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President Umaru Yar’Adua’s confidant, Senator Mahmood Kanti Bello has sensationally revealed that all immediate past state governors contributed to Yar’Adua’s presidential campaign ‘war chest.’
President Umaru Yar’Adua’s confidant, Senator Mahmood Kanti Bello has sensationally revealed that all immediate past state governors contributed to Yar’Adua’s presidential campaign ‘war chest.’
Bello, who by his own account, spent 12 hours on the average with Yar’Adua on daily basis in the run up to the presidential election and was as such privy to everything, however, insisted that the support was not received by the then Governor Yar’Adua on the understanding that he would give them protection in times of trouble.
Yar’Adua is thought in some quarters to have struck a deal with his former colleague governors to give them protection from prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other relevant government agencies for alleged acts of corruption while in office.
But dismissing the existence of such a deal or understanding, the Senate Chief Whip said it was not a question of “ ‘Do-it-for-me-I-will-give-you-money’ or ‘Do-it-for-me-when-I-win-you-will-not-go-to-jail’. If you stole people's money, that is not a deal.”
The former All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) chieftain from Katsina, whose return to the senate on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket was greatly influenced by Yar’Adua, was, however, of the opinion that it is natural for the ex-governors to expect some form of assistance or the other from the President.
According to him, “Even if there was no deal of that nature - which I believe there isn’t anyway- it is only human for the giver to expect gratification of sorts. If I help you and now I'm in trouble, where do I go? It is natural for me to come to you and expect you to assist me. It doesn’t have to mean that there must be a certain understanding.
“Now if by tomorrow I help someone in goodwill and the person becomes the editor of Sun or the General Manager or even the Managing Director of The Sun Publishing or whatever, it is natural when I have a little story, I expect the person to help me. It is African nature. It is human nature.”
Bello, also spoke on the insistence by another of his kinsman, General Muhammadu Buhari to challenge Yar’Adua’s election at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
It was his position that Buhari lacks the moral authority for such crusading, alleging that the former Head of State did worst things in the ANPP.
During the last Senate, you were in the ANPP, but now you are in the PDP. What really happened?
Well, you see first of all, it is circumstances that bring someone to either side of the equation. What I mean is this, first of all, you have to believe in something. My political thinking has always been that of a practical realist and my cardinal belief is that I am in politics to serve the ordinary people in this country. I have to be truthful and honest to these principles wherever I find myself.
Now talking about the circumstances that forced me to move from ANPP to PDP, where I eventually picked the ticket of the same Senatorial district, I am a firm believer in the rule of law. I don’t want to keep repeating this because as I’ve always maintained my respect for General Buhari. I was instrumental to his coming into politics and I still respect him as an elder brother. But he (Buhari) actually forced me out of the ANPP. I am a principled politician and I believe in the principles of democracy. But I doubt if Buhari really believes in the principles of democracy and the rule of law.
How do you mean?
You see, at a certain stage, I was in control of the ANPP in Katsina State and he (Buhari) was not happy about it. Somehow, I don’t know for what reason, they decided with one Senator Abu Ibrahim to even doctor the constitution of our party. Because the constitution of our party stipulates that it is the outgoing executives that are vested with the powers to constitute the caretaker committee of the party. But Buhari and others went ahead to, in contravention of that part of the party constitution, seek for and obtain a directive from the party secretariat to the effect that it was the Administrative Secretary that would form the caretaker committee, a situation that was different from what happened in the remaining 35 states of the federation.
I said note it because I believe it was wrong. Unfortunately, General Buhari supported that illegality. I can’t understand why he did it, and from then on I lost respect for him because I believe he is supposed to be a principled person.
But with the support he gave that illegality, I don’t think he is principled, because he was fully aware of all that transpired. Why he did that, I just can’t understand up till today. I fail to understand.
So as a result of that my people in the party decided to even expel Buhari from the party then.
But because I don’t want to be quarrelling with him, I decided that the best thing for me to do was to quit politics because if some people one respects very much could degenerate to that level, so low and this was a person who just two months before that episode took his pen and wrote a personal letter to me, commending me for a job well done during the constitutional amendment. He even went to the extent of presenting me the commendation letter before the elders in Katsina State, only for him to do what he did to me two months later, I felt really bitter, up till today I am still at a loss as to why Buhari did that.
Like I said earlier, after all that happened, I decided I was quitting politics but something else happened. I and President Umaru Yar’Adua had worked together before. He joined politics slightly ahead of me but I came in with his late brother (Shehu Musa Yar'Adua). I was the first chairman of the Peoples Front (PF) in Katsina.
I assumed that position immediately after I left the position as the Chief Executive of Katsina Rolling Steel Company. I became the first chairman of the party and he (incumbent President) was my secretary.
So we (even when we found ourselves in different camps) had always had a good rapport. So, he invited me to come and assist in his Presidential campaign and I felt I had a duty to assist because even though we are in different camps I still believe that the guy is good enough. So when that thing happened, I joined him. We started campaigning for the presidency. So along the line, he asked me what I wanted, and I said I wanted to be a Senator. I don’t want to be anything more than a Senator because I think I have been cut out to be a Senator.
I believe I am good as a legislator and I can do the job very well. Because one, you have to make up your mind if you want to be a legislator, you will never see me in any ministry looking for contracts or looking for papers from any minister and I had done it before when I was in the opposition. I will still do it even now that I am in the ruling party.
As a legislator, you do your oversight function well if you are free from all sorts of contract awards, and you will be able to say your mind. I enjoy the job of being a legislator because the most important thing in being a legislator is to be able to fearlessly come out and say what is on your mind to the best of your understanding. So nothing has changed as far as I am concerned. What I am trying to say is that I will still say my mind irrespective of the divide I find myself.
Talking about being contented as a legislator, the picture most of us got during the purported crisis between yourself and Senator Abu Ibrahim was that you were interested in the governorship ticket. At the same time, Senator Abu Ibrahim was also interested in the governorship ticket and perhaps Buhari wanted Abu Ibrahim instead of yourself, leading to your disagreement with Buhari. So, the question is: is it that you've now forsworn your ambition of ruling Katsina State as a governor forever?
What you have said is true. It is my belief at that time. I took over ANPP machinery in Katsina. I did it for a purpose. It is my belief that I would have made a very good governor of Katsina. It is my belief that I have all the credentials to be a governor in Katsina State. It is also my belief that I have the goodwill of the people, the majority of the ordinary people in Katsina State will vote me in as a governor. It is also true that I brought Buhari into politics, that he cannot deny. It is also true that I assisted Senator Abu Ibrahim who was kicked out of PDP at that time to get a ticket under ANPP to win and become a Senator in 2003.
What you have said is true that Buhari had preference for Abu. But why should he prefer Abu to me? Is it because Abu can deliver better? Is it because Abu has got a better qualification? In any case, even during his tenure as a former Head of State, I was Chief Executive for 20 months that he was Head of State. My company, Katsina Steel Company that I was heading then, was investigated for 18 months. I was personally investigated for 18 solid months and I was given a clean bill. Out of five of us who were General
Managers at that time, Delta Steel, Katsina Steel, Jos Steel Rolling, Osogbo and Ajaoukuta, only myself was set free. I was the only one not found wanting during his tenure. I wasn’t found wanting after clearly 18 good months of investigation but during his (Buhari) tenure, it was he who actually retired Abu Ibrahim. So, on whatever quantum one looks at it, I am not blowing my own trumpet, I believe I am a better material to serve the people of Katsina State and to win that seat.
As I said, up till today, I don’t know why Buhari probably preferred Abu and it is true he preferred Abu because even after I left, Abu Ibrahim and Nura went for primaries, Nura won the primaries against Abu Ibrahim, but the same Buhari came in and said no, he did not agree. He replaced Nura with Abu.
The same thing happened even in my Senatorial district, where somebody won election, he even took me to the court but the court threw the case out. This man won the election at the primaries but Buhari decided to put another member from the House of Representatives because the member is Abu’s associate.
Two days before my election, we did not know who the candidate in my Senatorial district was because Buhari refused the choice of the people and yet, after all these atrocities, what bothers me is that why does he (Buhari) think people would vote for the candidates that were rejected at the primaries, but who were imposed on them by him.
At the same time I can’t understand why Buhari is going to court because he has done so many things that are wrong and he knows that they were wrong. He is a human being. He should remember what he has done, because people sweated to vote those people at the primaries, only for Buhari to say no to them. He, single-handed, refused to allow these people to run for the elections, for no just cause and he frustrated me out of the party because they could not look at me and take me to EFCC because I am clean. I believe I am as clean in case he(Buhari) is clean. I am even cleaner than him. I owe no apology to anyone in this country on that. At the same time, I have the qualifications to do the job and I have the goodwill of the people of Katsina State in general to do it but this man (Buhari) refused me the opportunity.
Now, about your question concerning the future, let me be frank with you now and this should be on record. As far as I am concerned, the present governor of Katsina State and the President are like brothers to me and I believe they are doing a good job. Let me tell you at my age now (62), as far as I am concerned I am not going to run for any governorship election in the future. I have tried it, people wanted me to do it and I know I have the goodwill of the people of Katsina State in general and my zone in particular but Allah is in His infinite mercy somehow did not give me that opportunity and now as an elderly person, these people
look at me with respect and I am not ready to lose that respect by looking for the same position with them. So, to that extent, I am not interested in running for the governorship of Katsina State in the future.
You said earlier that Buhari should not have gone to court to challenge the victory of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. Why do you think so?
Because he has messed up himself so much that he has no reason because they say if you want to go for justice, equity, you go with clean hands. Let him ask his own conscience, I don’t want to go back to the way he treated me. People may look at it as personal but let us look at the case of Katsina State in particular, there was a guideline from the party (ANPP) and the primaries was done and somebody won, but he (Buhari) deliberately said no. They connived and took his (Nura) name to EFCC, his name appeared on the EFCC list. But up till now, EFCC has not invited the guy because it is all lies.
They used EFCC - which is what is really annoying - to print his (Nura's) name in the papers. Of course, even if Nura had run for the election, he would not have won, but because of that, and because the person he preferred (Abu) is so unpopular with the masses, at the end of the day, he got only 20 percent of the votes, 200, 000 and the other guy (Ibrahim Shema) got over a million, a difference that is five times what the imposed candidate got. So that is Katsina.
Go to Kaduna, I am aware that my friend Senator Aruwa had worked so hard to win Kaduna. He had put enough structures in place, but Buhari doesn’t like Aruwa, he also said he had a case with EFCC. But up till now, he has not been invited by EFCC. They put his name in the papers. Buhari refused to give him a ticket. Kaduna was lost.
Yobe, of course, is just an area where luck came into play for Mamman Ali, who is my friend. He was lucky enough to get it because he would have lost it. And you see the margin, it was really a close fight. And let us go to Kano, he (Buhari) even refused to campaign for Shekarau because he didn’t want the man to win. He took it personal and they made him (Buhari)believe that even if he anointed a goat and say vote for this goat, people would vote for it but that is wrong, it is wrong.
He created the mess in his own party and made people suffer unnecessarily. For a man who did all that, what is the justification for him to say he has been rigged out in an election? It is even the worst form of rigging for somebody to refuse to obey the constitution of his party and do what he likes. It is even worse than being manipulated during election. His (Buhari's) own is brute force, brute force and dictatorship and therefore he has no moral right to go to court.
Away from the Buhari issue, talking about the EFCC, do you think it should be allowed to prosecute?
The right thing for EFCC, ICPC, is that they should have right to prosecute. But at the same time, it is my belief that occasionally, the Attorney General of the Federation, which is a constitutional issue anyway, must be allowed to exercise his constitutional powers. The AG is the only one that has the right to withdraw case, or prosecute certain criminal cases. The constitution does not give EFCC that total power.
The AG’s power is constitutional and you see the constitution is supreme, no matter what law you make for the EFCC, the constitution is supreme and the AG has certain functions in the constitution.
Having said that, it is my honest view that as things are now, if you allow the AG to exercise his powers on every case by saying that they have to report to him before prosecution, there may be a problem because civil servants may get involved, delay will come in and perhaps the steam and the way people perceived EFCC as a sort of correcting agency may fade. But then, somebody would have to be breezing in on EFCC once in a while, not only the National Assembly this time around. People would want to see things done first of all constitutionally and rightly too. The majority of the people will not like a situation where this man steals money, the other too steals but he is left free. I mean a situation where someone stole N10 billion, the other stole N200, 000, and the one that stole N200, 000 was sent to jail, while the one that stole N10 billion was set free.
When you hear this billions people are talking about, I get confused, why do people want to take this money because there is no way this money can be useful to them. In a simple life of 80, 70, or 90 years life span, what do you need billions for?
If my pleasure is to eat chicken, these and that, even if you have so many women, you cannot even function properly with that type of money (general laughter). I am just being honest with you. You cannot drink all the wines with that type of money. So, people are stealing this money out of greed. These people are like rat and ants. You know the rat and ant steal anything, they can steal food, loaf of bread and if they see your ring which is made of metal, they will carry it. They have no use for it, and they will go and keep it in their hole.
This is the type of selfish thing these people are doing and should not be tolerated and you need an agency that will put a stop to this nonsense and that is why EFCC must be given the teeth to bite. But then, like I said earlier, the National Assembly as well as the office of the Attorney General of the federation need to ensure that EFCC does its activities correctly, so as to ensure that no different treatments for two people who have stolen. EFCC has been accused in the past of double standard; I think there is the need to streamline that aspect.
Still on EFCC, many Nigerians believed that the on-going trial of some ex-governors was a breach of an alleged ‘deal’ between Mr. President and his former colleagues. What is your reaction to this?
You see, I cannot assume something that is not there. I think it was in October (after I came back from Umrah) that President Yar'Adua decided to pick the form for Presidential nomination. It was myself and (President) Umaru (Yar'Adua) that picked the form. I spent the next six months staying very close to Umaru on the average of 12 hours daily. And every PDP governor whom we visited in his state would attest that Umaru visited the state together with me. In a state like Bayelsa, I think only three of us visited the place because we took a helicopter.
In all the places we visited, there was no discussion that took place that Umaru kept away from me or shut me out of it. Once it was discussion that has to do with the presidency, he discussed the issue together with me and all the former governors can testify to that.
I can testify that up till the time after the primaries, I went with him to campaign in most of the states, including the geo-political zones. Later, I had to go back to Katsina to help deliver the place. So, there was no way any deal could have been packaged because primaries had been done. I am not aware of any former governor who sat down with Umaru to strike a deal that ‘I have stolen when you come in don’t investigate me.’ I am not aware of that.
That is why I said you cannot assume what is not there. As far as I know, it is not there but it is also true that some of these governors, all of them, assisted with their own efforts and whatever (resources) in the campaign for Yar’Adua. This is a fact you cannot deny it.
But it was not a question of "do-it-for-me-I-will-give-you-money" or "do-it-for-me-when-I-win-you-will-not-go-to-jail". If you stole people's money, that is not a deal. So it is human nature. Even if there was no deal of that nature - which I believe there isn’t anyway- it is only human for the giver to expect gratification of sorts. If I help you and now I'm in trouble, where do I go? It is natural for me to come to you and expect you to assist me. It doesn’t have to mean that there must be a certain understanding.
Now if by tomorrow I help someone in goodwill and the person becomes the editor of Sun or the General Manager or even the Managing Director of The Sun Publishing or whatever, it is natural when I have a little story, I expect the person to help me. It is African nature. It is human nature. So, what these governors are saying is what is natural but it is not a deal and I don’t believe that the President who has sworn to defend the constitution of Nigeria is going to accept anything like a deal of that nature. He will leave EFCC to do what is right and allow justice takes its course.
Three months into Yar’Adua’s administration, some Nigerians still see him as an Obasanjo lackey. So far, how far?
I think he has not let us down so far but you see, do you know why I believe in Yar’Adua? I believe in his method, at least one thing is certain, he consults, anybody ho consults before taking a decision, would always take a reasonably right decision. But when you take decision on your own all the time, the chances are that you are likely to make more mistakes than when you consult. And as a manager before in my early life, when I was studying management, if you look at various managements -European management, Japanese management, you will find out that in most of the cases, Japanese in their management style, when they conceived a project, they take a long time discussing the project and streamlining the project before they put it on paper before the start the execution.
So, planning time is very long but execution is short because everybody understands what he is to do, the same thing Yar’Adua’s government, it may take time, for some of the decisions to germinate, but once a decision is taking after a lot of consultation, you will find that it is going to be a positive one.
But the most important thing for any President is honesty of purpose, people have to see you to be genuine and I can remember I told him point blank that look ‘we have gone round the country and we have told people that we will make sure there will be a tremendous improvement in power supply and distribution, you made that promise to the extent that you even plan to declare a state of emergency in the power sector,’ I told him to his face that ‘look if in the next two years, Nigerians do not see any appreciable change, I am sorry you have failed me, you have failed your people and you have failed Nigerians in general,’ and I believe he is not going to fail.
You see I believe he is genuine, he wants to work, there is a difference between deception and wanting genuinely to do something and Nigerians can see it that he is genuine. For example, the refineries you are talking about and VAT issue in particular. In the whole of West African sub-region, Nigeria has got the least VAT and that does not mean that we have the least selling price for our consumable items, it is not the least compared to other West African sub-regions even though we have the least VAT because our business men always want to maximize their profit, so under normal circumstances, one would have thought that the increase in VAT was justified.
But when the ordinary people of this country said ‘look we are suffering,’ the man agreed to go with the masses. And you have to remember one thing again, in his early days; he is also called a socialist even though he is from a bourgeois family. So, once you have got that type of ideological belief, you find out that it is easier to always look up because you want to do things that are popular so that you make history.
And again, the man is a relatively young President, with the exception of Gowon and probably IBB, he’s young. He became President at the age of 56 or 55 and he knows he has to succeed and he is determined to do it right because that is the most important thing: determination to do things right and he’s determined. So, because of that I believe in him but I am not believing in him with my eyes closed oh, if tomorrow I realized that he is drifting, do not feel disappointed if I raise alarm, because I will shout No! That is my nature.
On a final note, I know you’re new in the PDP, but do you subscribe to the views that Obasanjo should be shoved aside, to accommodate the party’s returnees who are insisting on the sacking of Obasanjo as condition for their return?
I joined PDP not as a new man. If the PDP is an offshoot of late General Yar’Adua’s legacy and because I was the first chairman of PF (Peoples Front), Yar’Adua’s group in Katsina State, then I think I am the grand father of the party, and so to that extent, I will not call myself a new man.
But from 1999 I didn’t join the PDP, I was in ANPP. I even had the opportunity through the courtesy of my people to represent them at the Senate under the platform of the ANPP.
You see I will be very, very honest with you and this is my personal view, these people wanting to come back to PDP, we need them, but they should also understand that PDP as a party is now a new party. It is a new party that has no place for sycophants. It is a new party that is supposed to move this country forward with an inbuilt agenda. Because in the manifestos and other things, we have what is called irreducible minimum which have already been clearly stated, what is needed is for the party to insist that this will be implemented.
With these irreducible minimum, regardless of what anybody will say about Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, he did a lot for the PDP. A lot of people have told Yar’Adua that ‘look we don’t want the man (Obasanjo) because he rigged you into office.’ so if you rigged me into office as President and I am serving the people of Nigeria well, the best I can do is to make sure that no further rigging takes place anyway, but I am not going to disgrace the person who rigged me in, I am telling you this is my own view as Kanti Bello. I will certainly not disgrace you, if that is the truth. But let’s face the fact, are people rigged in? The truth is that I don’t even believe that Umaru was rigged in. What simply happened was that the oppositions are really, really with most sincerity weak and they have refused to put their house in order. If the opposition had been serious about taking over power, what stops Atiku and Buhari from joining forces together to form one team and become one party and fight the PDP. They could not even do that. Even at the State levels, they could not even agree to have a common front.
So for the people who have been in AC, who left the PDP because they wanted the downfall of PDP, but who could not even put their heads together, to now turn round and say they are not going to come back except we kick out our father (Obasanjo) from his house, I believe is wrong. If our father, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has become a mad man, the best thing for his son to do is to rehabilitate him. So, nobody can kick him out. Today, as far as I know, and even till tomorrow, Obasanjo is the father of Nigerian nation and I will stand by him.
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