FROM EMEKA ANUFORO, ABUJA NEWS – NATIONAL
• Says ‘ hold me liable, not Ezekwesili’
• Faults pipeline protection contract
• Graft now democratised, ex-minister insists
IT has been an intermittent disagreement that is sometimes considered to have been magnified by the public. But the face-off now festers, and erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo did not mind letting the public know this.
Sunday, Obasanjo told his estranged protégé President Goodluck Jonathan that he was not serious about fighting corruption.
He told Jonathan that he should demonstrate his fight against corruption by directing it on him (Obasanjo) rather than one of his former ministers, Oby Ezekwesili.
Obasanjo, who spoke in Abuja at the 50th birthday thanksgiving of Ezekwesili, said that the Jonathan government would not find anything against the former Minister of Education and World Bank chief.
He noted that as head of government for eight years, he should be held liable if any of his ministers was found wanting.
Obasanjo, who also spoke on the planned pipeline protection contract, described it as an avenue for corruption.
The former President said in defence of Ezekwesili: “Those who wanted to probe you, you should have asked them to, because if they are honest probers, they will find out that the government of Nigeria should give you money for what you have done for this country without stealing money.
“I have always said this. Whatever you want to blame in my government, blame me, don’t blame any of those people who assisted me. If there is any credit to dispense, we share it. But for anything you want to say is wrong, I was the one in charge.”
He continued: “This morning, I was travelling from Abeokuta and I was listening to radio. I heard that they said that they are going to set up an agency for pipeline protection. Now, what are the police there for? What are all the security agencies that we have doing? This is another chop chop.
“I just hope that we will get it right. We have no choice. We have to get it right. Let us decide individually that I would do what I have to do to bring about change in Nigeria. If you do that, let me assure you, you will be called names. You will be abused. Some people are hired to do that. But like Oby said, if what you believe is right, stand by it.”
On her part, Ezekwesili, who spoke with reporters after a church service held at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and a reception at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, lamented that endemic corruption was destroying the country.
She said the country was suffering from the woes of the past, calling on the citizens to demand accountability from their elected officials.
She said: “I am not a politician. The day I decide that I want to become a politician you don’t need to guess, you will see me. I am very candid. I am very frank. I am too honest to play games on things that I believe in.
“I am not a politician but I am an active citizen who is basically carrying out the role that every citizen of this nation must carry out. We are going through challenges that require a very strong sense of sacrificial leadership. The corruption in the society now is so endemic it has almost become democratised and that is going to sink us. We need to tackle corruption as we will tackle cancer. It can kill. There is no need pretending that this country is not burdened by corruption. Every Nigerian knows that we have a problem.”
Ezekwesili attracted criticism from the Jonathan administration when she raised questions on what the Jonathan Presidency has done with the $67 billion purportedly left by Obasanjo. She spoke at a convocation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Since then, Obasanjo’s and Jonathan’s aides have been at loggerheads, leading to another call by Ezekwesili for a public debate on the issue.
The Jonathan government has subtly turned down the call for a public debate on the issue. The government has rather sent some of the nation’s anti-corruption agencies to the Ministry of Education to snoop around if there were suspicious contracts awarded during the tenure of Ezekwesili, who is fondly called “Madam Due Process.”