QUESTION 18: Questions about your integrity were raised over an alleged missing N2.8 billion when you were head of the Petroleum Ministry. Can you answer that?
ANSWER: As I said earlier, there was a judicial enquiry headed by Justice Irikefe. Everyone was invited to submit memoranda or bring evidence to help the commission discharge its mandate.
I know that the then managing director of the NNPC, Mr. Marhino presented records of sales and receipts for the period under probe.
The two main accusers, Fela and Tai Solarin came and gave evidence.
Solarin said he heard it in a bus while Fela said he read it in a newspaper.
Q 19. Still on your integrity, there was the issue of 53 suitcases that were allegedly cleared during your tenure without proper customs check?
A. The officer who became my head of protocol, Alhaji Daura was a diplomat in Saudi Arabia. He had three wives and many children. He was appointed my chief of protocol and he was coming back with the family.
Even his wives’ handbags were counted as luggage. What sort of illegal business would a Nigerian diplomat be carrying on in Saudi Arabia to make so much fortune that he would not want to declare?
It was this Atiku Abubakar who was at the Ikeja Airport at that time and he allowed this misinformation to go out and spread.
Q 20. Concerning your tenure as head of PTF, it has been alleged that you favoured the North to the disadvantage of the South in the execution of projects?
A. We executed road projects from Maiduguri to Kano, Abuja to Jos, Abuja to Enugu/Port Harcourt, Elele-Port Harcourt, Abuja-Benin, Lagos-Ibadan, and township roads in Abeokuta.
In Abeokuta and in Lagos, we constructed 230 kilometres of roads including drainages. We did roads in Victoria Island and Ikoyi.
We executed water projects across the nation. The general water works in Lagos with a giant generator was our effort.
We did construction projects in most of the universities and polytechnics. We supplied books, vehicles and other vital requirements to schools.
Q 21. Sharia has stirred a lot of trouble in our nation’s recent history. Why is this so and why do you give Sharia your full support?
A. The first question I always ask opponents of Sharia is how many non-Muslims have appeared before a Sharia court? None.
In Bauchi, Kaduna, Zamfara and many others that have adopted Sharia, both the penal and the traditional codes are still in force. Those who say that Sharia is barbaric have my sympathy because they criticize from ignorance.
If you visit cultures that are different from yours, you should be humble enough to find out why people do certain things. Muslims should have no apology for choosing Sharia because it tallies with their faith.
Those who chose to marry or own wealth guided by customs of their predecessors are at liberty and so too the followers of English legal system.
The constitution allows all of us space to operate Sharia, customary and other legal systems. Sharia states do not molest non-Muslims in their midst.
The media, I think, is responsible for the bad blood that Sharia has generated.
In Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and some others, Nigerians and other nationals have been caught committing crimes against the state and they were sentenced to maximum punishment under Sharia rules.
In America, there are rules on consumption of alcohol or smoking but in Nigeria, we allow our children to smoke.
The Obasanjo government has as its greatest economic achievement the building of the largest tobacco factory in Africa in Ibadan. But will Mr. President encourage his children to smoke? Certainly not.
The things that Sharia condemns are the same things that every faithful hates because God hates them.
Q 22. You were in Saudi Arabia during the last Hajj and reports say that the Saudi Government raised millions of dollars for your presidential campaign. One paper reported that you got $2 billion.
A. How much of that do you want? (All laugh). I don’t think that it is right for people to say things to hurt their fellow men. How will Nigerians feel if they read that this government is sponsoring a candidate in an election in any of our neighbouring states?
First, any government that does that is irresponsible. Secondly, if the government did not do it, it will be totally embarrassed and that would bring strains in relationship between their states.
Q 23. Do you wonder why so many people hate you?
A. No. I am loved by the people. I have traveled round Nigeria and I have been well received wherever I visited.
Q 24. Will you deal with public officers who run foreign accounts if you become president? And don’t you have one yourself?
A. One, I don’t have a foreign account now. I closed it years ago. Two, the constitution requires a public officer to declare his assets on assumption of office.
So, if an officer declares a foreign account, he knows he would have to close it and operate a domiciliary account instead. If he does not declare it, he would be battling with his conscience.
Q 25. The issue of foreign accounts is serious. Right now, many top officials fly out at the end of every month to put money into their accounts overseas. These officers include governors, legislators and ministers and some of them are championing your campaign now. Will you be bold to confront them if you become president?
A. I will not be a president to pander to dishonesty or lawlessness. Someone may be stealing today but tomorrow something happens and he stops.
Someone might have stolen because everyone in the department was stealing. He goes to another unit and sees every one working conscientiously. He is likely to imbibe the new culture.
If we have more honest leadership, much of the ugly trends in our society would disappear. People are waiting for trust-worthy leadership and that is what I will give.
Q 26. How will you strengthen the Code of Conduct Bureau?
A. In other countries, nationals willingly obey the law. In Nigeria, we want to be forced. I feel sanctions must be applied and unless this is done, others will not see reason why they should obey orders.
Government cannot cope with people breaking the law. If good examples are observed from the top, however, positive changes will come and gradually Nigerians will start to obey orders as a way of life and not by compulsion.
Our trouble is with the elite.
Q 27. You are not a rich man and politics in Nigeria today is about big money. This is more so in the presidential race. How do you intend to be taken seriously when you are not rich?
A. It would seem that Nigerians don’t read or learn from history. Sir Tafawa Balewa was prime minister. He was not rich before or on leaving office.
Alhaji Shehu Shagari was president. He was not rich before or on leaving office. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had no money when he became president in 1999.
The only Nigerian who had money and won election to the highest office was Chief MKO Abiola. Yet, he did not actually get into office.
I think money is not the determining factor. If anything, Nigerians seem to have decided against moneybags. So if Obasanjo and Atiku are now moneybags, putting out billions for their campaigns, they can rest be certain that Nigerians will reject them.
Q 28. There are reports that the Abachas are contributing to your campaign funds. Would that not be a contradiction of your avowed honesty?
A. If honest questions are raised on my trustworthiness, I would ask the questioners to go and check my records. As for Abacha and the Abachas, only time will tell if there are not those worse than they.
It would seem that public contempt is such that if the paper were to say a word of sympathy about the Abachas today, it would be accused of receiving stolen money!
Q 29. You have been campaigning only in the Northwest. How do you expect the rest of the country to vote for you?
A. Of the 19 states in the North I have been to 17 excepting Taraba and Gombe. I have been to three in the East and South and to Ondo in the Southwest.
Q 30. President Obasanjo’s campaign train has been attacked and stoned in states considered as ANPP strongholds. Why are you antagonistic in your campaigns?
A. Well, I read in the papers that the president’s campaign team was attached in Kano, in Yola, in Kaduna and I think there was a fourth state. Incidentally, all of them are PDP states. I think it was a message to the PDP. It is as if the people were saying look, you have failed us. Don’t come back here!
Q 31. Will you probe the Obasanjo administration if you step in?
A. Government is a continuous thing. You step into office, you continue from where your predecessor stopped. If a government awarded a contract for N10 million and you come and discover that the contract is not worth more than two million, you have no moral right to fail to stop or cancel it.
Q 32. How can you contain Alhaji MD Yusuf who has been in politics before you and did successfully challenge Abacha whom you served?
A. First, I was not serving Abacha. I was called to a national service. It was for me an honour and a duty. Two, Alhaji MD Yusuf has not been in politics longer than I have. I was there earlier and at the highest levels.
Q 33. There is an allegation that MD Yusuf is a plant to distract you. What do you think?
A. Alhaji MD Yusuf was a former Inspector General of Police. Nobody can plant him. He alone can plant himself.
Q 34. There is a report that indicted your tenure as boss of PTF. What is your reply?
A. Well, I was told about it by a friend. I’ve not seen the report. I was never invited to any panel. The government simply is not sincere about fighting corruption. If they found something incriminating against me, they should forward it to the relevant agency. No, the Obasanjo government is not honest. They have names of officers that soiled their hands, who stole directly from the treasury. Someone was caught with N300 million and they just allowed him to walk away.
Q 35. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of our society. The Obasanjo administration promised on assumption of office that it would fight the monster but it has failed to do so. What will you do to fight the menace if you became the president?
A. Nigerians are destroying Nigeria with the virus called corruption. I don’t think that any regime can survive or make impact without fighting corruption. And our case in Nigeria now has reached the limit. Credible NGO’s around the world have given reports of the level of corruption in our society. Nigeria now occupies the unenviable number one position in the world.
Q 36. How do you fight the menace?
A. We don’t need any new structures or new laws. The existing instruments are enough. All you need is discipline, lead by example. If your assistant engages in corruption and you wash your hands off him, others will know that you mean business. Otherwise, it is business as usual.
Q 37. The Niger Delta region is the most aggrieved section in Nigeria today. You are going there to open your campaign. What have you for the Niger Delta region?
A. Journalists who inspected projects in the Niger Delta region asked me how much government has put by way of reinvestments in the area. I replied that I could speak about funds under OMPADEC.
I told the journalists that from Gowon up to OMPADEC, the Federal Government was giving statutory vote to the Niger Delta area under the derivation fund. Where is the money? That is a question to ask the leaders in the area.
The rural communities in these areas are truly disgraceful. The elite in these places take the money and buy properties in Port Harcourt, in Lagos, in Abuja and outside the country. Why can’t they plough part of their allocations to the rural areas?
The central government claims it is handicapped by the constitution, which does not give it power to supervise states and local government accounts. This is a lame excuse.
There are many ways the centre can make the constituents to keep proper accounts and if they don’t, the law takes its course. But if the central authority is not disciplined, how can it ask states and local governments to act judiciously?
These people start by diverting public funds into the parallel market. If government were alive, the law enforcement agents would step in and break the sharp practices.
So, corruption is the cause of the unacceptable poverty in Nigeria as well as in the Niger Delta Area. I believe that if the 13 per cent derivation were channeled properly, things would change rapidly in the area.
If any additional help would come to the people, it will follow from constitutional developments.
Q 38. Odi is part of the Niger Delta crisis. Are you going to make a statement on Odi?
A. I have not been to Odi but I have been to Zaki Biam. I cannot sit here and start to promise what I would do for Odi or Zaki Biam without first knowing the damages. A promise is a bond. It is not something anyone should make for expediency.
Q 39. Would you support restructuring the Nigerian Federation so that each component part could develop at its own pace?
A. I was against sovereign national conference because as the lawyers would say, there cannot be two sovereign powers in a state at once. If Nigerians wish to discuss new ways to determine relationships among and between the peoples with a mind to fashioning better harmony, I am in full support. But I won’t support the establishment of two parallel authorities because that will be an open invitation to chaos. Besides, we must consider priorities. What Nigerians need now and urgently are in the areas of security, food and infrastructures.
Q 40. You often sound like a Muslim fanatic or fundamentalist. Are you not thereby encouraging religious intolerance and conflict in Nigeria?