Jonathan is Nigeria’s worst president — Tam David-West

Tam-David-West

PROFESSOR Tam David-West, 78, is a household name in Nigeria. He is an academic, social critic, and former Minister of Petroleum. He speaks to the editorial team of TheEconomy comprising Chris Ajaero, Dike Onwuamaeze, Pita Ochai, and Michael Otogo on the controversy over the privatisation of refineries, the oil subsidy, the raging political battle between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and the odds against President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election. Excerpts: Sometime in the 70s and the early 80s, Nigeria could refine crude oil locally from its four refineries and make petroleum products available to its citizens without depending on importation. But in the past two decades, there has been persistent decline in the petroleum downstream sector and the importation of petroleum products has become one of the biggest businesses in the country. Why? Initially, we had three refineries. The contract for the fourth refinery was signed by me and it was not built before I left office as the minister of petroleum. I operated three refineries, and we were exporting refined products .We never imported one litre of fuel. Now, we have four refineries and the new Port Harcourt Refinery has a refining capacity of 150,000 litres a day. It is the best in Africa and it was built to operate for 25 years without any major problem. There are many reasons we have been importing petroleum products in the past two decades. I have said it many times before any government that cannot manage the oil industry in Nigeria is a failed government and should not be there for one minute. Oil makes up at least 85 percent of our annual budget and more than 80 of our foreign receipts. Every year, we talk about diversification, but they cannot diversify because of corruption. If anybody wants to destroy Nigeria, strike the oil and gas industry and Nigeria will collapse in few months. The oil industry in Nigeria is the worst managed in the world. I challenged Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance to a debate on fuel subsidy but she refused. I challenged Okonjo-Iweala and Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Petroleum to prove to us that the Nigerian oil industry is not the worst managed in the world and they refused. I stand by that, and I know what I am talking about as oil minister under Buhari and Babangida. It is sad that in an oil-rich country like Nigeria, people live on less than $1.25 a day. Over 70 percent of Nigerians are living below the poverty level. Anyway, we cannot talk about oil alone without the general mismanagement. Oil is only a further measure of how we manage the entire Nigerian economy. We are a great nation, but burdened by irresponsible leaders, a wealthy nation filled with unserious people. Why are our refineries not working despite the fact that successive administrations had spent trillions of Naira on them during Turn Around Maintenance (TAM)? The refineries will not work until you have responsible people in authority. In 1996, I wrote the sabotage theory of our refineries and last year, I reproduced that article in the Vanguard newspaper. I said our refineries are being deliberately sabotaged to encourage corruption because if the refineries are working, we are not going to import any fuel but they have to destroy the refineries so that they can have the weak excuse to continue importing fuel. Two years ago, the Senate also agreed that our refineries are being sabotaged, but since the Senate said that, what have they done? They cannot do anything because they are part and parcel of the evil; they make a lot of millions from the bad administration that is going on, so they cannot correct it. There are very good Nigerian lawmakers; there are very good people in government but they are very few. Have you seen governments that make allocation for stealing? The Nigerian government makes allocation for stealing. How sir? I will prove it. They make allocations for fuel subsidy in trillions which does not exist and I have proved that it does not exist. Every year, they approve money for subsidy. Forget about the Farouk Lawan and Femi Otedola bribery scandal during the oil subsidy probe. That Lawan took money from Otedola is not the substance. So, we should separate the main mission from the ancillary. The issue is that he received bribe from Otedola. The receiver and the giver of the bribe are equally guilty, so why is Lawan the only one making news and you left the person who said I gave him bribe? Why don’t you treat both of them equally because it is a smokes screen? Lawan’s committee’s report proved absolutely that there is no fuel subsidy. What government is subsidizing is corruption. If there is no fuel subsidy and every year government is allocating money to it, then they are allocating money for corruption. Jonathan and his minister, Okonjo-Iweala said in 2011 that if oil did not sell for N141 per litre the economy would collapse. He later agreed to peg the pump price of fuel at N97 per litre and since then the economy has not collapsed even though they have mismanaged the economy and Nigerians are suffering excruciating hardship. Besides, Izelin, a Professor of Petroleum Engineering, who was at the University of Ibadan but now in Houston, the United States, wrote a very detailed analysis and sent it to Nigeria. He said a litre of fuel should not cost more than N37 per litre. None of our refineries is producing up to 30 percent. Labaran Maku, the minister of ‘misinformation’, asked where I got the information. But he forgot he had used that information before. I keep records. I told Jonathan I don’t like him because of what he is doing to Nigerians. If he can build two refineries, his tenure will go down in history. The two refineries will automatically curb fuel importation. The amount of money that has been used to import fuel could have been used to build more than 10 refineries. If you build more refineries, you will refine more products and stop fuel importation, and that can only happen when you have a responsive and sensitive government. If fuel importation stops today, people will smile because petroleum prices will drop, and the cost of transportation will come down. I am not being self- righteous, but I can tell you that as oil minister, I pushed the workers hard. They worked seven days in a week; Monday to Saturday and some of them would go to service on Sunday, and come and put in some hours of work. We can do it if the right people are there, but the issue is: they have destroyed NNPC staffing. When I was leaving I didn’t take the workers away. They are there but the only thing is that the atmosphere has changed and they are busy stealing the oil money instead of addressing the prevalent inefficiencies in the downstream petroleum sector. Buhari told me when he appointed me as oil minister on the 18th of January 1984 that he had put the economy in my hands and would never interfere. And I learnt a lot from him. But the problem with the present crop of people managing the oil industry is their arrogance. I studied the management of the oil industry under Buhari. You must be humble enough as a leader to learn from other people. Before I attended my first meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), I had to watch and see how they performed. During my first meeting with the staff in the ministry, I told them that I was just a virologist, you are my teachers, I am going to start from O’ Level oil, then you would graduate me from O’ Level to A’ Level, and I would learn fast. But what is happening today is that an oil minister claims that he or she knows everything. They don’t want to learn from the staff. They have even frustrated some of the best hands in the NNPC. Most of the people who left the NNPC were forced out. How can a coach who wants to win dismantle his first team? But the most scandalous was the appointment of Jackson Gaius-Obaseki as the Managing Director of the NNPC, and I stand by my word. Gauis-Obaseki was not at that time the best for NNPC MD. When they made him the MD of NNPC, he became the boss of about four of the people who were his seniors in the service. These are some of the anomalies that have impacted negatively on the ability of the NNPC to live up to expectations. I raised the matter with them and I told them clearly that they were destroying the system. You have fantastic technocrats, some who have retired and left. You know what they told me? They said they zoned the position of the MD of NNPC to the Mid-West. I said that was stupidity. Progression should be according to your age on the job. I told them they are going to destroy the system, and today I have been vindicated. There has been controversy over the $49.8 billion (now reduced to $10.8 billion) unremitted crude oil export proceeds by the NNPC. What is your take on it? To me, it is a great national embarrassment. Initially, Lamido Sanusi, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said $48.9 billion was not remitted into the federation account, and they said “no”, he lied. They claim that they have now reconciled, yet they have $12 billion to be accounted for. Does that show that Nigeria is a serious country? You can imagine how they are waiving aside the $12 billion unaccounted for as if it is chicken feed? Let’s say that the CBN governor made a mistake. There are one or two areas that he should have checked and he never did. But the fact is that the $12 billion unaccounted for shows that both the finance minister and minister of petroleum have not done their job well. The CBN governor is not a money collector, the Minister of Finance is. Even if during the reconciliation it was discovered that $1 billion wasn’t remitted into the federation account, it has indicted the minister of finance because she is not only the minister of finance, but also she claims to be the coordinator of the economy. What is she coordinating? That alone shows you how unserious she is. It took the CBN governor to discover that the federal government is being short-changed. Even when reconciliation has been made, you still have $12 billion outstanding. Why is it happening now? It has never happened. When I was there, every fund we got went to the federation account and from the federation account it was shared to all the states. I used to represent the Head of State in the revenue allocation meeting and we never had any problem, but now they even have problem on how to share the money. Now the states say you are holding something back, the federal government will say no, we are not holding anything back. Finally, it will be established that the states are right that the federal government is holding something back. You said that the Nigerian oil industry is the worst managed in the world. Why? I can prove it because in Nigeria, people can steal oil with impunity. Fortunately for me, I have travelled to the Gulf Region extensively. I have travelled to Southern America, Venezuela and the rest of them. Their oil industry is well managed. You cannot even think of stealing one dollar because you will be executed. Discipline is so strict. In Nigeria, you can be given allocation to lift oil without any knowledge of the oil industry. You can buy Nigerian oil as if you are going to buy palm oil in the market. They have liberalized the entire system. Let me give you the conditions of lifting Nigerian oil to show that the system has been destroyed. The law I met on 18th of January 1984 was as follows: To be allowed to lift Nigerian oil, you must meet the following conditions: first, you must have refinery of your own. If you don’t have a refinery, you must have a long-term contract of not less than 10 years with a refinery. So, to get approval to lift Nigerian oil, you must show that you have the requisite refining capacity. Second, you must have a company with staff strength of at least 20. Then you must show evidence that you were not going to deal with South Africa in consonance with the apartheid policy. Another crucial condition is that you must deposit three consecutive years of audited account of your company. With that we would know how healthy you are. Then, another condition was that you must deposit with us N1.5 million which was non-refundable. I will tell you why it is N1.5 million. When I came, it was N1 million non-refundable but God led me to where we could raise more money. At that time $1.50 was equivalent to N1, so raising it to N1.50 meant we would be making $0.5 million more. So, I changed it with the approval of the Head of State. All these conditions were there and we were obeying them. In the Gulf, oil belongs to the royal family; but the Nigerian oil belongs to the state of Nigeria. So, if oil belongs to the royal family and the royal family have stringent conditions for lifting the oil and still punish any person found to be corrupt, why is Nigeria condoning corruption in the oil industry? Nigeria is the only oil producing country that imports fuel and that alone is a big scandal. We are number six in the world oil market yet we are importing fuel at very exorbitant cost. It is the worst managed. The problem with Nigeria is that oil is so lucrative. It is so cheap to make money; it is so easy. When you have a structure that is so porous and is so compromised, you do everything to get the contract and that will guarantee you millions. They can afford to pay anything to get the contract. Babangida introduced the dedicated account which was so scandalous during the Gulf War Oil windfall. Before then, all the revenue accruing from crude oil was paid into the federation account but Babangida decided to create a parallel account which was controlled by only himself and the CBN governor, Ahmed. I had no problem with Ahmed, but I had problem with the concept, which was wrong. Unlike the federation account which everybody can query, nobody could question the dedicated account. It was managed by only Babangida and the then CBN governor. How do we address the problem of oil theft? The minister of finance, Dr Okonjo-Iweala celebrates oil theft. She gladly says that we are losing 400,000 barrels of oil a day. She talks as if it is an achievement. She will say it today and next month, she will say the same thing, and do nothing to address it. But the question is: Where are the thieves? The thieves are also in government. The moment the people in government are no longer oil thieves, oil theft will stop. Don’t blame the Niger Delta militants because they are being financed by the crooks in government. How did militancy start in Niger-Delta? The politicians used them to rig elections and after elections they were dumped. This was why they had to find another way of making money. Why was there no oil theft during Buhari’s time? I always give example of Buhari not because I was in his government. Anyone that sees a good thing and does not appreciate will not succeed in life. Oil stealing is not by poor people; it is by big people. We are not talking about going to a bank to break the safe. Oil installations are so complicated that ordinary thieves cannot penetrate them. Oil theft will continue in Nigeria until the people in government purge themselves of stealing. The moment the government punishes one or two persons for corruption, then we can check oil theft. For, instance, during the Buhari era, we had a decree that said oil bunkerers must be executed. Such a law will go a long way towards addressing the problem. If a person does not want Nigeria to live, why should that person live? Oil thieves who are arrested should be given the maximum punishment. That decree is still in operation today. Why have they not brought it for use? I don’t like corporal punishment but by the time a couple of oil thieves are executed, it will serve as a deterrent to others and mark the end of oil theft in Nigeria. In the past few years, there have been unsuccessful attempts to privatise the refineries. Currently, President Goodluck Jonathan is prevaricating and reversing himself on this very matter. Why can’t the government summon the political will to privatise the refineries? I don’t know why the government lacks the political will. They have used several words for it — privatisation, deregulation — but all they want to do is to buy the refineries for themselves. They will say it as if privatisation is the magic wand. I have said this many times that it is not privatization; it is personalisation. You have a public investment of N100 million, you run it down and you go and sell it cheap to yourself. Nigeria invested millions to build the refineries and government made sure they were run down, and they say since the refineries are giving us headache, let us sell them. But who are they selling them to? Of course, they will sell them to top government officials or their cronies and they will beat down the price so that they can buy them and after they buy them they will make the hitherto ailing refineries to work. When Obasanjo privatised the Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries a few days before the expiration of his second term in 2007 and the late Yar’ Adua reversed it, I wrote to congratulate him. When the Eleme Petrochemical which was established during Buhari’s time was to be sold, one of the managers there told me to say something about it. He said his worry was that they were selling the Petrochemical and the price at which they are selling the Eleme Petrochemical is not even up to the cost of the chemicals they had in stock in the Petrochemical plant. It was really scandalous. You can see the fraud in that privatization process. Is it not the same Nigerians that are going to manage it after the privatization? When they privatise, are they going to bring people from the outside space to manage them? Is it not Nigerians that will still manage them? Why is it that after you change the public investment from the federal government’s hands and sells it to Mr. X, it works? Last December, officials of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) announced that President Jonathan had given approval for the privatisation of the refineries. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Petroleum, also said it even at an international gathering in London that government has approved the privatization of the refineries. However, when Jonathan discovered that the heat from the oil workers’ unions was too much, he said they were not going to sell the refineries again. This is not the first time he would say they were going to sell the refineries and later changing his mind. Is that a serious government? My friend Femi Adesina of The Sun newspaper aptly described it as “humongous confusion”. The confusion in the oil industry is a reflection of the confusion in Nigeria. They are not serious. I don’t believe the Presidency one bit. They are not telling the truth. Perhaps, they have decided to sell it, if to sell is the actual word. In fact, what they want to do is to “personalise” the refineries. Now they have seen that PENGASSAN and NUPENG are spoiling for showdown, they had to eat their words because they have seen the danger. They are liars. There is this worry over the possible negative impact of the discovery of shale oil in the United States on Nigeria’s oil. How will it affect Nigeria’s oil revenue? Nigeria’s oil industry has been the worst managed and this is the effect of the visionlessness of some of our leaders. The problem is that while other countries are exploring ways of improving the performance of their oil industry, the Nigerian government is not planning for the future. With the discovery of shale oil, America will be independent of Nigeria’s oil. Even before now, America had the biggest oil reserves. If America wants the oil price to fall from $110 to $50 per barrel, they will just open their reserves. We used to say that when OPEC speaks, the world catches cold. But even before I left as petroleum minister, OPEC was no longer on the driver’s seat. OPEC is now a passenger in the world oil market. OPEC is no longer dictating the terms of the oil business. The discovery of shale oil in America will affect Nigeria’s oil revenue yet our leaders are sitting down there stealing. We are not planning for the future. In your view, which one is better for the country? Government to run the refineries and run them well or privatise them? Your question is very good because you said “run it and run it well.” But the truth is that the government can only have the political will to privatise the refineries if those in authority love Nigerians. After all, it was Nigerians who ensured that the refineries worked efficiently during Buhari’s tenure when I was minister. It is only the political will and discipline that are lacking. But even the privatization of the refineries could be okay if it is done well, according to experts. But we have to make a difference between privatization and personalization of public assets because it will not be panacea if the person privatizing is the same person to acquire the assets. It is only in Nigeria that you hear, “we are going to find appropriate pricing for oil”. What is appropriate pricing? It is all about government lying to its people? That is why we have problems. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said without shame that the Nigerian oil price has never reached the global average. So, what actually is the global average? How is it determined? I gave an example of 12 countries where their minimum wage is five times more than that of Nigeria, where the pump price of fuel is less than what it is being sold in Nigeria. If you cannot tell the truth to your people, how do you want them to follow you? The problem is that in Nigeria we have politicians without statesmen. A politician always wants to know what he will get for himself without thinking about the future of the children. Imagine a government that could close down the universities for six months! I have been teaching in the university since 1968. I have been a Professor since 1974. So, I know what I am talking about. Government destroyed education. They are talking about the economy growing while unemployment is at the same time growing. If unemployment is lower, then I can beat my chest that the economy is growing. If our economy is growing, why are companies divesting from Nigeria? Even some oil companies are divesting from Nigeria and going to Ghana and Angola. Is this a sign of improvement? Could you proffer some measures which should be adopted to address the inefficiencies in the downstream petroleum sector? Before I go to that, let me tell you another sanctified official lie. There is nothing called excess crude revenue account. It is a lie. I have told Dr Okonjo-Iweala that she could only talk about extra crude revenue. Excess implies that you have so much money around. Isn’t it? Okonjo-Iweala is brilliant; there is no doubt about that. But her problem is that she feels that she is the best in Nigeria. But we have so many people better than her. If you have the opportunity to serve, be humble enough to say thank God. But she approaches it with arrogance and unfortunately she works with a president that believes every word she says as the Bible. She gets him into tight corner and after she wriggles out. She had said that “if petrol is not sold at N141 per litre, the economy will collapse.” And I said you are lying. But the same president and her minister later reduced it to N97 per litre and the economy hasn’t collapsed. This means that he can still reduce it. I am saying that Okonjo-Iweala does not care much for the economy of Nigeria. During the time of President Obasanjo’s administration, she was earning her salary as a minister in dollars. As at that time she was not sorry for the economy, otherwise she should have objected to the payment of her salaries in dollars. But she was comfortable with it and still parades herself as the coordinator of the economy that earmarked N34 billion in the 2014 budget to Aso Rock zoo, N1 million a day for food for the Presidency. What are you coordinating when the economy is worsening under your control? The presidential jet will be increased to 11 whereas the Queen of England has no private jet of her own. The Queen flies with the British Airways. Few months ago, the British Prime Minister went to the US on the British Airways economy class. If she is coordinating the economy, then she can cut down these areas of waste. I am convinced that the amount of money we are wasting is so much. As regards your question on measures to improve the downstream sector of the country’s oil and gas sector, I will say that it still comes down to the bottom line. They see the downstream sector as an easy way to make money. They don’t see it as service. If I am the oil minister today, one of the first things I will do is to get all the Managing Directors of the petrol stations to a meeting. I will give them figures on why their petrol price should come down. Nigerians cannot benefit from the oil God has given them because of some people’s greed to make profit at the expense of their fellow countrymen. I will require them to adjust their pump price to N40 per litre within two months. If they say no, I will give my people a deadline to close all their stations. But you need to deal with the supply side first? If you go to Port Harcourt, you will see some of these tankers waiting for more than two weeks to load. They will take petrol from Port Harcourt and come to Lagos and claim that it is an imported fuel. To address the supply side, what will I do? I will build more refineries. Maybe I can build 10 good refineries within one year. I know that N1 billion can give you a good refinery. So, N10 billion for 10 refineries. But what about the ones we have? I will bring back the people who built them to refurbish or upgrade them. If they need security while servicing the refineries, I will make sure that is provided. But I will never allow importation of refined petrol. Then I will stop swapping. The way they are doing the swapping is very crooked. If Nigeria needs one million litres of refined petrol, they will send the crude oil equivalent abroad in exchange for the refined product. But it will be done through a middleman who will negotiate for the refined products. Why can’t the Nigerian government negotiate directly? Middlemen must stop to operate in Nigeria’s oil business. How do you view the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the delay in its passage at the National Assembly? I am happy that its passage is stalled at the National Assembly. PIB is dangerous. There is no doubt about it. Go and look at it closely; it is a dangerous bill. First, it is not a serious bill. It is so rambling. A bill that has 60 words as title cannot be a serious bill. Go and count it. It is just going up and down without any focus. Second, there is a lot of political undertone in that bill. Third, it gave the petroleum minister too much power. We are a crazy country. The oil minister can cancel any contract without recourse to the president. It is very dangerous. When I was petroleum minister, I could not allocate one barrel of crude oil without the permission of the Head of State. But here is a bill empowering the Petroleum Minister to do anything without reference to the President. Today, the minister and the president are from the same state. Should that be why the minister should be more empowered than the president? What if tomorrow the president and the minister are from different parts of the country and share different worldviews? The president will not sit there in Aso Rock digesting rock in his stomach with his N1 million food per day while his petroleum minister is selling the country. So, it is a dangerous bill. But there are a number of good parts in it. When you talk of local content, it sounds so big. When I was the oil minister, I told the oil companies that they cannot bring in any expatriate into the country if there is a Nigerian capable of performing that task. My dear brothers, they obeyed it. That was how Mr Arinze became the first Nigerian general manager in Agip. So, we had had local content without fanfare. I will appeal to the National Assembly to give the PIB to a group to look at and then advise. You cannot burden the oil companies too much. My idea is that you cannot antagonize them and run a good oil industry in Nigeria. In the same manner, you cannot antagonize NUPENG and PENGASSAN and run a good oil industry. You must carry them along. During my days as oil minister, I used to have meetings with the oil companies each time we have a policy that can be controversial. The PIB puts too much task on the oil companies. The oil companies that are operating in Nigeria are also operating all over the world. If we don’t make the environment conducive, they will pull out and go to other places and still make their money. That is why some of them are slowly divesting and going to Ghana and Angola. If you are taxing the oil companies too heavily, you are driving them away. That is why I don’t support the bill as it is. If we do not make the atmosphere more conducive for the oil companies, nobody will come and invest here. What is your take on the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P)? It is fraudulent. Why? Do you invest in what you don’t have? Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme; big words, rubbish! I told Christopher Kolade not to accept to serve as the chairman of SURE-P because he has a very good record. I told him that if he accepts it, they will mess him up. Now he has resigned. We live in a very funny country. We need to pray for God to give us leaders that will lead us right. The fortunes of this country could be turned around within six months if we have good leadership. How did SURE-P come about? The history is that when the subsidy fraud came into the open and it was realized that Nigeria was losing about N5.3 trillion from subsidy, Buhari came out and said there was no subsidy. Many other informed Nigerians also said that there was no subsidy. When they found out that the heat was too much, they came out with this gimmick that the money realised from the increase in petrol price would be put into investments, infrastructure, and that they will build industries so that people will be employed. This is SURE-P; a gimmick they employed to ensure that the heat on the government to remove fuel subsidy was reduced. It was not a sincerely, fundamentally planned programme. The SURE-P was not planned pari passu with subsidy removal. The SURE-P came as a consequence in the heat of subsidy removal. SURE-P is not even sure of itself. After dominating the Nigerian political leadership for about 14 years, the PDP, which was seen as an octopus, is being hotly challenged by the All Progressives Congress (APC), especially with the defection of some PDP governors and federal legislators to the APC. What does this portend for democracy in Nigeria as the battle for the 2015 polls is gradually gathering momentum? It is a very good development. I have said it many times that Tam David-West has never carried any party card before in his life. As a matter of policy, I have never been a party member in my life. I was, by the grace of God, one of the people that brokered the merger that led to the formation of the APC. But I am not a member of the APC. Everything was done to destroy the merger. The PDP leadership was so afraid. Even before we held our first meeting, the PDP-sponsored writers said the implementation committee of the merger had collapsed. We were in Tom Ikimi’s house and I said, gentlemen, you have a lot of responsibilities to make it succeed. You have not even met and the PDP said you have collapsed. The truth of the matter is that the APC is God-sent because any democracy without a virile opposition is no democracy. But in Nigeria, they see opposition as the enemy. The opposition will put the government on its toes. Therefore, the emergence of the APC is a good thing for the Nigerian democracy. The PDP was so sure. They boasted that they were going to rule for 60 years. One of them even increased it to 100 years. That alone is stupid. They thought that whether they were doing well or not, they will rule for 60 years. Now crack has come. PDP is now a Tower of Babel and I pray that it should continue to remain so because nothing has really improved. Government will come with a long list of what they claim to have achieved, but to me, if the government is doing well or not, the man on the street will know. When a man on the street knows that he is feeding well, that he can get a job, his children can go to school and there is good healthcare system, government does not need to advertise itself. People will advertise for it. If government is doing well, the man on the street will talk. The emergence of the APC is very good for Nigeria. And the PDP is going to destroy itself more. I warned them that the moment they do not allow the APC to exist, they will be digging their own grave. And all the things the PDP government is doing to frustrate the APC cannot work. They said they are going to declare vacant the positions of the PDP governors and federal legislators who defected to the APC. They cannot do that because the 1999 constitution is clear on that. The PDP is going to destroy itself the more by going hard on the APC. Look at what has been happening in Rivers State since the defection of Governor Chibuike Amaechi to the APC. The moment you don’t allow the APC to breathe, you are digging your own grave. Allow the APC to go on. Do something to counter them. If the APC says you are not investing in education, tell them that you are going to invest in education. Any area the APC says you are wrong, try to correct it. But if you keep on challenging them, you are going to make them popular. Look at what is happening in Rivers State. They are going to make Amaechi more popular than he has ever been. Nyesom Wike, who is now at war with Amaechi, was his Chief of Staff. Wike and Amaechi were very close. Amaechi has said that if he is corrupt, let them punish him. He said his problem is that he cannot be a governor and the president’s wife will be dictating to him what he should do. That is the problem. Amaechi was addressing the public in Okrika and Jonathan’s wife shouted him down. Mrs Jonathan went to the stage, and took the microphone away from the governor and told him to get out. It can never happen in any other state or country for that matter. Jonathan took 41 oil wells from Rivers State and gave them to Bayelsa. That is wrong. With all these things they are doing, they are making Amaechi more popular. You grounded his plane on the grounds that it has no licence and you don’t see the implication. How can a plane be flying in the Nigerian airspace for a year without licence? On another occasion, the APC governors were going to Gombe State, and the government went and blocked the tarmac with fire brigade vehicles. The president cannot claim he did not know about it. Yet at another occasion, Amaechi, a governor saw Jonathan off at the airport. He came back and the Police said he cannot go to the Government House anymore. Why don’t you accommodate the APC? How do you think this rivalry between the two parties will play out in 2015? That is if we get to 2015. Are you saying that something untoward could happen to Nigeria before 2015? I am not a prophet but I think that if Nigeria survives 2014, it will survive 2015. Forget about what the Americans said which I consider as nonsense. But the way politicians are heating up the polity, the politics could make the country so hot, especially within the third quarter. If we are not careful, the crisis that would be unleashed in 2014 would create problems for the nation’s political system. But I must warn that anybody that attempts to rig the election again with impunity would be setting the stage for another operation wetie. Operation wetie was started here in the Western Region. There is a limit to which people can take injustice. In 2015, I pray that politicians will be more sensible. Unfortunately, when there is trouble, they will fly out and leave the masses to suffer. The masses of Nigeria should stand up to say No! I pray that the election in 2015 will be violence-free but if the politicians repeat what they have been doing in previous elections, there will be problem. How do you rate the chances of General Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 presidential election if he eventually becomes the flagbearer of the APC? He is a leader I love. Why do I like Buhari? He was the one that appointed me minister of petroleum on January 18, 1984. I had never met him before he appointed me a minister. When I got the appointment, he told me that he had not met me before then but that he had been reading my articles and they are good. Since then, I have worked with him closely and if he chooses to vie for the 2015 presidential election, I will support him till the end. I have said it that even if my father is contesting election against Buhari, I will tell my father not to contest because I will campaign against him. General Buhari is very honest and he is a model of leadership by example. You can trust him. He does not condone corruption. Despite the fact that he was once the Head of State, he has no house in Abuja. When he goes to Abuja, he stays in a hotel. His only house in Kaduna is a modest one. I could recall when I went to his house for lunch after my book launch. His wife was apologising and saying, “Prof., don’t worry, this place is so small.” It is a credit to him because if he was stealing, he would have been comfortable. He has been governor of some states before, he has been minister of petroleum, and he has been the chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) .I like him because he has no share in oil companies. They say he doesn’t like Christians and I say it is a lie. They say he is a fundamentalist Muslim, but I say that is a credit because I am a fundamentalist Christian. There is a difference between being a fundamentalist and an extremist. A fundamentalist of any religion is one who believes in exactly what the religion says. As a fundamentalist Christian in the Anglican Communion, I believe in the Bible. As a fundamentalist Muslim, Buhari believes in the Quran. Buhari’s confidential secretary is a Christian. Three of his cooks are Christians. His second driver is a Christian. During the last Christmas, Buhari phoned me from Kaduna and said, “Prof, Merry Christmas”. During the 1984 Christmas, General Buhari and General Tunde Idiagbon sent me Christmas greetings with gifts despite the fact that I stopped the meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) from taking place on December 25 of that year. Buhari is not a superman but he is a man that can be trusted. He is the man that I know who will not steal Nigeria’s money. I can say that the fear of Buhari is the beginning of wisdom for corrupt Nigerians. And like Obafemi Awolowo, he is very vocal. If he had been elected president, all corrupt politicians would have been arrested to face trial. So, they are doing everything possible to frustrate him. They have even tried to sow the seed of discord between him and Bola Tinubu. They said that Buhari and Tinubu will fight over who will be president. But Buhari has even said that if the APC finds a better presidential candidate, he will step down and work with him. I pray that the APC eventually chooses him as its presidential candidate because Buhari is a leader that can be trusted to take Nigeria to the Promised Land. Indeed, he is the best among the lot in all the parties. The emergence of the APC represents a paradigm shift in the Nigerian politics as it has opened the way for a two-party dominant system in the country. Do you foresee a situation where this will deepen democracy like what we have in developed societies like the United States and Britain where two dominant parties compete for elective positions? Yes. I believe it will deepen democracy in the country. It will likely be a straight battle between the APC and the PDP in which PDP must collapse. Considering the criticisms which have trailed the conduct of the recent governorship election in Anambra State, do you think that INEC under the leadership of Attahiru Jega can deliver credible polls in 2015? No, I don’t. You would recall that after that election, in my usual vocal way, I said Jega should resign and hide his head in shame. The point is that if the governorship election in Anambra State was good, it would have given us hope that the 2015 election will be credible. But if he cannot manage elections in one single state, how can he manage elections in the entire country in 2015? The problem with Jega is he does not have firm control of those working under him. I don’t think that Jega can stand firm against the manipulation of the electoral process like Humphrey Nwosu did during the 1993 election. From what I have seen, Jega is easier for political manipulation than any other INEC chairman. I am not even sure that Jega is better than Prof. Maurice Iwu. Humphrey Nwosu was good. If you are appointed the INEC chairman, you must be tough. I will tell you something which has never been published before. There was a time that the late General Sani Abacha wanted me to be the chairman of INEC. Some of my colleagues even came to me at that time to say that they learnt from the grapevine that I was to be appointed the chairman of INEC. But I said I cannot accept to be the chairman of INEC because if I do, I will be firm and there will be nothing like election rigging. How would you have handled his abortive plan to transform from a military head of state to a civilian president? I wrote about it at that time and I told Abacha that if you bow to the campaign by Daniel Kanu’s Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA), you have lost a friend in me. Honestly, if Sani Abacha were to be alive, I don’t think he would have transformed himself into a civilian president. Abacha couldn’t have contested for that election. There is a difference between Obasanjo, Babangida and Abacha. If Obasanjo wants to do something, even if his mother pleads with him, he will go ahead and do whatever he planned to do. I know him. And even by all these letters that his daughter is writing, Obasanjo will not be moved. Iyabo can write 10 letters and abuse her father; Obasanjo will not be moved. As a leader, do I rate him high? Yes, I do. His only problem is that he is too full of himself. He is too brash. He has said that Jonathan should not contest the 2015 presidential election and I give credit to him for that. When he wrote his letter to Jonathan, I told Jonathan not to reply. I told Jonathan to sit down and read what Obasanjo wrote in his letter to see where he could made amends. So, Nigerians do not think highly of President Jonathan handling Nigeria? Do you think they are correct in their assessment of Mr President? I am one of them. People have come here to tell me to stop criticizing President Jonathan because he is Ijaw and I said because he is Ijaw, it does not mean anything to me. If you are good, I will support you not minding where you come from. I cannot because you are Ijaw I will support you even when you are not doing well. I keep telling him that all those people who are flocking around him and telling him that he is doing well are not helping him. Edwin Clark and Asari Dokubo are urging him to go ahead and contest in 2015 and that if he does not return in 2015, there will be trouble. Asari Dokubo’s mother and my mother’s mother are of the same father, so we are related. He used to visit me. But he is the one telling Jonathan that if he doesn’t contest for the presidency in 2015, there will be trouble and he has been making his millions. Should Jonathan contest the 2015 presidential election? Yes and no. If you ask me whether he has the constitutional right to contest, I will say technically. Jonathan was drafted to be Yar’Adua’s Vice President. Yar’Adua became incapacitated and Jonathan became the acting president. When Yar’Adua died, Jonathan became a full president and he had to complete Yar’Adua’s tenure. His case was helped by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) led by Pastor Tunde Bakare. Then in 2011, he contested and won in a fraudulent election. By 2015, Jonathan would have had one full tenure of his own and a fraction of Yar’Adua’s tenure. So, technically he is qualified to contest the 2015 election but morally he cannot. There have been claims that he agreed to serve for one term but he has denied that. But there have been overwhelming evidence that he said so. The governor of Niger State said they supported him in 2011 based on an understanding that he was going to serve for one term. A few days ago, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State gave details of how they had a meeting with him and he agreed to serve for one term. All these people cannot be lying against him. General Obasanjo said that “you said so to me and that was why I went to convince them”. Although he has the constitutional right to seek for a second term, the moment he agreed to such a gentlemanly agreement to serve for one term, he has forfeited his constitutional right. There is no evidence that he did that under duress; it was a mutual agreement and understanding with his colleagues. If he can prove that he said so, but under duress, that is a different matter. But he cannot agree to abide by a mutual understanding and tomorrow he denies it. So, morally he is not qualified to contest. But I cannot support any leader who has not got the moral stamina. A president without a moral compass can be a thief. In fact, he can do anything evil. He has nothing constraining him. Therefore, Jonathan has the constitutional right to contest but he has no moral right to contest. Besides, the 2015 battle will be tough for him. Those Ijaw people who are now saying that Jonathan should rule for ever did not play any important role towards his emergence as president. Why? Number one, Jonathan’s total votes in Ijaw area was 24%. The highest was in Rivers State where he got two million. When the National Assembly was reluctant to act to make him President following Yar’Adua’s illness, who was the person that said we must act? It was Dora Akunyili, an Igbo woman who spearheaded the move for Jonathan to be acting president. Moreover, it was a Hausa man that moved the motion that enabled the National Assembly to make Jonathan President through the doctrine of necessity. Who was the master brain behind his emergence as president in 2011? It was Obasanjo, a Yoruba man. So, Ijaw people did not play any significant part in his emergence as the president of Nigeria. Now that he is the president, why do you have to antagonize other people? Jonathan has brought ethnic politics to the extent that those who supported him from other ethnic groups will now find it very difficult to support him in 2015. And then he played politics with the Igbos. He promised that there will be an Igbo president after him. Now, he has changed his mind again. Jonathan has antagonized the Hausas, the Yorubas and the Igbos. And the Ijaw people cannot help him. Is that a sellable material for 2015? But don’t you think that what President Jonathan has achieved through his transformation agenda could do the magic for him in 2015? He has no agenda, and there is no transformation. What is he transforming? You claim that you are transforming and the universities were closed down for six months. You are transforming, yet our health sector is in shambles. What he is doing is window dressing, if anything at all. You have a budget and you give it big names — Budget of Restoration, Budget for Job Creation and Inclusive Growth. Do you create jobs by words? You create jobs by action. You don’t create jobs by giving the budget a name. Have you ever heard that America gave their budget a name? You had worked closely with Nigerian leaders like Obasanjo, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha. You also know a lot about Yar’Adua and Jonathan. What would you say about their leadership style? Let me start with Obasanjo. As a man, he is a very good person; he works hard, no doubt about that. Will Obasanjo deliberately go for crooked amassing of wealth? I don’t think he will but if his friends are doing that, he will close his eyes. But I don’t think he will be part of a clique to steal Nigeria’s money but if his cronies are doing it, I don’t think he will be hard on them. In terms of focus, he has it. His only problem is that he is very brash and imperious. He has the messianic torch that I alone can do it. Some leaders are like that. Public opinion doesn’t move them. Then Babangida. Babangida is very foxy. He finds it difficult to treat memos with dispatch. Is he Maradona? Babangida is not Maradona at all but he enjoys being called Maradona. The name Maradona was given to him when he was dribbling and changing the time table for the transition to civil rule programme. But of all the Generals I had worked with, Babangida is the easiest to map out. Babangida is easy to predict. Of all of them, I think Babangida is the best in the analysis of the Nigerian person. With Babangida, every Nigerian has a price and he can settle you if you are not careful. As regards Abacha, he is one of the most misunderstood Nigerian leaders. There are different Abachas. He has many sides. He reminds one of the tale of the blind man and the elephant. When he touched the tusk; he said it is a trumpet. So, there are several Abachas. I was Abacha’s friend from 1975 till he died. I will not deny him today that he is not my friend. They say he was a womanizer; thank God he was not a homosexual. No matter what they think he did in Aso Rock, I can say that when I was with him in 1975, he maintained one of the highest integrities for a public officer. When he was in Rivers State then, a company wanted to build a house for him on a portion of land allocated to him and I advised him against it and he listened. Abacha was more in control of the Army than Babangida. So, he had his own good parts. Abacha’s problem was that when he came to Lagos, the rivalry between him and Babangida must have made him to try to go for big money so that he could match Babangida naira for naira, dollar for dollar. I will not say that he was a bad man; they say that he had looted so much. Did Abacha loot more than the others? The money they said he looted, people have been asking government about Abacha’s loot and nobody has accounted for it. I will not score Abacha as a devil. No. The dark goggles are for show. The dark goggles do not mean dark heart. What he did to Ken Saro-Wiwa was bad but I think the withdrawal of the lawyers defending Saro-Wiwa did not help his case. Then talking of Buhari, I will say that he is the best of them all in terms of honesty, humility, discipline, focus and dedication. Yar’Adua never stayed long but during the short period he was in the saddle, he did well. He handled the Niger Delta crisis better than Jonathan. Jonathan is building on what Yar’Adua did in terms of the Amnesty Programme. The truth is that he is the weakest of them all. In a way, Jonathan is Nigeria’s worst President so far. Jonathan has not brought any innovation in government that people can see.
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