Oby Ezekwesili, the former minister for education and frontwoman for the Bring Back Our Girls movement, followed up on Twitter from her farcical appearance on Al Jazeera’s “Head to head”, in which she suggested that her ex boss and former president Olusegun Obasanjo was not corrupt, with a number of tweets claiming that there was no “empirical evidence” of Obasanjo’s corruption.
Wikipedia describes “empirical evidence” as “information that justifies a belief in the truth or falsity of a claim.”
There is more than enough information to justify a belief that Obasanjo was corrupt and “Madam Due Process” was not following due process to conclude there was no “empirical evidence”.
Evidence of Obasajo’s corruption stretches as far back to his time in military regimes.
1. The acqusition and development of his farm in Otta was based on fraud. The land was acquired at very low prices from the owners as part of the government’s “Operation Feed the Nation” (OFN) programme. When the owners went to court over the price offered, Obasanjo brought in the “Land-use Decree”, which put ownership of all land in the country in the hands of the federal government. The land acquired for OFN would later become Otta Farms Nigeria (OFN) and then Obasanjo Farms Nigeria (OFN). The farm was estimated to be worth $250m in 2011.
2. Obasanjo in a lawsuit against a former friend stated that he used the friend (Chief Egunjobi) as a front to acquire Beach Land Estate in Apapa, Lagos. This should have been enough to disqualify him from running for president in any country with respect for the rule of law.
3. Between 1999 and 2007 his land grab included a palm oil Farm in Calabar, a poultry farm in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, another farm in Oke-Ogun in Oyo State, Lanlate fish farm in Ota, a poultry farm at Ibogun, Ogun State, an oil palm plantation at Ehuagie in Rivers State, and a tea plantation in Adamawa State.
4. He also owns Temperance Hotel in Otta, has interests in Transcorp (200m shares), the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, Suntrust Petroleum, Bells University and secondary school (both built with public funds).
5. A report from then Inspector General of Police Mike Okiro claimed that Obasanjo shared $74m in bribes from Halliburton with vice president Atiku and others between 2000 and 2001.
6. While he was petroleum minister as well as president, about $130bn disappeared from the nation’s coffers in unaccounted oil revenue. About $1bn was awarded in maintenance contracts to Obasanjo cronies for rehabilitating refineries, and precious little work was done. Obasanjo was one of the beneficiaries of the sale of the Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries at knockdown prices. Aliko Dangote, an Obasanjo ally, who benefited from those dodgy deals gave Obasanjo a gift of a private jet worth $35m.
7. Obasanjo and cronies, using front companies misappropriated about $7bn of the $16bn funds allocated for improving power supply in the country.
8. On 16 May, 13 days before his tenure expired, Obasanjo awarded contracts for $3.7bn and this money vanished.
Ezekwesili is being wilfully blind to claim that there is no “empirical evidence” of Obasanjo’s corruption. There is enough forensic evidence to ensure Obasanjo rots in jail for the rest of his days. This is one of the reasons why Obasanjo has a vested interest in who runs Nigeria – any unfriendly president is likely to jail him.
Ezekwesili is probably mouthing off out of loyalty because she owes her prominence to Obasanjo. But she is doing no favours to what’s left of her credibility.