Continued from last week
Only recently at a public forum, Obasanjo Buhari pointedly asked Buhari to stop the blame game and fix the economy. Does this imply that Buhari is a leader who doesn’t listen to advice?
I am not aware of what you said Obasanjo said to Buhari,
because one thing that I know; Obasanjo and Buhari are two characters that nobody can come in-between. And I think they tell themselves things in the harshest and fondest of words, confidentially and privately. They don’t need to go public to say anything. I also do believe that if Obasanjo said anything, he calls President Buhari today, his boss; I believe it is also in helping his boss to succeed. If you ask me, I will say maybe, the two of them are playing games because if Obasanjo has spoken, then, if the country had anything against Buhari, they will relax and people will say Obasanjo has spoken for us; it will ease tension and maybe save Buhari some more time. I do not believe that Buhari has derailed; I had said it before that the day Buhari won election, I shed tears of joy, that can a good man ever come to the throne in this country? Who is not loaded with money, who is not part of any power bloc, who is driven by passion and some extreme consideration for the wellness of the nation. So, I still believe Buhari has those qualities, but like everybody else, we have seen that he is not going too well. I believe what Buhari needs to do is re-engineering, and the re-engineering must start from his team. The Buhari I know is a Buhari who runs government, operations by having a dedicated, competent team on the ground. I think the President will do well to take a cue from what Trump is suddenly doing now.
It took him seven months to put up his team. So far, Nigerians seem to be displeased with what is going on, the performance of that team; what went wrong?
You can pick a team and they don’t meet your expectations. You change and re-engineer and reconfigure, and rejig, that is all.
Is President Buhari’s anti-graft war vindictive, is it aimed at suppressing the opposition and cowing the judiciary with 2019 in mind as being alleged in some quarters?
I don’t think so. I have confidence in the ruggedness of this nation; in the robustness of the psyche of the people, and also in the fact that God is the ultimate protector of this geographical entity called Nigeria, and He holds the joker. And if you look at it, first, taking the Dasuki Sambo issue, was the money removed or not? Well, that is a matter for the judiciary.
But talking of 2019, or that anybody want to cower and shut down the National Assembly, shut down the judiciary, I want to believe that Buhari would be the last person to try that, for the fact that I have a personal experience with him of that nature, and I know his stands against Abacha succeeding himself, and that was why you found some of us in the frontline of contesting, fighting…
(Cuts in)…Are you saying Buhari stood against General Abacha succeeding himself?
Yes, I am telling you this one. You see, there are a lot of things
that people don’t know, but some of us are documentary in our approach to issues.
(Cuts in)… Buhari was appointed chairman of the PTF by Abacha. How could he get appointed to that position and accepted to serve under a man he had opposed his ascension to the presidency?
You know that General Buhari was not just reluctant, but turned down totally, serving under General Abacha’s government; he turned down the appointment. And it took some of us personally, and also, you have to salute somebody like the Mamman Daura that people now want to hang, to convince him to serve. I know this because I have that personal relationship with him. And my question to him (Buhari) then was, sir, you are a retired General, one of, if not the most upright that Nigerians know. Sir, do you know that the qualities you have are given to you by God? And if you are so clean and being given the biggest budget in Africa, the second biggest budget after the Nigerian budget because South Africa wasn’t part of black Africa then, and you are turning down that budget to run and administer in favour of pregnant women, school children, transporters and many others, simply because
you are clean, and you leave General Abacha out of frustration to put one of his own, who in turn would spend all the money and then, pregnant women, children would die in hospitals, and then you now go to heaven and God will hail you that you have done well. You can collaborate with them without compromising; you can administer the budget on behalf of Nigerians and deliver the goods. You are the most trusted, even the man doesn’t trust himself and that is why he is asked you to come and run it for him. And I believed such arguments
too, by people like Alhaji Mamman Daura, finally got him to agree to serve. He didn’t go there begging for the position. And when he got there, I can cite you an example, an was now awarding jobs to his vetted contractors, the military said no, you can’t send your civilian contractors into the barracks, we will not agree; you have to give us the money and the military will administer its own money, he said no, the money was given to me and I must account to the nation, I can’t give it to you. It became a standoff. I am aware of that meeting the then Minister of Finance, Anthony Ani, told me. They got the Head of State (Abacha) to summon a meeting where they thought that heavens
will fall and by the time they got there, Abacha stood up and said,
your are welcome sir, General Buhari, sorry, we are sorry to drag you out of your office to this meeting, we thank you for what you are doing for Nigeria, the fact that you have been managing this Fund for us wonderfully, went on to hail the man, and then said, gentlemen, you said you have something to tell the General, nobody could speak. And
Abacha said, well, what they said was that the soldiers said civilians can’t come to their barracks to contracts, and I think that was where they resolved for the first time, to write a separate cheque for PTF Military budget every month, while Buhari administered the rest fund. I am saying this because people really don’t have the benefit of some the things that run the system, and that is why some of us are putting this man in a book that we say these things, so that it is clearer to us, what really drives this kind of people. And that is why I believe that no matter what is said of the PTF; no matter what people say whether it was lopsided in favour of the North or not, that was one of the most best ran funding programmes in Nigeria; that is the truth.
Recently, Buhari challenged General Babangida to tell the nation why he overthrew his government, that it was an effort at covering his acts of corruption. If you know Buhari well as you claim, what does this kind of public remark against a former comrade tells you about the man’s character. Is it unforgiving?
Well, I wouldn’t want to be a judge of Buhari’s character; I will leave the nation and the people to be the judge of what they see, by themselves, especially on issues that concern….When you tried to ask me something about Obasanjo and Buhari, I said I don’t know; when you tried to ask me something about Buhari and Abacha, I said part of it, but the one that I know categorically, I will tell you, we are part of that. So, whether forgiveness, or there is no forgiveness…
(Cuts in)…Why I am asking that question is this: you are close to Buhari, and you are very close to IBB. Buhari said IBB overthrew him because he wanted to cover up his corruption; do you know IBB as a corrupt man, because you know both of them?
Yes, I know both of them. But if Buhari said that, that is his own opinion; another person might have a very nice, high opinion of IBB. I have had so many contrary opinion about IBB to that effect; I know that IBB is also a hero that is worshipped by so many. That is why I said I wouldn’t want to say…you see, history has a way of being the ultimate judge of everybody.
The feeling by some people is that it wasn’t right for Buhari to have publicly made that scathing remark about his colleague. Do you share that in that feeling?
I have said it so many times that I will not make a pronouncement on that issue, on the right or not the right of Mr. President to say what he has said. And I believe General has more than enough opportunity to also react, and I am sure he must have reacted too after a couple of days. So, that was why I said I wouldn’t want to take a position; I only want to talk about what I have done, what I know, what I am
Do you think President Buhari has democratic credentials which you can readily point at?
You should ask Nigerians, the 15 million Nigerians who voted for him.
Is the ruling APC-led government unnecessarily heating up the polity by its actions and inactions as being alleged in some quarters?
Well, you said something about 2019. Anybody who feels that you want to put the country under subjugation, the judiciary under your boot; the National Assembly in a box, the security agencies in your pocket, just because of 2019, I believe General, President Muhammadu Buhari, is too wise a student of history, and too much an actor in national
dynamics as far as Nigeria is concerned, to ever think that is possible. It has never worked for anybody; it has never worked for the first political dispensation we had, it didn’t work for successive
military governments that tried to do it. The only reason the Obasanjo/Atiku government escaped it was because they were sensible enough to arrange a proper transition, nudged Yar’Adua and gave it over to him. When Nigerians say they don’t want, you cannot force
yourself on them. It has never been done; it will never be done.
And I believe General Buhari is a perfect student of that, he is coming from the Aminu Kano School; the only way you can hold the people, is to have the heart and soul of the people.
So I believe that the only way General Buhari can do anything from now to 2019 and beyond, is to turn around the country positively, deliver the dividends of democracy for which he was voted, remove the pains and aches that are currently understandable, considering the strains and constraints in the finances of the nation, and then find a way to
engineer something; put together a vibrant team, a team that is understanding and forceful enough to grapple and wrestle down the
problems and provide solution, to earn the confidence of Nigerians in 2019. Anything beyond that to cow Nigerians cannot work and should never be done.
Presently, there is a thick air of frustration, hunger and despair in the air. Do you have hope that things would change before 2019?
Oh yes! If the right steps are taken and right actions are taken, even before the result comes, Nigerians have started to sing Hosanna; they are the easiest people to govern, they just want to see that you are moving in the right direction. And they have this tenacity, fortitude, forbearance and capacity to endure, that is not possible in any other clime. So, I believe that once Nigerians see President Buhari acting more in tandem with their expectations, not that the pains will go in
two days, but hope is the greatest balm for pain. Buhari should take
actions that will ginger hope; give us a team, I am not mentioning names, it is not enough for ministers to come every day and be writing figures on the pages of newspapers; I am going to build 10,000 houses, you have not even done foundation for one, and you are almost two years in government; I am going to generate 1000 megawatts of …and
meanwhile, if the gas pipelines have been blown, there are alternative technologies to generate power without using gas, they are available and Nigeria can afford it.
There has been this clamour for the re-jigging of his team which you are also talking about. Is it that Buhari has been held captive to the extent of not being able to promptly effect a change in his cabinet?
No, he is not incapable; he is a man who takes his time…
(Cuts in)…Is he always taking time to act; it took him seven months to appoint ministers, but has that helped him in any way?
Few people are as experienced as President Buhari. When I hear the issue of captivity and capture, I said is this the same General Buhari that I know? I don’t think it will be possible. I know he takes responsibility for everything he is doing now, and has done so far. It is not going well for Nigeria now, and I believe he is working out a strategy, but the last that can happen, is for him to be captured.
But his wife came out the other time to say a cabal had taken over the government?
Oh yes, I don’t want to go into that…. (general laughter).