Dr Umar Ardo tackles Simon Kolawole, says Obasanjo remains Nigeria’s moral compass

A chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Dr. Umar Ardo has responded to an article written by Simon Kolawole in which the columnists cast some aspersions on the former Nigeria’s leader Olusegun Obasanjo.

In a rejoinder to the Kolawole’s rejoinder published in Thisday newspaper, Ardo brought out some salient characteristics of Obasanjo which he said made him a sui generis among contemporary Nigerian leaders.

Excerpts

OBASANJO IS INDEED NIGERIA’S MORAL COMPASS: A REJOINDER TO SIMON KOLAWOLE

I just read with consternation in the Social Media the above titled article said to have been written and published in Thisday Newspaper of 18th January, 2015, by the columnist, Simon Kolawole. Even though it escaped my attention when first published several years ago at the height of the general elections campaigns, the issues raised therein are still aimed at, as they were then, impugning on the reputation and character of President Olusegun Obasanjo. The fact that the piece is now being reproduced and circulated in the Social Media underscores this point.

Ordinarily I don’t join issues with people, especially newspaper columnists, but to allow twisted truths, or concocted and sensational lies and falsehood, either ignorantly or deliberately, capable of denigrating the reputation of a statesman who has dedicated his entire life championing the cause of our country and her unity heaped on him and the nation in the name of truth, is to be complacent in the destruction of the conscience of the nation itself. Hence, without necessarily holding brief for President Obasanjo, I feel constrained to respond to the article and rebut the falsehoods contained therein. They say when evil is done by the wicked, silence of the righteous is complacency and God Almighty shall not find the latter guiltless. To this end, a simple deed of drawing attention to the facts on the issues raised and lay bare the lies therein can very well catalyze the removal of evil in society. This, in itself, I believe, is a huge service to the country.

One good thing about truth is that it always surfaces no matter how anyone tries to distort it. At all times, truth is complete; always full! There is no such thing as half-truth. Therefore, in any discourse where one tries to argue the pros of a point, one must have to also face the cons of it, because the two complete the truth; they always go hand-in-hand! But in arguing an issue, if one side is taken and the other side left out, the inevitable result is that it brings out the lie of the argument. This is an academic truism; and this is what has befallen Kolawole’s argument as he tries unsuccessfully to hide out the pros and put up the cons on Obasanjo’s moral rectitude. Given that the central thrust of the article is to illustrate that ‘President Obasanjo cannot be a moral compass to the Nigerian society’ by listing out the moral low points of the former president, it is critical that those listed points are dealt with so as to put the records straight, as I view them, and clear all the misinformation therein.

One of the key vices in governance Obasanjo has consistently raised his voice against is corruption. To deal with this vice, he stated in his inaugural address in May, 1999 that he would deal with it head on. True to his words, he established two anti-corruption bodies, the EFCC and ICPC; and in the days when he was in office Nigerians have witnessed not only the fight against corruption by these institutions but also the recovery of already stolen monies of the country. But then, as Nuhu Ribadu of EFCC famously said, when you fight corruption surely corruption will fight you back. For me, it is in this context that I view the unfounded allegations against Obasanjo on the Halliburton bribery scandal, which the author gleefully pointed out with the comment that “the damning reports are there in the attorney-general’s office”.

Well, I happened to get the Interim Report of the Presidential Panel on the matter from the Attorney General’s Office and all it said in its findings on Obasanjo is “Panelists are currently examining documents before the invitation of former President OBASANJO”. No more, no less! This obviously goes to suggest that nothing ‘damning’ was found on him, lest he would have been subsequently invited and indicted. This is a far different cry as regards others investigated along with him. Furthermore, as president, Obasanjo made strenuous efforts to recover various sums allegedly paid out as bribes in the Halliburton scandal, employing foreign lawyers to help do so. And if the author had had the opportunity to see the correspondences between President Obasanjo and the Geneva-based lawyers, he would have had a different view on the matter. Finally, on Halliburton to which he took serious exception, Obasanjo out of office wrote both Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Mohammadu Buhari demanding that they get those who made the allegation against him brought to Nigeria or anywhere in the world before a judicial body to substantiate their claims. Neither President Jonathan till he left office, nor President Buhari to date, acceded to this demand. To me, given these facts, the Halliburton issue, insofar as it relates to President Obasanjo, is a hoax created by corruption to fight back.

Next is on Dr. Julius Makanjuola, who was both a relative of the president and a Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence. As the author rightly pointed out, Makanjola was implicated in a N421 million scandal. But unlike the assertion of the author, charismatically Obasanjo got him not only dismissed but also put on trial. And when the Attorney General closed the case by entering *Nolle Prosequi*, President Obasanjo promptly queried him, because, as the president put it then, “the decision to stop the trial is contrary to my administration’s campaign against corruption”. At the directive of the president, six fresh charges were accordingly filed against Makanjola. And subsequently, the Attorney General was removed from the Justice Ministry and deployed to Solid Minerals. That Makanjola’s trial was not determined till Obasanjo left office is due purely on the lethargic nature of our administration of justice procedure than unwillingness to fight corruption by the president.

To claim that EFCC failed to tackle Obasanjo’s corruption on fund raising for his presidential library project and share holdings in Transcorp Hilton seems to me to be not only illogical but even libelous. From President Roosevelt to President Obama in the USA, presidents form foundations, raise funds and build their libraries. That President Obasanjo did same, with people freely donating without being coerced to do so is certainly not an offense in our statute books. With regards to holding shares in Transcorp, I do not know. If the author can supply evidence, I am sure EFCC will swing into action now that Obasanjo is not in power and so cannot block the unraveling of his own corruption acts as insinuated, nor enjoys any immunity.

All I will say on the issue of importation of fuel as put in the article is now that Obasanjo has left office for nearly 15 years have we stopped importing fuel? Has the subsidy regime not tripled now than during Obasanjo’s period? Has President Buhari who claimed before coming to power that fuel subsidy was a scam halted the regime? If I may ask, who built 3 of our 4 refineries in the first place? The answer is Obasanjo! The decay ensued in the 20 years after he left office in 1979. On the power and railway issues raised, I think much can be gained by looking them up in Obasanjo’s books, Under my Watch, and coming up with a critique rather than making uninformed allegations on them. On insecurity, yes there was militancy under Obasanjo, but those engaged in the crime also paid high prices as the president never treated them with kit gloves. And no, Boko Haram did not start under Obasanjo; it started under Yar’adua in 2009. In fact, Obasanjo offered to help mediate “abort the foetus” of BH but was bugled by the regime in power.

Yes, I concede to the spade of assassinations under Obasanjo, but if the author is insinuating that they were instigated by the president, it is now getting to 15 years since Obasanjo left office; why haven’t they been unraveled and resolved? Or are we saying that subsequent administrations are equally complicit? Even in the most advanced countries high profile assassinations happen and go unresolved. Between 1979 when Obasanjo handed over power as Head of State to 2007 when he again transferred power as president, the United Kingdom alone witnessed 16 unresolved high profile assassinations. Many other European, American and other countries also experienced the menace. While not absolving the leaders of blame, it however doesn’t translate to failure of leadership as being insinuated in the examples given.

On the Chris Ngige saga, my take actually is put on failure of party than on governmental administration. From the moment the PDP denied Governor Mbadinuju nomination, having 3 times won the primaries, the seed for political crises in the state was sown. I was close to Mbadinuju and I knew how close both Ngige and Chris Ubah, the two key antagonists to the saga, were with him. The governor was actually the one sponsoring Ngige for senate, but unknown to us, all the while Ngige and Ubah were plotting against him. I remember Ngige accosting me one day at Enugu airport and saying to me: “Dr. Ardo, please consider me as standby generator in case Odera didn’t get it”. I didn’t understand the meaning of that statement until when things unfolded later. Anambra was actually a can of worms that spilled out in the fullness of time. If any blame is to be apportioned, then the pointing finger should be to the party, and not government, leadership of the time.

Taking the unsavory issues of Obasanjo’s children raised in the article, I can only refer the author to the news report of Vanguard Newspaper of January 27, 2018 where Sen. Iyabo Obasanjo came to the defense of her father against those recycling her 2013 letter. And on Gbenga’s affidavit filed seeking divorce from his wife on the ground of incest and adultery against his father, he equally accused his own father-in-law of the same offense. Now, if someone accuses both his father and his wife’s father of incest with his wife, then obviously the accusing finger should point to the accuser and certainly not to the two accused. In this case, we should sympathize with accuser and do everything possible to help him.

In conclusion, why Obasanjo to date remains ever relevant and a moral compass for the country is simple – because of his honour and achievements! For most Nigerians, the Murtala/Obasanjo military regime of 1975-1979 is the ideal national government for the country for the following reasons:-
1. It was a sincere and patriotic regime;
2. It came with a clear, purposeful and visionary agenda for the nation;
3. It led by example, by action and by sacrifice;
4. It achieved its set objectives as and how defined; and
5. It thus raised the standard of leadership for Nigeria and Africa.

And for Obasanjo personally, even after the assassination of Murtala, he took to the path of honour and continued with the regime’s agenda to a logical conclusion without wavering, which was principally to return Nigeria on the path of democracy. By that Obasanjo created a benchmark and standard in governance, made honour and integrity key values in leadership and set a pace of development for the country. No wonder, when all hopes seemed lost in leaderships that took over after him, and to rectify the errors of military in politics, statesmen within the military apparatchiks looked out for Obasanjo to stand for election as president. Recognizing his imbued honour, integrity and achievements, Nigerians willfully elected him. And as president, he again came with a clear agenda of entrenching democracy, building the Nigerian economy and fusing it into the world economic order. These he achieved in his 8 years as president. He had his faults and failures no doubt, like every human being, but on the whole, he was far above average in patriotism, honour, integrity and achievements. No wonder, therefore, he is always quick at raising his voice against regimes that he perceives to be operating below these standard baselines, not minding the consequences that may befall him.

Dr. Ardo a prominent politician writes from Abuja

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