FG VS EZEKWESILI: GUILTY OR NOT GUILTY?

As usual, Nigerians were again called to action the other day when a public lecture presented by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili at the annual convocation ceremony of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, went viral. It wouldn't have generated so many hullabaloos if it was another messenger that brought the message. But the mere fact that Dr. Oby is a former Minister of Education, and former Special Adviser to the President – who served under an administration that set the precedence for what we are witnessing today in the polity, triggered the serendipitous introspection and suspicion. She in her lecture alleged that the President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration – which she served under as a Minister – left $67b in the coffers before kissing the office goodbye. $45b was in the foreign reserve while $22b was in the Excess Crude Account (ECA). She did not end it there but went further to challenge the President to throw his boys out for a public debate. After Ezekwesili's statements, many jumped out in ignoramus ecstasy to demand the head of the president, unaware that the Nigeria Governors Forum are presently in court over the ECA (Excess Crude Account).

Well, first of all, we all know it's the beauty of democracy that people have the opportunity to question the government. However, it is puerile and putrefying for Dr. Oby Ezekwesili to challenge the Federal Government to a public debate and Nigerians get on screaming, yea baby! yea baby! yea baby! Some cynics as usual didn't bother verifying her claims before pitching their tents. In fact, it offered them another opportunity to further hurl venoms at the president – typical of an average Nigerian. Peradventure the Federal Government decides to ditch her plentiful assignments for this jamboree aimed at further denigrating (my conjecture, though) this administration, then, they should expect some “kparaga” boys under the head bridge in Lagos tomorrow to challenge our constituted authority and we'd have no choice than to honor them. We had similar occurrence during the fuel subsidy brouhaha, when Prof. Tam David West, a former Minister for Petroleum gave his stats and challenged the Federal Government for a public debate. Majority of the people who were not properly guided by facts chanted oh yes! yes oh! oh yes! But when people who are still in power gave theirs, we assumed it's untenable. We have so reduced governance in this milieu to a trifling miniature. And just because the President Goodluck administration leaves much to be desired doesn't mean he should debate whoever asks him for a debate. Of course he'd turn down a debate as usual. So, there's no point flogging a dead goat.

Paradoxically, I understand that it is difficult to write anything pitching your tenth with the government in this clime without being labeled pro-government or a sycophant. But on the contrary, not all of us live in a glass house and with facts that are too notorious to be hidden, we are properly guided to throw stones – not minding whose ox is gored! Facts are sacred and must be presented at all times. We might have been fooled before because we couldn't rise above sheer sentiments. We are now particularly sick and tired of being fed crumbs and cannot be cowed further than we've been. Must anybody just wake up and decide to toss around our governments and leaders and we clap for them? I really don't know why we are making this mess of leadership. Tomorrow, maybe and just maybe, Prof. Dora will also challenge President Goodluck to produce the remaining change she made from selling ice to Eskimo on her re-branding propaganda, and we clap for her. Are Nigerians learners?

The statistics reeled out by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili were obviously exaggerated and could also be misleading to some who are not so versed with facts and perhaps our young scholars who may want to rely on media reports for their statistics. So the need to debate her was self-contradictory and dead upon arrival. There is no gainsaying that the Central Bank of Nigeria remains our most reliable and hallowed accurate source of data especially as it concerns facts and figures; Giving that notorious statement, and Ezekwesili's inability to state her source further triggers our skepticism – for those of us who admire and model her so much. I mean, the holes in her $67bn squandered claim can easily be seen with a little Google research into what was withdrawn and what it was used for. According to Ezekwesili's, the President Obasanjo administration left $45bn in the Foreign reserves and $22bn in the Excess Crude Account, I don't know her source but these figures are incorrect. CBN records say OBJ left a total of $43.13bn – External reserves $31.5bn, Excess Crude Account $9.43bn, and $2.18bn in the Federal Government's saving. Source: (http://cenbank.org)

Perhaps, a little mathematics will suffice; Mathematics 1: Foreign reserve reached lowest (post OBJ) in 2010 ($35bn) + ECA lowest in April 2012 ($3bn) = $38bn minus $67bn (from Ezekwesili's report) = $28bn withdrawn

Fact 1: Should we even go by her figures, $28bn was the entire amount withdrawn from both accounts post OBJ, not $67bn as she over-exaggerated

Mathematics 2: In 2008, crude oil fell to $38/barrel, take that from $95 benchmark and you find a deficit of $57/barrel to fund a N2.546trn budget

Mathematics 3: At a 2.4m barrels/day production in 2008 – wastages/stealing = 1.8mbpd X 360days x $38/barrel = $2.4624bn (N381.672bn) Not enough

Fact 2: The FG had to withdraw about N2.164trn ($13.96bn) from both accounts to fund the 2008 budget. I'm sure with the events of yesterday and the governors suing over ECA sharing, there's really no need to delve into why more ECA withdrawals were made as its crystal clear.

Section 162 sub-section 3 of the 1999 Constitution as amended by the 6th National Assembly grants the indulgence for the Excess Crude Account to be shared between the Federal, State and Local governments. And the state governors are keen to comply so much that the governors have taken the Federal Government to court and refused to settle out of court. Gov. Rotimi Amechi speaking for the Nigeria Governors Forum says there's no going back, the Federal Government tried to pacify them by releasing $1bn, but the Governors insisted that there's $9bn left to share, so share it now! Should they get their way, The Federal Government would have to share a part of the ECA monthly, and in a few years, we'd all point fingers again at the Federal Government.

Obviously, there was some mismanagement of funds and profligate on some misplaced priorities. In fact, on this whole issue of prudent fund management, I expected President Goodluck Jonathan to get whipped in the ass for the superfluous mismanagement of funds but why should Ezekwesili of all people exaggerate figures and distort facts? That's an integrity question she should answer first if you ask me because her real intents are still unknown. Her squandering claims were for the umpteenth time exaggerated and at best sensational. Worst-still is that she's yet to realize the gravity of her public blunder as she kept on pontificating on her twitter handle. Synchronously, I had also expected Dr. Reuben Abbati, Special Adviser to the President on Media Matters, to state these facts to set the records straight but he chose to write on “drunkards of yesterday”. I really don't know why he's getting so obsessed to talking about drunkards and drinking of “kain-kain” in Aso Rock, lately. More like leaving the core issues for unnecessary personality attacks while allowing the subject to proliferate. Although, equity is a sacred place where not everybody should visit but we can pardon that. However, the Federal Government don't necessarily – in my humble opinion – need to dignify an individual over the interest of other 159,999m Nigerians. The lion has never and can never be greater than the jungle!

May I quickly remind our leaders – both serving and ex-leaders – that we are no longer fools! The timidity of a lion does not exhibit cowardice and the restlessness of the monkey doesn't show courage. Once bitten twice shy. You can't fool all the people all the time. We are watching with keen interest!

Ex Editor-In-Chief
Psychology Press Organization,
University of Ibadan
[email protected]
Follow on twitter @ Xtianrooy
Simeon Christian Chukwu also writes for www.sleeping-with-a-sleeping-disorder.com

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Articles by Simeon Christian Chukwu