General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) and $12.4 billion: So?

Friday, April 16, 2010

General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB)

By Igbonekwu Ogazimorah

Having announced his desire to give the presidency a shot, General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), former military president, has drawn the ire of so many, including those who genuinely felt he did so many wrong things in his eight-year sojourn in power, 1985-1993 and those others who believe that in serving salvos to the retired General, they too would climb the social ladder.

What seems the catchments for those who must lampoon IBB is the issue of a said 12.4 billion US Dollars, which the late Dr. Pius Okigbo report said was earned as oil windfall. According to the report, that huge sum was earned – mark my word, windfall – but not much of it was left as the regime of the dark goggled General, Sani Abacha, got underway. Of course, it was Abacha who instituted the Okigbo panel.

Okigbo viewed the report the way of economists: Making money and saving a great deal of it. For economists, the much that were always sighted in the savings column are what indicates how healthy an economy can be. Nothing to do with the spending.

But Okigbo never said the money was embezzled or kept outside the country. What seemingly irked the Breton Wood economist was that the money appeared spent in haste. And if you recall, the haste with which IBB arranged his transfer of national capital from Lagos to Abuja, it was as if an entire kingdom was being evacuated and this must have called for high spending, rightly or wrongly, though.

Yet, that is not the issue now. What is worrisome is this tendency to try to rob in $12.4 billion, so high a figure spent over 17 years ago, as if we have not witnessed far more staggering spending, even in years, as recent as just 2006.

Right before us, the Olusegun Obasanjo government burnt public funds to the tune of $26.7 billion in bogus energy transactions, which turned out to force more darkness in our cities and villages. About the same time, in the same breadth, Obasanjo spent about $700 billion in spurious railway contracts with Chinese firms. Of course, as he gunned for his second term, in 2003, we Nigerians knew that his Ministry of Works under Mr. Fix It had spent over N300 billion, while no single Federal Government road was repaved, maintained or constructed.

Remember that while Obasanjo awarded the contracts, he paid the contractors who, for reasons known to both parties, never delivered. What followed suit was that the government of Umar Yar’Adua had cancelled the contracts only to re-award them to the same contractors, who went home with the initial mobilization fee.

Truth is that so much billions in dollars have always been earned. After all, the Niger Delta oil is flowing and pretenders are on the throne. Yet, we cannot afford to ignore any kind of excess spending, whether it was by Obasanjo or IBB.

After all, if we exam it more closely, Obasanjo has spent more in recklessness and without result than any other Nigerian leader. He only adds to the pains by flatly refusing to give way after God has done so much for him. He is the official godfather of Jonathan’s regime and he is not pretending about his desire to extend the power of popular opinion, which he has earned using Save Nigeria Group (SNG) to dethrone Yar’Adua.


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