Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is reported to have recently lambasted former President Goodluck Jonathan for lack of vision in the implementation of his policy on the railways. He said that the decision by that administration to rehabilitate the railway system, completed in 1903 to carry three million tonnes of goods, to meet today’s needs was not well thought through.
We agree with Obasanjo’s position that Jonathan lacked vision on the railways. This was evident with the contract bazaar that the railways under his watch became with huge sums wasted on contracts awarded to cronies and the bogus commissioning that turned Nigeria into a laughing stock in the world.
What is, however, galling is that it is Obasanjo that is calling Jonathan out on the railways. The same Obasanjo who would be aware that the World Bank had informed us that our railways only needed to move 1.5m tons per annum to be financially viable and sustainable as long as it was run by a competent private sector operator with a stake in the railway business.
The same Obasanjo who met a railway with 45,000 workers and left it with less than 7,000. A railway that moved 1.5m tons in 1998 before he came but which moved only 42,000 tons in 2006, his last full year. The same Obasanjo who refused to fund the railway in all the years he was President and who cancelled the $500m contract for the rehabilitation of the railways awarded by Abacha when it was near completion and after over $400m had been expended on it.
The same Obasanjo who in 1999 requested the development of a 25 year strategic vision for the railways and whose Transport Minister, Ojo Maduekwe, in April of 2002 in the forward to the report claimed that it could not be simply another report, not only because it was the first of its kind, but more importantly, because the awesome political will required to execute it was clearly evident in that administration.
The same Obasanjo who did nothing with this report for which his government had spent millions of dollars until the twilight of his administration in 2006, after he had failed to secure tenure elongation. What he did next was to award a huge so called modernisation contract for $8.3bn. A contract that was not in the 25 year vision but was in fact a departure from its provisions and recommendation.
The same Obasanjo who after awarding the contract refused to make the mandatory 25 per cent advance payment provided in the contract and to make matters worse, situated the project in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), an office that had no business with railways nor the capacity to manage such a project.
Surely, in our opinion, it cannot be the same Obasanjo who is querying another for lacking vision on the railways. How hypocritical can a former president be?