A new book has revealed the amount spent and principal actors in the botched Third Term Agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Titled “Too Good To Die: Third Term And The Myth Of The In Dispensable Man In Africa,” the book written by Prof. Chidi Odinkalu and Ayisha Osori revealed that $500 million was spent on the move, nearly double the $300 million that former Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu estimated was spent.
The book read in part, “When all the cost elements, including the public relations campaigns, additional incentives, the work of the JCCR (Joint Committee on Constitutional Review of the National Assembly) and constitutional conference, as well as inevitable incentives to the security services, are added to the inducements proposed for legislators, it seems almost certain that the budget for the third term was in excess of $500 million or half a billion dollars.”
The authors also provided insight into how the money was raised for the infamous agenda.
The book read, “None of this money was lawfully appropriated. They could only have been generated by theft, diversion or misappropriation of public resources.
“Among many sources that were raided, the Obasanjo administration patented and pioneered a habit of unusual withdrawals from Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account, a rainy day, sovereign savings scheme funded by the extra earnings from Nigeria’s petroleum exports.
“2006, the year in which President Obasanjo hoped to achieve an elongation of his tenure by constitutional amendments, was by some unusual coincidence also the year in which Nigeria achieved the highest inflow into the ECA. In that year, the fund had an inflow of $29.614 billion from oil export earnings.
“In the same year, however, the administration also inexplicably authorized withdrawals from the ECA totaling the sum of $29.799 billion, resulting in a net negative balance of $184.404 million. In one year from 2005 to 2006, coinciding with precisely the most active period of the third Third Term Agenda, President Obasanjo authorised unusual payments totalling12.176 billion Naira, reportedly to fund the Niger Delta Power Plants and the National Independent Power Project (NIPP).
“Until then, this volume of payments out of the ECA was unprecedented. There is scant evidence that these sums were in fact administered for the declared purpose.
“Some of the disbursements from the ECA may plausibly have gone towards public purposes like the management of Nigeria’s debt settlements. It is not inconceivable though that at least some part of the ECA’s net negative balance went to fund activities connected with President Obasanjo’s Third Term Agenda.”
Despite the machinations, the Agenda failed following the May 16, 2006 rejection of the Constitutional Amendments Bill by the Nigerian Senate.
But the authors also identified the principal actors in the scheme beside Obasanjo, who has consistently denied playing any part in it.
The other principal actors identified in the book were former governors of Jigawa, Saminu Turaki; Kaduna, Ahmed Makarfi; Delta, James Ibori; Kwara, Bukola Saraki; Katsina, Umaru Yar’adua; Yobe, Bukar Abba; and Osun, Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun).
The book added, “In the shadows were budding oligarchs and private sector operators who knew enough to be part of every government. They had morphed into a formidable clique during the Obasanjo administration as the main beneficiaries of a privatisation policy from which they profited tremendously.
“While the majority were and have not been open about their involvement in or support for a third term, Festus Odimegwu, then Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries at the height of the advocacy for and aginst a third term, threw his hat firmly in the ring for tenure elongation and lost his job for it.
“The cream of this businessmen and women became part of Transcorp, which was launched with much fanfare by Obasanjo at the Presidential Villa in Abuja in July 2005. Transcorp became the symbol, identity and totem of 32 of Nigeria’s wealthiest people. In addition to billionaire financiers, Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola; bankers Tony Elumelu and Jim Ovia, and Odimegwu, this group included former CEO of First Bank Plc, Bernard Longe, who was appointed the first CEO of Transcorp after Obasanjo summarily removed Fola Adeola, the pioneer Managing Director of Transcorp.
“Apart from having a mind of his own, Adeola was said to have harboured ambitions to run for a seat in the Senate, in which Obasanjo’s eldest child, Iyabo, a veterinary doctor, was also interested. After he made his anti-third term public, Obasanjo also had Adeola summarily removed from his position as Chairman of the Pension Commission.
“Others included Jacobs Moyo Ajekigbe, MD/CEO of First Bank of Nigeria Plc.; Otunba Funsho Lawal, CEO of Charterhouse Group; Tony Ezeanna, CEO of Orange Drugs and Adegboyega Olulade, an investment banker and stockbroker.
“Also part of this group until his death was Waziri Mohammed. From the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Nicholas Okoye, who was designated as the head of derivatives trading, joined his boss and Director General, Ndi Okereke-Onyuike, in this select assembly of Obasanjo’s favoured businessmen and women.
“Transcorp raised N16 billion through private placement and had the good fortune to be the successful bidder for 71 percent of Nigeria’s former telecommunications monopoly, NITEL. It was also proud owner of Nicon-Noga Hilton Hotel, which many considered a national heritage, a concession for a 400,000-barrel per-day refinery at the Lekki Free Trade Zone and independent power plants.
“Other assets auctioned to the group were oil blocs to enable the new company operate in the upstream oil and gas industry. The controversy around Obasanjo’s acquisition of 200 million shares of Transcorp gave no pause to his ardent supporters for whom he was the model of exemplary leadership.
“A few months after the launch of Transcorp, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), made a case for a third term for Obasanjo. Charles Ugwu, the president of MAN, suggested that he spoke for the private sector in support of tenure elongation when he described Obasanjo as an example of rare, experienced and mature human resource.
“Addressing the 34th annual general meeting of the MAN on 15 November, 2005, Ugwu asked rhetorically: ‘(S)hould we package him in a box and put on a shelf of retired leaders and seek out a neophyte with whom we would experiment?”
Odinkalu is a lawyer and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), while Osori, who is also a lawyer, is the Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).