…Reveals how Abacha chased IMF, World Bank out of Abuja Chief Tom Ikimi is a former Foreign Affairs Minister and one of the leaders of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the forefront of the formation of the All Progressive Congress (APC). In this interview, he speaks on the controversy the issue of registration of the new party has generated. He also speaks on the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. Ikimi notes the criticisms against the late General Sani Abacha under whom he served as minister, saying the former military leader did his best in the upliftment of the economy of the nation contrary to what Nigerians are experiencing today. Excerpts:
There seems to be some confusion as regards the registration of the APC by the INEC.Would you say it is part of the PDP – led government’s plan to frustrate the take- off of your new party?
The emergence of the APC on 6 February, 2013 when the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a major section of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) decided to merge to form a mega party in Nigeria, to provide a viable alternative political platform in the country seems to have created a major stir in the Nigerian political firmament.
The successful merger of such large opposition parties would instantly transform the country into a two- major party state as is the case in other major successful democracies in the world. This prospect, which serves notice of the end of tenure to the PDP, has shaken the very foundation of the PDP which, over the past several years, has operated across the country with reckless impunity. The option of a strong alternative party has been overwhelmingly welcomed by the generality of our people.
Intellectual Property We are reliably informed of the roles of some highly placed persons in the establishment currently financing willing political jobbers and agents provocateurs whose assignment is to cause mischief, precipitate chaos, mess up the democratic space in a manner reminiscent of the Association for Better Nigeria, ABN, which, in 1993, succeeded to irredeemably truncate the IBB transition program. Since 6 February, 2013, when we addressed a world press conference announcing the decision of our parties to merge and adopted the name All Progressive Congress (APC), the name and acronym not only became our intellectual property but has since received very wide publicity in the print and electronic media.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has acknowledged this through her spokesperson several times in the press, received our correspondences on the matter long before some sponsored busy bodies approached them on 28 February, some twenty two days after we announced our name, to seek the registration of the so- called African Peoples Congress. I watched the shameful television display, on Thursday,14 March, of a hired crowd, clearly recruited from nearby markets, streets and bushes, assembled in a first floor flat in a building in Apo Village – Abuja, hurriedly provided by their handlers, purporting to be the promoters of this charade.
Nigeria, in my view, has moved away from this kind of disgraceful gimmicks well known to be associated with some of the expired barons of PDP now surviving on emergency heavy doses of Abuja oxygen. The revelations of the past couple of days provide irrefutable evidence that the series of fake APC is a PDP official project. I certainly hope that Professor Jega’s INEC would steer clear from this obvious mine field. I understand that Professor Jega was away in far away China when these developments were taking place and hope that he has received accurate briefing upon his return.
The process of merger is quite different from the procedure of registration of new parties. Merging parties, being already registered political parties, do not need to obtain and fill any forms! We are, therefore, diligently proceeding with the merger process. I understand that the young lawyer, one Nwokorie Samuel Chinedu, who reportedly made the application to INEC now bitterly regrets his role in the plot.
The so- called African Peoples Congress has not scaled the first basic hurdle for registration as a political party and has no place in the prevailing political atmosphere when more serious groups are being deregistered. The show of shame they put up that Thursday brandishing questionable INEC documents is serious enough for our security agencies to descend on them and save our country from further corruption of the democratic process.
But why would be the PDP be afraid of a party that is yet to take off?
Since 1999 when the departing military government installed General Obasanjo and the PDP, OBJ, who was the beneficiary, proceeded to decimate the opposition with the sole purpose of establishing the PDP as the ruling party in a one- party state over which he was to preside as life president. I happened to have been a founding member of the APP and one of the main reasons I left that party was because I could not understand how and why, after the bitterly fought general elections in 1999, our national chairman, the late Mahmoud Waziri, would abandon his party with nine state governors to take office as political adviser in the government of a party that defeated him. OBJ, who successfully lured him in order to weaken the APP, went further to organize the registration of over sixty other parties to be in the opposition most of them not worth more than their registration certificates. A good number of them were, for a small fee, always willing to play one role or the other for the PDP against the opposition.
Perpetuation in Power The role they played was always crucial in ensuring the perpetuation in power of the PDP. For the past several years, desperate efforts have been made by concerned members of the opposition to unify the opposition parties in order, not only to provide an alternative viable platform for Nigerians but also to make the PDP more accountable. Those efforts failed for various reasons including personality interests, PDP’s successful manipulations, the activities of moles and bad timing.
It is now, however, clear to the PDP and the establishment that our current effort is well calculated, being systematically well pursued in national interest and backed by the overwhelming people support, pointing towards the inevitable change of baton which many of them have difficulty in contemplating. That is their fear. The PDP has held the country hostage and plundered it since 1999. They have ruled with impunity, established massive corruption as a way of life and so the fear of stepping down is real. One of their recent national chairmen openly boasted that the PDP was to rule Nigeria for one whole century. Those at the helm of affairs today believe that nonsense and so are operating recklessly. The day for them to account for their stewardship is knocking at the door!
What should Nigerians expect from the APC if, at the end of the day, you succeed in dethroning the PDP?
In 2006, I was among twenty three leaders who broke away from the PDP on the same day to link up with some others from the AD to found the AC and eventually ACN. Some of my colleagues, who left with me then, included the late Abubakar Rimi, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Ghali Naaba, Alhaji Lawal Kaita etc. I proceeded to Edo State in 2006 to link up with a number of others to establish the ACN there. I dare say we have been successful in uprooting the PDP in Edo State, which ran that state aground. Edo State happens to be the home of some of their most boastful leaders now roaming other parts of Nigeria dispensing havoc and instability. We have established in Edo State an ACN government that has been highly successful. The first ACN government in the country was that of Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State whose brilliant performance has been a benchmark in the country. His colleagues in the ACN refer to him as their class prefect.
Change of Baton In summary, the present governors of the opposition are progressive governors who are leading progressive governments with clearly distinctive achievements. A change of baton in the centre and the enthronement of a liberal democracy with crystal clear vision would ensure the positive refocusing of our nation state.
The APC will be a totally new party. The first draft of the constitution and manifesto have just been presented for our discussion and vetting. Among other things, the constitution will establish an acceptable level of party supremacy, will ensure the creation of a broad- based political party whose membership will cut across all strata of our society permitting equality of membership of all Nigerians willing to join and who will enjoy the full measure of internal party democracy. A transparent method of congresses and conventions will open up the democratic space for all to aspire to any level of their God’s given personal ability.
The enthronement of discipline in our society must commence from our party and so proper safeguards for discipline is being enshrined in our new constitution with a guarantee for adequate access to justice by all members without prejudice. Confidence in politicians and the political system needs to be urgently restored. A detailed and robust manifesto will soon be published which will guide all our governments from local government to the Federal Government. We will not entertain ridiculous jokes of personal point agendas by any head of government at any level.
CHIEF Tom Ikimi
Solemn Pact They must all faithfully execute the party manifesto which constitutes the solemn pact that we make with our people who vote us into power. Consequently, the party will subject its various executives from the local government to the Presidency to regular periodic open conferences to discuss their performance and compliance with our manifesto. In this regard, our core commitments to education, eradication of corruption, uninterrupted power supply, full and gainful employment, eradication of poverty, affordable local fuel price, sound healthcare delivery, abundant food supply, sustained industrial growth, efficient mass transit system, and an elaborate housing program,etc, will be watched closely by the party. This process does not exist in the PDP that has “captured” Nigeria for the past fourteen years!
Monumental Corruption Unfortunately, what we have witnessed in these past fourteen years is the enthronement of monumental corruption at the very highest level of government. Today, people of dubious and questionable character are celebrated with national awards while the few who are “mistakenly” convicted are granted state pardon. That is the pitiable level to which Nigeria has descended.
Critics of the APC insist that there is nothing new in the convergence of those behind the party, saying that it is a conclave of desperate people hustling for power. How right are they?
Nothing can be farther from the truth. I already drew your attention to the sterling qualities of the governors of the states controlled by the opposition parties; I have also given an insight into the painstaking processes that have gone into the production of the party constitution and manifesto. What we offer Nigerians is a blueprint that is borne out of a clear vision with the will to drive the process by the enthronement of a focused and well grounded government as against the clueless and visionless apology now offered by the PDP.
Frankly, the situation in our country must not be allowed to get worse than it is today. National infrastructures have suffered the calamity of a colossal decay which include the disastrous condition of the roads, a demise of the railway system, virtually non- existent power supply; the health care system has so deteriorated that plane loads of helpless Nigerians depart every day to far away India and other similar destinations to seek basic healthcare.
The issue of insecurity has viciously gripped the country and thrown 155 million citizens into perpetual fear, while unbridled corruption has brought the nation to its knees. The once pleasant environment enjoyed just before and after independence has vanished! Millions of Nigerian youths are jobless while the education system where available is receding into Stone Age levels forcing those who could afford it to send their children to Ghana and other neighboring countries or elsewhere to seek higher quality education.
Anxiety for Change The anxiety for change across the country is palpable to such an extent that everywhere one turns today there is an overwhelming yearning for a rescue mission. There has never been a political party merger in any form in our country’s history. This is the first of its kind and, apart from the four parties earlier advertised, several other parties as well as groups, civil society organizations and individuals have freely approached us to join the merger. We are definitely on an urgent rescue mission. So far, I have heard not a whisper from any individual in the merger arrangement suggesting any personal interest for one position or the other. I am convinced that it will not be business as usual
Boko Haram is a faceless group. Would you say the call to negotiate with the group is misplaced? As a former Foreign Affairs Minister, do you think government should negotiate with the group? There have also been calls for the granting of amnesty?
The activities of Boko Haram have turned out to be one of the most serious security problems in the country today and responsible for the loss of hundreds of innocent lives in parts of the country including the Federal Capital, Abuja and environs. One of my saddest days was the Christmas day bombing of a Catholic Church near Abuja. Apart from making some states in the North particularlyKano, Borno and Yobe to become virtually no- go areas, the Boko Haram insurgency has portrayed our country to the world to be an unsafe destination for tourists and business people. Anyone therefore so fortunate to be the ultimate leader in the country must see it as a priority to find a lasting solution to this security situation.
I have heard of the existence of some rather reckless individuals lurking in the corridors of power peddling careless comments to the effect that Boko Haram is a northern problem which should be left to the northerners to solve. But this problem has not only advanced to the Federal Capital but is also creeping southwards with vigor. Even if not,is the North not part of Nigeria ? It was indeed a welcome development that the president decided to pay a visit to Yobe and Borno after the progressive governors visited Borno. His visit was the first he has made since 2009 when the problem began. Yes, I am aware of several examples of such insurgency problem that occurred in other parts of the world from which those who advise Mr President can draw useful lessons.
The Sultan on Boko Haram I recall the RUF, Revolution United Front, that unleashed terror in Sierra Leone during my time as Foreign Minister. Its leader FodaySankor took refuge with his faceless terrorists in the deep jungle of Sierra Leone. We approached the resolution of the menace by a method of the carrot and stick. Eventually we persuaded Foday Sankor to come out from the forest and we brought him to Abuja. Negotiations became more effective. I believe the Foreign Ministry has good records.
The Sultan of Sokoto’s call for amnesty for Boko Haram should not be disregarded or taken lightly. The Sultan’s high standing in the country, particularly in northern Nigeria and in Islam, supports this view. He must be in custody of information that could be helpful in the direction of his suggestion. Security agencies have in their possession several individuals they have arrested over time as the sect members. Ample opportunity has been so presented to obtain useful briefing on the menace. OBJ visited Borno State sometime back and had discussions with persons reported to be leaders of the sect.
The press has published photographs of various individuals named as Boko Haram leaders. The immediate past governor of Borno State is well known to have had some long and sustained interactions with the sect during his tenure. I am therefore a bit concerned with the president’s unfortunate statement during his recent visit in Borno State to the effect that he was not prepared to engage “ghosts”. As it was possible to send high level contacts to the creeks in the Niger Delta to engage the militants there, I believe similar engagement with Boko Haram is possible and necessary.
How to engage sect No option must be discounted in the search for peace and security. As I make this response, the shocking news has arrived of the gruesome suicide bomb attack in a Kano motor park claiming dozens of innocent lives and setting ablaze several luxurious buses preparing to ferry passengers down South. Newspapers carried reports that northerners in Awka, Onitsha and environs are now escaping in fear of reprisal attacks. It should be recalled that the convoy of the revered monarch, the Emir of Kano, was recently attacked and suffered unfortunate fatalities.
The people’s confidence in the government to handle this obviously escalating crisis is now badly shaken. The kolanut, cattle and other usually flourishing trade between the South West, South East and the North has in recent times suffered a terrible set back. These developments make it imperative for the government to urgently engage Boko Haram one way or the other.
What do you make of the statement by the former head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, to the effect that Obasanjo’s 1999 presidency saved Nigeria from break – up, given the fact that he was the architect of the annulment of the 1993 presidential election which snowballed into a national crisis?
It is not unusual for leaders to sit down from time to time and in their quiet moments, reflect and look at matters with hindsight. Sometimes they may beat their chest with a satisfying smile of satisfaction for their past actions, but it is not unusual for them to habor some regrets. It is a well known fact that General Ibrahim Babangida was one of the authors of Obasanjo’s 1999 candidacy and ascendancy to the Presidency. Only IBB can testify today whether or not his decision was the right one.
It is also a fact that the poor handling of the events leading to the June 12, 1993 presidential election as well as its aftermath are issues that should engage IBB’s reflection for a long time to come. There are many things I dare say he should have done differently. The reaction of South West Nigeria to those events in the aftermath of June 12, particularly their various political wings, including the very powerful NADECO, needed an appropriate response.
Following divine intervention, IBB,, aided by a handful of others, seized the moment and chose a former military colleague from the South West. Nigeria would not have broken up as the South West leaders know the history of “Biafra”, but Nigeria would have been in continuous political stress. Although General Obasanjo was not a South West choice, having lost his ward in the election, being a Yoruba man, the general temperature in that region was substantially brought down with his ascendancy to the Presidency. That high temperature, for similar reasons, has now shifted to another region!
But are you not scared that the country may still be heading towards a break up with what is happening today?
IBB and most of the core individuals who plotted and executed the coronation of OBJ lost control of the man almost as soon as he ascended the Presidency in1999. The PDP became more or less OBJ’s private property and he was responsible for initiating the aberration that the president was the leader of the party. The independence of the political party has, therefore, since been compromised. OBJ, having failed to secure a third term Presidency, and being the anointed head of the ruling party, he proceeded to interfere with the internal party democratic process for selecting his successor which led to the emergence of the late President Umaru Yar ‘Adua and eventually President Goodluck Jonathan.
Needless to say, the outcome of all that is the unbearable heat pervading the nation today. All that might have taken a back burner if the government now in power was performing well. But that is clearly not the case. Consequently, we are now in a situation in which the agitation for change has become nationwide. The PDP has displayed a total lack of consistency in its affairs and seem to have no qualms in moving the goal post left, right and centre all the time when serious decisions are to be taken. The revelation by the governor of Niger State which he holds tenaciously to,that an agreement exists between the PDP governors and President Jonathan to end his Presidency in 2015 is a case in point. That seems to reinforce the northern claim to the next Presidency in the PDP.
How would you compare the leadership under the late head of state, General SaniAbacha, and those that followed?
I am not an apostle of military governments but General Gowon, perhaps the longest serving military ruler, is very well regarded in the country today. One can safely say that the regime of military rulers pervaded Africa in the 70s 80s and early 90s. Nigeria had its fair share. Military rule is no longer elegant or fashionable and that may be one good reason Nigeria is still enjoying civil government no matter its condition.
The entry of General Sani Abacha immediately after June 12 and the shaky regime of Chief Shonekan was bound to face unprecedented difficulties. While I am not discussing the Abacha regime in this response, I must state that the man was a courageous leader who addressed the nation’s problems astutely. Unfortunately the man is not around now like some others to speak for himself. There are many who have paraded themselves as democrats and held juicy positions over the past 14 years of PDP rule but were very much inside the engine room of Abacha administration.
The highest amount received per barrel for crude oil during Abacha’s regime was $8 but our currency retained a strong value throughout the period. A lot of projects were executed around the country. The highly successful PTF – Petroleum Trust Fund – established by the retention of a few kobos per barrel of crude oil produced, executed many notable projects nationwide. During his tenure, I know that not a kobo was borrowed from the IMF or World Bank. Those institutions shut down their local offices in Abuja.
Lucky President However, in 1999, General Obasanjo, a former military ruler, assumed the Presidency and preferred that his name be disguised as he was to be referred to as Chief Obasanjo. He was a lucky president. The price per barrel of crude oil soared from the paltry $8 per barrel only one year before his arrival to an unprecedented over $100 per barrel. That was the real windfall which was and is still continually being frittered away. The PDP has since established a system of annual budgeting that grants nearly 80% of such colossal sums, now in trillions, of our annual budget to recurrent expenditures with virtually nothing left for capital development.
We have a staff of the “Bretton Woods” institution firmly in charge and supervising what is perhaps the worst scenario of economy Nigeria has ever witnessed; the same woman who lured Nigeria to pay up billions of dollars on questionable and unverified debts for which selected agents made huge commissions – is now leading us back to incur even bigger debts without any visible development projects to show for it. Many people have wondered whose interest she will most serve; Nigeria’s or the World Bank’s. It is now commonplace for trillions of naira to be stolen. Recalling that more than two trillions evaporated in the name of fuel subsidy, hundreds of billions stolen by a level 12 or 14 civil servant, etc; the scandal is mind boggling
You said the economy fared much better under Abacha as there was no borrowing or indebtedness throughout his tenure. Is there really a basis for this assertion?
Yes, I am aware that General Abacha turned down offers from the IMF who usually send young officers to developing countries who end up preparing all kinds of negative reports on the host countries thereby providing avenues for them to design loan structures that would hold developing countries hostage into long tenures of debt. As they themselves are to manage the loans, they get themselves entrenched in host countries finance and other ministries, they end up with massive bureaucracies foisted in the receiving nations at great unrealistic extra costs. Weak leaders are attracted to these foreign currency loans which provides them opportunities for corrupt personal enrichment. A substantial part of the so- called loans they offer is utilized to maintain the donor’s personnel’s lavish lifestyle.
Offices Closed Their offices and residence in choice areas of Abuja were closed down during Abacha’s tenure and the properties put up for rent. General Abacha did not have need for such assistance. Apart from his preference to plan our nation’s needs within our own available resources, he preferred to open up links with China and other similar nations. I am aware, Nigeria’s railway system, peaceful nuclear energy development including power supply, river- borne transportation, massive housing, etc would have been destined to attain world standards in the line of his positive vision.
The National Hospital in Abuja today was a Women Hospital project by the First Lady – Mariam Abacha. That, in my view, was a positive contribution to healthcare. Today, I understand that billions of Naira will be invested in a luxury office complex to be the headquarters for African First Ladies. I just wonder what would happen when the First Lady of Cameroon assumes leadership of that group. Or is Nigeria going to chair that group in perpetuity?
Apo Legislative Quarters was conceived and built by General Abacha to serve as the permanent Abuja residence for legislators during their tenure. Similarly there were institutional buildings to serve as residence for key ministries and some parastatals. Instead of positively increasing the national housing stock as most world governments are now doing, the OBJ government strangely ceded these Abacha properties to cronies at rock bottom, give away prices.
Today, huge sums are spent to cater for fresh legislators each time they come to take office in Abuja and civil servants receive big sums to face the rising cost of accommodation in Abuja. Why then should recurrent expenditures not hit the roof? The Foreign Affairs Minister today, for instance, has no befitting residence anymore at which he could host diplomatic receptions as I and others did. The minister during the tenure of OBJ bought the residence for pea nuts!
Oshiomhole’s government and death of god fatherism in Edo politics? It is my fervent hope that the choice of people to hold power in our country at all levels would be based on the will of the people. As national chairman of the NRC in 1990 to 1992, our contest with the SDP was based largely on the outcome of free and fair elections. Hence we ran neck to neck all the time. My quest for a mega party today is to create another party that will contest with the PDP to ensure true competition and balance in the polity.
Checks and balance would then be assured. Between the NRC and SDP in those days, of the thirty states in the country then, we in the NRC won 16 governorships while the SDP won 14. But the SDP secured more seats in the National Assembly elections. Both parties usuallyaccepted the outcome of the elections without quarrel and I do not recall any court case. I can very well appreciate the former head of state, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, recalling those good old days.
The colossal investment, mind- boggling cash utilized in elections these days is a phenomenon introduced by the PDP and they have succeeded in corrupting the electoral commission as well down the line. The general elections of 2007 have been recorded as the worst ever in our country’s history and indeed in the African continent. Prof Jega is trying to make a difference, but he still has a number of hardened bad eggs in his system.
Steps must be taken to rid the place of those characters ahead of the next general elections. Today, elections are no longer decided at the polling stations. Final decisions have shifted to the law courts which development has unleashed new and scary problems on the country with regards to our nation’s judiciary. Lawyers have become as well so fabulously wealthy by this phenomenon.
Return of Sanity Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s launch of the One Man One Vote concept was very timely. It brought back confidence to the ballot box and it was a relief to hear President Goodluck Jonathan mount the PDP campaign rostrum in Benin- City and also proclaim One Man One Vote. A celebrated PDP leader in Edo State made absolute nonsense of the ballot box. Those who wanted office rather than campaign to the people for votes made nocturnal pilgrimages to the residence of the leader who became known as ‘godfather’. Governors, legislators, LGA chairmen and councilors held office at his behest and so their hands were usually tied when the time came to deliver to the people the much talked about dividends of democracy.
There must however be credible leadership in political parties to give direction to elected personnel during their tenure, in their operations without prejudice to them retaining a reasonable level of free hand.In Edo State, we have come to terms with party leadership clearly defined indicating the difference between leader and godfather. The people of Edo State have comprehensively rejected PDP since 2007 and, from November 2009 when the ACN government was inaugurated, the participatory democracy that you speak of has actually bred real and visible development in the state.
This is largely because, unlike under the PDP when recurrent expenditure gulped almost 90% of the total receipts leaving virtually nothing for development, the economy has been effectively restructured to ensure that not less than 50% of total receipts is committed to capital development in a manner that is accountable and transparent. The end result is that Edo State has fully realized value for money spent. This type of vision, focus, fiscal discipline and commitment is what we offer Nigerians when in 2015 they reject PDP and embrace the fresh air of change that APC represents.
The leadership of the ACN in Edo State was accused of imposing chairmanship candidates in the forthcoming LGA elections. What is your view on this?
The development of the ACN in Edo State, from November 2006 to date, to become the more powerful and preferred party in the state is a subject of great interest. I recall the grave difficulties that we encountered in 2007 during the short tenure of Professor Osunbor to find aspirants in many locations willing to accept selection to contest as ACN candidates. They felt then that the PDP was unassailable. There were no complaints of candidate imposition. Today, it appears that the real contest is within the party to secure its ticket as it is clear that the opponent PDP has been totally routed in the state.
The party has rightly chosen a process of consensus for upholding the choice of its candidates in order to give a fair chance to old members as well as the overwhelming numbers of new members that have flooded into the party in recent times. This process has been very successful in the majority of local governments, but, as expected, there are some leaders as well as the aspirants they support who are rather desperate to secure the leadership of some LGAs for one reason or the other. The internal party machinery for conflict resolution has been engaged in these matters and is working satisfactorily.
There is this fear that the battle for Oshiomhole’s succession may disintegrate the Edo ACN, What is your take on this?
It is rather too early to discern the color of the governorship battle in Edo State in 2016. The change of the party from ACN to APC after the successful merger creating an even stronger national and state party, the outcome of 2015 general elections etc will play some fundamental roles in the direction of events in Edo 2016. We will be constructing the APC in Edo State from the scratch in the coming months. It is to prepare for such challenges that we insist that the party leadership must assume supremacy. The party we are building will be one of character and discipline with assurances of transparency in all processes. In the circumstance, peace and tranquility will prevail and the party will remain intact.
You were the returning officer during the PDP presidential primary in 2003, which ushered in Obasanjo’s second term. How would you reconcile your role then and where you are today as a chieftain of the ACN?
Chief AuduOgbeh, my fellow alumnus of the Ahmadu Bello University in the late sixties and very early seventies, friend and colleague, who was the PDP national chairman at the time, was, with the assistance of a number of young PDP governor- friends of mine, able to persuade me to undertake the task. Those young governors, who have a lot of respect for me, worked in one way or the other with me during my tenure as the NRC national chairman 1990 – 1992 and knew my capacity to undertake difficult roles! My role was to introduce innovations to the presidential primary process and conduct the primary in a manner that would give it credibility inside and outside our country.
The contest was sensitive for various reasons and the whole world was watching. It has been generally acknowledged that I did a good job and I take ultimate responsibility for that very highly successful exercise. Most people inside and outside Nigeria hold fond memories of the vote counting … ‘Obasanjo! Obasanjo! Obasanjo and Obasanjo’ with the occasional Rimi or Ekwueme. Many others have since attempted to imitate the process I created but have produced very poor versions.
However, I was not able to come to terms with the unfolding events during the OBJ second term tenure which came to a head by the plot to secure for himself a third term and life presidency. Chief AuduOgbeh was forced out in a very crude and uncivilizedmanner which he himself has explained on several occasions. Vice President AtikuAbubakar suffered unmitigated hostility from his boss and was also forced then to bow out from the PDP inspite of his well known role in founding the party and facilitating General Obasanjo into the Presidency.
In my case all these were made even more unacceptable by the roles and actions by one of the leaders of the party who hails from my taste and who will go down in Nigeria’s political history, particularly this stretch of PDP rule, as the brain behind several bizarre processes that have stunted democratic growth in country.
Break Away He had the ears then of OBJ, worked unsuccessfully to secure the third term for him and was able to initiate and implement the reckless project of the de-registration of party members which finally destroyed the internal party democracy! We who disagreed with all these things all broke away from the PDP on grounds of principle to found the Action Congress, AC, in collaboration with a major group from the AD.
The PDP has since deteriorated to virtually unacceptable levels while we have built up the AC now ACN to the enviable heights that it has assumed today. I have no regrets whatsoever to be a chieftain of the ACN as we logically now move on to unify the opposition under the banner of APC destined to carry out the urgently needed rescue mission for Nigeria.
*INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BEFORE INEC DENIED THE RIVAL APC REGISTRATION LAST WEEK.