By Dr. Mohammed Sarki
Congratulations to Dr. Kolawole Kayode for one of the most brilliant and well-written articles in recent memory. The piece, titled “BOLA TINUBU IS GENERAL BUHARI’S JAMES IBORI” very aptly reflects the prevailing concern of many Nigerians that their hard-won, relatively peaceful victory is in danger of being highjacked by the same cabal of unscrupulous kleptocrats, but this time around, with a different leader.
The fear is that the type of cabal that, under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was led by convicted former Delta State Governor, Mr. James Onanefe Ibori would be replaced by one under the direction of Jagaban Borgu, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the former Lagos State Governor and presumed financier of Nigeria’s President-elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired).
In making his carefully articulated case, Dr. Kolawole Kayode apparently forgot to mention that on Monday 16th September 2013, British prosecutor Madam Sasha Wass (Queens Counsel) told London’s Southwark Crown Court that Mr. James Ibori has “asserted ownership of a large part of Oando…” “The Crown Court will assert that Oando is a company where James Ibori has hidden assets.”
Oando, as Dr. Kolawole Kayode rightly reminded us yesterday, is the largest home-grown Nigerian Oil and Gas conglomerate which is mostly “beneficially owned” and controlled by Jagaban Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mr. Adewale Tinubu (Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s nephew) and Mr. Omamofe Boyo (Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s reported nominee to be General Buhari’s Petroleum Resources Minister).
Many Nigerians reflect positively on General Buhari’s antecedents as Military Governor of the then Northeastern State at the age of 32 years (August 1975); Nigeria’s Federal Commissioner (i.e. Minister) for Petroleum and Natural Resources at 33 years (March 1976); Nigeria’s military Head of State at 41 years (i.e. on 31st December 1983) and Executive Chairman, Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund at 52 years (March 1995).
However, the public’s generally favourable recollection of General Buhari’s stewardship probably relates to the fact that he had the rare privilige, at various times in his career, to have personally managed hundreds of billions (perhaps even trillions) of Naira of national wealth without any evidence that Buhari himself derived any personal benefit.
Unfortunately, the truth is that during General Buhari’s two most recent appointments, i.e. as military Head of State and as Executive Chairman, Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund, though he was the Chief Executive de jure (i.e. legally), General Buhari functioned more like a Non-Executive Chairman, while some other Buhari associate acted as the Chief Executive de facto (i.e. in deed).
For instance, General Buhari’s tenure is remembered for the unmistakeable imprint of Buhari’s then second-in-command, the then Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, the late Major General General Babatunde Idiagon, who was generally credited with being the effective leader of that administration; hence, the usual reference to that era as the Buhari-Idiagbon regime.
General Buhar’s stint as Executive Chairman, Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund was even more profound in the manner that the actual executive authority was effectively ceded to an entity called Afri-Projects Consortium. According to the Dr. Haroun Adamu-led Interim Management Committee that reviewed the activities of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund from March 1995 to May 1999, a company called Afri-Projects Consortium reportedly wielded the “absolute power of initiation, approval and execution of all projects”.
The above referred Interim Management Committee commissioned Audit Report on the Accounts of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund as at the 30th June 1999 by KPMG Chartered Accountants; the Audit Report on the Accounts of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund as at the 30th June 1999 PriceWaterhouseCoopers Chartered Accountants; and several Independent Consultants also conducted a comprehensive review of the Bank Accounts of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund. The total value of projects executed was =N= 181, 975,000,000 (One hundred and eighty-one billion, nine hundred and seventy-five million Naira only).
Unfortunately, at the end of the day, Afri-Projects Consortium was directly found to have misappropriated =N= 2, 057, 550, 062 ( Two billion, fifty-seven million, fivehundred and fifty thousand and sixty-two Naira only). Other companies, many of which were reportedly linked to Afri-Projects Consortium, were found to have also misappropriated a total of =N= 9,600, 982, 386 (Nine billion, six hundred million, nine hundred and eighty-two thousand, three hundred and eighty-six Naira only).
Many discerning Nigerians are now worried that, if General Buhari, as a 41-year old much younger Head of State, who had the administrative advantage of governing by military fiat; and as a middle-aged 52-year old chief executive of a =N= 182 billion Naira fund, could not effectively exert his authority, what is the prospect that he will fare better as a 72-year old President, under the vicious grip of an acknowledged
predator named Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
In fact, if General Buhari’s incorruptibility was the basis for his decisive electoral victory, then Nigerians expect the Buhari Administration’s anti-corruption campaign to be transparently executed. That would translate into re-visiting the pending “prima facie” cases against Jagaban Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Having already elected General Buhari, it is too late to undo what has already been done. As of today, we have elected as our incoming President, a reported paragon of integrity but one who appears to be another gentle leader, whose capacity to govern may be affected by his advanced age.
Fortunately, the nation might not be entirely helpless in this matter as there is a seemingly independent and upright Nigerian who not only enjoys the admiration of the generality of the public but also retains the confidence of President-elect Muhammadu Bauhari. His name is Pastor Tunde Bakare, the Serving Overseer of Latter Rain Assembly Church and former running mate to General Buhari in the 2011 presidential elections.
Yesterday, at a public event in Lagos, Pastor Bakare reportedly advised General Buhari to ensure that his reform cabinet comprises Nigerians of proven competence and integrity, regardless of their religion, ethnicity or gender.
This reminded me that there are still public servants like former Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Executive Chairman, Mrs. Ifueko Marina Omoigui-Okauru in Nigeria. I was delighted to see her on Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) News yesterday night as a member of the Federal government delegation that met recently with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), President Madam Christine Lagarde in Washington D.C.
Mrs. Ifueko Marina Omoigui-Okauru would be an excellent candidate to succeed Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance. Available records confirm that this unsmiling, no-nonsense technocrat reformed the FIRS from a corruption-infested agency generating annual receipts of about N1.2 trillion in 2004 (when she assumed office), to an efficient, automated organisation with estimated collections of N4.6 trillion in 2011 (when her tenure lapsed). I was thoroughly impressed with her biography, which is available online at <www.bloomberg.com>.
As Petroleum Resources Minister, one would like to see a “renowned technocrat” like the eminent Nigerian petroleum engineer who helped transform Malaysia’s 100% government-owned and operated oil company, Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) into a global conglomerate.
As the Technology Custodian (I have never heard this title in my life) and Technical Adviser to Petronas for many years, Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah greatly contributed to the corporation’s evolution into a world-class giant with total assets of US$ 161.47 billion (2014), revenue of US$ 100.74 billion (2014), total equity of US$ 89.29 billion (2012) and net income of US$ 21.91 billion (2012). Source: Petronas’ Wikipedia profile.
Incidentally, Malaysia’s Petronas was established on 17th August 1974 while the Nigerian National Oil Corporation, the precursor to Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), was established in 1971. If Malaysia and Petronas can succeed, why not Nigeria and NNPC?
Dr. Egbogah, who also has reportedly advised several national oil companies and governments worldwide, recently served as Nigeria’s Presidential Adviser on Petroleum Matters, in which capacity he is said to have made major inputs to the Petroluem Industry Bill that is stalled in the National Assembly. Dr. Egbogah’s intimidating curriculum vitae is also available online at <www.dregbogah.com>.
Without any executive authority as presidential adviser, it is easy to understand why Dr. Egbogah’s impact was not very evident. However, suffice it to say that any Buhari Administration Federal Executive Council that does not have the likes of Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah and Mrs. Ifueko Marina Omoigui-Okauru would certainly not be complete. Of course, there are many other Emmanuel Egbogahs, Ifueko Marina Omoigui-Okaurus, etc in our midst.
Back to the main matter, it is my view that Pastor Tunde Bakare would be an effective bulwark against the machinations of Jagaban Bola Ahmed Tinubu, having previously experienced the latter’s unethical depravity.
Recently, Pastor Bakare revealed how, in the days leading up to the 2011 polls in which he was running mate to General Buhari, he was pressured by Jagaban Bola Ahmed Tinubu to pre-sign a resignation letter as the Vice President of Nigeria – a clear case of fraud, impersonation, forgery, etc.
Pastor Bakare claims that he refused to engage in the perfidy requested of him. This disclosure, if it is true, makes one wonder what manner of oaths, guarantees and vows General Buhari must have made, signed or given to Jagaban Bola Ahmed Tinubu as pre-conditions for receiving the critical political support and reported financial contributions from Jagaban Tinubu.
Given his reputation as a stickler for due process, transparency and accountability, Pastor Bakare would be an excellent candidate to head President-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s Transition Committee, and possibly thereafter as the Chairman of an ad-hoc Presidential Advisory Committee, similar to the one led by the inspiring late Professor Ojetunji Aboyade during the General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida presidency.
Democracy does not begin and end with the periodic, in Nigeria’s case 4-year, voting routine. It also depends greatly on the entire spectrum of citizen-to-government participatory interactions and institution-building that occur between election-day cycles.
Clearly, this President-elect needs help, urgently. Except General Buhari has an associate as disciplined, tough and honest as the late Major General Babatunde Idiagbon to assist him run his incoming government, then Nigerians (both the elite and the general public) must weigh in and support their leader-in-waiting to ensure that he succeeds .
Dr. Mohammed Sarki
April 21st 2015.