The Buhari PTF Days: The Untold Story By:Law Mefor
The mantra making the rounds now in the opposition circles is: Buhari is the change we need. One wonders how much of this Buhari the orchestrators know. Or are just blinded by the propaganda of the All Progressives Congress (the APC), a political party, which wants everybody to believe its Government will come with it a magic wand to drive away all the nation’s problems in one fell-swoop? What is even more worrisome is that they believe the magician is Muhammadu.Buhari. This puritan image being painted of the man is simply not true, and Nigerians need to be told the truth about the real Buhari, who he is and what he actually represents; and why his returning to power has become such an obscene obsession for him.
Perhaps how Buhari carried out his PTF assignment provides the best vista into his person and the psychoanalytic contents of his character. Three things stand out irrepressibly in the Buahri harrowing PTF days, namely: 1) his concentration of over 70% (in some cases, 100%) of all the PFT projects in the north regardless of the fact that the regions in the south might have greater needs for the PTF intervention; 2) the massive frauds that went unsupervised under his watch, which he publicly acknowledged but claimed ignorance and no benefit; and 3) Buhari’s nepotic choice of consultants who were used to siphon the PTF funds that were uncovered by independent investigative committees.
The Abacha regime created the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) in 1994, headed by Major General Muhammed Buhari, now the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (the APC). When, in 1994, the late General Sani Abacha, invited the former Head of State to serve as head of the newly created Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), he gave one condition for this acceptance: He must be given the title of Executive Chairman, and he must have a free hand to run the Fund as he deemed fit, without any interference from anyone, including the head of state.
The idea of the PTF was to create a Trust Fund into which all excess income from the price increase would be paid, and from which the Fund would intervene in critical areas of the economy in such a manner as to directly benefit ordinary Nigerians. It is reminiscent of the SURE-P of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Buhari’s main qualification was that he was considered to be both a strict disciplinarian and an incorruptible man. And he was for this reason expected to ensure that the fund was properly and justly utilized. But the reality, in the end, was a story of massive and clinical looting of the public treasury, favouritism and nepotism.
Gen. Buhari was Executive Chairman of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund from its inception in 1994, to its disbandment by the Obasanjo administration in 1999. According to the report of the Interim Management Committee, which was set up in that year to investigate the affairs of the Fund, the total income accruing to the Fund from mid-1994 to July 1999 was in excess of N181 billion. There were six major areas in which the PTF intervened directly during the period. They were: roads and waterways; supply of educational materials and rehabilitation of educational infrastructure; food supply; health; water supply; and what was curiously termed other projects. Shockingly, Buhari ensured that over 70% of the projects in the 6 categories were done in the north. What a fair-minded officer and gentleman. A nationalist indeed who shall bring the change we all desire!
The management structure of the Fund reflected how Buhari ran the affairs of the country as head of state, when he abdicated all responsibilities to Tunde Idiagbon. He was just satisfied with being the executive chairman, as he was with being called head of state and c-in-c. And, without being accountable to anybody, at the PFT, Buhari exuded the impression he was an alternate Head of State. The same way he kowtowed to Idiagbon was the same way he handed over PTF to a single consultant, Afri-Projects Consortium (APC), as the sole adviser to the Fund. This agency- Afri-Projects Consortium – was given the exclusive power to initiate projects, assess their probable cost, approve the costs, execute the projects, and assess the quality of execution, all alone by Buhari. Nobody questioned their actions and legality of the powers they exercised. After all, puritan Buhari was watching.
Since Buhari was not accountable to even Abacha who appointed him and board set up to supervise the PTF was supplanted by APC at the behest of Buhari, it meant the PTF functioned like a parallel government. The submission of Afenifere to the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (HRVIC) led by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa gives an incredible insight into Buhari’s biased and nepotic disposition to the other parts of country. Afenifere noted at the Oputa Panel that nothing else typifies the marginalisation of the Yoruba nay the south than the lopsidedness of the projects carried out by the PTF. Figures from PTF Situation Reports (Vol. 2 Dec. 98) show that the PTF carried on as if there was no Southern Nigeria, as well over 70% of projects were shamelessly taken to the north by Buhari.
For the avoidance of doubt, let us attempt sector by sector analysis here. Of all the roads rehabilitated by the PTF, only 1984.5 kms of roads representing 24% were carried out in the entire South; from where the bulk of the PTF revenue came since the south consumes over 70% of refined petroleum products. Out of this paltry figure, South West got 10.5% while South east and south south combined, got only 13.5% of all the roads, despite being ravaged by erosion and swamps. What this means is that all the Southern States had 4,440.43 kms or 24 per cent of road rehabilitation as against 13,870.47 kms or 76 per cent in the Northern States.
The North-West States of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara had a lion share of 5020 kms or 27.42% because the Fund’s Chairman, puritan Buhari and the military dictator Sani Abacha were from there; The North-East States of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe picked 23.48 per cent. This is the zone where Salihijo Ahmed, the late Chief Executive of Afri-Project Consortium APC, the sole consultants that supervised all PTF projects came from.
Afenifere submission showed further the Figures in other sectors were even more callous. For instance, under the National Health and Educational Rehabilitation Programme (NHERP), the entire south had zero allocation in the tertiary programme, while the North picked 100 per cent. In the vocational programme, the entire South had 3% while the North had 97%. In the primary area, the South recorded 12% as against 88% for the North and in the secondary area, it was 14% for the entire South and 86% for the North, again courtesy of the fair-minded general who the APC says will bring the change we need.
The health sector is also similar. For the Teaching Hospitals, the South had 38% while the North had 62%. For the Specialist Hospitals, it was 29% for the South and 71 per cent for the North; in General/State Hospitals the south had 44% while the North had 56%. For health clinics, it was zero for the entire South against the North’s 100 per cent. Under the food supply summary, the South had 17% compared with 83% for the North, Buhari’s zone having 60.54 per cent to itself. Figures do not lie. Why should a fair-minded nationalist run the PTF in such lopsided manner? Is he seeking votes to return to power to wreck more underdevelopment to the southern Nigeria?
On the massive fraud discovered when PTF was disbanded in 1999, the prudent, puritan general only defence was that he was not aware that such massive frauds went on his watch, but that in any event, he could not have benefited personally. What manner of defence! And of cause he has remained poor ever after and had to take a loan from banks to purchase nomination forms. Buhari must believe Nigerians are a bunch of idiots to tell such a story, despite driving a fleet of armored jeeps.
In the end, the independent consultants concluded that of the N181 billion that accrued to PTF in the four and a half years of its existence between July 1994 and July 1999, as much as N25 billion was either stolen or improperly expended, under our anti-corruption crusader!
For a moment let us accept that Buhari was not aware of the massive frauds at the PTF and dis-empowerment of the entire southern Nigeria in his PTF days. This poses even a greater danger because it means a cabal would naturally run the country if he becomes President. If a much younger Buhari could not stop fraud and dis-empowerment of the entire southern Nigeria in the PTF, can an octogenarian Buhari do any better?
The tragedy of the PTF recounted clearly shows that Buhari is an unrepentant dictator who is not prepared to listen to anybody. This explains why he told Achacha he would not account to anyone as Chairman of PTF. Can this same Buhari who ran a parallel Government with PTF, be subjected to democratic practices and ethos, like allowing the Legislature and Judiciary to run as envisaged by the 1999 Constitution?
Is the quintessential principle of separation of powers, which govern democracy be possible in a Buhari Presidency? Aside torpedoing democracy in 1983 for no just cause and being an unapologetic Islamic fundamentalist, Buhari is, by nature and training, anti-democratic. He abhors the press and press freedom. He just cannot bear the fact that all human beings are born equal. To him, there are blue-bloods and talakawas whose place in life is hewing wood and drawing water. The world has moved from such atavism and Nigeria should not be dragged back to it in fulfillment of Buhari’s inordinate ambition.
• Law Mefor, is a Forensic Psychologist and Journalist