A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, in this interview with GBENRO ADEOYE, speaks on the controversy surrounding the alleged spending of $16bn on power by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other issues
Let us begin by congratulating you on the birth of your three sons. We learnt that they were born on your wife’s birthday.
Thanks very much. We give God the glory. The Lord is faithful.
You have been a strong critic of President Muhammadu Buhari but always defending former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Why is this so? Is it that you feel a sense of loyalty to him (Obasanjo) because he appointed you as minister?
President Olusegun Obasanjo is an elder statesman, a great nationalist, a historic figure, one of the most respected leaders on the world stage and a man that I love, respect and admire. I make no apology for that. He is an exemplary leader and I consider him to be the most effective and transformational President that Nigeria has ever had. I say this because his record in public office is second to none and what he managed to achieve as President between 1999 and 2007 was not only outstanding but also borders on the miraculous.
It was an honour for me to serve in his government and he taught me much of what I know about governance, politics and public service. He is loyal to his own (people), strong, courageous, focused and inspiring and he is a man of deep religious convictions and faith. He is a devout Christian who fears no man, and honours, reveres and loves God. That is who and what Obasanjo is.
Having said all that, I must add that I do not always agree with him. For example, he opposes the idea of restructuring and seems to have reservations about the right of self-determination for the various ethnic groups that make up our country whilst I am a passionate believer and supporter of both.
I also disagreed with his choice of President Buhari in 2015. I supported President Goodluck Jonathan who was, in my view, a far better man whilst he supported Buhari. I believe that was a grave error on his part and I think that my position has since been vindicated. This is because Buhari has proved to be selective, vindictive, divisive, incompetent and wholly unfit to lead a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural and plural secular nation like Nigeria. I say this because Buhari’s only purpose was to exact vengeance on his perceived enemies, divide the nation, effect an evil and ancient hegemonistic agenda, subjugate our people, Islamise our nation, persecute southerners and people from the Middle Belt, humiliate Christians, diminish and degrade the Church, ruin our economy, destroy our country and push us to the brink of armed conflict and civil war. Since he came to power, the country has gone on a downward spiral. Nigeria needs to be rescued and saved.
Recently when President Buhari said a former President (alluding to Obasanjo), spent $16bn on power and that still, there was no power, you also came to Obasanjo’s defence. What do you know about the power project that the President or Nigerians don’t know?
Obasanjo never spent $16bn on the power sector. The $16bn figure was a fictitious one and it was maliciously fabricated by one Tanimu Yakubu, who was the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s aide.
Yakubu, together with his boss, Yar’Adua, were hell bent on discrediting Obasanjo and tarnishing his record in public office. Another Yar’Adua’s aide by the name of Engineer (Foluseke) Shomolu, who was his adviser on Power Reform, attempted to counter Yakubu by writing a memo to Yar’Adua, warning him that Yakubu was telling lies and he sent the relevant supporting documents to prove it.
Sadly, Yar’Adua did not only ignore him, he also fired him for speaking the truth. They probed Obasanjo on the power issue and it failed. The then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, who was very close to Yar’Adua, set up a House of Representatives’ Committee, which was chaired by my friend, Ndudi Elumelu. But after Liyel Imoke, who was Obasanjo’s Minister of Power, appeared before them and proved that nothing untoward was done and that only $3.4bn was spent on power and not $16bn as Yar’Adua had claimed, the whole thing fell apart and they could proceed no further.
Imoke also explained to the committee that Obasanjo increased the generation of power from 1, 000 megawatts per day in 1999 when he came in to 4, 500 megawatts per day in 2007 when he left office. He provided evidence of the numerous integrated power projects that Obasanjo had established and how Yar’Adua was attempting to destroy and frustrate them.
Finally, he exposed the fact that part of the $3.4bn was spent on buying 18 massive gas turbines which had arrived at our ports two days after Yar’Adua was sworn in as President and which he refused to clear and left at the ports to rot. This was all in an attempt to spite Obasanjo and ‘prove’ to the world that he had done nothing in the power sector.
The irony is that after Yar’Adua came to power in 2007, power generation fell from 4, 500 megawatts per day to 2, 500 megawatts per day and it never went above that throughout his tenure in office. It was only after President Jonathan came to power that things started to improve again in the power sector and we were generating about 4, 000 megawatts per day by the time he left office in 2015.
The $16bn allegation was probed by the Jonathan-led administration as well. He set up a commission of inquiry, which was chaired by Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State and comprised of one governor per zone across party lines from the six zones of the country and officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Ministry of Finance and other relevant stakeholders and agencies.
After a long and extensive inquiry, Obasanjo was cleared. There was another probe after that by another committee of the House of Representatives led by Aminu Tambuwal. Again, Obasanjo was exonerated and cleared. Finally, the whole matter was investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commisssion, which at that time was under the leadership of Ibrahim Lamorde. Again, Obasanjo was cleared.
It is a testimony to Buhari’s pettiness, deceit, ignorance, malevolence and deficit of good sense that he should still be alleging that Obasanjo spent $16bn on power and has the sheer impudence to ask ‘where is the power?’ The only reason he is now saying this and asking such questions is because Obasanjo is opposed to his second term bid. That proves to you just how vindictive and petty Buhari can be.
Sadly, he has set a standard that he himself is incapable of keeping. For example, he has spent $3bn on looking for crude oil in the Chad River Basin over the last three years yet no oil has been found. Just as he was asking Obasanjo ‘where is the power’, I am constrained to ask Buhari ‘where is the oil?’
You said Obasanjo’s mistake was not jailing Buhari for an alleged scam in the Petroleum Trust Fund. What was that about because as far as Nigerians know, Buhari was not indicted in that matter?
If dead bodies are hidden under the floorboards and are not seen, it does not mean that they are not there or that they do not exist. One day the bodies will begin to stink and everyone will know that they were hidden in order to avoid detection. It is only a matter of time.
Anyone that tells you that Buhari was not indicted in the PTF probe is not being honest with you. The matter was probed by a committee led by Haroun Adamu. Part of the findings was that approximately $3bn was missing and was described as being “recoverable”.
Sadly, the final report of the committee was never released to the public which I think was a mistake. Only aspects of the interim report were leaked to the press. That is why people don’t know the truth.
Yet the matter did not begin with the Haroun Adamu-led Commitee report. It started earlier. After preliminary investigations on the PTF by the security agencies just after Obasanjo came to power in 1999, Buhari was summoned to the Villa, shown the findings and asked whether he benefitted from the money that had vanished.
He feigned ignorance of it and said that the person that needed to be asked was one Sahilijo Ahmad, who was the Chief Executive Officer of Afri Projects, the principal consultants to PTF, and who also happened to be Buhari’s right hand man and in-law. Buhari claimed that he did not benefit from the missing money.
Obasanjo gave him the benefit of the doubt and opted to wait to see what Ahmad would have to say once the security agencies questioned him.
Many waited with baited breath for the outcome of the investigation but sadly not up to three weeks after Buhari was called to the (Presidential) Villa, shown the preliminary report of the security agency and had his discussion with Obasanjo, Ahmad died. His death presented a major challenge for the investigation and the security agencies. The Haroun Adamu-led committee was later commissioned and still went ahead to do its job and it confirmed the findings of the security agencies that a lot of money had gone missing. However, it was difficult to act on its findings and prosecute those involved because the person that was the principal suspect and witness had died a few months earlier.
How would you describe President Buhari’s legacy, how does it compare to the legacy of others and what is the way forward?
Buhari’s legacy is disastrous. Under him, we have borrowed a lot of money, millions of Nigerians have lost their jobs, and industries and businesses are folding up.
He boasts of bringing us out of a recession yet he fails to mention the fact that he put us there in the first place. Food, transport, diesel, kerosene and electricity prices have sky-rocketed. Things have never been so bad in our country and millions of our people are not only suffering and living below the poverty line, they also lack the basic necessities of life.
Transparency International, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Monetary Fund have all spoken about the Buhari-led government. The United Nations has cautioned them. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, and the American Congress have spoken about the slaughter of Christians under their watch and have both said it must stop. That is where Buhari has taken us.
Obasanjo and Jonathan were forward-thinking and under the two of them, the economy boomed, Nigerians flourished and people felt safe from political persecution. They were not tyrants and they were not sadists. You could oppose, criticise and insult them as much as you liked and nothing would happen to you because they respected the right of free speech and they did not take it personally.
Sadly, Buhari is the opposite. Even his own party has been divided and destroyed by his deep intrigues. Many in the APC secretly despise him but they are not prepared to say so publicly out of fear.
The truth is that Buhari has failed woefully and his is a legacy of blood, violence, hatred, division, corruption, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, genocide, carnage and slaughter. Under him, our country has been turned into a totalitarian fascist state where those that oppose the President are set up and all manner of criminal activities are fabricated against them. Even members of the President’s party that incur his displeasure are not safe. Look at what they are doing to people like Dr. Bukola Saraki and Dino Melaye. It is utterly shameful.
The 12-point ultimatum given to Buhari by the National Assembly is too little, too late. You do not warn a snake before you kill it. In any case, Buhari will not back down, he will disregard the ultimatum and he will move against the National Assembly leadership. He has committed many impeachable offences over the last three years. I urge the National Assembly to stop dragging their feet, to impeach him right away to save Nigeria!
You said President Buhari cried like a baby when he begged Obasanjo. How did you know this? Were you there?
I was not there when Jesus Christ was born, when He was crucified or when He resurrected 2,000 years ago either, but I know that it happened.
But a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, alleged that the $16bn which former President Obasanjo purportedly spent on the power sector was shared amongst his friends.
Orji Kalu is my brother and my in-law. I have known him for over 30 years and even though we are in different political parties, we shall always be friends. It is not true that Obasanjo shared $16bn with his friends. My brother, Orji, was misinformed and misled into believing this but the assertion is false. I challenge him to provide the names of those friends that Obasanjo supposedly shared the money with.
In any case, you cannot share what does not exist. I have told you that the $16bn never existed. It was fake news. Obasanjo never spent $16bn on the power sector. There are no records of such a large amount of money being spent on power during his eight years in power either in CBN or the Ministry of Finance. I challenge those that doubt me to go and check.
Are you saying that Obasanjo and the Peoples Democratic Party-led administrations that were in power for 16 years were not corrupt and that this government is lying about the figures being released to the public?
I am saying that I do not accept the notion that Buhari is an angel and the absurd and childish narrative that all PDP governments and leaders over the last 16 years were thieves and treasury looters. Such notions are false and they emanate from a government that is foul and malicious in all its ways. The only thing it is good at doing is to indulge in falsehood and propaganda and label others as being irresponsible and corrupt. Meanwhile, they (the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government) are more corrupt than anyone else. Let me give a few examples. First, there was Mainagate, then Osbornegate, then Barugate, then Babachirgate and so many other ‘gates’.
They talk about campaign funds, forgetting how they funded their own campaign and where they got their money from. They talk about the National Security Adviser’s office, forgetting that Buhari himself got a number of things from there. They persecute and terrorise leaders of the opposition and their perceived enemies, including members of their own party that turn against them with vicious witch-hunts and media trials, yet they turn a blind eye to the atrocities that their own people are committing on a daily basis.
They say that the PDP is irresponsible, yet that is the sort of nonsense that they are doing. Future generations of Nigerians will be paying our debt off for the next 50 years. They have mortgaged our future and destroyed our country. In any case, where is the money they borrowed and what have they used it for? The same question can be asked about all the money they claim to have recovered. You have been in power for three years and yet you do not have one project to your name which you began and concluded and which is ready to be launched. Instead, you are busy completing and launching projects which Jonathan began and did not have the time to finish.
Buhari calling the PDP corrupt is like the pot calling the kettle black. It is like the physically challenged and the leper calling the Olympic athlete unwell.
They are the very essence and definition of corruption. For example, never in the history of Nigeria has the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation siphoned off up to $25bn through shady deals and contracts in the space of three years.
That has happened under Buhari and it was his own Minister of State for Petroleum Resources that exposed it. The sooner people accept the fact that we are saddled with a perfidious and mendacious government which is run by liars and which is primarily for liars, the better. All they do is indulge in falsehood, deceit and perfidy. When compared to them, the PDP are angels.
This government recently said it was not like Obasanjo’s government that used the Department of State Services and other state instruments to topple democratically elected governors and it gave instances that included former governors in Ekiti, Anambra and Plateau. Do you agree that this government has done better than Obasanjo in that regard?
The assertion that Obasanjo used the DSS to topple democratically elected structures is another of their lies. There may have been instances of over-zealousness on the part of the security and intelligence agencies here and there but the DSS did not remove a governor under Obasanjo and neither were they constitutionally empowered to do so. It never happened. To remove a governor, you need the State House of Assembly to impeach him and that is what happened in each of the states you mentioned.
The impeachments of Joshua Dariye in Plateau and Dr. Chris Ngige in Anambra were fair and square and I really don’t see what either of them had to complain about. However in my view, the case of Ekiti was regrettable. I was not happy about what happened to my friend and brother, Governor Ayo Fayose, at that time and this is especially so given what he was subjected to by the security agencies after he was impeached. I am glad that in the end, he was vindicated.
Eight years after he was impeached, he was once again sworn in as governor. Only God can do that and God is with him. Despite this, permit me to add the following: whatever Obasanjo may have done pales into insignificance when compared to what Buhari has subjected our people to over the last three years.
Ethnic cleansing and mass murder thrive in Buhari’s Nigeria, yet he not only refuses to arrest, bring to justice or kill the Fulani herdsmen that perpetuate these crimes but instead, elements in his government secretly protect, sponsor and encourage them.
He has declared non-violent groups like the Indigenous People of Biafra that are simply asking for a referendum to exercise their right of self-determination as terrorists, yet he has refused to declare the genocidal maniacs that are known as the Fulani herdsmen as terrorists. These are vicious, murderous and callous monsters and an ethnic militia and jihadi army that do nothing but target primarily Christian communities and slaughter defenceless and innocent men, women and children, yet Buhari regards them as his kinsmen.
He promised to stop Boko Haram but instead of doing so, he has empowered them. He targets members of the opposition, violates their human rights, sets them up for malicious and politically-motivated prosecutions and intimidates, locks up and threatens journalists for speaking the truth.
He detains his perceived enemies indefinitely, he violates court orders by refusing to release them. He appoints a northern Muslim to head every single security agency in the country and every branch of our Armed Forces, except for the Navy.
Obasanjo never did such things. Unlike Buhari, he was not an ethnic or religious bigot who saw the people of the Middle Belt and southern Nigeria, and particularly Christians, as nothing but conquered vassals and slaves. He did not promote, empower, protect and encourage violent ethnic militias.
President Buhari recently praised the late Sani Abacha, who is seen by Nigerians as a corrupt despot, who ordered assassinations of people, saying he built roads and so on, what are your thoughts on this?
He also said that the Nigerian Army treated the Biafrans with restraint during the civil war. He also said that Nigerian youths were lazy. He also said that all Heads of State and Presidents that came before him were corrupt and that only God could forgive them.
He also clapped for David Cameron, the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, when he said that the Nigerian people were “fantastically corrupt”. He deserves our pity rather than our wrath.