When President Muhammadu Buhari accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of frittering billions of dollars in the name of fixing Nigeria’s power sector, Obasanjo referred us to his book for answers.

Andthen he called Buhari“ignorant” and “lacking understanding” for broaching the subject.

It was the oldest trick in the book, but we won’t be buying it. Not this time. Not now.

“And one of the former Heads of State was bragging that more than 15 billion American dollars (not Naira) was spent on power. Where is the power? Where is the power?? And now we have to pay the debt", Buhari said without mentioning Obasanjo by name.

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It was a weighty allegation that should be treated as such.

Of course we all knew who the president was referring to as soon as we parsed his comments. Only one man was accused of funneling the humongous sum of $16billion into a hole from 1999 to 2007—all in the name of fixing Nigeria’s power sector.

That man is Obasanjo.

The allegations have been there for 10 years and Obasanjo can’t simply wish them away with a carefully crafted press statement issued in his name by an aide.

“We recommend that the President and his co-travellers should read Chapters 41, 42, 43 and 47 of for Chief Obasanjo’s insights and perspectives on the power sector and indeed what transpired when the allegation of $16billion on power projects was previously made.

"If he cannot read the three-volume book, he should detail his aides to do so and summarise the chapters in a language that he will easily understand”, Obasanjo said.

No, Obasanjo, we won’t be reading your book just because you said so. Not every Nigerian can afford the book anyway. We need commonsense explanations complete with figures. We need the truth.

What we want from Obasanjo is a tell-all during a media parley; before TV cameras. What we want from Obasanjo is the truth and nothing but the truth. $16billion is too huge a sum to be reduced to an ad hominem tirade between former Generals. 

How it all began

In 2008, the House of Representatives led by then Speaker Dimeji Bankole accused the Obasanjo administration of funneling $16billion into the power sector with only darkness and more darkness to show for it.

The House thereafter passed a resolution mandating its Power and Steel Committee headed by Godwin Ndudi Elumelu, to probe the power sector over the alleged disappearance of $16billion in investments.

That committee went round the country to see power projects for themselves and recommended the probe of the following persons: former president Olusegun Obasanjo; former Governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Agagu; former Governor of Cross River state, Mr. Liyel Imoke (who was power minister in the Obasanjo years); former Central Bank Governor, Professor Charles Soludo; former Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo, among others.

As has become typical of Nigeria, the recommendations of that committee and the report they spent tax payers money putting together, were swiftly swept under the carpet soon after.

Only a country called Nigeria would spend all that money on power with nothing to show for it and then continue as though nothing happened. Like Buhari incredulously asked, we should all be screaming: 'where is the power?'

N11 trillion disappeared in the name of electricity

In fact, it gets even worse. In 2017, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) alleged that N11trillion electricity fund was squandered by the administrations of former presidents Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.

SERAP’s 65-page report contained the following words: “The Obasanjo administration spent $10 billion on NIPP with no results in terms of increase in power generation. $13.278,937,409.94 was expended on the power sector in eight years while unfunded commitments amounted to $12 billion”.

Now is as good a time as any for Obasanjo to explain why the allegations levelled against him are false. Some of the ministers fingered by the House in 2008 are still alive. Imoke became Governor of Cross River after he left the federal cabinet. What does he know about this $16billion allegation? It’s time for everyone who was linked with the disappearance of the money to start talking.

A country that spends all that money on power with nothing to show for it should be asking questions and not enjoying the drama between Obasanjo and Buhari. Civil society, the media, everyone, should be asking tough questions about why Nigeria remains in darkness after all the splurge in the power sector—about why we are still celebrating 5,000Megawatts of electricity in 2018 after spending trillions to generate and distribute more.

And if Buhari has been this displeased about the disappearance of the money, why isn't his administration dusting up the Elumelu report and dragging named persons before a judge? Why is the president sounding just as helplessas the rest of us?

Obasanjo really has to start talking and clearly so.