A new book has given an insight into how money was raised for the spirited campaign to keep former President Olusegun Obasanjo in office beyond his second term in 2007. It also reveals how the campaign began and the individuals who conducted it.
The so-called Third Term Agenda collapsed May 16, 2016 when the Nigerian Senate threw out the Constitutional Amendments Bill.
Mr Obasanjo left office a year later on May 29, 2007 and has since stridently denied being interested in staying longer or playing any part in the agenda, despite admissions to the contrary by some of the principal actors.
The new book, however, a close scrutiny of the Third Term Agenda, names some of the aides and associates who pushed the agenda, states how a massive war chest was built for it and reveals some of the sources and individuals who provided the money.
The book, “Too Good To Die: Third Term And The Myth Of The In Dispensable Man In Africa”, was written by Chidi Odinkalu and Ayisha Osori.
Mr Odinkalu, a lawyer and civil rights advocate, is senior team manager for the Africa Program of the Open Society Justice Initiative and former Chairman of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission.
Mrs Osori, also a lawyer, writer and management consultant, is the executive director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
How Much Was Spent
According to the authors, although Nuhu Ribadu, who at the time was Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), estimated the campaign gulped $300 million, evidence suggested the cost was much higher.
“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 state.
How Money Was Raised
The book provides an insight into how the money was raised.
“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.”
Following the collapse of the agenda, President Obasanjo went after some of those he held responsible. One of these was Atiku Abubakar, his vice president, whom a panel he set up and the EFCC indicted of fiddling with funds at the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).
Mr Abubakar appeared before a 13-member Senate committee on 18 December 2006 to address the allegations raised by Mr Obasanjo and the EFCC report.
“Atiku proceeded to share with the committee various transactions and approvals Obasanjo had been involved in specifically with the PTDF. For instance, six days before the Senate killed the third term project, President Obasanjo approved the immediate release of N10 billion out of the N20 billion requested by PTDF for undisclosed projects. The unspoken suggestion was that Obasanjo had approved these funds to benefit his third term project,” the book states.
There were also other sources of funds outside federal coffers.
“Sometime before the National Assembly debate on amendments to the Constitution began, Governor (Saminu) Turaki reportedly sent N17 billion and $20 million in cash to Abuja,” the authors state.
“In his defence against money laundering charges brought against him by the EFCC for siphoning N36 billion out of Jigawa State, he admitted that this formed part of his investment in the PDP’s third term project.
“Turaki was also among the governors who invested in a third term for Obasanjo because it meant a third term for those who were in their second term of office and extra terms for those in their first. Some of the governors who joined him in the support group of tenure elongation, whether out of self-interest or self-preservation included: Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna), James Ibori (Delta), Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Umaru Yar’adua (Katsina), Bukar Abba (Yobe) and General Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun).”
The budding Oligarchs
But it was not just a public sector affair, according to the book.
“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.