President Goodluck Jonathan’s refusal to cough out N1 Billion for former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s library project is reason both leaders fell apart, Pointblanknews.com gathered.
General Olusegun Obasanjo had conceived the idea of a Presidential library patterned after the Presidential Libraries concept in the United States, which was pioneered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
A fundraising event for the Library project in 2005-raised N4 billion, the figure excluded the $20 million (about N2 billion) donated by oil firm majors operating in the country, bringing the total to N6 Billion.
The Library project cost was put at N7 Billion.
The Library Project trustees include Ambassador Christopher Kolade, former Nigeria’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, as chairman, Mr. Carl Masters, an American as co-chairman, Former Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel, Hon. Vernon Jordan, an American, Mr. Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Atlantic Airline, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, Minister of Finance under the Buhari administration and Mr. Jim Ovia, former MD/CEO Zenith International Bank.
Others include Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, the Obasanjo’s eldest daughter and Mr. Nyaknno Osso, the president’s librarian who serves as secretary.
Big donors to the project were Dr. Mike Adenuga, chairman of Globacom Communications who donated N250 million, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, president Dangote Group, N211.6 million and Mr. Femi Otedola, chairman of Zenon Oil Limited, N200 million.
Pointblanknews.com findings have now revealed that pledges made at the fund raising event, which brought the figure to N6 Billion, are yet to be redeemed years after the well-celebrated 2005 fundraising ceremony, when Obasanjo was still the President.
The Obasanjo Presidential Library had in anticipation of receiving all pledges made in 2005, gone into a partnership and signed a $6.1 million contract for the development of the museum component of the library with an American firm of designers and architects, Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) in 2008.
The deal with the RAA is still pending as the Library project is now cash-starved.
Pointblanknews.com learnt that after leaving office, Obasanjo still had plans to raise more cash for his pet project. He also came up with the idea of a mosque within the premises in 2012. At the fund raising for the mosque he made over N500 million.
It was gathered that it 2011, shortly before that last Presidential election, Obasanjo who threw his weight behind President Goodluck Jonathan, told him about his Library Project. He insisted that for his support he would need N1Billion from Jonathan as his contribution to the library after his victory.
Sources hinted that Jonathan tried to make him understand that since he would be coming in as a new President pulling out N1Billion in one fell swoop would be a bit untidy, so Jonathan said he would ensure Obasanjo gets N250 Million every year for four years.
“Obasanjo declined. He however received N250 Million but kept insisting all the monies must be released, in which Mr. President said No. This developed into bad blood and set in motion a chain reaction,” a source knowledgeable about the deal told pointblanknews.com
According to the source that wants to remain anonymous, “the issue of the Library and the money Obasanjo asked for is at the root of all these attacks. He wanted N1 Billion cash paid to him for his library, but the President said no, I can make it N250 million a year. And trouble started.”
Obasanjo’s attacks reached a crescendo when he wrote his letter to the President kicking him on all fronts, and recently he said Jonathan did not believe the Chibok girls were missing until 18 days after.
Pointblanknews.com sources also hinted that the refusal of Jonathan to release all the monies made Obasanjo vow that the President would not return in 2015.
It was also gathered that when the PDP chairman Adamu Muazu visited he told him the party should shop for another candidate because according to Obasanjo “Jonathan is not a politician’’
The rift between him and the President and the backlash is similar to that between him and Ex-Aviation minister Femi Fani Kayode, when the ex minister turned down his request to award a huge contract to his daughter, Iyabo Obasanjo.
Obasanjo is allegedly known for his desperation when it comes to wealth acquisition. He was named in the Halliburton scandal and also in the acquisition of government assets while in office. He acquired several properties in Abuja. Even his Land Use Decree while he was Head of State benefited him immensely some of which include his vast Obasanjo farms
Obasanjo faced a tide of criticisms from some members of his government while in office. They insisted it was morally wrong for him to railroad Nigerians to donate to his personal project while in office, but he went ahead anyway.
Some of those who kicked then were Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu and Oby Ezekwesili.
El-Rufai in his book ‘Accidental Civil Servant’ said “The former minister wrote, “The fundraising for the Obasanjo Library was one issue on which Oby (Ezekwesili), Nuhu (Ribadu) and I made separate and joint representations to Obasanjo not to proceed with. We felt that it was inappropriate and unethical for a sitting President to raise funds for something of which he would be a direct beneficiary. “I was strongly of the view that Obasanjo should have arranged with his successor to organize that in his honour after leaving office.”
He said Obasanjo did not think twice before replying him that “no one would donate to the project once he was out of office. He said Ribadu also tried, and “threatened Obasanjo to get him to cancel the planned event.”
All their actions, he said, came to naught as the former president went ahead with the project.
On the acquisition of assets El-Rufai wrote ““In my opinion, even if there was nothing wrong legally with it, there were ethical issues. Most of the Economic Team members declined to buy shares and we told Obasanjo that much. Yet, he went ahead, using corporate entities and borrowed from banks and bought some seven hundred million shares.”
The action of Obasanjo, according to el-Rufai, infuriated the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, who he said challenged the President on the matter.
Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s opposition to the project was, however, less subtle. He dragged Obasanjo to a Federal High Court in Abuja and urged it to order the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate all the contracts awarded by the Federal Government from 1999 till then.
Fawehinmi claimed that Obasanjo violated Section 15(5) of the constitution, which states: “The state shall abolish all corruption practices and abuse of power.” He said Obasanjo also abused Item 1, Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the Constitution, which states that: “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.”
Fawehinmi alleged that the president also “flagrantly disregarded” the code of conduct for public officers contained in Item 6 (1) (2) of the Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the Constitution which states that a public officer shall not ask for or accept property or benefits of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties.
At the fund raising, as envisaged, state governments, wealthy individuals, corporate organization tried to “out donate’ each other. He raked in hundreds of millions at the event.
The source said further ” Obasanjo is a very greedy and mean fellow. He does not forgive, and we sure he will never forgive Jonathan.
When he became President in 1999, Obasanjo could only boast of farms in Eruwa, Ota and the nondescript one on the Mambilla. By 2007, however, he has developed farms in Ibadan, Iseyin, Lanlate, Igbo Ora and Ibogun, each of which boasts many Chinese experts.
Back then the Atiku Campaign Organisation challenged Obasanjo to tell Nigerians how he could change his status from bankruptcy in 1999 to an immensely rich farmer in 2007. Atiku’s men actually rubbed it in that the number one citizen had only N20,000 in his bank account before he became president.
Uba Sani, the President’s spokesman, did not allow that missile to hit its target before replying with a ready made answer. He claimed that his principal was able to secure a N2 billion loan to rehabilitate his farm, otherwise known as Temperance Farm.
But Atiku’s men raised their voice a pitch higher. “The explanation of Uba Sani has only further exposed the duplicity of General Obasanjo. General Obasanjo should tell Nigerians how a farm, which was moribund in 1999 and had to be bailed out of impending liquidation, became so rich to generate the collateral for a N2 billion loan,” the group said.
“Every one conversant with the banking system knows that you need collateral of about N6 billion to raise a N2 billion loan. President Obasanjo should tell Nigerians how he transformed from a man, who his closest minister said had less than N20,000 in his account in 1999, to someone who now has N6 billion collateral to take a N2 billion loan,” the group retorted, referring to a statement credited to Malam Nasir el- Rufai, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
Atiku’s men asked Obasanjo to tell his subjects the date he procured the loan, the conditions attached to it and his collateral. “Nigerians will be glad to know if President Obasanjo solely took a N2 billion loan from the N50 billion agriculture fund facilitated by the Federal Government when there are millions of Nigerian farmers who should access the loan, but have been crying for access since the introduction of the loan last year. If President Obasanjo collected N2 billion from a N50 billion agriculture fund approved by his government, does this portend conflict of interest or corruption? These are the questions President Obasanjo should answer to rescue his sagging integrity,” the Atiku camp argued.
Obasanjo’s ownership of Bells, according to experts, is against the spirit and letter of the 1999 Constitution, which forbids a public servant from engaging in any business apart from farming.
Obasanjo’s other treasure box is Transcorp, which he initiated and launched on 17 November 2004. It is fashioned after Chaebol, a South Korean business octopus. Transcorp’s areas of operation are agriculture, oil and gas, manufacturing, power generation and Free Trade Zones.
In October 2005, Transcorp bought 51 per cent stake in NICON Hilton Hotel (and changed it to Transcorp Hilton) for N13 billion. It bought NITEL in July 2006. It also acquired four oil blocs, OPL 218, 219, 209 and 220 on 21 July 2005. Transcorp’s Board of Directors is chaired by Dr. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke.