INEC contracts, minimum wage and the attack on Obasanjo

“What kind of thing was that?”

“What?”

“The story about that fellow at the airport road in Lagos who
jumped into former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s vehicle and
assaulted him.”

“No. He didn’t assault him. He was going to do so, but security
men quickly intervened and whisked the man away.”

“I read one story that says the man gave OBJ a punch in the
face, a slap in the tummy and that he really meant to be nasty
towards the former President.”

“That is a very serious matter. I hope the madman didn’t give
Baba an upper cut. What is wrong with him?”

“And when security men came to Baba’s rescue, I read that the
man started screaming: “America is watching oh, America is
watching o!”

“I think the matter calls for a serious investigation. The Federal
Government should set up a special committee of enquiry to
look into the remote and immediate causes of the attack on
former President Olusegun Obasanjo on a federal road, in the
city of Lagos! The Chairman of the committee should be of no
lower rank than a retired Chief of Defence Staff.”

“Committee, how?”

“The committee’s terms of reference should include looking into
how such an ugly incident can be prevented in the future. That
committee should be allowed to take memoranda from the
general public and hold sittings in all states of the federation,
and of course, the members should be paid very good sitting
allowances so they can take the assignment seriously!”

“You are a clown.”

“No. I am serious. You look at it this way. In fact, I think that the
recent law that was passed by the National Assembly awarding
special pension benefits to former Nigerian rulers should be
reviewed and there should be a clause there indicating that in
the event of any attack on a former Nigerian leader by all kinds
of ungrateful citizens who don’t know their place in society and
history, such leaders will be paid a certain amount for the
inconvenience.”

“That is not funny. OBJ’s security aides should be fired.”

“Then, you don’t know this country. You watch. By now, many
politicians would have started trooping to Ota to express
solidarity with President Obasanjo over the “madman” incident.
How about phone calls too. And don’t be surprised if the
President himself visits Baba, or plans to do so.”

“But Baba should just have locked up his car. I believe that car
has a central locking system. It is a 4 x 4. With that type of
vehicle, once you start the ignition, the central lock is promptly
activated.”

“Well, you never know. What if the vehicle is a Tokunbo and the
central locking system does not work?”

“Obasanjo will ride a Tokunbo car? I don’t want to believe that”

“Why? Have you not seen former Governors riding okada?”

“No. But not OBJ?”

“So, why him motor no get central lock? Was the old man
rattled? Did he have a swollen lip or some other injuries?”

“No. Him dey kampe”

“You know what I have just remembered.”

“What?”

“There was this interview with former Governor of Ogun state,
Chief Olusegun Osoba in The Vanguard newspaper. I think
about two weeks ago or so. I recall that in that interview Chief
Osoba had challenged President Obasanjo to a walk on the
streets of Nigeria, some kind of a test of popularity challenge.”

“Ha. I won’t advise Baba to take up that kind of challenge oh.
See how he was attacked inside his own car. Can you imagine
President Obasanjo taking a stroll on the streets of Ota where
he lives, and doing so around that pot-hole ridden road by the
Sango-Ota junction? That certainly will be an act of provocation
because what people are saying is that in eight years of being
President, Obasanjo could not even tar the road to his own
farm, and that the people of Ota did not benefit from his
Presidency.”

“But that shows that he is principled. He didn’t use his position
to serve his own interests. If he had tarred the road to his own
home, it is the same Nigerians who will accuse him of
selfishness.”

“Leave matter. You try and drive on the Lagos-Abeokuta
expressway towards Ota, it could take a whole day!”

“It is worse in other parts of Nigeria.”

“And we had an engineer, a former Federal Minister of Works,
as President for eight years.”

“So is that why a mad man should jump into the man’s car. I don’
t agree with you. That man should be sentenced to life
imprisonment for breaching national security and exposing the
Presidential institution to international ridicule!”

“You like to exaggerate…”

“No. I must defend my former President. And I don’t like the way
too many people are attacking our leaders these days. In
Bayelsa, the other day, some scallywags pelted the Governor
with stones, pure water sachets and other dangerous objects at
a public function. That was a serious threat to national security
and if the people had been gunned down on the spot, people
would have said that was murder.”

“Three of the stone-throwers have been arrested. They have
been charged to court for treasonable felony.”

“They should add sedition to the charges. And I hope they go
to jail like that man in Baghdad who threw a shoe at former US
President George W. Bush!”

“I am sure you know sedition has been dismissed by the courts
as irrelevant in a democracy.”

“Let them wake it up and let the lawyers argue it out. In fact, I
am volunteering to join the proposed committee to look into the
assault on Obasanjo.”

“I see you are having fun, because I know you and your
capacity for mischief.”

“Me?”

“Yes. You”

“Search me?”

“You know of course that when the people throw stones or eggs
at their former or serving leaders, they are making a statement.
In a democracy, such statement is an expression of anger,
disgust, rejection, frustration. It happens all over the world, and
the people have a right to express an opinion. Now, let’s talk
seriously, we should start asking questions: why is it that many
of our leaders cannot walk freely on the streets when they are
in office or when they leave office? Why do Nigerians hate their
leaders?”

“Imagine if that guy that broke into President Obasanjo’s car
had had a dagger with him or a gun. This was how Chief Bola
Ige was killed in his own home.”

“Do you want to hear the truth? I have heard in the last two
days some people saying they wished the man drew blood.
That guy is some people’s hero!”

“Wicked people! To say such a thing in the month of holy
pilgrimage is unGodly.”

“What has pilgrimage got to do with it? I am saying that our
leaders should learn from what has happened to former
President Obasanjo. There is a lesson there. The way our
leaders behave, they provoke people, ordinary people, angry
people. You keep calling the man that attacked Obasanjo’s car
a madman. Are you sure? Someone who remembered to tell
the security people that “America is watching oh.” That doesn’t
sound like a madman to me. Let our leaders realize that they
will get their rewards sooner than later.”

“More like their comeuppance. I am beginning to think that you
have a point.”

“Take the workers’ strike. The Federal Government doesn’t
want to pay workers N18, 000 as minimum wage, that’s how
much in dollars?”

“How am I supposed to know? My problem is with the Naira not
dollar.”

“About 120 dollars per month, that is what workers are asking
for and yet Federal lawmakers collect a million naira per day for
doing so little, and when former Presidents, heads of Federal
legislatures, Governors and their Deputies retire, they are paid
pension for life, whereas ordinary workers are unable to get
pension. And you say people should not slap former leaders?
In fact, they should kick them in the groin!”

“I am flowing along with you. You know when I read that states
collected one trillion Naira from the Federation account in six
months, I shuddered. What did they do with it?”

“More than half of that money must have gone into recurrent
expenditure and the financing of waste. A third will be diverted
into private pockets. Look, we need to rethink the structure of
governance in this country. I don’t really pity our so-called
leaders when the people attack them. Obasanjo was assaulted.
Have you not read about former Governors whose wives,
children, and mistresses were kidnapped? Or lawmakers whose
parents were kidnapped? Perhaps when the poor and the
aggrieved begin to take out their anger on the rich, and disrupt
their comfort zones, they will learn the appropriate lessons.”

“But the 2011 election, do you think it will still hold?”

“I hope so. No general election has been more uncertain in
recent Nigerian history.”

“As at this moment, with the ruling of the Federal High Court in
Lagos rubbishing the Constitution amendment process, we don’
t even know which Constitution will be used for the election. And
I keep wondering, why won’t the President sign the
Constitution? What is the big deal with a funny scribble on
paper? The same people who claimed they took documents to
a sick man in Saudi Arabia to sign can’t get Jonathan who is
just a few minutes away to sign a Constitution?”

“It is precisely that kind of behaviour that provokes the people,
so when any of our leaders gets assaulted, don’t pity them.”

“In fact, even INEC is confused. How do you have proper
elections with a confused electoral commission? You know I
may not be able to talk aplenty like you, but I know one or two
things about figures. I have taken a look at the $230 million
contracts for Direct Data Capture machines that the INEC
signed. Something is not right there.”

“Tell me. Blow the whistle, make dem hear.”

“Okay it is like this. The contract is for the supply of 132, 000
units. Zinox, the company that is supplying 80,000 units is
charging $1, 7771.73 per unit, Haier Electrical Appliances which
is supplying 30, 000 units is doing so at $1, 699.60 per unit,
and the third company, Avante International which is supplying
22, 000 units is quoting $1, 6999.60 per unit, all charges
inclusive of taxes and other charges. The unit price for 80, 000
units certainly cannot be higher than the quotation for lower
units. The difference is about $72.13. That amount in 80, 000
places translates into $577,704,000 (N865, 560, 000). Can
someone please explain what is going on?

By Reuben Abati

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