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Which God Does The President Serve?

By Sam Nda-Isaiah, Daily Trust (Abuja), 24 June 2002

In a recent BBC Hausa Service interview, the president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo berated his critics and said that those who criticise him do not know God. Those who accuse him of non-performance he asserted, do not fear God because if they do, they would have known that his government has proved to be better than all past military and civilian administrations that ever governed this country. He then proceeded to add that his administration has provided potable water for Nigerians, drugs in our hospitals, improved schools and hospitals and provided petrol in gas stations. He also added that most Nigerians now own cars and government workers receive more money. He even wondered aloud why Nigerians are not praising and clapping for him. But that is precisely the question. If he has done so much for Nigerians as he claims, why aren t his countrymen and women clapping for him. I think it was Chief M K O Abiola who once quipped that it was impossible to clap with one hand. The other hand of most Nigerians has been disabled by hardship and poverty occasioned by this government's obtuseness.

The first question that came to my mind on hearing this was, which God is the president talking about? Indeed which God does Obasanjo serve? I know there is a God and there are gods, which one is the president referring to?

I say this because even though the president claims that he is a born-again Christian, I know as a Christian myself that no Christian, indeed no self-respecting man goes around lying to himself in the name of God. When the president said for instance that his government has provided drugs in hospitals, which hospitals was he referring to? Maybe Obasanjo was not referring to Nigerian hospitals. But this government has probably not provided any medicine in any hospital in Nigeria since its inception. I can say this confidently because I have gone to the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (a federal hospital) to confirm the president s claim.

While there, it was obvious that I didn t need to ask anything because most of the equipment, all the bed sheets, all the mattresses, all the theatre boots and the very little drugs that could still be seen in the pharmacy bear the PTF inscription. The only logical conclusion that should be deduced here is that since the halcyon days of the PTF, nothing new had been contributed to the hospital. It is the same story in all the other teaching hospitals across the land. So I don t know what the president is talking about. Maybe he was referring to Aso Rock clinic since I did not visit that. One does not even need to go this far to know that our hospitals have been neglected. What is the total amount that the government has released to the Federal Ministry of Health since the president assumed power? Health has never been one of the president s priorities. Our hospitals used to be mere consulting clinics (remember the Brigadier Sani Abacha December 31st 1983 announcement). They have now gone worse. They have become places where people simply go to die. The only time in contemporary history that the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry operated at anything near a profitable capacity was during the PTF days when all the local government hospitals, state hospitals and teaching hospitals were supplied with drugs from the nation s pharmaceutical manufacturers. Since Obasanjo came, this industry, like most others has, lied prostrate from lack of government custom and any imagination from Obasanjo to lift the economy beyond its current level of infirmity.

The president also said that people get petrol easily these days. But at what cost to the nation? Three years into Obasanjo s four-year term, the nation still scandalously imports fuel for a country that is the sixth largest producer of crude oil. One does not need any special aptitude or skill to import fuel for the nation especially when one s children, cronies and relations are profitably involved in such ventures. The importation could in fact be an incentive. Just like the Abacha days. It looks clearly like Abacha is dead, long live Abacha. Had the president successfully rehabilitated all our refineries as he promised, then it would have been acceptable for him to gloat at his critics as he is currently doing.

The president said he has done so well as president because most Nigerians now own cars. I don t know where the president got this bogus claim from and I don t think it is the result of any rigorous scientific analysis but even if it is true that most people now own cars, what special economic prowess has the president shown to contribute to this national bliss? Is it the increased salaries that he claims to have empowered the workers with that have enabled them to buy cars? Maybe the president s advisers have not shown him the World Bank report on Nigeria that clearly reveals that Nigerians are now poorer than he met them on May 29th 1999. The president is obviously unaware of the grind of daily life in today s Nigeria. No one should be surprised at such spurious claims from our president because his aides told us on the last democracy day celebration that some of the achievements of this administration also include the provision of 24-hour uninterrupted power supply and the reduction of corruption. The president is obviously an enigma of sorts. He lives in a different world from the rest of us. That is why I have repeatedly declared that this president does not deserve to continue to be president over us if it is really democracy that we now have. Nigerians have suffered enough under past brutal, heartless and incompetent regimes. They do not deserve to be inflicted with an Obasanjo in anyway. A leader like Obasanjo that has completely lost contact with the people should be removed by the only means provided by the constitution. And that is impeachment by the House of Representatives and then removal from office by the Senate. Unfortunately, the nation is also afflicted by the double jeopardy of a spineless National Assembly whose members prefer parading the offices of ministers for contracts to sitting down to the serious business assigned to them by the electorate. Pity.

The president also said that he has provided potable water for Nigerians.

In fact, in another VOA interview, he boasted that his government has provided clean drinking water, more for the people of the North than the people of the South. He said, 82 percent of the money running to well over N80 billion has been spent in the North. I have no apologies for that, because you need to manage water resources more in the North than in the South. I don t know which North the president was referring to but I have lived in the North of this country since he became president some three odd years ago. And I can say, that apart from Kaduna, which inherited a respectable water supply and distribution system from her by previous administrations, no part of the North has a reliable water supply and distribution system. And I think the entire country should by now be swimming in potable water if the government has truly expended N80 billion as the president claims. Another question people have been asking is why projects are so expensive under the Obasanjo administration? With only N7 billion, the PTF was able to provide 10 boreholes in every local government in Nigeria and its total commitment to water including the numerous dam projects and several World Bank counterpart funding ones was only N19.3 billion and the effect was better felt. After expending N80 billion, we should not still be in this insalubrious state. Obasanjo s own Improved National Access to Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (INAWSSP), which is meant to provide boreholes in all local government areas across the country, has been abandoned. The contractors have not been paid since early 2001. I remember a chance meeting I had with the Minister of Water Resources, Alhaji Mukhtari Shagari a few weeks ago and his brag about how impressed he was with himself with what he has achieved as minister of water resources. That was after my May 27th critical column on Water. I wonder what kind of minister of water would be so impressed with himself after spending N80 billion and yet 70 percent of his countrymen and women have no access to drinking water. But this is Nigeria. A land of anything goes.

One of the major problems that we have in today s Nigeria is a total absence of a rigorous intellectual debate on issues and development. Reason why, perhaps the president we elected with our votes and money can look us in the eye with a straight face and declare that his government which for all times and purposes is the worst thing to ever happen to Nigeria (democracy or absolutism) is the best we have had and expect us to believe him. And if we don t, he gets irate, telling us that we don t know God and we don t fear Him. If his government is the best thing to happen to us since the 1914 amalgamation, then why is the nation so tensed up? And I am not just talking about one section of the country. Why are the people whom Obasanjo treats as subjects from the North, East, West and South-south so on edge? Why has democracy lost its appeal so soon? A recent study by the embassy of a foreign nation in Nigeria revealed that there is a decline for the appreciation of democracy in the country. The president would need to be told that he has given democracy a bad name through his policies. My only prayer is that opportunists do not see this as an excuse to hang it.

As I asked earlier, which God is the president referring to? The president s statement assumes that he knows and fears God and that the rest of us, his critics do not. Why does the president detest criticism? If the president fears God assuming it is the same God I know and worship why has he found it so difficult to forgive the Abacha family since forgiveness is a ground norm of the Christianity to which I subscribe. Indeed, a God fearing man should not hold Mohammed Abacha (lest I forget, Nigerians are waiting for the Senate to tell them about the missing N11.7 billion from the Abacha fund) in detention, force him to regurgitate looted funds and then surround himself with some of the most corrupt people that the nation has ever known. At least that much was revealed by a USAID sponsored survey. The study, which has also been corroborated by the British Foreign and International Development Department (FIDD) revealed that 55 percent of the corruption in Nigeria is perpetrated in the presidency. I hope the president would not dismiss the officials of USAID and FIDD as un-Godly people. Maybe the president wants to pretend that he is not aware of the present heartless pillaging of the Nigerian economy that goes on right under his nose. If so, where did he think the un-Godly amount that has so far been gathered for him for his presidential re-election electioneering campaign come from? The president should give Nigerians credit for some intelligence. I am reminded of the proverbial characterisation of the ostrich, which buries its head in the sand but leaves the rest of its body exposed and because it cannot see anyone, it assumes that nobody sees it.

Nigerians may have been swindled and their future looted by their leaders but they have not lost one bit of their acuity. If the president fears God so much, why has he not offered any explanation for the World Bank s indictment of his government that his N60 billion white elephant Abuja stadium could not have been built with not more than N19 billion? Indeed, why has the president and his spokesmen (some of them really remind me of Adolf Hitler s Goebbels) ignored the allegation of corruption about the inflated National Assembly Phase III Complex extension which was awarded last December by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for N25.57 billion when the same project was initially billed for only N4 billion? If the president knows God so well, why has he not probed the record-breaking corruption of the looting of the Education Tax Fund (ETF)? The current Accountant-General of the Federation Mr. Naiyeju was the chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) when the crime was perpetrated and instead of the president to detain him like he did Mohammed Abacha, he retained and promoted him to the loftier office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. Some of the looted funds have even been recovered, so why didn t the president prosecute the people involved? If Obasanjo knows God as he insinuates, let him tell us how much his government spends on major projects like roads and compare this with the commensurate value of the previous administrations. Maybe the difference will explain why the president s re-election slush fund is so awash with money. If the president fears God, shouldn t he tell us his relationship with Otunba Johnson Fasawe? Who doesn t know the Otunba and the inexplicable influence he wields in Nigeria today and how that has been appropriated for business and profit? If the president fears God, why did he instruct his PTF to slash contractors and consultants fees sometimes by up to 50 percent after their assigned jobs had been fully completed? Some of these contractors are still indebted to banks and several families have been ruined as a result. If the Bible the president reads is the same as mine, then surely he must have come across the passage that reads, a labourer is worthy of his wages.

Our God-fearing president still seeks to deprive all former military heads of state of their salaries because according to him, they were not elected like him. He and his cronies still use the defence guest house in Abuja for the same purpose that Abacha and his friends did. If the president knows and fears God, he will not be at daggers drawn with virtually everybody and every segment of the society as he currently is. He has problems with his Vice President, the Senate President (by the way, he now wants him removed like Dr. Okadigbo), the Speaker, House of Representatives, a majority of the state governors, General Buhari, General Babangida, General Abdulsalami (who gave him reprieve as a jail bird), the North, the South-east and the South-south. A person with these credentials is hardly one that should claim to know or fear God. By their fruits ye shall know them. Our president who claims to be God-fearing made history recently when he became the first president to arrest a man of God on account of an unfavourable prophesy. Remember he countenanced the revenge mission of soldiers to Odi and Zaki-Biam where innocent women and children were raped and killed.

Obasanjo s administration can only be defined by the semiotics of injustice, riots, unwarranted deaths, corruption, hardship and the epic squandering of goodwill. The president should not use the name of the Lord in vain and he should certainly not use it to blackmail people. He should know that even as president of Africa s largest nation, he is not influential enough to privatise God the way he has gone about privatising some of our nation s most unlikely institutions. Obasanjo has always profited from the misfortunes of the nation to get to the top. The first time it was General Murtala Mohammed s death that promoted him. The second time, the deaths of General Sani Abacha and Chief M K O Abiola did the magic. It seems this time around, he will require the death of us all to get re-elected for another term