When Chief Duro Onabule Had a Memory Lapse
Scientists have told us that people of all ages experience inconvenient and, sometime, embarrassing memory lapses. That is the reason I may have to cut Chief Duro Onabule some slack in this rejoinder to his column on The Sun of November 21, 2014. Instead, I would do posterity well by detailing the facts that our chief has decided to upend the truth either in order to gratify some personal craving for contemporary relevance or in a flagrant attempt to score a cheap political point by misinforming the reading public.
First and foremost, I want to believe that Chief Duro Onabule experienced some memory lapse while penning his thoughts on the state of the Nigerian economy in that article; or how else can one explain the trail of inconsistencies in his position on issues raised there?
It is general knowledge that Onabule's weekly column – since when he was press secretary to the evil genius, General Ibrahim Babangida – has always been replete with inconsistent positions and personal contradictions. One would think after years of being relieved of his duty as Babangida's propagandist, Chief Onabule would have outgrown the crave to befuddle the Nigerian readers. His latest write-up is evidence that this is not so. From the first paragraph, Onabule went for the jugular, this time his victim is our Finance Minister, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, whom he accused of lording it over the nation. He threw up all sorts of allegation in desperate attempt to discredit the effort of Dr. Iweala.
From an outsider's perspective, I think there is a grand conspiracy by some political elements, masquerading as analysts, to make madam Okonjo-Iweala the scape goat as price of oil continues on a freefall in the international market. It seems no one remembers how NOI shouted herself hoarse on the need for Nigerians not to eat with two hands and forget about the future.
It is an open secret that madam minister has been sounding warning notes to Nigerians, especially members of the House of Reps and State governors, that a day is coming when the oil boom would cease and the rain of free dollars. Instead of yielding to this warning, we daily wake up to the news of how the state governors have succeeded in coercing the president into allowing fragrant withdrawals from the Excess Crude Account.
In my own opinion, I think this is what Chief Duro Onabule set out to achieve in his article. He made it look like the fall in oil price and the pain that comes with it was as a result of Madam Iweala's lack of foresight and planning.
Also, while still dwelling on the issue of falling oil price in his article, Chief Duro Onabule calls on the minister to probe those who mismanage the oil windfall Nigeria had had in time past. However, it beats my imagination that he failed to call on the minister to also turn the searchlight on his boss at the hilltop in Minna. Or did Chief Onabule forget that there was something called Okigbo Panel Report which indicted his boss? The Okigbo Report tells us that IBB frittered away $12bn of the country's revenue through special accounts, which he ran as the sole approving authority. Does Chief Onabule know about that or he hasn't been told?
The Okogbo report, which was submitted to the administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha on August 29, 1994, shows that Onabule's principal, General Babangida, operated dedicated accounts outside of the budgetary provisions, which he ran without accounting to anybody. “The proceeds of the sale of the crude were not shown in the revenue side nor were the expenditures reflected in the expenditure side of the budget,” the report says.
My question is: Did Chief Onabule forget about this report when he demands for the persecution of those that plunder Nigeria's commonwealth? I think it is needful for Chief Onabule to call for the persecution of his former boss as well.
Another thing that convinced me that Chief Onabule had a momentary loss of memory in his bid to drag the minister in the mire was the question directed to Dr. Iweala on what she has done to alleviate the suffering of pensioners in Nigeria. This question is very disheartening because it seems our dear chief has not been following events of recent or perhaps he decides to wave aside what has been done. In order to answer Chief's question, it will interest him to know that few weeks ago; some group of pensioners barricaded the Ministry of Finance to protest the non-increment of their pension. The protest coincided with the time the Minister was going for the weekly Federal Executive Council at the Villa. The minister had a perfect excuse to dash ahead for the FEC meeting. But out of compassion, she decided to sit and dialogue with the pensioners. At the end of the day, she was able to reach a compromise with the protesting group.
News report also have it that she constituted a committee made up of a high-level team from the Federal Ministry of Finance and representatives of military pensioners. The group would be chaired by the Director General, Budget Office, Dr Bright Okogu, and would include the Chairman Military Pension Board and representatives of the military pensioners. Others are the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission as well as staff of the Federal Military of Finance.
Was it that Chief Duro Onabule never read this in the paper? Wasn't that a swift action? How many ministers in Nigeria's history have sat down with protesting pensioners and dialogue with them? The tales we've had all these years are such that pensioners are ignored and left to themselves.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that Chief Duro Onabule's piece on The Sun drips of malice and half-truths. Nigerians must be informed that analyst like this has one goal and that is to muddle up the public space for their parochial interest.