the sold houses, a woman who resides at 25, Ilabere Street, Ikoyi has an agonizing tale to tell: "I am one of the victims. My house was sold. My husband, a Colonel, is still in service. As far back as 3rd of February, some guys came to inspect our house. They said that my house has been sold along with my neighbour’s house. They said they have documents from the ministry of Housing to back up their claims. They didn’t allow me to read the letter………I asked him who bought the house? He said it is a directive from the presidency, that an official in the presidency bought the two houses".
The cancellation of the deal by the president was not a self righteous step but a pre-emptive one, hurriedly taken to forestall embarrassment the deal would have caused him with the involvement of his household. Stella Obasanjo has her fingers in many blue chip companies using fronts. Her business involvement and that of Gbenga Obasanjo, the president son in COJA and other shady deals remain unprobed.
The major face of corruption in the government is the privatisation programme where government officials rush to buy under-valued public property with stolen public money. These properties/establishments are, in most cases, resold at exorbitant prices, while workers and residents are thrown out in order to maximize profit.
Obasanjo’s regime has made over N10 trillion, mainly from oil in its six years, yet there is no visible development in infrastructure or standard of living of the poor masses except the increasing body weight of Mr. President. The lot of the people is unemployment, mass retrenchment, insecurity of life and property. So, while government makes more money than ever before in the history of the country, life has become more miserable for the poor working masses.
According to the United Nations Industrial Organisation (UNIDO), about $107 billion of Nigerian money is held in private accounts in Europe and the US. With the country’s fictitious foreign debt quoted at $35billion, the World Bank says the country is now poorer in terms of income levels than Bangladesh.
Also quoting the Department For International Development (DFID), over 70% Nigerians live on $1 daily. Between 80 and 90 million Nigerians are living in absolute poverty while 29 percent of the country’s children are under weight. Yet, government embarks on wasteful spending on White Elephant projects such as 8th All African Games (COJA) which gulped N3 billion on official figures. Mr. President has spent, as at the time of going to press, 512 days outside Nigeria at a cost yet to be determined. Before the end of this year, another twenty one government establishments, including Nigerian Ports Authority, NIGERDOC, NEPA etc. are to be sold off, as usual cheaply, to corrupt government officials and their business associates. The attendant effect will be mass retrenchment of workers in those establishments adding to misery in the land. The regime is united in corruption against the poor working masses.
OBASANJO FIDDLES AS THE NATION ROTS: CAN HE FIGHT CORRUPTION?
The tough image against corruption being depicted by Obasanjo is a mere political bravado. Nobody should be deceived. The regime itself is a child of corruption. The elections that brought Obasanjo and PDP to power was a monumental fraud. Apart from collecting money from dubious characters including 419, fraudulent politicians and government officials to execute the elections, Obasanjo’s election in his home state, Ogun, has been declared an electoral fraud by a court of law. He had also become accomplice to several electoral fraud in different states. Anambra State saga is a quick reminder where Ngige and Uba confessed to Obasanjo how the gubernatorial election in Anambra State was rigged. What did he do? In his (Obasanjo) word, "I was horrified and told both of them (Ngige and Uba) to leave my residence".
It is not a hidden fact that before Obasanjo was sworn-in in May 1999, Obasanjo Otta Farm Project had completely been abandoned. Where then did the resources that revamp the farm to a state where according to Fani Kayode, now monthly generates N30 million as profit, come from?
Presently, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Iweala earns a whooping sum of $247,000 (not paid in naira!) per annum. On top of this, her accommodation, feeding, transportation, telephone, education and health care expenses of herself and family are completely borne by the government. This takes place in a country where the minimum wage is N5,500 and where tens of millions are jobless and without any social security payment.
If the regime is serious about fighting corruption, all it requires is simple. All the political/ public office holders should first declare their assets with periodic assessment; earn average wages of skilled workers; adequate funding of social services and amenities like education, health, transportation, security, electricity etc. But the regime will never do this. On the contrary, what obtains is a situation where public office holders earn fabulous salaries and allowances, with some receiving their salaries in dollars, inflating contracts, etc combined with policy of privatisation and commercialisation of public utilities that allows few rich who have stolen or via their fronts, acquiring to themselves these properties at give away prices at the expense of the poor majority. In this kind of situation, crusade against corruption is a farce.
CAN THE SUFFERING END?
Under this capitalist regime, with its anti-workers neo-liberal policies, the suffering of the workers and poor masses will continue. Things will get worse with more pains and pangs for the Nigerian people. The coming period will witness more stealing of public fund by government officials at all levels to prosecute year 2007 election. With the anti-people programmes of the regime, more jobs cuts, grinding poverty, starvation and homelessness will be the lots of the poor working masses.
The only way forward is for the masses to rely on their own strength, mobilise, organise and build a movement that will struggle against the system with the vision of replacing this unjust government with a working class-based government that will nationalise the commanding height of the economy so that working people can begin to democratically plan the economy for common good. This can be achieved when workers, youth, farmers, poor masses organise into working class party with socialist perspective, programmes and ideas.