As Obasanjo passes the buck again

By Chukwudi Nweje

Acting Features Editor

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is at it again, lashing out at his successors in office and blaming them for the nation’s woes.

On June 15, 2011, at the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, Obasanjo had openly declared that his successors in office lacked the will to fight corruption.

He had said during a debate organised by the Club de Madrid, an independent non-profit organisation composed of 80 democratic former presidents and prime ministers from 56 different countries on ‘Meeting Sustainable Societies and Social Justice,’ that his successors have not been persistent and consistent in the fight against corruption and have allowed politicians to overwhelm them.

In December 2013, in his 18-page letter to President Goodluck Jonathan entitled ‘Before It Is Too Late’, Obasanjo again made reference to President Jonathan’s poor commitment to the war on corruption. Again in April this year in Ethiopia during the Third Tana High Level forum on Illicit Financial Flows and Governance of Natural Resources, Obasanjo said that vested interests in the anti-corruption crusade were weighing down the war against corruption in Nigeria

Now, the former President has attributed the problems ravaging the power sector in the country to his successors, saying, they abandoned the sector.

Speaking during a programme tagged ‘First Green Legacy Moment with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Leadership and Human Security in Africa’ held in Abeokuta, Obasanjo said he had tried to ensure stable power supply since 1979 when he was Military Head of State and when he returned as civilian President in 1999 but that his successors abandoned the sector thereby making it moribund.

He said: “Part of our problems is lack of political will on the part of the leaders. What does a leader understand about development,   any leader worth his  salt should know that power is very important. It is the driver of all development be it social, economic, and even political.

“When I was military head of state, I developed the Jebba dam, I developed Shirroro, I started Egbin. Shagari came and completed Egbin and commissioned Jebba and Shirroro.

“Between Shagari in 1983, until I came back in 1999, there was no single dime invested in power generation. If anything, the ones that were there were allowed to go down. A country like Nigeria must be adding not less than two thousand mega watts if we are to be moving on the path of development.”

Obasanjo also alluded to how his civilian administration started the National Integrated Power Plant (NIPP) which he said his successor, late President Umaru Yar’Adua stopped because he did not understand it.

While Obasanjo’s position that power is very important and drives all developmental strives of any nation is true and his role in developing the Jebba, Shirroro and Egbin power plants is also not in doubt, it is also undisputable that the power situation in the country had worsened between 1979 and 1999.

Nevertheless, Obasanjo heaping the blame of poor power situation in the country on just his successors in office is unfair. It amounts to desperate efforts at self glorification and passing the buck.

Analysts recall that between 1999 and 2007, the civilian administration of Obasanjo had also reportedly spent over $16billion on the Rural Electrification Scheme Project. Regrettably, this massive investment did not produce meaningful result.

The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) said all the hydro and thermal power stations have not been operating at optimal level despite the over $16 billion spent on that sector.

Debo Adeniran, the Executive Chairman said Obasanjo “simply wasted the country’s resources awarding contracts to phony companies and non-performing firms. Nobody supervised the project, it was only announcement and little or nothing was done as at the time he was leaving office. Basically, Obasanjo does not have the moral authority to accuse other governments because he was, and still part of the decay, not only in the power sector, but other sectors of the Nigerian economy.”

Nevertheless, Obasanjo is right in saying that Nigeria needed to get electricity generation right if the country must make progress because without sustainable electricity supply, Nigeria’s quest for development may remain an illusion.

Like he observed, South Africa with a population of 55 million people generates 45,000 megawatts of electricity whereas Nigeria with about 180 million people could not generate 4, 000 megawatts.

According to Obasanjo “For us to say that we are industrialising country, we must be generating much more than what South Africa is generating, say 100,000 megawatts. What year will Nigeria get there if we are adding 2,000 megawatts each year? For us to get to 100,000 mega watts, I leave the mathematics to you. It sounds very discouraging but that is the reality.”

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