I support Oby Ezekwesili for president
To listen to a certain narrative, next year’s presidential election in Nigeria is between the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party.
These are the handcuffs both men would like to clamp on the wrists of Nigerians, and what they want the media to reduce the contest to. Anyone who has not resigned himself to hopelessness must look beyond this fiction.
Since both candidates are in the story, let me look at them.
First, Buhari, whom I supported four years ago. Unless you are a masochist or somewhat starved of oxygen, he is the worst candidate on next year’s ballot.
Here is a man who interviewed for a job, his voice loud and strong, arriving with big plans and a swagger.
He is that employee who, four years after assuming the position, has left his employees not just with disappointment, but embarrassment.
But power he must have, it seems, and in the desperation for it, he is currently twisting and turning in the wind, trying to prove he did attend secondary school.
If this weren’t so sad, it would be hilarious. Four years later, it is clear Buhari does notnever needed-a certificate but a sabi-ticate: the know-how, aka “sabi,”-the willingness and ability-to get things done. You can’t buy it in the market, and WAEC neither offers nor certifies it.
What the Nigeria leader has demonstratedindeed exposed-to the world in the past four years is mistakes advertising for capacity.
What is worse, he is not broadminded enough to empower truly trained and motivated Nigerians into office. It would really be good to know the last time he read a book, and what that was.
On the evidence of the last four, only a fool would vote for him again. As former London Weekend editor David Hill put it, you cannot take a hammer to your thumb a second time in the hope it will not hurt as much.
Abubakar: Man to man, the former VicePresident claim to the presidency is superior to Buhari’s for one reason: you can find elements of the doer in him.
But that only brings us to a narrow philosophical passageway where we examine two damaged apples to determine which is less so. But “relatively decent” ought not to describe the leader of a nation the size and story of Nigeria.
In clips of Abubakar from a contemporary interview, it is significant-and deeply troubling-that he has difficulty identifying his priorities should he be elected.
I think I know why: There are three background stories that linger from his tenure as Vice-President.
One: That in September 2006, an EFCC investigation concluded that Abubakar took advantage of his supervision of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund to disburse money to promote his and his friends’ businesses and engaged in fraudulent conversion of funds, corrupt practices, and money laundering. In February 2007, an ad hoc Senate Committee, in a follow-up of the EFCC report, also concluded that he diverted $145 million in public funds.
To be fair: in his rebuttal Abubakar asserted that President Obasanjo and those around him had benefitted from the various accounts involved, despite the president trying to dissociate himself.
Two: “Keeping Foreign Corruption Out of The United States: Four Case Histories,” a 2010 report by a sub-committee of the United States Senate which disclosed how, during Abubakar’s Vice-Presidency, he transferred over $40 million in suspect funds into bank accounts belonging to his fourth wife in the country, a feat made possible because nobody knew that Jennifer Douglas-Atiku Abubakar was a Politically Exposed Person.
“Mr. Abubakar and Ms. Douglas convinced U.S. banks, a U.S. law firm, and even a university to accept millions of dollars from unfamiliar offshore corporations to advance their interests,” the report concluded.
It is remarkable that Jennifer never received a penny of that money directly from her husband, but confirmed it came from him. One of those offshore companies, according to the report, was Guernsey Trust Nigeria Ltd.
When the wealthy Abubakar took Nigeria’s vice-presidency, he did the right thing: he put his shares in Intels in the Abubakar Blind Trust. But in a convoluted series of manoeuvres, within a few years that trust became part owner of its own trustee, to be replaced by Guernsey, a Nigerian shell company that, curiously, had been formed only the day before Abubakar became Vice-President. The US Senate found Guernsey to be a regular despatcher of large funds to Jennifer’s accounts.
Those funds included payments of $2.8 million by the German company Siemens in 2001 and 2002, as part of its scheme to bribe Nigerian officials, transferring over $1.7 million to Jennifer’s accounts at Citibank. The company paid over $1.6 billion in fines. During the period in review, Jennifer opened a total of 30-repeat, 30-bank accounts, and her daily routine appeared to be to open bank accounts and manipulate vast sums.
These and other illegalities are responsible for Abubakar’s US travel troubles, and probably Jennifer’s. Most of those funds were reportedly seized by US authorities.
Three: the preliminary report of the Okiro Panel Halliburton probe in May 2009, alleged that Abubakar and Obasanjo-along with former NNPC chieftains Gaius Obaseki and Funsho Kupolokun-shared $74 million.
These-and others that will probably emerge if Abubakar becomes president-form the background to his candidature, and foretell a government from hell. Unless, of course, as candidate he offers to Nigerians a full confession and makes reparations.
Since he is unlikely to do that, there is no basis for electoral credibility, and anyone who chooses to vote for him runs the same risk as whoever follows Buhari. This has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion: it is commonsense.
The new challenge then, is the same as the old: to find someone who is credible and unafraid.
For me, that person is Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party, a woman who did not want politics but was left with no choice.
Oby carries none of the baggage of Buhari or Atiku. In “Why I Am Running,” she has clearly laid out a compelling case.
In the past few years, this mother who became an advocate who became a candidate has taken risks and suffered deprivations in advocating the best interests of the ordinary Nigerian. She provided a voice for the Chibok girls in Abuja, symbolically sitting in Eagle Square while others shared money in government offices or sat at home.
I offer my support because of her character and commitment, and the fact that she has only one agenda. Perhaps most of all, her absolute clarity about the mission or and her fearlessness about things that go bump in the day, commend her to me.
What Nigerians have to do, and this includes the media, is step outside the APC and PDP fiction that they own the country. They don’t. There are 170 million of us, who do not belong to them, and who deserve someone who will lead with honour and dignity, and not put us and our children in debt from Day One.
I endorse Oby Ezekwesili. • email@example.com • Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense