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Obasanjo and the death of Vision 2010

Gen. Abacha’s Vision 2010 was one of the best policy documents ever conceived for the future development of Nigeria. Congenitally vindictive and prone to mischief,…

Gen. Abacha’s Vision 2010 was one of the best policy documents ever conceived for the future development of Nigeria. Congenitally vindictive and prone to mischief, former President Obasanjo discarded national interest and threw away the Vision 2010 blue print overboard. Put together by experts from various professional fields and headed by former UAC Chairman, Chief Ernest Shonekan, the project was one of the best legacies of the Abacha regime.

Sadly, under the former Obasanjo administration, private vengeance had become an official policy. In fact, as clearly stated by Dr. Shamsuddeen, the sheer personal antipathy of former President Obasanjo towards Gen. Abacha was the main motive for destroying the Vision 2010 policy document. Obasanjo’s provincialism had set back Nigeria in many other ways.

For example, the railway rehabilitation project initiated by the late Gen. Sani Abacha was also given a kiss of death by former President Obasanjo. As soon as he became President, Obasanjo had no qualms suspending the project not because it was not desirable but because he wanted to deny Gen. Abacha credit for anything good he ever did for Nigeria. Which sensible leader would deliberately put his country in the reverse gear merely because a good project was initiated by his perceived enemy? We are now back to the drawing board as far as the railway modernization project is concerned. Today, railway project is in limbo, facing uncertain future because the Yar’adua administration complains that it can no longer afford the staggering cost at which it was re-awarded by his predecessor.

Perhaps, in a belated realization of that stupidity, former President Obasanjo re-awarded the railway rehabilitation projects towards the end of his tenure after Nigeria had lost much ground in improving that critical sector of public transportation. In fact, Obasanjo perceived fraud in every project Gen. Abacha ever introduced. The former President had let hatred and prejudice to get the better of his reasoning. Ironically, the railway projects were re-awarded at a more staggering cost to Nigeria, amounting to 7-billion dollars. During the Abacha regime, the project was awarded at about 3-billion dollars.

Eight years after the completion of his tenure, Obasanjo recorded the worst performance record than any previous administrations in the country. Despite the billions of unprecedented oil revenues that came to his administration, Obasanjo’s performance was far below the standard set by Gen. Abacha who had fewer resources. He destroyed Abacha’s impressive railway rehabilitation project without giving Nigerians a viable or better alternative. Today, the railway rehabilitation is bogged down by greed, corruption and incompetence of the Obasanjo administration.

Obasanjo’s negative attitude to the Vision 2010 project initiated by the Abacha regime leaves a question whether the former President can claim the status of a statesman. A statesman is broadminded; he does not let prejudice blinker his vision and the progress of his country. Why should any sensible leader do away with good policies just because he doesn’t like those that initiated them? Can a nation achieve any real progress when it is led on the whims and caprices of erratic leaders like Obasanjo?

Was it not the same Obasanjo who ordered the demolition of tolls gates across the country merely because his European visitor complained privately of how the toll gates caused him delays while he was traveling along Nigerian roads? It didn’t matter to Obasanjo that billions of naira was spent to build those toll gates! Curiously, the same Obasanjo nursed the idea of reconstructing the toll gates when his tenure was about to end. But this toll gates were needlessly pulled down to please the impulsive ego of a power-hungry civilian dictator, called Obasanjo.

How long can Nigeria continue to tolerate leaders that take pleasure in destroying good policies without offering better alternatives? The belated lamentation of the death of Vision 2010 project by Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman didn’t come as a surprise to Nigerians who have been following the impulsive behaviour of former President Obasanjo. If a doctor makes a fatal error, his patient becomes the victim. So also does a nation pay dearly when leaders do stupid things. Eight years after leaving office, there is no ocular evidence of what Obasanjo did with the billions his government earned as oil revenues.

The introduction of Vision 2020 by the former Obasanjo administration was more of a copycat project or an afterthought stemming from the realization that discarding its predecessor (Vision 2010) was not wise after all. Instead of implementing the project, Obasanjo threw it away, forgetting that Nigeria has no time on its side. Eleven years after Abacha’s death, Nigeria is still not sure whether it is prepared to actualize any vision at all.

In fact, there is nothing original in Obasanjo’s Vision 2020 initiative, which was shamelessly stolen from Abacha’s Vision 2010. You cannot destroy the foundation of progress and then expect to move forward. Former President Obasanjo had dragged Nigeria into a cul-de-sac, turning the country into a tortoise struggling miserably to catch up (if at all we are in the race)!

Balarabe Shehu wrote in from No. 39, Aminu Kano Crescent, Abuja