President Buhari’s dishonest integrity was in full display when he reeled out distorted facts, half-truths and outright lies as he venerated late military dictator Sani Abacha and vilified former President Olusegun Obasanjo, alongside all his other democratically elected predecessors. While receiving a delegation of the Buhari Support Group (BSO) under the leadership of his lifelong ally and current comptroller general of Customs, Hameed Ali, Buhari remarked that: “I don’t care about the opinion you have on Abacha but I agreed to work with him and we constructed roads from Abuja to Port Harcourt, Benin to Onitsha and so on. We also touched education and health”. He then vilified Obasanjo, in a thinly veiled reference: “One of the former heads of state was bragging that he spent $15 billion on power in Nigeria. Where is the power?”
Buhari’s veneration of Abacha, who headed the most notoriously rogue military junta in the history of Nigeria, on the basis of the construction of a few roads and some other interventions in health and education, can only be compared in bizarre absurdity to an Angela Merkel praising the memory of Adolph Hitler on the basis of his pioneering role in the establishment of the German network of super highways – the autobahn. Apart from his unprecedented plundering of Nigeria’s commonwealth, Abacha also terrorised the Nigerian people, Gestapo style, in the worst case of brutal human rights suppression by any government before and after his in the history of Nigeria. Similarly, Buhari’s re-echoing of the false allegation against Obasanjo that he stole $16 billion on a failed power expansion project can be likened to the uninformed rumour that was made popular by Afro beat legend accusing him (Buhari) as minister of petroleum resources of stealing $2.3 billion “oil money” from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Buhari’s poor style of governance, with the consequent lack of tangible achievements in nearly three years, was brought about, among other things, by a combination of the lack of an understanding of basic statecraft and his arrogance of ignorance. Like his claim about Obasanjo’s $16 billion failed power project, Buhari’s statement at the meeting that, “I challenge anybody to check from Europe, America to Asia; between 1999 to 2014 Nigeria was producing 2.1 million barrels of oil per day at an average cost of $100 per barrel and it went up to $143” is as far from the truth, as the moon from the sun. The consistent rigidity with which Buhari peddles these false allegations underscores the arrogance of his ignorance.It is not true that oil prices averaged $100 per barrel between 1999 and 2014. The Obasanjo administration inherited a crude oil price at a record low of $17 per barrel in 1999 and this did not exceed $70 by 2007 when he left power. Between 2008 and 2010, oil prices fluctuated between $94 and $77, with the exception being in the months of June and July when crude oil sold for an all time high of $130 and $145 respectively. Crude oil prices only steadied at the $100 benchmark between 2011 and 2013, when prices hovered to about $107 and rose as high as $109 in some months. 2014 saw to the beginning of a steady decline in crude oil prices from $96 to $49 in 2015. Therefore, the cumulative average of prices of crude oil within the period under review was about $61 and not the fictitious $100 that Buhari throws around. While past administrations could have done much more to meet the expectations of Nigerians, it amounts to shear dishonesty to discountenance their modest achievements within that period. Contrary to Buhari’s claims, available facts suggest that the Obasanjo administration and its successors achieved far-reaching milestones in terms of physical infrastructure with these modest earnings, than he is ready to admit. In addition to raising the minimum wage by over 100 percent and expanding the size of the public sector workforce through mass employment of Nigerians, the Obasanjo administration constructed thousands of kilometres of roads across the country, while it initiated a revamping of the rail sector. To the eternal credit of the Obasanjo administration, the master plan of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja was substantially restored through a massive infrastructural expansion that distinguished it as one of the fastest developing capitals in Africa.
The Obasanjo administration reformed primary education through the Universal Basic Education initiative, which increased the enrolment of children into elementary schools in multiple folds. Obasanjo’s accomplishments in health care through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS); housing, by means of the National Housing Fund (NHF); and tertiary education through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) are reference points in institutional corporate governance today. Human capital development and far reaching institutional reforms that positioned Nigeria as a destination of choice for Foreign Direct Investments in Africa were carried out by the Obasanjo administration. Obasanjo instituted the war on graft and corruption through the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). All these achievements are despite the fact that the Obasanjo administration inherited a depleted foreign reserve of $3 billion and huge debt of $30 billion in 1999. However, by 2007, Nigeria witnessed a phenomenal turn around when Obasanjo left a whopping $43 billion in foreign reserves and $35 billion in savings in the excess crude account. In addition, Obasanjo successfully exited Nigeria from the clique of debtor nations when he paid $18 billion as counterpart funds to a league of creditor nations and institutions, to get the balance written off.
On power, it is neither true that Obasanjo spent $16 billion nor that he achieved nothing. The bogus figure of $16 billion emanated from a controversial National Assembly inquest into the power sector. Whereas, $16 billion was projected for the holistic transformation of the power sector by the Obasanjo administration, less than $4 billion was actually expended, according to available records. The power sector in 1999, when the Obasanjo administration came in, was in a very poor state. As a result of long years of neglect by successive administrations, the various power stations in Jebba, Shiroro, Kainji, Egbin, afam and Delta could only generate a paltry 1500 megawatts.The first step taken by the Obasanjo administration to improve power supply was to successfully revamp the existing power plants, which resulted in the increased output of 2500 megawatts, bringing the total output available to Nigerians from the national grid to 4000 megawatts. Further expansion of the power infrastructure saw the Obasanjo administration’s conceptualisation and initial execution of ten power plants across the country, with the capacity to generate 12000 megawatts of electricity. These projects were funded from the savings of the Obasanjo administration from the excess crude account. Out of the estimated cost of $10 billion, only about $3.7 billion was expended as the time of the complete procurement of the first phase of power plants in 2007.
Throughout his political sojourn in the wilderness of the opposition, Buhari gained fame for his strong incorruptibility credentials and his fiery criticism of his predecessors/rivals for plundering the nation’s common wealth. He attributed the nation’s underdevelopment to the scourge of corruption, which he claimed left Nigeria in the deficit of basic infrastructure, no savings but a debt overhang. Nigerians believed in him to salvage the ugly situation and got him elected on his fourth attempt on the ballot in 2015. That Buhari, who regaled the nation about the looting exploits of his predecessors/rivals, went to the “CBN governor with my cap in hand and asked if we had savings. He told me we had only debts, no savings” means that his accusation of massive looting was actually a false alarm. Even though available facts go contrary to Buhari’s claim of inheriting an empty treasury, his often melodramatic theatrics over his shock at the extent of the looting of the commonwealth renders his age long accusation of his predecessors/rivals as deliberately orchestrated lies to gain political advantage. The Buhari administration inherited a foreign reserve of $25 billion and an excess crude account of $2.4 billion, contrary to the claim that there were no savings.
That Buhari is venerating Abacha five months after taking delivery of over $300 million looted fund by the late dictator from Swiss authorities, while expecting another of his $500 million from the United States, calls to question his (Buhari) understanding of corruption, as much as about any other issue of governance. It is discernable from Buhari’s statements that he didn’t quite pay attention to the details of government dealing throughout his years in the opposition, in order to be adequately informed. This lack of proper information on issues of governance is responsible for the elevation of fake news and hate speech to presidential levels as Buhari continues to wallow in the arrogance of ignorance.
Majeed Dahiru , a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through email@example.com .