Obasanjo: Yar'Adua should know the path of honour

2010-01-22
THIS DAY Newspaper- Chuks Okocha and Paul Obi

Abuja — Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has for some time now refrained from speaking publicly on the controversy trailing the absence of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua from the country on health grounds without transferring power to his deputy.

He has also refused to comment openly on the health problems of the President, though not a few Nigerians believe he knows more than enough.

But yesterday, the former president opened up on the two raging issues.

Obasanjo spoke at the 7th Annual Trust Dialogue organised by the Media Trust Limited at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, which he chaired.

He said President Yar'Adua should know the path of honour and morality if his health problem was making it difficult for him to perform.

He denied that he deliberately imposed a "sick man" on the country as President for him not to perform, asking God to punish him if he deliberately did that "to punish the country".

Speaking on the President's failure to transfer power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan before travelling abroad for medical treatment, the former president said: "If you take up an assignment, a job-elected, appointed, whatever it is, and then your health starts to fail and you will not be able to deliver to satisfy yourself and to satisfy the people you are supposed to serve, then there is a path of honour and the path of morality. There is path of honour and the path of morality and if you don't do that, then you don't know anything."

The former president also defended the power sector projects of his eight-year regime.

Obasanjo initially refused to make any political comment during the conference.

But when one of the commentators openly accused him of "deliberately imposing a sick man as President to punish Nigerians for rejecting him and his third term-in-office project," the real Obasanjo came out decisively.

He said: "When in year 2006, the idea came up as to succession; I was convinced in my mind that a Southerner succeeding me will not augur well for Nigeria. You may agree with that, you may not agree. I was convinced in my mind.

"Now, I was looking for those who will succeed me who has three important qualities. One, he has enough intellectual capacity to run the affairs of Nigeria. Two, he has sufficient personal integrity to run the affairs of Nigeria. Three, he is sufficiently broad-minded enough-politically, religiously, socially, whatever to manage the affairs of Nigeria. These three were the important things.

"Then Umoru (Umaru) Yar'Adua who is now the President, I know he has kidney problem and was under dialysis. Sometimes earlier, he had gone abroad when he was still the Governor of Katsina State. When the idea was for him to contest, I asked him and he gave me a medical report. The medical report shows that he has come off dialysis. I asked experts who then told me that if you were under dialysis or you were on dialysis and you are no longer under dialysis, it means you have had a successful kidney transplant and that you can live for as long as God may give you favour.

"Now, who am I and who are you not to accept that? That was the situation. Now, Mallam Yar'Adua went campaigning and we campaigned together. I remember at one day of the campaign, he was run down. Chairman of our party then, Ahmadu Ali, was also run down. Ahmadu Ali didn't go abroad to check up, but he went abroad to check up and the rumour was that he was dead. And I called him and I put the telephone on speaker and I said, Are you dead? And we continued with the campaign.

"To the best of my knowledge, he wasn't on dialysis after that. When the issue of dialysis came, he was well into his first term (as president) which may be the kidney transplant is failing, if it hasn't failed. That you cannot blame on me. You cannot even blame it on him. So, to say that I, Olusegun Obasanjo, deliberately see somebody who is an invalid is highly, highly ungrateful... How can I put so much into this country both in peace and in war and I will begin to run it down. If you have fear of God, you will not make that statement.

"On the way out of the constitutional crisis, what I needed to say on that, I have said as the Chairman of my Board of Trustees last week. I won't say anything more. What I need to say is that nobody picked Yar'Adua so that he will not perform. If I did that, God will punish me. There is no reason why I should do that.

"Again, if you take up an assignment, a job-elected, appointed, whatever it is, and then your health starts to fail and you will not be able to deliver to satisfy yourself and to satisfy the people you are supposed to serve, then there is a path of honour and the path of morality. There is path of honour and the path of morality and if you don't do that, then you don't know anything."

When there was a power failure for over 10 minutes at the Hilton Hotel during the conference, Obasanjo suggested that the organisers of the conference should ask for discount for the embarrassment caused it and the guests.

But one of the commentators at the seminar blamed the power failure on Obasanjo's eight-year regime.

Again, Obasanjo refused to accept the blame and immediately went on to defend his administration.

He said: "If you say it's not the fault of the hotel (Transcorp Hilton) that the electricity went off and you are trying to find fault somewhere else, then you are absolutely wrong. Now in my time, as the President of this country, in 20 years before I came in there was not a single one investment for generation.

"For 20 years, the last investment for generation was made by President Shehu Shagari. Now, for a country that wants to be developed, that's irresponsible, irresponsible behaviour. Now we came in 1999, what was wrong? This country was generating only 1100 megawatts, what was wrong. May the soul of Bola Ige rest in perfect peace. Bola Ige went up and down and said that he would fix it in six months. You remember that after one year I called Bola Ige, 'eh what is wrong?'

"Bola Ige has not got to the root of the subject of NEPA and later came up me to know what is happening in the institution. We removed the top, that didn't stop the problem because the problem was deep-rooted from top to bottom.

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"That time, we didn't have money; we were making maximum $19, $20 per barrel of oil. We called oil companies to help; they wouldn't come. When we started getting money, we decided to go for the NIPP; we worked on it and executed the plants, seven units, Garaku, Omotosho, Papalakun and Omaobi.

"They were on stream for two and a half years, and the government that succeeded us couldn't do anything. You don't blame that on anybody! The situation you have, you must know where to put your blame. And the 6000mw that we are talking about, this country reached 6000mw in the past, but for lack of maintenance, lack of repair is running it down.

"By the time we came to government in 1999, we were only producing out of the 36,000 capacity that was there, only 1000 units, we reached 4000 before we left, today we are talking about 3000 and looking for who to blame."

 

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