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ORJI KALU INTERVIEW: OBJ Started Kidnapping Part 2

Nigeria’s bane is absence of strong institutions

I have always said that Nigeria needs strong institutions. But we must come together first as a country to have strong institutions that will make us produce a system that can work. As long as we don’t have strong institutions, we cannot produce a system that will work.

Hardware and software democracy

The first three institutions that I will like strengthened are the police, INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) and the security apparatus as a whole because, you see, many people see democracy only in the hardware. When I say hardware of democracy, I’m talking about roads, electricity, etc. But I see more democratic software. The software of democracy is more important to me than the hardware because if we have justice, freedom of speech, human rights, FOI Bill, etc then the society will be ready to take off. The other part of democracy will easily come because we have strong institutions backing them.

National Assembly should pass FOI Bill

After almost ten years, the National Assembly should pass the Freedom of Information Bill into law quickly. Let them not allow what happened in Romania happen to them. The Romanian government was chased out by the people. Whenever you try to stop freedom, to stop the people, the next thing you should expect is violence. There are other 140 million people out there who are against two million card-carrying members of political parties. So, let them know that these people are part of this country. They would one day say enough is enough and they would revolt.

It’s really sad. The lawmakers want immunity, they want second term, they want automatic ticket, and because they are lawmakers, they know they will get it. They will just pass the bill. If they pass it, they pass it in PDP not in PPA.

So Nigerians should come together on election day and say enough is enough. They can’t kill all Nigerians and can’t jail all Nigerians as well. So, Nigerians should stand and speak for justice.

What I’m talking about is not the military-type of bloodshed, but it’s a revolution. There might be some bloodshed but not like military war.

There is no strike or demonstration that doesn’t consume human beings. Blood is blood. You see on CNN what happens in China, in Thailand and some other countries. Blood flows during demonstrations. So it’s the same thing. It could be my blood or other people’s blood. That’s why it is always good for leaders to collectively do the right thing against having this kind of revolution of the people. To me, military government is out of fashion and nobody should talk about it, no matter how bad democracy seems to be.

But we can get the Romanian or Kenyan type of revolution, which is a good scenario. Those are democratic processes. As long as you are doing something within the law and competence of democratic process, you are in tune with it.

Murtala Muhammed is my hero

I don’t believe in the CIA prediction that Nigeria will break-up in 2015 or 2013. No, I don’t think Nigeria will break up. I want to be president of a larger Nigeria. If it is possible, I want to encroach into some of these neighbouring countries. That’s why leaders like Murtala Mohammed should not be forgotten. He is my hero not because he was a military man but he shared my kind of ideas. A leader must be a bit forward and courageous. Nothing will break this country. Since it didn’t break up during military regime and during the Biafra civil war, nothing on earth will break up this country. I want to be president of a larger Nigeria. Look at the size of USA. I want to be a president from here to Senegal.

2011 presidency ambition

It’s a possibility I’ll contest the 2011 presidential election. It’s a high possibility that I’ll run.

I’m not like other politicians

As a politician, I’m bound to have meetings. I don’t pretend. I’m not like other politicians who pretend. I’m having meetings and it is a right to have meetings.

Opposition will outwit PDP in 2011

Watch out to see the strategy the progressives will use to beat PDP to the presidency in 2011. It’s a big strategy and it’s going to work. But I won’t disclose it to you even though you work with The Sun. I do business with people in the media but business is business, politics is politics, and pleasure is pleasure. The opposition are the other 140 million Nigerians.

As for the opposition parties, don’t worry. They will speak with one voice when we get there.

Mega party won’t work

Mega party won’t work; I can tell you that. There is nothing like mega party. What is going to guide us is our conscience. We will be driven by our conscience. When every Nigerian is tired, you will be tired. The army, the police and the SSS that are supporting them will be tired because they buy from the same market from you and me. And they will speak the truth. Today, they are here with us. You know sometimes you appoint people who have no idea what to work on.

Why I parted ways with Obasanjo

I supported (0President Olusegun) Obasanjo because of IBB (Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida). The relationship broke down in year 2000 because I told him some home truths. The truth is that IBB made me support Obasanjo and he has been begging me to stop attacking OBJ.

I invested on Obasanjo but he later fought me politically and economically

I invested so much money on the Obasanjo presidency project. I first gave him a cheque for N100 million. Then the exchange rate in 1998 was N24 to one dollar. So it was over one million dollars. To me, it was a big sacrifice because no politician apart from people like T.Y. Danjuma and other big people were able to muzzle that kind of money. So, it is a blessing that I was able to contribute to transit from military to civilian regime. I am very proud that I did that but I am not proud the way the man treated many people and me. He fought other people politically but he did not only fight me politically, he fought me economically and it is bad for somebody who is supposed to be your son, your helper when things were bad for him. In fact, Atiku must be number one among the people who helped that man very well and I should rank among the first ten in Nigeria who helped him very well when he came out of jail because of IBB. So, he just treated me like that because I told him the truth. I told him things nobody wanted to tell him. I said things he wouldn’t like to hear.

Stella Obasanjo warned me

I cannot tell you exactly what I told Obasanjo because I have never said it in public. But I am telling you things I never told anyone. I have told you that there was a problem. I never told anybody there was a problem. In 2000, we fell out. And (late) Madam Stella (Obasnjo) warned me. May her soul rest in peace. She said the way you are talking to this man, it might be the beginning of the end of this friendship.

Obasnjo reneged on one-term agreement

I think part of the problem was because he felt I wanted to run for the presidency. But, really I was so much in a hurry to tell him to do one term because he agreed on one term. Obasanjo agreed publicly, agreed with us inside the room that he will do only one tenure and go. If you are not doing well, you should be a one-term president or one term governor or senator. So, all this automatic ticket can’t work in a good democratic environment.

I recruited Mantu against Obasanjo

I considered Obasanjo as a statesman. We fell out simply because he started the third term process too early. I must also praise (Ibrahim) Mantu because he was sent to recruit me during the third term plot and I ended up recruiting him against third term. He is aware, if he can tell you. Mantu followed us to work against third term. I doff my heart to senators like Maccido (may his soul rest in peace), Chukwumerije, Ben Obi, Gandi, Danjuma, Kuta, Adighije, most of the senators that fought against OBJ’s third term plot. I was meeting with them and they were also meeting with Vice President Atiku (Abubakar). It was a struggle that nearly took our lives but I give glory to God that Obasanjo did not repeat what Mobutu Seseseko did in DRC, because there was no difference between the duo. He was just enjoying himself; he wasn’t ready for leadership. We gave him Nigeria to enjoy himself.

In the first four years, maybe you journalists have forgotten that all Obasanjo did was only to travel in and out of the country. He flew for four years without doing any work. Out of 365 days in a year, he was abroad for 320 days. So, I don’t know what anybody will think about that and people like me were calling his attention to say, no, you can’t do this. This was not what we promised the people. This was part of our quarrel.

I wanted Atiku to succeed Obasanjo

I didn’t tell Obasanjo I wanted to succeed him but I told him that Atiku should succeed him in 2003. I told him that he should give it to the North in 2003, and that was the day I parted ways with him.

OBJ’s reaction

Ah! You know him. He was fervently very angry with me. For me, I respect everybody. In my culture in Igbere, we respect elders but we will tell the elders the truth. When an elder is misbehaving, we call him into the room and tell him the truth. Obasanjo was angry with me for telling him the truth. On many occasions, he threatened to walk me out of the Council of State meetings and I said I would not go out. Many times he walked himself out and didn’t come back.

Obasanjo promised over 50 persons that they would succeed him

When Mantu came to recruit me for Obasanjo’s third term plot, I told him what he was supposed to hear. I told him this country is bigger than anybody. What makes you think Obasanjo is bigger than you? He agreed with me in my sitting room at T.Y. Danjuma Crescent. I told him that we can also recruit Obasanjo to make you president, because Obasanjo was deceiving them that he would make them president. He promised like 50 people. He promised Muazu, Makarfi, Mantu, in fact, he promised everybody. Senators, governors, he promised them. He did this just to break their ranks, and the man he gave it to, he didn’t tell him. But he wanted Yar’Adua to die. He thought Yar’ Adua would collapse during the campaign and Obasanjo would hang on to that to prolong his stay in power. He didn’t want him to survive.

Nigeria needs strong institutions not a strong man

You know, Obasanjo is a very strong character. So, he never wanted strong institutions. This is why this country doesn’t need a strong man but a strong system. If there were strong institutions, they could have checkmated him. I blame most of our colleagues and the other elements both in the PDP and in the political circle because they gave the man a free ride when we could have called him to order. That is the essence of civilian democracy.

But he was able to do what he did because he first of all ambushed the governors to tell them they were all corrupt. So, they were weakened in spirit and in person.

Nigerian politicians play betrayal politics

I was able to stand up to Obasanjo because I have a very strong private sector background and I know that what this man will do to me is limited. He didn’t create me, he is not my God and he is not feeding me. That was why I stood up to him. Many of our colleagues succumbed to him even when we had agreed on what to do. They sold out and most of them will pay dearly for it because the worst offence we can commit in life is betrayal. It is there in the Holy Bible, and our politicians are always playing politics of betrayal. The level of betrayal in our political system is about 991/2 . You are sitting with somebody, discussing with him, but he will sell everything you said to the next person to collect money.

When we were having governors’ meeting, some people will come to the meeting with a tape (recorder) and later they will go and play it back before Obasanjo. Personally, I know and whenever we were at the meeting, I spoke my mind. They would record it and give to Obasanjo. But I didn’t care because I have a covenant with God to speak the truth. That covenant can never be broken by anybody.

Obasanjo played tape of governors’ meetings

It wasn’t that somebody told me some people were recording our meeting. OBJ himself played the tape to me. He didn’t tell me who brought the tape to him but I said Baba, yes, these are the things I can tell you in your presence. I told him that there is no difference between what I said and what he heard.

Nothing personal between Obasanjo and I

Since I left office as governor I have not communicated with him. But the truth is that I hold nothing against him. It’s just that my ideas of governance and his own contradicted. So, there is nothing personal between me and Obasanjo. After all, he is a statesman and I’m not. The only contradiction we had then was his style of governance and his attitude to Nigerians.

Kidnapping started when they abducted Ngige

Nigeria is better now than we were when OBJ was there. What Yar’Adua is handling is rudimentary part of what we could have done, for instance, with regard to the Niger Delta, rule of law, and trying to put in place a system where people can go to court and get relief.

This was what I was telling you about the software and hardware of democracy. Yar’Adua might be slow and people may not be seeing what he is doing but I am sure he is doing the elementary part of governance, which ought to have been done since 10 years of civilian rule. I don’t totally agree that PDP government is doing very well in terms of infrastructure. But I must also say that the man is doing the elementary things.

This is why I divided democracy into hardware and software. The software is freedom of expression, freedom to go to court against the government, getting order to stop them from misrule and freedom of everything. If OBJ were in power, what is happening in Anambra State will not happen. So, Yar’Adua is very tolerant in governance. The judge that gave that order in Anambra State would be beaten up very well if OBJ were there. So, we are doing the elementary things that could have been done 10 years ago.

What Yar’Adua should do is to match these elementary things and absolute adherence to rule of law with development. In as much as he is doing the elementary things, he should also steam up development. I have just given you one example of the judge in Anambra.

If it was during Obasanjo era, by now they would have beaten him up and retired him or possibly they could have kidnapped Peter Obi again. When Obasanjo was there, his people kidnapped a sitting governor. So kidnapping started in Nigeria when they kidnapped Ngige.

Niger Delta problem

President Yar’Adua is trying but what he is doing is not the total solution. The solution is my own strategy, but you did not vote for me when I wanted you to vote for me as president. You voted for Yar’Adua, so I will not give you my strategy until you vote for me. When you vote for me, I will use a community programme process to solve the Niger Delta problem. Niger Delta is a problem the president, his cabinet, along with the Niger Delta people will solve.

I have not seen the hard copy of the amnesty programme and until I see it I can’t comment on it. I will also not want to comment on whether people have come out of the creeks or have surrendered arms. I don’t read newspapers quite often. I don’t have time to read, so I have not been able to comprehend very well what I have seen in the newspapers. I will be the last person to discuss that because people coming out of the creeks is not the solution.

What will solve the problem of the region is development, key partnership with the people and direct development. There should be partnership between the federal and state government to develop the Niger Delta. It’s a pity that the people who give this country so much are living in such abject poverty. It is a thing I cannot believe. When you go there, you cry because of their situation. So, when people begin to talk about Niger Delta, they need to take a trip to the place. They will sympathise with them. If it needs a president to relocate and make part of that place a Federal Capital Territory, if I am the president I will sign that place as the second part of the Federal Capital Territory to be able to develop the area.

Ribadu and el-Rufai saga

(Nuhu) Ribadu was a very good officer but you cannot compare him with Mrs (Farida) Waziri. Mrs Waziri is a mature woman, a lawyer like Ribadu, and she goes through the ethics of law. She will never allow herself to be used by anybody to punish anybody; and that was a pit Ribadu fell into. He became a politician instead of a corruption fighter.

That’s a problem. So, when you contradict yourself on these two issues, you will see that you have nowhere to go. I pity the way their passports were not renewed initially and it is unconstitutional; it is not acceptable. It’s good the president ordered that their passports be renewed. This is why I say Yar’Adua is doing elementary things because their passport should be renewed whether they are being looked for or sought for. In fact, I expected heads to roll in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is our country. Whether they are coming here or not, they are there and their passports should be renewed.

Between Waziri and Ribadu

It’s very clear that Mrs Waziri knows her job. I’m not praising her; I don’t need to but I’m saying this from my heart. Nigerians know I speak my mind. Mrs Waziri seems to know her job. She does the investigation first - I want to investigate this man; I want to know who he is; I want to know what he has done. That is the process of law.

You don’t just go and bundle people like Ribadu did to me. It is unacceptable by international standard. I talked to a man called (Ibrahim) Lamorde that I am coming into Nigeria on British Airways at 4am and I will be in your office at 11am. But he came to wait for me at the airport at 4am. That’s not fair. And to make it news, they came with journalists. I mean, that is not fair. Ribadu, in his conscience, will also know that it was not fair to me. I heard you were looking for me and I was in the United States. I phoned Mr Lamorde, who said he was looking for me. He (Lamorde) is alive, he can speak.

I spoke to him telling him that I would be coming. I asked him which of the offices he wanted me to report to; is it Lagos or Abuja? Because of them, I re-routed my ticket to Abuja early in the morning only to be arrested at the airport at that hour of the day. That is unfair.

As a security man, he knew I was already in the country. So what he should have done was to trail me to know whether I would do what I said I would do. They could have sent their men to the airport and followed me from there to my house, keeping a tab on me to know if I would do what I promised.

I could have stayed back. But when I heard they were looking for me, I decided to return because I have not committed any offence for anybody to be looking for me. I called Lamorde and assured him that I will come to answer any question they wanted to ask me. I did not steal government’s money. He said, ‘okay, come as soon as you arrive.’ But what I saw were security men waiting for me at the airport at 4am. I know Mrs Waziri will not do a thing like that. No right-thinking Nigerian will do anything like that.

If you called me and I told you I am in Abia but you found out I wanted to travel out of the country, you have the right to stop me at the airport.

These were the kind of things Ribadu was doing. He went to the National Assembly and said 31 governors were corrupt. Where are they? When you rob Peter to pay Paul, you are not building strong institutions.

I challenge anybody to prove I’ve stolen govt money

Mrs Hillary Clinton’s comment that the anti-corruption war in Nigeria had gone to sleep is not correct. I spoke to Mrs Clinton in Washington and I told her that Mrs Waziri was doing the right thing. Her husband agreed with me. I told her that what she came to Nigeria to say was not proper because you must be able to convince the court beyond all reasonable doubt that somebody is a criminal.

This is because corruption charge is a criminal one. My conscience tells me I am not a thief and I cannot be one. My conscience tells me I have not done anything that will disturb my sleep. This is why all the time they were moving me from one place to the other, I remained happy. I know there are three courts – Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court and I will go through the three of them to get justice.

My conscience tells me that no commissioner or anybody I have worked with will say I took money from him or from the system. I challenge any civil servant in Abia State to come over and say I took money from him or her. So why should I bother myself? I leave that to the court of competent jurisdiction. So, this is why I blame Ribadu. He could have been a very good officer but he killed the opportunity.

Obasanjo is totally corrupt but Yar’Adua can’t arrest him

We need strong institutions not anti-corruption courts. There are designated courts by the judiciary that handle such matters. Special court is not a bad idea but they will need people of high integrity because it might create another Obasanjo where a ruling government might use that court to kill their political opponents.

When they enacted the EFCC Act, I shouted that Obasanjo had a hidden agenda.

He is a very intelligent man. He was pursuing corruption but was pursuing his enemies and leaving out his friends. For a man that came to government with N20,000; at least if I was better than anybody, it was OBJ before I came to government. He is a statesman but I mean in terms of our pockets, I was better off. So, how can you compare me with him? (MKO) Abiola told me when he was alive that the hand of the giver is always on top of the hand of the receiver. My hand will always be on top of Obasanjo’s own because he is the one that is totally corrupt although Yar’Adua is afraid of arresting him. I don’t know what he is afraid of. If I were President Yar’Adua, Obasanjo should be living in a cage, the bigger part of Kirikiri. That is the truth.

Nigeria needs another Putin

If because I make people uncomfortable with the way I talk and they won’t want me to be president, let them not want me but the Nigerian people will want me. Justice must prevail. Nigeria needs another (Vladimir) Putin here. We need a Putin to move forward. I don’t care about what I say. I will be president if God says I will be president. Do I need to please anybody? I want to please God and please the suffering masses out there.

Sanusi right on banks but…

Lamido Sanusi has done what many people will say is ethnic cleansing but I don’t think so. If he had allowed these banks, they would have collapsed. But the way he treated people also matters. I feel Sanusi did the right thing by going to rescue the banks because when I cried out last year in your paper that Nigeria was facing meltdown, the former CBN governor disagreed with me and his people attacked me that I wasn’t an economist. When I met Soludo in Abuja and told him that what I said was the truth, he said I wasn’t correct, that the indices do not show we have a meltdown.

I told him we have a serious meltdown and it is real, and that if it doesn’t come today it will tomorrow. What Sanusi has done is to inject funds (into the troubled banks) because some of them were at zero point. He is an industry man; he knows the job and rose through the ranks in banking.

People will always have divided opinion about what he is doing.

Some people will say he is doing a good job while others will say otherwise. But Sanusi should be cautious in what he is doing not to hurt the Southerners. This is not to say that the CBN’s action is against the South, but he should come out and address the issues if he is serious about what he is doing. It is necessary.

Having said that, addressing the issue of banks is a right thing to do but forcing people to pay their debts is not correct because there is obligation between the customers and the banks. I don’t subscribe to people borrowing money from the bank and not paying it back. So the CBN has done the right thing.

Sanusi deserves commendation

To me, it’s about rescuing the banks but I read every day that it’s an agenda to kill the South. Politicians and Nigerians should stop all this because what I know he has done is to rescue big banks and recapitalise them. It’s the right thing to do; after all 89 banks failed in the U.S., which is the largest economy in the world. Sanusi is a risk assessment expert, so he knows all the tricks, where you can hide bad credit, keep good credit or do anything. In a way, I think Sanusi should be commended for what he is doing, although he is hurting so many private sector operators. It might hurt our economy but we must rescue this economy.

What he is doing is the right thing, because these banks were gone. If one morning the whole thing had collapsed, depositors would have lost their money. Sanusi is a great banker. He knew where all the illegalities are hidden and that was what he punched. But whether he has a Southern or Northern agenda, I leave that to his conscience.

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