Posted by By SHOLA OSHUNKEYE on
When Weekly Spectator left Lagos, last week, for an unscheduled visit to the bereaved former governor of the old Kano state, Dr. Abubakar Rimi, there was a fifty-fifty probability of the man granting a formal interview.
When Weekly Spectator left Lagos, last week, for an unscheduled visit to the bereaved former governor of the old Kano state, Dr. Abubakar Rimi, there was a fifty-fifty probability of the man granting a formal interview. Granting the enormity of the twin-calamities that befell his family, we had expected to see a dishelved man who would be too distressed to discuss any issue other than accepting condolences from thousands of sympathizers that throng his Bompai GRA, Kano residence daily to commiserate with him.
In the small hours of Saturday, January 14, some yet-to-be- arrested murderers had stormed his home, while attending the 40th anniversary of the death of Sir Ahmadu Bello, premier of the old northern region who was assassinated in the January 15, 1966 coup d’etat, and butchered Sa’adatu, his wife of 30 years. Exactly eight days later, Adamu, his 43-year-old first son, also died after a protracted illness.
Given the devastating consequences of these calamities, you would least expect to see a man with a vigorous presence of mind to discuss the state of the nation. But that was exactly what we met last Wednesday. After retiring to his inner living room at about 8.30 p.m., he fielded questions from Weekly Spectator for about two hours during which he discussed virtually every issue under the sun, especially current political developments in the country.
In one fell swoop, he rubbished virtually all the much trumpeted achievements of the President Olusegun Obasanjo Administration, describing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as the “silliest thing that ever happened to Nigeria.” The commission’s offence: Turning the other way while some “conspicuously corrupt” politicians and public officials are strutting the streets like kings, while they should cooling their heels in the slammer.
Of course, he spoke extensively on the tragic demise of his wife, alleging that the poor woman may have been murdered to punish him for his opposition to the rumoured elongation of the tenure of the present administration, sharply contradicting his claim, earlier the same day, fingering an Abuja-based businessman as the mastermind of his wife’s slaughter.
Excerpts of the interview:
What does the situation where somebody just walks into your house and kills your wife portend for our security system and our polity?
First of all, everybody knows and everybody believes that there is no security in Nigeria. And the situation has been like this for a long time, especially since 1999. When this regime came into office, security has never been their concern because they are not as exposed as the ordinary man. They have state security around them- the SSS, police, Military Intelligence and all that, but the ordinary citizen of this country has no protection. Government does not care about him at all. Insecurity has now reached Abuja where there are incidents of housebreaking on a daily basis, nearly on every street and it happens to people on a consistent basis.
And every time it happens, the police will come in, they will tell you they are investigating and nothing will come out of it. The tragedy of it is that sometimes, the people who rob are people in uniform, and whether they are actually officials in uniform or civilians in uniform, it is difficult to say. But we do know that the police kill people for N20. So, unless there is a change of government and we have a government that has the interest of the people at heart, a government that is prepared to spend time and money on security, the situation will continue to be bad.
You harped on a change of government. And you know we are at threshold of another election. Are you suggesting a change before next year or what?
No. What I mean is that when the term of this government ends, it should go. And maybe we will have a new government that will have a new focus, that will have a new care for the ordinary people. The present administration doesn’t care for anybody. If your look at the various government policies that have been in place, they are policies that are completely anti-people. There is nothing they do that promotes the interest of the ordinary people. So, the earlier it goes, the better, but at least not beyond May 2007.
Are you suggesting that, in your appraisal of this present government, you can’t find a single thing it has done right?
In the interest of the people, no, I can’t see anything. They always talk about GSM, GSM. Every time you talk about government achievement, they tell you, ‘oh, this government has introduced GSM’. But GSM was not introduced by government. GSM was introduced by private companies with their own money. Government didn’t invest kobo in all these GSM companies.
What about the economic reforms that government says will bring long-term gains for the people?
That is rubbish. Absolute rubbish. Here in this part of the country, we used to say that the signs of a Friday that would be good are seen on a Wednesday. In other words, if something would be good, you start seeing the signs of that goodness early. And all bad governments give those types of excuses that it is not now you will reap the benefits, it is in the future. But if you start a wrong policy, in the wrong direction, at the end of the day, you may not get those benefits.
What about the albatross of debt and instrument of neo-colonialism that this government has freed Nigeria from?
What the Obasanjo government is doing is benefiting the colonial powers, so they will commend them. But no Nigerian commends the government. But Britain, United States, Germany, Japan, and so on, will commend them because Nigeria’s resources are being withdrawn from the services of the Nigerian people to pay debt. Obviously, it is good for the debtors but not good for Nigerians.
So, you don’t see the debt relief as a commendable achievement?
No. I don’t see it as particularly commendable because the initiative on this issue of debt was not started by the Obasanjo government. The debtors themselves started it; particularly the British Government represented by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of Exchequer. He is the man, more than anybody else, who, under the present Labor Government, initiated the process of trying to convince his colleagues in Europe, Japan, United States and everywhere to consider the issue of this debt relief in order to alleviate the sufferings of the less developed countries. It’s not Obasanjo regime.
But if Gordon Brown, like you said, initiated the move and our president did not take appropriate action, do you think we would have got the relief?
I will still give the credit to Brown because he initiated it and pursued it vigorously among his colleagues. Afteral, the president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has been junketing all over the world in the last seven years and didn’t get that relief. But just after a few meetings, Brown convinced his colleagues, finance ministers, for debt relief, not only for Nigeria, contrary to impression being created, but to over 20 countries. So, it is not an issue the government of Nigeria should claim credit.
Okay, if you cannot give kudos to the government over debt relief, at least you should commend it over the fight against corruption and the yeoman’s job EFCC is doing.
That is the silliest kind of thing that ever happened to Nigeria.
I repeat, silly, absolutely silly. The EFCC is an instrument of oppression. It’s an instrument to victimize those who are not with the government or those who are perceived to be enemies of the government. The government doesn’t have enemies but it creates them in their psyche. Therefore, they are those who have to be removed from office or they have to be chased by EFCC. A lot of people are corrupt in this government. Cabinet ministers are corrupt. Corruption is there in the judiciary. Corruption is there in the Villa. Yet, not a single person has been arrested in the Villa. The most corrupt people are around the president, yet not a single one of them has been arrested.
Money has been given to people to do jobs but they never did. For instance, Tony Anenih, who collected over N300 billion to fix the roads, yet, we haven’t seen the roads, we haven’t seen the money. We haven’t heard EFCC invite him for questioning because these are the right people of the president. They are never wrong. Everything they do is right.
But the EFCC has questioned a sizeable number of people close to the president.
Who did they question?
Bode George, for instance.
Bode George was chairman of NPA and during his tenure, hundreds of millions of dollars were lost by the NPA and there was an investigation. A report was given, up till today; the report has not seen the light of day. Rather, the next thing you hear is that the man is now a big man in PDP. Instead of being in prison, he is a big man in PDP.
But what about the late Sunday Afolabi, a close friend of the president, who died while standing trial for corruption charges?
Why only Afolabi? Why not the others? Is Afolabi the only corrupt minister in Obasanjo government?
More recently, we had Professor Fabian Osuji.
Yes, what happened to him?
He is standing trial with the former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, over the infamous bribe-for-budget scandal. The case is still in court.
Yes, what about the (former) Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sule Lamido and the rest of them over their new buildings in their ministry? Money was lost, the building was not completed and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is now virtually abandoned. What about Kwankwaso who was governor here in Kano state? There was an investigation and he was alleged to have embezzled about N1billion of state money and the matter has been with the EFCC and the EFCC has not done anything about it because he is a good boy of the president. Why the selective nature of prosecution? Why do they prosecute a few and leave the others?
But I find what you are saying strange
What is strange in what I’m saying?
Against the popular acclaim the EFCC is enjoying, not only locally but also internationally.
EFCC is not enjoying any popular acclaim at all. If EFCC had gone round, if EFCC had been fair to everyone, if EFCC had picked on the conspicuously corrupt ones, if they had not discriminated, even I, Abubakar Rimi would have praised the EFCC. EFCC is not picking everybody. EFCC is only picking only those it has been directed to pick because they are either not so-called loyal or they are not supporting third term or they are not doing what they are asked to do.
You too believe there is a third term agenda?
Of course, yes. Are saying you don’t know there is a third term agenda? And you are a top journalist? And you are in the press? Then, you should resign.
Before I can say yes or no, I must see empirical evidence that there is, indeed, a third term agenda.
What empirical evidence are you still looking for? All this talk in the National Assembly, are they not empirical evidence? I just read in the papers about the N500million being given to the Mantu Committee to change the constitution? Where did they get N500million? Is that not empirical evidence enough to convince you that government is spending money for third term? What about all these people talking and writing, supporting the third term? What about Alamieyeseigha? He was opposed to third term, now he’s out as governor. What about Rashidi Ladoja? He’s opposed to third term, now he is out of Government House. What about me? I was opposed to third term, they killed my wife.
They killed your wife because of third term?
Well, I cannot say it is because of that but I cannot also say it is not remotely connected with that. Because anybody who does not support third term is considered an enemy. You have to support third term to be seen as a good friend, to be seen as being loyal, as supporting government. But third term is wrong. It’s illegal, it is unconstitutional. And they are trying to legalize it by trying to amend the constitution. There is this talk about corrupting the National Assembly members. There is this talk about giving them money-N100 million for each senator and N80 million for members of the House of Reps. And you are telling me that those doing that are doing anti-corruption (crusade)?
But those in favour of an amendment are arguing that the clause causing so much furore now is just one of 115 recommendations by the Political Reforms Confab…
(Cuts in…) That’s not true. This constitutional amendment is deliberately engineered to see to it that an opportunity for third term is created. And my appeal to members of the National Assembly is that they should not agree to amend a coma, even a full stop in that constitution before 2007. Nigeria is not going to end tomorrow. Nigeria will be there till the end of time. So, we have enough time to amend the constitution. And this constitution only came into being six, seven years ago. So, what are we amending? The United States that we are copying didn’t amend their constitution for over 100 years. So, why are we in a hurry to amend our constitution? Why don’t we allow the constitution to work so that we would be able to see the pitfalls, the weaknesses and the lacuna and correct them in the course of time? And not in this organized hurry. These constitutional amendments are all excuses by those who badly love power for them to continue in office.
What if the people of Nigeria feel that Obasanjo has done a marvelous job and say ‘okay, you can continue for two more years’…
Tell me the good work he has done.
It’s not my opinion. I’m saying if Nigerians…
Which Nigerians? If he wouldn’t finish in eight years, what would two years do? The man will never finish. In any case, nobody ever finishes the programmes and policies of government. Since creation of humanity, no leader ever finishes his programme. And if you do what Obasanjo wants to do, it means everybody who comes would want to be there for ever. We are just being taken for a ride. And it is very, very insulting for a nation of 130million people.
Another issue rocking this democracy is the problem of godfatherism. You are a living witness to what is happening in Oyo state. How do you see this phenomenon of godfatherism?
This shows you how corrupt our government and our society is. Adedibu, a confessed thug, is getting the support of our president. On several occasions, the president has come out to support the thuggery Adedibu is doing. Everybody knows what Adedibu is doing is unconstitutional, it is illegal. But instead of Adedibu being dealt with by the government, Adedibu is being praised by the president. And that shows you the extent of corruption and disregard for constitutionality on the part of the government because nobody will support what Adedibu is doing.
Just imagine, a private person collecting security money and EFCC is not after him? And he is saying it to the world, loud and clear and EFCC has not asked him to come and explain how and why he collects security money from the state government being an individual who has no official status? What qualifies him to be getting the money from the governor of Oyo state? State funds for that matter.
He is even alleged to have said that the Oyo state government must, of necessity, be maintaining his house in Molete, Ibadan.
And the presidency, which you said is doing anti-corruption, is seeing that? And EFCC, which you said is cleaning up the society, is seeing that? And nobody has ever asked Adedibu to explain anything. Nobody has asked Adedibu to refund one kobo of state money he collected from Ladoja. What kind of anti-corruption is this?
May I also remind you that we have a Chris Uba in Anambra.
Chris Uba also shows you the degeneration and corruption in the presidency. Because Chris Uba should be squarely in prison. Chris Uba and his likes are not the people who should be allowed to be moving around freely but now he is a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, a party I created. Renegades and corrupt people like that are now heading the party. And you are telling me things are being corrected, that anti-corruption is taking place in this same Nigeria where I live?
Are you saying President Obasanjo is deceiving us or what?
Yes, absolutely. He is deceiving everybody including himself.
What would be your own prescription against the evil phenomenon of godfatherism?
If there is fairness in elections, if there is constitutionality, if there is merit in the ways we do our things, there would be no godfatherism. And if the government in power would create opportunities for everybody to have equal treatment, there would be no godfatherism at all. If I am president of Nigeria, there would be no godfatherism. Nobody would be favoured against anybody else. Nobody around me would be like Chris Uba or Adedibu or Anenih and still remain around me. No. It would not happen around me.
Your assertion that EFCC is selective may be subjective because this same EFCC investigated President Obasanjo when Governor Orji Kalu reeled out some allegations of corruption against him.
Rubbish. Rubbish. That is absolute rubbish. Which EFCC investigated Obasanjo? Where? When? How? What is the evidence that they investigated him? Did they charge him to court? Did they invite him to EFCC office? Did they lock him up?
Maybe they didn’t find anything against him.
That is what they said. Who knows what the investigation was? Who knows what is in the investigation? You don’t know whether Mr. President was invited to the EFCC office? If it is in America, the president would have to go to EFCC and answer charges. But in Nigeria, it is the EFCC that would be invited to the Villa. They will wait until Mr. President is ready to see them. So, it is a very, very insulting joke to say EFCC has investigated Mr. President. How can you investigate your master? How can you investigate the authority that set you up?
Coming back to what has happened in your household, that is the death of your wife, would you say you are the target?
Well, if you look at it rationally and sensibly, you cannot come to any other conclusion that I was the target and I happen not to be around and they pounced on my wife. The sad thing about it is that my wife was not a politician. She has never participated in anything political.
At least, not openly.
Even secretly. As her husband of 30 years, my wife has never been involved in politicking. She never attended any party meeting. In all the parties I have been involved, from PRP up to this day, my wife has never been involved. She was never interested in politics, she never participated in politics. They just killed her for nothing. I’m sure whoever did this will not end well. All those who are behind this dastardly crime, no matter how highly placed they are, you will see that something will happen to them. Just keep watch. They will not end well. My wife’s blood will cry, will haunt them, will hunt them. Regardless of how highly placed they are, they will not end well, by the grace of God. Because God knows those behind the move. God knows those who scaled the wall to come into my house and butcher my wife, an innocent woman. And God knows their motive.
If the investigation that is going on now by the police becomes genuine, then the motive would be known. People behind the act would be known. I am watching as the victim of this event. Kano state is watching. The people of Nigeria are watching. The people of the world are watching to see how an innocent, simple, kind housewife would be so butchered for no just cause whatsoever.
As a religious person, somebody who knows the holy book very well, in times like this and like any other cases when the blood of innocent persons is shed, what does this kind of thing portend for our land?
Gloom and lack of peace. And of course in the eyes of the world, that country would be looked at as a very bad country. Because of what is happening in Nigeria, if you are outside Nigeria, you would know that nobody is saying anything god about our country. Investors are not coming because their lives are not safe.
Finally, how optimistic are you that the police would find the masterminds and killers of your wife? Are afraid that your wife’s murder might just add to the rising cases of unresolved high profile assassinations in this country?
I cannot say I’m not optimistic and I cannot say I’m over optimistic. I’m not a fool. I live in this country. I see what has happened in other cases. But what I and others have to do is to take the police on the face value of their statement, that they will follow this matter to its logical conclusion and that they have put a price of N5million for anyone who could give information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of this crime. Since the police said that themselves, what we have to do is to watch and see whether they would be up to their words.
You cannot say what they have said is a lie or they would not do it, but you must also remember that the police are under authority. The issue is how free would the police be to do a thorough job on this matter?
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