Exclusive Interview: ‘This Government’s Full Time Job Is Stealing..Everywhere You Look Is Fraud’-El Rufai
Nasir El Rufai, former minister of FCT needs little introduction.From an insider in the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, he ended up in exile during the Umaru YarAdua regime.Many Nigerians did not expect that twist of events. We have been following his story , from afar ,with keen interest and after several efforts, we finally sat down with him for a no- holds-barred interview conducted by Danlami Nmodu, publisher/editor- in- chief ,Newsdiaryonline.com in Abuja.He speaks on Umaru YarAdua era,President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime Jonathan, General Muhammadu Buhari, Boko Haram insurgency and other issues.Teaser:“You know I have always felt,I have always asked myself why would Boko Haram go and plant a bomb in a church?Why?Boko Haram considers non-practising muslims a bigger enemy than Christians.I don’t think their problem has ever been with Christians,so where did this start?I know about the Madalla bombing which they came out and claimed.Iam discounting that one, they claimed they did it.And they gave reasons.They said retaliation for Jos or whatever happened in Jos at Sallah.But other bombings, we believe, many of us believe that it was being sponsored by some fifth columnists in the government” said the former minister .But to achieve what aim? Find out in these excerpts :
Q : Give us your assessment of the role you play now not just as an opposition politician, but a public affairs analyst interacting with the real people on the ground,on the internet and all that.It is a transition from being a government insider to a commentator from the outside.It wouldn’t appear like you were prepared for that ,what happened?
A:I don’t know whether there is substantial difference between being a government insider and a commentator, because you see to perform ..As I was saying,Iam sayin, Iam not sure there is substantial difference between being a government insider and a public commentator,if you really want to do our job well in government because for one to do one’s job well in government you need tobe grounded, you neeed to be close to the people ,you need to know what people are thinking and you also need to be able to consider public policies and get them debated.So it is not substantially different.It is just that some people think that when they are in government,they should just take what is there and move on with it.Throughout my nine years in government ,I have always tried to challenge the status quo.Many people would not know this,because internally within the government we have our tendencies and factions.But I have always tried to do things the way they ought to be done rather than the way the system prescribes.So even within the government,I was always writing policy papers,always arguing contrarian positions.So for me, it is not so different.And I also believe strongly when ou government assignment has to do with delivering services to ordinary people, you must find a way to connect with ordinary people.When I was minister of FCT,I had quarterly Town Hall Meeting and everyone in Abuja was invited because I wanted to know what people felt about our policies and we had extensive debates about policy direction.We didn’t always agree.But we tried to explain what we were doing.So Iam not so sure there is a huge gulf between the two.This is my point.Am I prepared for it?I don’t know.But you know in this life,you just do you best and circumstances define what you have to do.I mean the farthest thing from my mind when I left government in 2007 was that I would end up having to confront the Yar Adua administration because Umaru YarAdua was like an elder brother to me.And I had great affection for him and I thought he had a lot for me as well and I contributed what I could both as a brother , and a friend, an elderly kind of friend as well as a loyal member of the Obasanjo administration to his election, his success.And indeed even up to the night of the handover, we were in YarAdua’s GuestHouse,writing his inaugural speech.So we were that close.So the last thing in my mind was that I would end up in two years from that date in exile and in a vehement quarrel with Umaru YarAdua.But when things are thrown at you, you just have to adjust to the realities and respond to them.
Q:Yes ,you have just delved into what I was going to ask. I was going to say from what we know,you didn’t seem prepared for this position you are taking now because you were expected to continue with the YarAdua regime.I was going to ask you,why did you fall out with him really?
A:First of all,let me correct an impression.I was not expected to continue with the YarAdua administration.I did not expect it because I had told YarAdua, the moment his election was settle.The moment he was declared the president elect,I went to him and said to him ,you know, Mallam,I called him Mallam,these are my plans for the next two years.Okay,I had started studying law with the University of London ,9 years earlier and I had just one year to finish when I got drawn into government as adviser to General Abdulsalam and since then my studies suffered.I was determined to finish that LLB.And I had plans to go to Harvard Kennedy School of Government for the previous 10 years.Again, the year I was to go to Harvard was the year I was appointed head of BPE.So that plan was deferred.I have very specific plans in my life and I have always tried to see them through.And I told him,for these two reasons, Iam going to take two years off to be in school.So he knew.Umaru YarAdua knew that I was not available.There were speculations all over.Nuhu Ribadu in particular was fighting hard for me to be minister of power or whatever.But knew that I was not going to be there because I had my own personal plans.I had put my life on hold for 9 years because of public service which was quite accidental as far as I was concerned and I was determined to take a break, refresh, write a book, and finish my law degree and do my public administration and public policy degree at Harvard.So I was determined to do that.So I knew.It was just people outside that were getting worked up over nothing.But I knew I wasn’t going to be.YarAdua knew.But he said to me I would still need you to advise me.I said Iam available anytime
Q:May be that is why there was this strong perception then that you were actually expected to come back as somebody to take charge of the energy sector.But when it didn’t happen.
A:You know,the reason behind that was a combination of two accidents.In February 2007,power generation in Nigeria collapsed to 1600 megawatts.So President Obasanjo appointed me the chairman of a cabinet committee to improve power supply and by April we had moved power supply to 3200 megawatts.I chaired that committee which included virtually all the stakeholders in the power sector and we recorded significant improvements in power supply.That was one accident.And because that was probably the last cabinet committee I chaired in government,people thought that Obasanjo put me to do that to prepare me for something.The second thing that happened was that there was a book launch towards the dying days of the administration, a book written by a former BPE staff Ajayi Olowo on me.I was the subject of the book.And we went for the book launch .And during the book launch, Nuhu Ribadu made a speech and he said something like Nasir has done well here and there and now he has been brought in to improve the power sector and he has done it.Something like that .And the next day the headline was el Rufai was going to be the Energy Minister.It was ridiculous.Nuhu didn’t say that. He didn’t even suggest that.But these speculations started.But I knew that I wasn’t going to be (there).But people had their own expectations but I knew the reality.I knew what my plans were and I was determined to go ahead with them.I told president Umaru YarAdua then, look if you need me to think about any issue or you need my advice on any matter,a phone call,an e-mail.Wherever Iam anywhere in the world were only a few hours away.I will buy a ticket and come back because honestly the affections I had ,the respect I had for Umaru YarAdua,if he asked me to do anything I would other than serve full term in government,I made it very clear,I wasn’t available full time.And if you remember,around September of the same year, he appointed me as a member of his Energy Council.But before I accepted it,I had to ask him,what does it entail and he said look, you and I agreed that anything part time you would help me out.And that is why I accepted…I had my very clear plans.I wasn’t prepared to do anything full time in government until I took care of my personal matters.
Q:Your assertions now would appear strange to some of us who followed the stories then.The impression we were given was that you were used, I mean yourself and Ribadu(I wouldn’t say used, but worked thoroughly to ensure that he(YarAdua ) had a foothold on stakeholders and even his emergence as president.Doing all the exploratory manouevres across the north and several parts of the country with a view to probably helping him stabilize after inauguration.But this notion that you just wanted to do it and end at some point was not in the public domain.
A:Well ,you see,because people expect, in this country people expect that when you do things in politics, it is in expectation of something.Iam not a politician.I didn’t come out of that school…You see,I have had the privilege of having been a presidential adviser under General Abdulsalam,Director General under Obasanjo and cabinet minister .None of these appointments I got by lobbying or by doing anything as a political favour.I got these appointments because somebody identified me as capable of doing something and invited me.So everything I did in my public service ,I did because I believed it was in the best interest of Nigeria,not in expectation of anything.For many people to see us rally around YarAdua and support his political aspirations, they expected that we were doing so because we were going to be settled somehow.But for me personally,I don’t know about Nuhu.Nuhu was a career public servant,so he did this as a matter of duty.But for me personally, I didn’t do anything for YarAdua because I expected him to do anything for me.I didn’t want anything.I just wanted to move on with my life.And I have written about this.I wrote an essay on my relationship with YarAdua when I was in exile.When Umaru was invited by Obasanjo and asked to go and pick the nomination forms,I was one of the first people he went to visit in Abuja.He came to my residence and spoke to me and sought for my support and I told him that of course ,you can take my support for granted.I said what else do you want?He said bring the economic team to support me because you guys have done this,I need your and I said no problem.So all these things I did unconditionally.I did not do it in expectation of anything.I did it because I believed Umaru was going to be a decent president and we also believed that it was time for elections to take place and…….
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Q:The picture you have given me is something that tries to contradict a few things we had noted about the man YarAdua, your relationship with him and your eventual parting of ways.May be you should just briefly tell us from you experience now,Iam sorry for trying to copy this presidency’s idea.Tell us about the YarAdua we don’t know
A:Well, I don’t know whether Iam the right person to ask that question
Q:From your encounters
A: Because ,the YarAdua I knew was YarAdua the student in Ahmadu Bello University,YarAdua the bachelor before he married Turai.I met him before Turai met him.I knew him before Turai knew him. And YarAdua the lecturer at CASS,General Manager of Sambo farms.This was the YarAdua I knew.Okay.Major General Shehu YarAdua’s kid brother and so on and a respected elder brother I know that ..I didn’t know YarAdua as governor because I visited Katsina only once throughout the time he was governor.I didn’t know him as president ,and he surprised me because he turned out to be completely different from what I thought he would be.So I think there has been some kind of metamorphosis.A transformation from the YarAdua the person to YarAdua the president.And I think only those that have worked with him through these trajectories would be in the best position.
Q:What particular difference did you notice?
A:Well, you know, let me just say this.Many people think YarAdua is very quiet and doesn’t say much.Wrong!If YarAdua is comfortable with you, as he was with me,80% of the time he was the one talking when Iam with him.Anytime I was with YarAdua ,80% of the time, he was the one talking.But the moment a stranger comes in ,he keeps quiet.But honestly,I thought that everything I knew about him pointed to the fact that he was going to be a decent president,he would get good guys to work with him,he would be open to new ideas and when he became president, he seemed closed and so on and so forth.And before he could find his feet ,I guess his illness became more serious and he just never recovered.
Q:From the little I knew about what we thought was the relationship between you , I was particularly shocked that you found your way into exile.So what was the problem?
A:I honestly don’t know for sure.I can only tell you all the snippets I have heard because one of the things I had to do was to try to figure out why,what happened to YarAdua? What did I do wrong?You know because as a human being, I must open myself to learning what did I do wrong?What did I do to offend this man that he would want me dead,because YarAdua wanted me dead.It was that bad.
Q:In what sense?
A:I had very reliable information from very senior security sources that there was a point at which if I came back to Nigeria,I was not going to be left alive,I was going to get killed.It was that bad and the person that told me is not a flippant person and he was well connected in the administration.And I had to ask myself so, why,what happened?This man that I had seen like someone like an elder brother from 1972 when I first met him.What happened?What did I do wrong? So to try to find answers to that question,I had tried to speak to many people that were close to YarAdua in his presidency.Many that were his advisers,many that were his minister,some governors like James Ibori.I went to visit James Ibori in Dubai prison to ask him precisely that question.Has YarAdua confided in you as to what I did to him?
Q:What did Ibori say?
A:I will not be specific but let me tell you the two or three stories I have heard.Some people in th YarAdua circle said Obasanjo told YarAdua to be very careful of Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir el Rufai.That we were stubborn and we were going to give YarAdua problem.So YarAdua felt the need to take us out,because Obasanjo sort of scared him into that we ‘d be threats to him.Now,I don’t buy that.I don’t buy that because I knew for sure that it was not everything that Obasanjo told YarAdua that he did.So,if he picked and chose what he wanted to do,why did he pick and choose this to go after me or after Nuhu?..It wasn’t like Obasanjo tells YarAdua go to the toilet and he does and so on.So for me, even if that is true and I doubt it,I still hold YarAdua responsible because he took his action,he chose what to act upon and what not to act upon.The other one we’ve heard was that YarAdua just felt that Nuhu and myself were too visible and we thought too much of ourselves.That Obasanjo gave us too much lee way and we had become national figures and he just felt threatened by us and he felt the need to clip our wings.But I was not in government.I was not even in the country when all these things started.When the public hearings that he sponsored against me in the Senate started, I was in London trying to complete my law degree.I came back just to appear before the committee.I was not even I the country.So how could someone that has left the country and minding his own business be a threat to you.You understand,of course Nuhu was here and doing his job.So perhaps Nuhu appeared as a threat.But I didn’t see us, I didn’t see me as a threat.The third one that we heard which to me is probably more believable because it made more sense knowing YarAdua and his links to spiritualists was that a particular spiritualist that YarAdua listened to a lot told him that a certain person that is slender,wearing glasses,whose name starts with the letter N was going to run for president in 2011.And YarAdua thought that must be me,because there were also stories going round then,even when YarAdua picked the nomination forms that Obasanjo considered me or him in the final shortlist.I don’t think it is true .As far as I know, the people on Obasanjo’s final shortlist were YarAdua,(Ahmed )Makarfi and Abdullahi Adamu.These were the three I knew that Obasanjo was actively considering when it was clear he couldn’t hand over to (Peter)Odili.But Odili was his (Obasanjo’s) first choice.These we knew.All of us in the government we knew.Okay?So I don’t think my name ever came into any shortlist.But YarAdua must have heard that and now, a marabout telling him that somebody whose name starts with the letter N was going to run for president in 2011 ,was going to challenge him.So he felt that he needed to go after us.To go after me and may be Nuhu,because Nuhu’s name starts with N too.And maybe the marabout was right after all because in 2011,Nuhu Ribadu ran for president.But it wasn’t me.But I wear glasses and Ian slender like Nuhu.I don’t think they said the guy was tall or short.If they had said the guy was tall,maybe I would have been saved the aggravation.But this version to me is more believable,knowing Umaru YarAdua and his fixation on spiritualists and marabouts and all that.So I have spoken to many people.I don’t want to mention their names because some of them spoke to me in strictest confidence.But my visit to James Ibori was widely known,so I will say that.So I spoke to people like that close to YarAdua to try to figure out what did I do wrong, because I need to learn,because there is no point repeating the same mistakes.What did I do because as far as I know all I have done for Umaru YarAdua all my life was respect, affection and help and support.And I don’t want to go into the ways and means I have supported him all through the years because I have.I know that his family knows .Those close to know know what I did for him even in his presidential one.So I don’t need to go into that.But how can I be nice to someone and then he turns back and goes after me and even wanting me dead,I had to learn.So that is why I had to all these.But at the end of the day,again out of fate only confused because I couldn’t get anything substantive as to what it was I did.It was mostly what he felt I would do or you know…So I was convicted of a crime that I was yet to commit in the Yar Adua court.That was all.But it also made me feel better because then I knew I didn’t do anything.If I knew in my heart of hearts that I had offended him,I would have felt bad,but it was clear that I had not and I was just targeted for destruction.
Q:Interesting revelations because ,coming after .like you said earlier, you had told him that you were not going to be in government, that you were going to be operating from the outside.And even if anybody told him,asid from the marabouts, because there were also stories then too that some of the insiders were also telling him that you could be a threat to him.We heard those kind of (talks)
Q:If you had actually told him privately that this was your position,why would he become so overwhelmed by..
A:..I later learnt, because I made that point.But how could I be a threat to YarAdua when I was out of the country , in school..?(They) said well you know, you went to UK and America so that so that you would develop your war chest to come and fight him because you have very rich American and British friends and companies and all your imperialist supporters, because you are an IMF World Bank boy,you did privatization,you did this, you did that.So they most have represented to him that even my declining to be available for public service and my relocation to UK and US to study was a strategic move to prepare for 2011.And it was ridiculous because it was none of those.I just like going to school.As a matter ofs fact,since I left university in1980,every 3 years,I make it a point of duty,every two, three years, I go back to school because, I think learning is a continuous process.Even this October, Iam going to school because I haven’t been to any educational institution since I graduated from Harvard since 2009 and Iam feeling a little lost.I always like going to school to update myself.So I go.Two -week, three-week programme every two , three years.That’s how Iam.That’s what I enjoy doing
Q:But eventually what we saw was a torrent of events like the senate probe and then the final decision to indict you and stuff like that
Q:And , of course it is evident from what we have been saying so far ..and from (media ) reports then that most of those things were masterminded by the YarAdua presidency.But the real worry for me is ,beyond money that is always said to have been presented before national assembly members to get them to do the bidding of the presidency,why is it that our national assembly can’t in the real sense extricate itself from the presidency?They are always seen as being at the beck and call of the presidency.What exactly is the problem?
A:I don’t know.I can only offer two or three thoughts on the matter.You know the national assembly is the least developed arm of government,because anytime the military takes over,the first thing they do is to dissolve the legislative because that is the real representative of the people.So our legislative culture has not developed in the same way the executive branch and the judicial branch have remained preserved and been developing somewhat.And in any case, in the three arms of government, the executive is always first among equals because it is the largest branch of the government and it is the one that gets things done.The judiciary settles disputes, I could overrule both the legislature and the executive and say what you are doing is unconstitutional but that is it.So I think the immature legislative culture in the country as a result of prolonged years of military rule is partly responsible for that.Secondly,I think most politicians go into politics as a business. Unfortunately ,this is the political culture that has developed in Nigeria.It is not public service, it is business.It is a way to be comfortable.It is a way to be rich.It is a way to get your friends and your companies and your relations contracts and so on and so forth..Now ,because of that the only way you can get contracts is to be subservient to the executive branch because they award the contracts.The only way you can get employment for your friends and your constituents is to be subservient to the executive branch because they are the ones with jobs to offer…And thirdly, because the institutions are week and there are no checks and balances and everyone can just get away with everything literally,there is a conspiracy between the arms of government to just to just rub their backs.So there is no sense of objectivity in pursuing one’s mandate.So there is this incestuous relationship between the executive and the legislative branches and with the executive branch having the advantage of balance of power because of its control of resources and jobs and contracts and so on and so forth.This is what I think is happening. But finally and most important, and I think this is the point really , this is where we went badly wrong, is the current system in which governors at the state level and the president at national level control parties.So they control who got nominations.So if you are a senator from you state and you are vocal against the president and you are in the same party as the president,you can bet your life at the next election cycle, you would lose the nomination, you will not come back to the senate or the House. So all these are part of the problem that have led to the situation that we have now found ourselves.And I think it is unfortunate because without the three arms of government independent of one another to a large degree and checking each other,what we have is a dictatorship.Dictatorship of the few against the many and that will be very sad in deed.
Q:..Up till now.when you have probes here and there, you will still find a situation whereby there is always that tendency to kowtow before the Villa.The oil probe and all this kind of thing.It is a sickening thing and we don’t seem to have a way out it..
A:You know unless and until we begin to first have credible elections so that people know that when they misbehave, they will be voted out for sure.And two ,we pick the right people in these positions, we will not make any progress.A person with no pedigree, with no name and no honour has nothing to lose.So he will sell out to anyone that is ready to pay him.Okay?And this is, most of the people we have in elective and appointive positions in government are of that quality.Most.There are some very few people with a name or a pedigree that they would not do certain things to spoil their family name.Most people come out of nowhere ..(pause)
Q:You were saying some people just came from nowhere..
A:And are holding positions that they never dreamt of and they have nothing to lose.They just think that if they have enough money they will be able to disappear and justify their criminality.So that is one problem and this affects politics all across this country.The second thing is elections must matter .Elections must matter.If people know that they were elected and if they misbehave and it is known ,they would lose the next election, they would behave well themselves.But when people know that they do not not have to win elections,they do not have to be voted for, they can pay INEC,SSS,Police to write the results and declare them the winner and then they steal enough money to bribe the judges to uphold their elections,why should they work for you?Why should they be accountable to you as the voter?You didn’t vote for him, they know it.
Q:It is a major issue you have just touched on.The question of making elections matter.You know,we ve been saying and have always known this over the years but somehow,the more that people try to talk about it, even the INEC people will tell you they are working towards.But somehow we still found out that even the last (general) elections , not everybody believed they were credible.
A:I don’t believe the last elections were credible.I don’t believe it.
Q:How do we make elections count?
A:Look,we need to appoint(people) In countries like ours where institutions are weak,you need people that care about their names and reputation,much more than they care about the job or the power that comes with the job,or the patronage that comes with the job and so on.And you have to do this very,very carefully.
Q:But that’s what we thought somebody like( Professor) Jega would do.Because we thought Jega was a very credible person ..
A:Well maybe you got it wrong.May be you didn’t check well enough.People have said that reason why our electoral commissioners are not independent is because they were appointed by the president so they feel an obligation to the president that is hogwash.The chairman of the Ghanaian electoral commission was also appointed through the same process by the president and confirmed by the legislature.But he had a name to protect and for him, no amount of money was worth putting his name on the line.The question that you should ask all these people all these people that are our national commissioners of INEC and so on and Resident Electoral Commissioners is look at them very well and ask yourself,is there an amount of money that when offered to them they would compromise?If there is then you know you don’t have the right candidate.This is the question.I have studied the Ghanaian constitution and the Nigerian constitution to see what did Ghana got right that we got wrong?What Ghana got right was that Jerry Rawlings had the courage of conviction to pick a person that he knew he could not dictate to.That is the foundation of Ghana’s electoral system.Rawlings knew that that man would not rig elections even for Rawlings and if Rawlings asked him , the man would resign and come out and announce that Rawlings asked me to rig elections, that is why Iam resigning.That is the key.Do we have people in Nigeria that you can appoint to positions that would say rather than do the wrong thing, I would rather leave?This is what we need.It is not the method of appointment.It is the quality of the people.If we are able to do that:we ‘ll get some wrong.Im not in any way suggesting that there was no effort at the last cycle to try to get credible people.Maybe there was .But clearly, the elections of 2011 were a deception and a fraud.And the point when INEC refused to release ballot papers and the biometric voters’ register which which we spent N87billion to do, the moment they refused to release that to the opposition to prove the electoral fraud in court,I wrote off INEC.Up until that point, I gave them a chance.But the moment their lawyers went to the tribunal to try to say that they were not going to provide that and even connived with the president to remove Justice Salami to facilitate that, I knew that we didn’t have an INEC to speak about.
Q:You mean INEC connived with the president to remove Justice Salami?
A:Yes, they were part of the conspiracy,I believe that.
Q:But to imagine that things like that happened under a Jega-led INEC is just very strange but people have spoken….
A:It is strange but it has happened.The records are there.Justice Salami gave an order for INEC to produce the ballot papers and the biometric register and make it available to the opposition parties to match the ballot papers with the biometric register and INEC delayed and delayed until Salami was removed.And for Jega to even come and testify,he found a reason not to be in the country on the day he was supposed to testify.This happened in court.I was attending the tribunals.I saw it and I was shocked.But this happened.Whatever conclusion you draw from that is up to you.But for me that was the day I gave up. I said well, we are in a hopeless situation.But unless we find a way to fix that,unless we find a way to have clean elections,our democracy will be a farce and this country will not have peace.
Q:After returning from exile,coming back after the unfortunate death of YarAdua..
A:No I came back before YarAdua died
Q:Sure that is true..
A:I came back on the 1st of May, he died on the 5th .
Q:But we all knew the health condition then, he was in a very sorry state.Now, those were the heady days of whether this man (Jonathan )should be acting president or not and some of us thought you were also close to Jonathan because, like I was telling you earlier, we understood you were part of those that helped in making Jonathan YarAdua’s running mate.But some how you seem to have parted ways..
A:First ,let me correct that impression,we did not play any role in the emergence of any candidate as such
Q:But you played…
A:(cuts in)Not directly .At a point, we came to the conclusion that President Obasanjo wanted Odili to succeed him and we were opposed to that because Odili had been investigated by the EFCC and had been found wanting in many areas.He was the governor of a very rich state that just frittered away the resources of the state to pursue a presidential ambition.We didn’t think that with the issues Odili had, he was the best candidate.So we were opposed to that.But having said that and of course by the time Obasanjo picked YarAdua on the night of the convention, a speech was prepared for YarAdua,an acceptance speech with Odili listed in the speech as his running mate.It was Nuhu,well, it was first the governors that opposed it and then Nuhu Ribadu woke up and wet to see Obasanjo and that matter was settled.So we played a role in saying no this one is not the right person,but we didn’t have any hand in who ended up being picked.For instance as I said, we thought Odili was the wrong person because of the issues surrounding his tenure in Rivers state.But we didn’t have a hand in YarAdua being selected over..
Q:And you didn’t select any alternative to Odili as running mate?
A:No, no no.Look, we didn’t.We didn’t select anybody.Because that was the prerogative of the party and the president.
Q:But we learnt that some of you felt that at least the running mate should be an Igbo man or something like that?
A:I told Obasanjo.It was not some of us.I can speak for myself.After the Odili thing was dropped and Obasanjo said a decision would be taken and YarAdua just read his acceptance speech without it, I was of the opinion that selecting a south east running mate is in accordance with the natural order of things in Nigeria,the tripod.I thought that the running mate should be an Ibo person so that after YarAdua’s two terms ,there would be a natural progression to a south east presidency.That was how I thought.Obasanjo felt otherwise.He gave the reason that the south south had never produced a president but the south east has produced one or two and said that he was picking a south south running mate.That was the extent of the conversation I had with Obasanjo on this subject and we had no hand in who he ended up picking the next day.The next day, we just got the information that he had picked Goodluck Jonathan.
Q:And so, maybe it was this background of misperception about the way you were close to him,President Jonathan , I mean
A:(Cuts in)Jonathan is my friend,has been my friend from 2003.I am not denyingthat.Iam just saying that even though he was my friend,even though I was a regular visitor to Bayelsa state when he was governor and he visited me several times here in Abuja while I was minister.He came with his executive council to attend an FCT Exco meeting one day,I still remember all that
Q:You mean (as governor of) Bayelsa state?
A:Yeah.We are very good friends and we still are by the way
A:Even though we have parted ways politically.Yes, yes,whatever is happening between us is not personal,it’s institutional.But I had no role in him(Jonathan) being vice president.No, I have to say that.I played a role in fighting the YarAdua cabal when they were playing all kind of game to delay compliance with the constitution,because I was one of the signatories of the call for resignation,the G-53 and G-57 which became Save Nigeria Group.I was one of the founding members of that group.So ,yeah, we played a role.But I diddn’t do it because Jonathan was my friend.I did it because we have a constitution and if the president is incapacitated, the vice president should take over.Whether the vice president is black or blue or from Mars or from the moon,I don’t are.I believe that we should comply with the constitution .And this is why people like us,Pastor Tunde Bakare all came out and organized marches and all that to push for this solution.So people that now turn round and say you are attacking Jonathan conveniently forget some of these roles that we played in enabling Jonathan to get to the position …But we didn’t do it because we liked him or didn’t like him.We did it because it was the right thing .And today if Jonathan as president is not doing the right thing,we’ll also similarly tell him and that is what we have been doing.
Q:But there is a follow up question I need to ask.I remember very that the political environment in which there is this kind of hiatus between pro-Jonathan, anti-Jonatha even within the PDP before you even talk of the opposition is something I find strange.Here was a man who everybody that matters I this country united in favour of his emerging as acting president.You had Buhari, you had IBB..
A:All of them
Q:Gowon, all of them were saying this man must be acting president.He came to power with the highest amount of goodwill
A:Yes, because of the way he was being maltreated by the YarAdua (cabal)
Q:what happened,that shortly between that period of his emergence as acting president and when the election time came ,what happened so terribly that the goodwill was just frittered away?What could have been responsible for this frittering away of goodwill that we had this kind of quarrelsome (election and polity ever since)?
A:It is crass political mismanagement.Because as you correctly pointed out, he came into the acting presidency with millions of tonnes of goodwill.But he frittered all away by just being provincial,very narrow-minded politics and lacking in long-term strategy.First, as soon as Jonathan stabilized, it became clear that just like YarAdua tended to be very provincial about Katsina- Kano axis, Jonathan also was increasingly being seen as an Ijaw president.So he began to lose a lot of goodwill.Secondly,the way and manner he approached the pursuit of his presidential ambition by denying the existence of zoning when he had been a beneficiary of it just showed him up as a dishonourable person.He got there because of zoning , otherwise how could he have been vice president.It was zoning.But he climbed on a ladder and he kicked it away.And that is something you don’t do in politics.And after the massive spending of money and the militarization and the rigging to win the elections, he lacked the heart to be inclusive;to call people and bring everyone back together, develop social cohesion so that he could govern Some of us that are in opposition were targeted as enemies to be destroyed.Maybe you can destroy Nasir el Rufai,Iam a small man, but Buhari is bigger than you,you can’t destroy Buhari.He was Head of State in 1984.You cannot destroy him.
Q:Did he attempt destroying Buhari?
Q:In what sense?
A:By tring to pin the post election violence on Buhari and the CPC.By trying to pin the Boko Haram insurgency on Buhari and others like him,you are trying to destroy people that have served this country credibly and honestly.You don’t win by doing that.This is what this government had tried to do .This is why they have lost all their good will.But even that would have been okay if they were working.If they were doing what Nigerians need to live and move on with their lives, it would have been tolerable.But they are not.This government’s full time job is stealing.The fuel subsidy fraud showed it.Pensions fraud.Everywhere you look is fraud.They are doing nothing but taking care of themselves.But they are making an enemy of everyone that is not clapping for them and saying stealing is good.This is how Jonathan lost everything.
Q:Now,you raised this interesting issue…This issue of targeting people,Buhari,making (him) look as the source of Boko Haram
Q:Yes ,Buhari, IBB…You know, a bombing takes place in Abuja 1st of October.MEND said we did it.President of Nigeria comes on television to say it’s not MEND.Two days later we hear from Henry Okar that he had been called from the Villa to say blame it on Northerners.How do you make friend that way.Who are the northerners to blame it on?
Q:If it is not Buhari today, it is..
Q:If it is not Buhari, it is IBB.If it is not IBB ..
A:If it is not IBB, Abdulsalam
Q:It is El Rufai
A:If it is not IBB,it is Abdulsalam or ElRufai.How can he be president that way?
Q:The question I was going to ask is if these key people are the problem,then who will be the solution?
A:I think you should pass that question to Jonathan,because these people that you mentioned-IBB,Buhari,Abdulsalam,Atiku, they all served this country.They did not do anything to bring the country down.So what is all this?How can you just wake up one morning and try to criminalize them and you think that they will sit back and accept it because you are president? I don’t know about them,but anybody that tries to criminalize Nasir elRufai should know that he has a battle on his hands till one of us drops dead.And if they have any doubts, they should go and ask Umaru YarAdua.I will fight you until Iam dead or you are dead.Because I will not sit back and be criminalized.This is what this government is doing
Q:And probably that is why we have not been able to address this fundamental .. threat posed by Boko Haram.Why do you think that it’s been taken this long to actually address the issue which started like a low level insurgency?
A:Yeah,because the government under Jonathan is not interested in solving it.
Q:How do you mean?
A:Shortly after Jonathan came into power,a committee under the chairmanship of Air Marshal Dike studied this problem of Boko Haram because by then Boko Haram had regrouped and started shooting,killing policemen and other people in uniform in Borno state.That was how it started.In July 2009,YarAdua ordered that Boko Haram be crushed and flew to Brazil.There was military operations,people were killed ,houses destroyed and the leaders of Boko Haram were arrested alive and extrajudicial executed.That is the root of the problem.That was when Boko Haram became more and more deadly.The remnants of the leadership then regrouped and started taking their revenge against policemen.Tha was the contest when the Air Marshall Dike’s committee was established.They went, they spent time in the affected areas, the spoke to stakeholders and came back with clear recommendations as to what was to be done.At that point in time, from those that participated in the committee, what Boko Haram wanted was an apology for the execution of their leaders,financial compensation,rebuilding of their homes and mosques that were destroyed and release of their members and they said they would back of.This information is in the Dike report.The Dike Report also recommended some social and infrastructural interventions in that region to create employment so that the young people that are easy recruits of Boko Haram would be reduced in number.All these are in the report.This report has been with Jonathan from the time he as president,it has not been acted upon.
Q:You mean from the time he was acting president?
A:Yes.It has not been acted upon.After that another the Chairmanship of Ambassador Gaji Galtimari was set up to go and look at the problem.Gaji Galtimari is from that area.And he was somebody who had been secretary to the government.Gaji Galtimari’s committee also studied the situation ,talked to stakeholders and came back with similar recommendations.Nobody has heard of whathas happened to that report.It has not been implemented.After he elections, Jonathan established the Sheikh Lemu Committee to look at Post Election Violence.They went round the country including areas affected by Boko Haram.And they submitted recommendations on how to resolve post election crisis as well as the collateral issue of insurgency.The report is till with the government.So what Iam trying to say is this,the government knows this problem,it has been studied to death.They know the solutions,but they have refused to implement them.Why,because initially,the attitude of the Jonathan administration to this Boko Haram insurgency was founded on two assumptions.One,northerners are killing themselves, we don’t care.And a special adviser to Jonathan said this in June 2011 to friend of mine.This is not rumour.I can mention names if need be.
Q:But you don’t want to mention it now?
A:But the person that said it knows he said it in London in June in the Hilton,Park Lane Hilton.’Northerners are killing themselves, what is our own?’This is one leg of their attitude.The second leg is Boko Haram is a plot by northerners to destabilize Jonathan’s government, so it is not our problem, we will crush them.And the crushing them means try to link Boko Haram to some of us in opposition.If you go to my facebook wall, you will see it, people call me Boko Haramist all kind of things.They call me Boko Haramists, they call me all kind of things.This is the attitude.Now,in the beginning it was a low level insurgency alright,but it could have been contained if the recommendations of various committees had been implemented and so on.But the attitude of the administration was ,we don’t care and we’ll pin it on Buhari,IBB,CPC and so on.So they spent their time looking at the wrong direction and these guys got stronger and stronger and stronger and stronger and it got to a point that the government was just unable to contain the situation.And anyone that tried to make a suggestion,that look why don’t you look at those reports or negotiate with these people is termed a Boko haram sponsor or sympathizer.So what happened,everyone just stepped back, folded his alms and said okay you want to solve it you way?Fine.But there is also something else going on.The government was also doing their own Boko Haram
Q:You have said this(before)and you are insisting
A:I have said this and Iam still restating it.And there is circumstantial evidence to that effect.
Q:What is giving you so much confidence ?
A:You know I have always felt,I have always asked myself why would Boko Haram go and plant a bomb in a church?Why? Boko Haram considers non practising muslims a bigger enemy than Christians.I don’t think their problem has ever been with Christians,so where did this start?I know about the Madalla bombing which they came out and claimed.Iam discounting that one they claimed they did it.And they gave reasons.They said retaliation for Jos or whatever happened in Jos at Sallah.But other bombings, we believe, many of us believe that it was being sponsored by some fifth columnists in the government
Q:To achieve what aim?
A:Divide the country.Division.
Q:In whose interest?
A:I don’t know.You know people do their own calculations and their projections thinking that the way they think something is the way things will work out.They don’t know that life doesn’t quite work out the way you plan it.But clearly, there is deliberate policy of division being promoted by these people and I don’t know to what end.
Q:Maybe you should tell us about life in the opposition because you have faced some risks and all that, being arrested by the SSS.How do you cope with this,and ou seem to enjoy it ,you are laughing?
A:No no no, Iam not laughing.You know what, .. as I said you deal with the card faith hands to you.If I have chosen to leave the PDP,because I think it is a gang of criminals and I don’t want to be with them and Iam doing something different and they are in power, I will expect consequences.I knew that. I made that calculation.
Q:So you are not surprised that SSS comes after you?
A:Iam not surprised.I mean the security agencies think they are instruments of those in power rather than instruments of the state,so I expected that things like that will happen.When it happens,I just take it and move on.What am I supposed to do? Cry? I can’t.Whatever life confronts you with, you try to solve it.I don’t get worried about that.
Q:Let’s dash into this issue:You party(CPC) is trying to work out an alliance or some kind of merger with the ACN
Q:Towards giving the nation a credible
Q:Change in 2015.How far is it going,because people still wonder,why is it taking this long?The entire outfit should be out by now?
A:Well I don’t want to say a lot about that ..for obvious reasons.But I just want to assure you we are still negotiating, we are talking and we are making progress and by God’s grace, we are not only going to merge, but we are going to take other parties with us,so Nigerians will have a credible opposition platform with a fighting chance of defeating PDP at the next election.
Q:And this fighting chance,people generall think means making Buhari the presidential candidate..Why Buhari, always after all the experience we have heard?
A:I don’t think that issue is on the table right now.What is on the table right now is the unity of the opposition and building strong structures all over the country to merge and outstrip that of the PDP.When the parties all come together,the decision as to which candidate is in the best position to win the election will be taken.And which candidate is finally selected by the merged parties will even depend on whether that candidate is likely to face a Jonathan or someone else.So it is too early to start making those calculations.Of course, there are presidential aspirants all over,you could speculate about who would emerge.Of course, Buhari is a strong candidate,having been president before and the general level of insecurity and corruption and impunity in this country may probably call for someone with Buhari’s credentials.But that is not on the table right now.What is on the table right now is to unite and build a very strong nationwide party….