•How Obasanjo used and dumped me
A former deputy governor of Lagos state, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu has sensationally revealed how former President Olusegun Obasanjo used and dumped her. She also warned that all those championing the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 especially the Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai are doing a lot of harm to the image of the president. Ojikutu also lamented that corruption has become a cankerworm that has eaten too deeply into the societal fabrics.
While saying that Nigerians should thank God that an anti-corruption crusader like President Buhari is now in office, Ojikutu however noted that Buhari can only succeed if Nigerians give him the much needed cooperation and support. Ojikutu in this interview with TUNDE THOMAS also spoke on other national issues.
You were known to be a leading PDP member, but for sometime you have not been active in the party’s affairs, and there was this rumour that you’ve quit politics, what is the true position of things?
I quit active politics after the late popular politician, Engineer Funsho Williams who was then a PDP gubernatorial aspirant for 2007 general elections was killed by unknown people. His death was shocking. It shocked the entire nation.
Following Funsho Williams’ death, my mum who was still alive was seriously jolted, and she was concerned about my safety. She then called me aside, and told me that ‘look my daughter, I want you to bury me, and not the other way round.’ She further added that knowing me to be a principled person that would not loot public funds and also not allow looting of public fund by any individual, that my principle would lead to collision between me and some powerful individuals and interests who might want to deal with me if they view me as an obstacle to their vested interests. I tried to convince my mum but she refused. She insisted that I must step aside adding that she would not want to become a subject of ridicule and would not want to bury her own daughter if anything untoward happened to me. And you know in politics, if you step aside for a while and you are not active again, a lot of people will think that you are no longer there again. I’m still politically conscious and vibrant and I’ve always been known to be an advocate for accountability and transparency in governance.
At a time there was a controversy about when you joined PDP …
Cuts in … I was a founding member of PDP. There is no controversy over that at all. I was right there from the beginning. Initially, I was a member of United Peoples Party, UPP led by Commodore Dan Suleiman, as the chairman and Ambassador Ralph Obioha was the secretary-general. But in the period leading up to registration of political parties, there was a gentleman agreement between UPP and PDP leaders that in case one of the two political parties was not registered by INEC, that the other party that is not registered would join the one that was registered. At the end of the day, it was PDP that was registered, and this was how UPP merged with PDP.
Before the merger, I was the Deputy National Chairman of UPP. I was in the United States when Dan Suleiman and Ralph Obioha called me. They later invited me to join the party, especially to be its arrowhead in the Southwest geo-political zone.
But surprisingly PDP leaders failed to honour all the agreements it signed with UPP. PDP really disappointed UPP leaders. PDP leaders betrayed us. Then again when President Obasanjo became the president after the election campaign by both UPP and PDP leaders, the marginalization of UPP became worse. Those of us who took active part in the campaign for Obasanjo’s election were completely ignored, neglected and abandoned, whereas sycophants and bootlickers who were never part of Obasanjo’s campaign were the ones Obasanjo was rewarding with plum appointments. Although Obasanjo later realized his mistake but then the deed had been done.
My late husband was not only a strong supporter of Obasanjo, he was also one of the financiers of the Obasanjo Campaign Organisation. My husband risked his life during that campaign following Obasanjo and drumming support for him in different parts of the country, but at the end of the day, Obasanjo disappointed us. I was a loyal member of PDP to the core, but it was mostly praise singers, palace jesters and bootlickers that Obasanjo gave appointments. Those that know me very well know that I’m not a sycophant or a bootlicker that would go and do eye service in order to get political appointment, or for any pecuniary gains. I’ve always been known to be a vocal member of the party, and not only that I’m also a fighter who resists any act of injustice. But in the course of fighting for what is right, I’ve also been unjustly punished or made to suffer over my principled stand.
An example was in 2003 when I was a PDP governorship aspirant. I ran into troubled waters with the PDP leadership that year over the party’s decision to give automatic tickets to all PDP governors seeking reelection. To me and some other aspirants, this was against the spirit of democracy and transparency, more so, such provision was not in the constitution of the party, we therefore went to court to challenge the party’s decision. We were able to secure an injunction against the party, but Obasanjo later invited us (the aggrieved aspirants) to Aso Rock. Other PDP leaders joined us, and at that meeting in Aso Rock, Obasanjo and other party leaders appealed to us to withdraw the case from the court, while assuring us that they would address our grievances, and ensure we get justice. So we went to court to withdraw the case, but rather than fulfilling their own side of the bargain, Obasanjo and other party leaders caused us to be suspended from the party. The news of our suspension spread like wildfire. It was a stab in the back by Obasanjo. From then, my trust in human beings especially politics started diminishing.
I also incurred Obasanjo’s anger, and that of other party leaders when he had barely spent two years of his first term, and then some individuals and groups in the party started campaigning for a second term for him. I openly raised objection. I told PDP leaders that it was premature to start such campaign. I insisted that PDP members should allow Obasanjo work first, and that it should be his work that would sell him, to determine whether he merited a second term in office or not. A lot of PDP leaders including Obasanjo were incensed. Some of them even openly attacked me. But I stood my ground. PDP is a party full of funny characters. Some of them are PDP members in the morning but by evening time they are APC members. Later I realized that my own type of politics or belief is not the norm in this clime. Here in this country most politicians are self-centred, their own principle is self first before others but this is not the way it should be.
How would you describe Funsho Williams’ death?
Most tragic. Very shocking. I passed out when the news of his assassination was broken to me by the then chairman of PDP in Lagos State, Chief Rasheed Alaba Williams. The day before his death, we were together at a meeting with the state commissioner of police. The police had invited all governorship aspirants to a meeting, and then I was also an aspirant like Funsho Williams in PDP. I remember clearly that during that meeting, I spoke on the need for us to jettison do-or-die politics. I harped on the need for us to play constructive politics as being done in other climes. At the end of that meeting, Funsho Williams walked up to me, and told me that he shared my political principles and that he believed we should work together. Shockingly, it was that same night that he was murdered.
We were preparing for a PDP mega rally on the day he was killed. I was cooking food to be taken to the rally in my house, but later I sent somebody to go and inquire whether people have started arriving the rally venue, but when the person came back later to inform me that the venue of the rally was like a ghost town, I was shocked, and then I had to call Chief Williams who then informed me that Funsho Williams had been killed by unknown people early that day. It shocked me that people can go to the extent of being violent over political issues.
Now that you said you stepped aside from active politics, does that mean you’ve taken a sabbatical leave from politics and PDP?
Once in a while I still get involved in political activities. Like during the time when Musiliu Obanikoro was campaigning for governorship seat in Lagos State, I was with him. But generally speaking, politicians in Nigeria are hardly faithful. However it was Bode George’s attitude, character and body language that made me to keep my distance from PDP especially in Lagos State for now.
What happened? Did you have any quarrel with him?
Bode George doesn’t want to see any of us that are his peers in PDP. Bode George met me in PDP. I was already in the party before he joined, but he was desperate to become the party’s leader in Lagos State. I don’t even have any problem with that. I’m not crazy about positions, but what I insisted on is that we must have mutual respect for one another. Where there is no mutual respect, that’s not good. I remember an occasion when Bode George snubbed me. I was coming from a campaign for PDP and I decided to branch at his office at Lugard road, Ikoyi to brief him. But on getting to the place, his aides told me that he was not around.
Luckily for me, he was exposed; even some of his aides and some politicians that were around that told me that he was in his office, but that deliberately he didn’t want to see me, and that he had instructed his aides to tell me that he was not around. Bode George made it known to people that I had become a persona-non-grata in PDP, but his reasons for his hostility towards me is best known to him. Another issue that led to my disagreement with Bode George was that when they formed Finance Committee of the party, being a retired banker and financial expert, I was automatically supposed to be on that committee, but do you know what happened, I was schemed out as these characters said that I was not qualified.
But their major reason for shutting me out of that committee was because they know that I will not allow anything fraudulent or diversion of funds. A lot of things are going on within PDP in Lagos State that are not good for the party’s interests.
Would you attribute some of these reasons as being responsible for the inability of PDP to win Lagos State governorship seat since 1999?
Yes, of course. There is a lot of brickbats in the PDP Lagos State. There are a lot of backbiting, and backstabbing in Lagos PDP. In the party, you have many bosses, unlike in our opponents camp where there is only one man running the show, but then having one man running their own show has proved to be a blessing. They don’t show respect to elders in Lagos PDP. You see people making snide remarks. But one thing I can’t tolerate or withstand is people showing disrespect to others. I don’t disrespect people. I believe respect begets respect.
PDP is its own problem in Lagos State. What PDP is suffering in Lagos is self-inflicted. Lagosians love PDP, but most of the leaders in Lagos State are not true to themselves. Many of them are acolytes of the other party that’s our opponent. While claiming to be PDP members, they are working for our opponents for pecuniary gains.
Another problem of PDP leaders in Lagos State is that they are always struggling for political appointments. Most of them have their eyes fixed on ministerial appointments anytime the party losses gubernatorial elections.
This is right from 1999, that has always been the case with PDP in Lagos. These people who claim to be PDP leaders in Lagos State are like chameleons, they are PDP during daytime but they romance with our opponents in the night. Funny characters. Some of them have now left PDP for the other party. These characters did incalculable damage to PDP.
How do you see the recent defection of Senator Obanikoro from PDP to APC?
He has no choice. He has crossed over to APC. With all the allegations against him by the present APC led federal government, Obanikoro has no choice than to decamp to APC where he believes he will be protected and shielded.
But this is one area I have a quarrel with Buhari’s administration, the moment people who have allegations against them or are being investigated for corruption join APC, then such people are now shielded, and no further actions taken against them. This is not good for the anti-corruption campaign by Buhari. It negates the change agenda. This is giving Buhari’s government a bad name. He should do something about it. A situation where somebody called Mr Black suddenly becomes Mr White when he crosses to APC is not good for the image of Buhari’s administration. It is not good for the change agenda. I believe in Buhari because of his anti-corruption stance. But I still believe that Buhari will do the needful.
If somebody that has been indicted or accused of corruption joins APC, that shouldn’t be an open license that the person has become an untouchable, government must ensure that EFCC does its job concerning the decampee’s case. Even if you are going to be lenient with him having become your party member, you must still sanction that corrupt person, if you allow him to go free simply because he is now an APC member, that amounts to promoting corruption and I will never support that. That will amount to encouraging people that are occupying public office to steal.
Buhari should be very vigilant. He should also be careful with those ‘Buhari for 2019’ campaigners. These people including Governor el-Rufai who is their coordinator are doing a lot of harm to Buhari. They should allow Buhari to work. They should let his work speak for him.
What is your assessment of the anti-corruption campaign by President Buhari?
He needs to be stronger. My advice to Buhari is that he should watch it so that he won’t be messed up at last. Why do I say so? If you look at some of the people that are close to Buhari, and some of those people that are part of the alliance that brought him to office, some of these people have cases to answer, some of them their hands are not clean, and that’s why at times it may appear difficult for Buhari to take action in certain cases and certain situations because some of these elements are involved.
I foresaw these happening when they were forming alliance that brought Buhari to office. It was an alliance of strange bedfellows, the good, the ugly and the bad ones. As the saying goes, show me your friend, and I will tell you the kind of person you are, Buhari has to be very careful, otherwise some of these characters will taint his hard earned image.
You can’t say that somebody the whole world believe is corrupt is no longer corrupt today simply because he has supported you. I think Buhari should have asked some of these people to go and do restitution. They should confess their sins and return stolen public fund, their loot.
But returned looted funds should be used to execute one project or the other that will be beneficial to the people. If you say you are saving the money or keeping it somewhere, another person can loot the money.
It is even because Buhari has found himself mixing with some of these elements that is now making some people say that he himself is not clean. This is sad, very sad. Buhari is a man of integrity, he shouldn’t allow some individuals who don’t have clean image to taint him.
Debate on restructuring is still ongoing with those for and against expressing their views, what is your own take on this?
Restructuring is inevitable if we are to move ahead and make more progress as a nation. The present system we are running is seriously flawed. It is an inheritance from the long years of military rule, but the system has to be discarded now while we embrace true federalism. It is only genuine federation that can serve the interest of this nation. I believe strongly that Buhari will carry out restructuring.
Buhari is a patriot that will do anything to promote unity and harmony in Nigeria. I believe he will do something about restructuring. I believe in devolution of power, which is one of the key elements in restructuring. Devolution of power to component federating units will accelerate faster growth and development. As at now, too much power is concentrated at the centre. I believe in Buhari and his change agenda. Nigerians should cooperate with him in order to move Nigeria forward.
There was a time you were accused of taking over somebody’s land in Lekki and also collecting money under the pretext of selling land to another individual but that you failed to give out the land, and you did not return the money, what actually happened?
I pray to God that your good reputation and name will always stand up for you in period of crisis. That incident to me is still like a nightmare. Up till now, there are times I look back and say, ‘God, this was indeed a lynch trial.’
How can I who has handled billions of naira without stealing a kobo or being indicted now trying to dupe somebody over a piece of land? What happened was that my late husband had this land allocation in Lekki, and I have forgotten everything about the land.
Even since after his death, I have been trying to gather some of his things together because I’m not somebody that will be over-anxious about somebody’s property, because I’m somebody on my own, the only thing I took more interest in were things we own together, that we jointly own.
Some of the things he did on his own, I’m yet to get letter of administration to tackle them. The things we did together are those I’m working on for now. Now somebody came to me and said my cousin in-law, Alhaja Mulikat sent him to me. She is late now, that some people came to her that they wanted to buy my husband’s land. I said no problem because I know that my husband had a land in Lekki.
Then the man later sent people again to me still expressing interest in the land. I then called my agent, I told him to go and check the true situation of things at the location. The man (my agent) came back to me and said the land is still vacant and that there were some security people on ground there.
My agent also told me that there were some other people that were also interested in the land. I asked him to go to Alausa Secretariat to check the status of the land, if it is still clean, if it has not been transacted upon. The man came back and said the land was clean.
I took the matter to my lawyer, and asked him to also verify the status of the land. After going to the Secretariat, the lawyer came back and told me that the land has not been transacted upon. The lawyer that represented the man who expressed his interest in buying the land later came to me, and said his client was already on the land.
I believe that there is political undertone to the whole issue. You know 2015 general election was fast approaching that time. The lady lawyer representing the man later came again to me, and insisted that the man was interested in the plot of land. We later carried out the transaction, and money was sent to me. They commenced construction. But shortly I travelled outside the country. I later understood that this man shortly after he started construction work on the land was approached by some people who accused him of carrying out construction on their land. But the man reportedly ignored the people. But when construction got to roofing level, those people came back again to say he was constructing on their land.
The first time those people came to disturb him, when he came to me, I remember telling him that he should take back his money from me pending the time we resolve the issue, but he refused saying that he believed in my reputation and integrity. Even the woman lawyer that accompanied him also refused. It was later the real owner of the land showed up, but unknown to us, my husband’s land was next plot, the one beside the one I sold to the man.
After we realized all these things we refunded his money to him – the man has collected his money back. But I’m also in court now because I’ve dragged those people who took over my husband’s plot of land to court. The most annoying part of it was that they have started construction work on it, and when we asked them who sold the land to them, they couldn’t provide a satisfactory answer.
So that’s what happened. It was political foes that planned to embarrass me that used the man against me. The man even confessed to me that he was used against me. That it was some people that instigated him to go and report me at police SFU, and other places when these people actually know that I wasn’t in the country. I was in the United States when they hatched this evil plan against me but I leave all of them to Allah’s judgment.
I have always been a contented person. I don’t take what is not my own – I have never been involved or been indicted for corruption. I challenge anybody who has any proof or contrary opinion to come out.