By Oludare Mayowa
This particular article was published under my weekly column; Economic Issues in the Business Times of September 18-24, 2006, it examined the issue of corruption and how those in government manipulate things to divide Nigerians just to ensure the continuation of their plundering of the economy.
In the past few weeks, two major developments bordered on corruption in high places have continued to dominate public discourse, creating a wide gulf between some proponents of transparency and accountability in governance on one hand and those with less than a wholesome image in the eyes of the general public.
The report of the investigation conducted by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), which indicted the sitting Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and the publication of the Okigbo panel report on the management of the Gulf oil windfall and the economy during the reign of former military president Ibrahim Babangida are major milestones in the country’s fight against graft in public office.
Though the Okigbo panel report was conducted way back in 1994, during the regime of the late maximum rule, General Sani Abacha, its contents have been held back from public view by the successive administration due to reason best known to them.
But its publication by the Punch Newspaper is now generating public interest and commentary on what the government should do concerning the report.
The thrust of the Okigbo panel report showed that the regime of IBB frittered away about $12.5 billion in revenue generated during the first Gulf war in 1992 when oil prices rose above the benchmark for the budget.
The report also painted a glaring picture of how military arbitrariness almost destroyed the economy through lack of accountability and transparency in public finance and how a single man was able to corner the resources of the country for himself and some of his cronies.
With the publication of the report, the onus is now on the present government to officially release the detail and the white paper on the report to the public while those implicated in the finding should be brought to book.
From the overwhelming evidence contained in the Okigbo report, the desire of IBB to stage a come back into the political arena is in danger because it will be foolhardy of him to ignore the weighty issues raised in the report and still think he could win the support of the majority of Nigerians.
For many years, this country has been plundered by the so-called people who came in the guise of messiah and perpetrated evil to the detriment of the majority of Nigerians who were denied access to the God given resources meant for the good of all.
While it will be premature to jump to a conclusion on the culpability of IBB and his cronies in the ruin of the economy, it should be stated here that available evidence clearly showed that the nation has continued to fall victim to the so-called leaders whose interest is mostly on how to enrich themselves with our commonwealth.
The Okigbo report is just one of such damming indictments of many of our past rules, whose motive for coming to power are mainly for self-aggrandizement, with the intent to milk the country dry, while the majority of the people continued to wallow in abject poverty.
Remembering the years of Babangida in government would elicit memories of pains and economic hardship that followed the implementation of his economic programme that required belt-tightening by the masses.
However, against the economic norms, his government deliberately promoted deceits and corruption through the inflation of contracts, embarking on grandiose projects that had little or no importance on the well being of the masses. Those bogus projects were channels for draining the economy and siphoned funds from the system for personal use.
Aside the report on the management of the economy, how much was spent on the long and cyclical transition programme which was eventually aborted is yet to be accounted for by any member of the government.
Projects embarked upon in the twilight of the regime with funds disbursed and projects abandoned are also yet to be accounted for by the major players in that government.
The fight against corruption must be total if the present government must be taken seriously and the image of the country would be redeemed.
This government should lead by example if this entire leak would be taken seriously and the fight against corruption is to be seen as credible.