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Why a revisit of past is ‘must’

Last Sunday, at the Cathedral Church of Advent, Life Camp Gwarimpa Abuja, President Jonathan did what he does best- sharing his thoughts on all issues be it politics, economic or even security, with his congregation. My “fears are for the ministers and aides who served with me”, he told his Christian loyal supporters, adding in an effort to play the victim, “I sympathise with them; they will be persecuted, and they must be ready for that persecution.” But Lai Mohammed, APC spokesperson allayed the president fears by reassuring him Buhari will not be bogged down by endless probes. He however did not forget to add “those who have played poker with the nation’s destiny must be willing and eager to clear their conscience before man and God”.

I think this is type of exchange is one more compelling reason why we must revisit the past. It is in the interest of all. We already know what Jonathan and PDP stand for. It is only the uninformed who will be surprised that PDP, a creation of the military, an institution associated with pillaging conquered territories, produced wheelers and dealers who operated as if they have no stake in Nigeria. Military-baked PDP ‘new breed’ politicians cannot but act with impunity. The late Sunday Afolabi, internal affairs minister who went to jail for his involvement in the identity card contract scam admitted PDP is ‘come and chop’ party.  But long before that confession, John Campbell had during proceedings at a hearing on the topic: Nigeria in Turmoil, on 19 March, 2010, at Chattam house, London, dismissed PDP as a “party that came together, with no ideological or programmatic basis, but simply as essentially a club of elites for sharing of oil rents and political spoils”.

And PDP has no apology. Between 1999 and 2003, 17 of its 22 elected governors were either convicted or on the run from justice for financial malfeasance. There was the Halliburton case in which PDP stalwarts took a bribe of $180m to secure the LNG Bonny plant contract. There was the bungled Turn Around Maintenance contract for the refineries by PDP stalwarts. It was PDP men who during one of their vicious ‘family quarrels’, revealed that what  Obasanjo and Atiku did in the name of privatization between 1999 and 2003  was to literarily  share Nigeria’s commonwealth among their PDP members who had access to state money. When there was nothing left to share after privatization, a fraudulent undertaking, by their own admission, they came up with self-serving monetization policy which legitimizes the sharing of a national patrimony a transient government was expected to hold in trust for our children. It did not occur to them that there would have been nothing to share if Balewa, Zik and Awo had sold their official houses to themselves.

But our deep understanding of what PDP and its leaders stand for only reinforces the need to probe aspects of their past activities that have implications for tomorrow. Let us start with the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency, (PPPRA). The outfit with a staff strength of 249, supervised by an unwieldy 22-man strong board, gobbling scandalously whopping salaries and allowances of N57.9 billion per annum was touted as an answer to long queues at filling stations which greeted PDP accession to power in 1999. Its mandate was among others to “make the products available at reasonable prices”. The Bill for the establishment of PPPRA was promptly passed into law in February 2003. Sixteen years down the line, at the twilight of PDP’s exit from power, the queues are back with thousands of motorists marooned in filling stations across the country. PPPRA is a house of fraud. A Punch newspaper editorial recently brought the past to pain when it reminded us  about the N2.53 trillion paid out in 2011 as petrol subsidies to cronies and “ghost” businessmen when the National Assembly approved only N245 billion that year”. None of the PDP stalwarts and their children indicted by the House probe has been successfully prosecuted, a development the outgoing president put on ‘slow pace of justice in our environment’.

Also needed to be revisited is the frittering away of N7billion on rural electrification project.  It will be recalled that EFCC on June 14, 2010, claimed the rural electrification exercise “were used as conduit pipes with which funds of the Rural Electrification Agency were siphoned and were awarded to companies either not pre-qualified to be awarded the contract, or were phony or non existing companies”. But once Justice M.G Umar of Abuja High Court absolved all the PDP men and their collaborators on March 24, 2012, claiming ‘he was unable to find a prima facie case or complaint disclosed in the proof of evidence against the respondent’, the government did not even bother to appeal.

We have the former Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, now a senator-elect from Anambra, whose alleged overpriced amoured car deal with Coscharis forced the nation to pay attention  to a loss of as much as N64b  to import tax waivers scam in the first half of 2013 financial year. As it has now turned out, while Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance claimed her ministry “approved only N70.73 billion worth of duty waivers and exceptions in three years, the customs the implementing agency has insisted the value of waivers processed for the same period was N1.4 trillion”.  President Jonathan who governs through delegation by abdication believes his minister of finance could do no wrong even after her 2011 television appearance fiasco where she justified payment of subsidy to those that turned out to be children of PDP stalwarts who never supplied a pint of fuel.

The incoming government’s immediate challenge will be the power sector. Unfortunately, PDP and its leaders could not even agree on how much the nation has expended on the power sector since 1999. Independent foreign experts put the figure at above $50b.  President Jonathan’s own three-year roadmap after an expenditure of about $8b pushed the power capacity to 4,517MW in December 2012 before nose-diving to the current estimated 2800MW.  Dagogo Jack, chairman of the presidential task-force on power who presided over Jonathan’s Roadmap for Power Sector Reform which gave birth to six generation companies, 11 distribution companies and a national power transmission company, recently claimed government has no control over private firms.

And finally as a way of solving some of the above riddles, there may be need to probe all those who donated a whopping sum of over N21b to support President Jonathan’s failed re-election bid. Of the N21bn, Jerry Gana, a key actor in Jonathan energy reform who was in the Abuja church last Sunday to bid Jonathan farewell as he had done to his past predecessors since 1985, donated N5 billion on behalf of his unidentified friends and “associates in the power sector.”, Tunde Ayeni, chairman of Skye Bank Plc and also a key actor in the power sector donated N2 billion on behalf of himself and his unnamed “partner” and “friends.” This type of donation raises question about the outgoing government’s plan to arrange a N213 billion bailout for government favoured private sector operators who have been confirmed to be stalwarts of PDP.

The donation of N1billion by the transport and aviation sector at a period they are indebted to the banks to the tune of N300 billion may expedite the plan of the incoming government to convert the Jonathan fleet of over eight aircrafts to form the nucleus of a new national carrier while EFCC is set after the current reckless operators of private airlines; and of course a probe will indicate if the automobile industry donors of N450 million, include beneficiaries of import duty waivers.

The Punch in its editorial of December 23, 2014 states “there is an instinctive conclusion among the Nigerian public that the Jonathan government is the most financially corrupt, fiscally irresponsible, politically insensitive and socially disconnected in Nigerian history”. Both Jonathan and Buhari need the probe for different reasons.

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