Former President Obasanjo of Nigeria was on Saturday last week beside himself with joy, telling the world how his administration created 25 billionaires. Speaking at the 2016 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum in Lagos, Obasanjo recalled with glee that he made Africa’s richest woman, Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija among the 25 others he created.
When you allocate oil blocs to your friends in the private sector and grant them generous import waivers and incredible concessions while increasing value added tax(VAT) that severely hit ordinary Nigerians as indirect tax, what is there to celebrate about? By giving your friends in the private sector unfair advantages because of their connection, should you call that an achievement to brag about?
While US President Barack Obama was celebrating the millions of jobs he created and economically lifting members of the Middle Class, Obasanjo was loudly boasting of making a coterie of his friends in the private sector billionaires. When Dangote, Odetola and other billionaire he created were donating billions upon billions for his private Presidential Library Project, were they doing so out of patriotism? They were doing so as a payback for his generosity of using government policy to make them billionaires at a time poverty was ravaging ordinary Nigerians like Tsunami.
His privatisation policy was a national scandal. His successor, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, was so unhappy with the derisory prices at which the Kaduna and Port Harcourt Refineries were sold to Dangote and Odetola that he compelled to revoke the sale the refineries. The late Umaru Musa Yar’adua had more compassion for the ordinary Nigerians than Obasanjo. He drastically reduced Obasanjo’s notoriously costly fuel prices when he took over.
If former President Obasanjo was celebrating the millions of jobs he created for ordinary Nigerians, I would have praised him for the achievement. I cannot however praise a man whose policies made the richer richer and the poor ever poorer and worse off. Using your position in government to make your friends billionaires, in addition to giving NITEL a kiss of death, thereby throwing ordinary Nigerians to the wolves, called MTN, Globacom and Airtel, is not my idea of achievement if the larger members of the society are left worse off.