*says Buhari’s appointees engaging in double standards
*not only PDP members are corrupt
In this second and concluding part of this AUTHENTIC SUNDAY INTERVIEW, Professor Ango Abdullahi, former Vice Chancellor of ABU and current Chairman Northern Elders Council (NEC) says no country in the world is indivisible. He blasts some close aides of Buhari for engaging in double standards. ACHADU GABRIEL captured it for AUTHENTIC News Daily..
Excerpts: continued from last week
The raging war on anti corruption is really in progress, the angle of judiciary has just been brought in, but there are allegations of being biased and selective against PDP members by government, while it turns blind eyes on corrupt APC members, what do you make out of this?
No, no, no! I think there is justification for that criticism. First I support completely that our judiciary has been very corrupt. And you have to pay for ruling in the court of law. All these politicians who are taken to the tribunal, and eventually these tribunals take the decision that ended up going to court, up to Supreme and so on. You could see that the judgments were biased against those who had no money to pay. There was no question that judiciary is corrupt. You have to use that word in general terms while you rule out the possibility of very good straight forward judges.
But in the collective, if you say politicians are corrupt you are generalizing. There are few that are not corrupt. But the same thing, if you say judiciary are corrupt, there are few judiciary officers that are good. But substantially, it’s said the system is corrupt. So, I also do not buy the argument that the president is biased, only a point, if you look at the reality of governance, if a lot of this corruption is coming as a result of people who have been in the position of governance. Yes, from 1999-2015, this country was being ruled by PDP, and therefore it is individuals in the party that were assigned responsibilities, either as president, ministers and whatever have you, were in charge of governance.
And so would be surprised to say a particular period was heavily corrupt then you have to check for those who managed the affairs during that period. It happened that most of them were members of PDP. So, I think it is full hardy to deny the fact that the managers of Nigerian affairs, between1999-2015, were 99 per cent PDP members. So, if there was corruption, you expect 99 per cent of that corruption will come from them. But then the tricky issue for Buhari is what I’m trying to raise now. Before his election, many people who were in PDP trouped into APC, and many of them were criminally involved as corrupt PDP officials in various positions of responsibilities.
Some of them as ministers, governors and so on. So, I agree that if searchlight is for corrupt people during period 1999-2015, and there were so many who were in PDP as charged as corrupt, who ran and now calling themselves as APC, obviously he should take time and look at them. And there are so many who have been called by name and that could be individual citizens and prepare to show prove that while they were XYZ in PDP they did XYZ by way of corrupt activities. So, there is no way when there is evidence for the president to consider that such people, even if they are serving his government, should not escape the searchlight of being corrupt. And if they are proven to be corrupt should also face the same music others are facing.
What about your rating of Buhari’s government in terms of handling the issue of rule of law considering continuous detention of Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu despite court ruling that they be released on bail?
Well, here again we are talking about same thing I’ve said before – competent people who give good advice, whether economic advice, legal, security advice and so on. This is what any government requires. Of course this is what Buhari needs. He himself said his government will be based on the rule of law. He said so, and I believed him knowing the person he is. But then if you have an Attorney General who from all indication has got his hands in partisan relationships – I saw in the handling of Saraki’s CCB and so on.
There is multiple, if not double standards, I mean, applied in some cases. This is where I will say I believe Buhari will want the country running on the rule of law.
I could see him a bit frustrated by the due process the rule of law is going on, going to court for hearing, even on cases that are obvious and are criminal.
But constitution provides that they should be put through due process and this, to a large extent is frustrating not only for someone in charge of government but even for ordinary people. Here is a thief, no, prove it, but the case is dragging in court and there is nothing anybody can do. And this is why Buhari himself admitted that he has been slowed down by the judiciary that to a large extent is also corruption. And this is what brought out some number of judges that you have seen on trial now – that, they are part of the corrupt system that denied justice or slowed down the process of justice.
But then he is dealing with humans with all our short comings as individuals in various positions of responsibility, it must be hard for the president. But he means that the rule of law should apply even to all people, unfortunately it is not applying because there is vested interest as close to the president as one can find it.
‘Former president Obasanjo lashes at Buhari over non performance, paying lip service, N/Assembly of corruption’, how will you react to that?
Well, I was in Obasanjo’s government, So, I know the former president as a person and as a president because I was one of his Special Advisers. There is no doubt that Obasanjo was a very competent president. He had ability to understand things. The question there is that even he understood things as they were, and whether he went ahead to do things that he ought to do. To that extent, I want him to be a little circumspect in accusing other people of either incompetent or corrupt.
There are several cases you can sight that are incidences of corruption that Obasanjo over looked. I can remember only one case of corrupt minister where evidences was adduced I witness to that evidence. But if you look at interference in governance, to achieve certain things that should, under normal circumstances go the other way, but you want to bring it your way, Obasanjo was not different from quite a number of people that he has accused of corruption when he was president. For example the first case, one can sight was that of the Senate President, Chuba Okadigbo.
Majority of members of the party that brought Obasanjo to power decided that Okadigbo should become the Senate President, but Obasanjo wouldn’t have it, and it was purely personal. Personal on grounds that he was frightened by Okadigbo’s ability to manage the affairs of the Senate according to the constitution. And then from time to time a clash between the National Assembly and executive branch or on a number of issues whether they are on appointments, confirmation and so on.
I think this is where some people frightened the man to avoid Chuba as president of the Senate. So, he went for Enwerem who did not even win primary election to come to the Senate. But he came to Senate and became the Senate president under the manipulation of no one else but Obasanjo. So, is that not an act of corruption? Yes, Obasanjo should give credit where credit is required but he should not hold himself as an angel free of corruption, or corrupt practices.
When Obasanjo became a head of state in 1999, all I know we were the ground troops to make that happen. He was a poor man; some people quoted his account as not more than N20, 000, in the bank. Where did he get all the money to build a presidential library, build this and that? It was corruption, and it has to be corruption, there is no other way around it. His farm was like my own in Zaria. We started about the same time, he used to buy his chicken from me here. But, latter, his farm recovered and mine remains closed in the hands of receiver – managers’. So, in act of corruption, Obasanjo cannot exonerate himself from having practiced it in so many ways by virtue of the fact that he was a president of the country.
So, he is to a large extent been unfair in his attacks particularly on the National Assembly. He caused many good Senators and members of Reps to fail their elections in 2003, because he didn’t agree with them. He was afraid they will not support his bid for third term, and so many of them were denied nominations by the party at his order. They know all these. So, I don’t want him to really over exact himself on this ‘holier than thou’ attitude behavior. As a very hard working president, I can testify to that. No file slept on his desk, and he was endowed with good health, I’ve never seen Obasanjo fall ill and never come to work any day. But the only lapse he has now is for him to look at himself as the only good man Nigeria ever had as a leader. And I think is very wrong for him to be doing this.
It’s a known fact that you were a political associate to former VP Atiku Abubakar; do you share his clamour for restructuring of Nigeria, and what is restructuring?
We should be asking him. He is the one who said so, let him explain. I think he should explain the details a little. But I can see him being grand standing. It is grand standing for him to even join this band wagon of restructuring Nigeria, meaning what? But on this clamour which is places in politics of regional, tribal, sentiment and so on, I think I‘ll accused him of grand standing. I don’t know what his ambitions are, whether they are still higher than vice president. Is a double edged sword, is preparing to play.
Restructuring of Nigeria in what sense, for more states, revenue to the states from the federal account or what?
For me, if asked whether I want Nigeria restructured, I’ll say yes. But, I will not be on the same page with the VP or Professor Nwabueze, whose pronouncement are all tribal sentiments, which are largely against the north. And when he specializes, and wants to be become more specific, it’s against the core north, which, to him, means Hausa-Fulani. The basic mistake that Nigeria made was to abandon its regional structures after the departure of the British. We had one additional region, making it three, when we got independence but we added one, the Mid-west region, in 1963, and this is the time when Nigerian became federal republic and took itself out of the Monarchy in England.
I will argue very strongly that our first mistake, when we were doing our constitution, was the abandonment of the parliament system of government. This is our greatest mistake for which we are paying very dearly for it today. So, if there is going to be a restructuring of Nigeria, the first step, for me, is to have a referendum in the country as to whether we should or should not go back to the parliamentary system of government. The parliamentary system of government is more in tandem with a diverse country like we have. It is a system of government that gives you it is usually multi-party.
You can decide to form a party in Makurdi and for just one seat to be won in Makurdi to come to Abuja to represent the partisan interest that brought that. It was the military that decreed in 1976, the Murtala – Obasanjo government, when they set up committee to look at the constitution of the constituent’s assembly that was formed. They said committee should not even give the parliamentary system any consideration, they should go and look at presidential system either from Europe, French, for example or the America. So there was no opportunity for people to argue for or against parliamentary system of government.
To me parliamentary system of government is more accountable, less corrupt, more efficient, and more representatives of the wishes and will of the people. Example of accountability and corruption under presidential which could not take place in a parliamentary settings. No one become a commissioner or a minister without being elected. Meaning that you must be elected to be a parliament and elected to be a minister, so, you must have a constituency. The electorates are watching you. In Britain, how often the parliamentarians go back to their constituencies otherwise petitions will come to them. So, the prime minister will not appoint you a minister if other people object to it on certain grounds.
Under the presidential system if you’re a butt-leaker to some governor you become a commissioner from nowhere, or you become a minister of the president from nowhere. So, you’re not accountable to anybody except to the person who appointed you. And that was why during Jonathan regime when some ministers like Odua and others were offending every sense of government, he didn’t do anything about it, because those are his pet appointees, and you don’t touch them. The same thing happened during Obasanjo’s administration. So, this is why we have corruption at the level we have it today, because of the change we adopted from parliamentary to presidential, that is far more corruption and you cannot take anybody to anywhere except the court, and the court is owned by those who appointed the judges.
The judiciary is far less independent under presidential system than it was under parliamentary. So, if there is going to be a restructuring of Nigeria, the first thing is for us to look at whether or not we want to keep the system we have now. And I will be on the campaign to reject it and go back to parliamentary system because that will give you a foundation of people being able to be participants in electing their representatives and holding this representative accountable to them. So, that is my first grouse against the constitution we have today.
We have completely abandoned chapter 2 of the constitution we have today because a Nigerian citizen cannot go to court and enforce his rights that are clearly stated in that section of the constitution. And it is the provisions in chapter 2 that is the real soul of the constitution of any responsible country, and will make then justice-able where citizens can go to court and challenge those in authority for not enforcing their rights. So, if people really want restructuring in those terms, let’s go back to not only 1960 but 1914 and agree that there was a mistake by Luguard for bringing us together.
We can argue that bringing us together has helped us as a group to move forward and brought us to a situation to the extent that people are pulling at different directions to the extent that the center can no longer hold. And that is why for 56 years this country has not moved forward, and those of us that are educated, the elite, are responsible for the tensions that have brought Nigeria to a standstill now.
For 56 years now all we have been contending are crises including a civil war which was forced on us by the elites. University graduates in the Army were in the support of their political god fathers mainly tribal, regional and so on, precipitated the kind of crises that we saw in 1966. From that time on, Nigeria has never been the same, no matter how much we pretend talking about unity and indivisibility.
Because there is no country in the world that is not divisible, it all depends on the circumstances of the division. India became independent in 1948, a year later Pakistan was born, a year later Bangladesh was born. See what happened to Soviet Union, super power, only few years ago there are 13 countries in the former Soviet Union. Britain, the oldest democracy is still battling with Scotland, Northern Island, and Wales; in Europe, there is Spain, and so on are in separate group.
So, if Nigeria cannot move forward on the basis of these pulls in different directions why can’t we sit down and sort it out. This is the kind of restructuring I will recommend. Otherwise we should go back and attend to that mistake that people are referring to that Lugard has made by putting us together so that we can take our different states and go and address our development problems in various ways.
To read the part one of the interview, follow the link below: