By Femi Falana
Two weeks ago, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, a former Minister took the Umaru Yaradua and Goodluck Jonathan Administrations to the cleaners when she accused them of wasting the $67 billion left in the Federation Account by the Olusegun Obasanjo regime.
As usual, the Federal Government was embarrassed by the indictment. More so, that ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo has seized every opportunity to accuse President Jonathan of incompetence, negligence and corruption.
Instead of joining iissues with the former Minister over the serious allegation of gross economic and financial crime the Jonathan Administration has decided to divert the attention of Nigerians by resorting to cheap blackmail and vulgar abuse.
While pleading guilty, perharps unconsciously, to the charge of illegal diversion of the said sum of $67 billion the Jonathan Administration asked Nigerians to believe that Mrs Ezekwesili also mismanaged the billions of Naira budgetted for education under her watch.
Her bona fides to accuse the Government of economic crime was challenged when the former Minister was alleged to have engaged in the questionable acquisition of a large landed property in Abuja for building a church for her husband.
For being a member of the Board of Soros Foundation, the Federal Government wants Nigerians to believe that the former Vice President of the World Bank has become a foreign agent! In her reaction to the diversionary official rejoinder, the former Minister maintained her stand and challenged the Jonathan regime to a public debate on the allegation of financial recklessness on the part of the Federal Government.
Convinced that it could not win the debate the invitation was hurriedly turned down by the Jonathan regime.
It is a shame that the Federal Government has rejected a golden opportunity to call off the bluff of the arrogant officials of the Olusegun Obasanjo regime who are trying to hoodwink Nigerians to accept that the Nigerian neo-colonial economy was better managed when they were in power.
Instead of running from pillar to post over the allegation made by the former Minister, the Jonathan regime should have explained how the Account was drawn down to service an unproductive bureaucracy and fund the thriving corruption industry since 2007.
Having done that, it should have proceeded to ask the Olusegun Obasanjo regime to account for the N26 trillion earned from oil and non oil sectors from 1999-2007. Specifically, General Obasanjo and his ministers should be asked to explain how they generated darkness with $16 billion, wasted over N1 trillion on fixing roads and refurbishing hospitals that have collapsed, granted duty waivers worth N500 billion to a few importers, sold public enterprises worth trillions of Naira at give away prices to imaginary core investors, plundered and mismanaged the banks which have recently been bailed out with about N3 trillion.
Was it not in 2002 that NNPC opened a secret account with J.P Morgan Bank when General Olusegun Obasanjo was the Petroleum Minister and chairman of the NNPC Board? Is it not on record that the regime illegally withdrew N1.5 trillion from the NNPC Account and distributed same to unnamed individuals and organisations?
Has the Supreme Court not recently set aside one of the companies sold by the regime without following due process? Has the Senate not asked the Jonathan regime to annul the highly corrupt privatisation exercise carried out by the regime?
Was it not Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Finance Minister who asked Nigerians to celebrate the country’s exit from the external debt trap? Did she not assure nigerians that the payment of $12 billion to settle fraudulent external debts would free funds for poverty alleviation projects?
As the current Finance Minister and Coordinator of the economy, has she not turned round to ask Nigerians to bear with the Jonathan regime for taking jumbo loans with dangerous conditionalities? On six different occasions the Obasanjo regime increased the prices of petroleum products to generate funds for education, health and job creation. Mrs Ezekwesili may wish to find out what happened to the hundreds of billions of Naira saved from such incessant fuel increases!
For goodness’ sake, let the Federal Government take up Mrs Ezekwesili’s timely and patriotic challenge. But the debate should not be limited to the withdrawal of $67 billion from the Federation Account. It should be a debate on the reckless diversion of huge public funds and the gross mismanagement of the Nigerian economy since 1999.
After all, the debate between General Obasanjo and President Jonathan on the Boko Haram insurgency has confirmed that the genocidal attack on the innocent people of Odi in Bayelsa State in November, 1999 was a crime against humanity.
We need such debates to afford Nigerians the opportunity to know the roles played by all the dramatis personae and their imperialist collaborators that have shamelessly unleashed unprecedented poverty on a nation that has earned more revenue in the last 14 years than any other period in the history of Nigeria since the amalgamation of 1914.
There should be no grandstanding on the part of each of the former and current public office holders who should be pleading “mea maxima culpa” before the people. As far as the pauperised and traumatised Nigerian citizens are concerned the Goodluck Jonathan Administration is an off shoot of the Olusegun Obasanjo Administration notwithstanding the ongoing intra class feud among the members of both reactionary regimes.
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