By Austin Oniyokor
It is not for nothing that leaders rarely join the fray. This disposition is meant to preserve the majesty, respect and dignity of the exalted position that they occupy in the society. That is why when they do; people listen with a view to drawing useful lessons from such interventions. However, when you have a man who should be a father figure descend into the arena, clutching at every opportunity to play to the gallery, then it behoves all men of good will to stand up to such a person and expose him for who he really is. For, as Martin Luther King Jnr said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Following former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s diatribe against the person and office of President Goodluck Jonathan, including my humble self, I have been inundated with calls from family members, friends, business and political associates as to his real intentions. I will situate his vituperations presently.
In the 18-page letter dated 3rd December, 2013, Obasanjo called me a shameless criminal. Pray, why should I be ashamed when I am not a criminal or the one being looked for, and he knows! They have called all manner of names to silence and sabotage me so as to take over party structure in the Southwest in order to work against the government. If Obasanjo could write this kind of letter against his own people, with a view to inciting Nigerians against the man he introduced to them, then it leaves much to be desired. The was the same man who said Jonathan was the only one fit for the job having been cleared by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He told Nigerians to vote him as President because of his unimpeachable character and integrity. It is unfair for him to round to insult the President. He used me to fight Gbenga Daniel and I spent over N3billion to fight his cause and took the PDP structure from Daniel and handed it over to him. He later brought his friend, a 77-year-old Gen. Adetunji Olurin, to be the governorship candidate. Now, he is casting aspersion on the person of the President and my humble self. Who should be ashamed among us? How many former Presidents and Heads of State would do this? He thinks he is disgracing his people but unknown to him, he is making himself a laughing stock in the eyes of the discerning. Pray, what is he looking for? Initially, he was given everything he wanted but he was still not pleased. Now that things have changed, he is grumbling.
For me, the old general only sought to exhibit his military training on the element of surprise. According to an ancient Chinese General, Chiang Shang, “The technique for military conquest is to carefully investigate the enemy’s intentions and quickly take advantage of them, launching a sudden attack where unexpected.” But he performed woefully in this task because he failed to observe the condition precedent to using the element of surprise, which is “to investigate”. He allowed his hate campaign to becloud his sense of reasoning and judgment as an elder statesman that he ordinarily should be. He merely ventilated his frustrations over the new political reality that has stripped him bare of any claim to Ogun State and the South West geo-political zone. Ordinarily, a person of his standing should tower far and above such parochialism. But he won’t have any of such. He would rather eat the fat of the land and still struggle for the crumbs while at one playing the ostrich. If the truth be told, the letter to President Goodluck Jonathan is, to say the least, satanic, self-serving and mischievous.
Chief Obasanjo denied introducing me to the Presidency. But can he deny that we wined and dined together in the past? Can he deny knowledge of my closeness to his daughter, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, especially during the events leading to the 2011 general elections? Can he deny that he introduced me to some leaders of the PDP in the South West, such as the Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade; his Agric counterpart, Dr. Adesina Akinwunmi; and Engr. Segun Oni, among others, as his political son in whom he is well pleased? Can he deny that he did not introduce me to the former acting Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje and other officials of the PDP-led Federal Government during the events leading to the 2011 general elections, especially as it relates to Ogun Sate and my role in the whole scenario? Can he deny that he openly praised me to high heavens at various public fora and rallies, including during the reception I organised for the former Minister of Commerce and Industry, Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye (JMK)? Why is it that it is now that he is calling me names and blaming the Presidency for condoning me? What offence have I committed? Is it because I refused to allow him to hijack the party structure so that he can use it to achieve his invidious motive against President Jonathan? Is it because he has now realised that he has lost the platform which made him relevant in the politics of Ogun State and the South West? Isn’t there a sense in the assumption that the reason for this unwarranted attack is to portray the Jonathan administration in bad light and discredit its foot soldiers, particularly in the South West?
Who am I?
Let me state from the outset that anyone who knows former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s antecedents would not be surprised at his calling me names. Ask Otunba Oyewole Fasawe. Ask Chief S.B. Oluwalogbon. Ask Chief Bode George. Ask Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The list is endless. Be that as it may, I am not ashamed to say ex-President Obasanjo was my adopted political father and I was also his adopted political godson. We were partners. We planned and executed many things together. When it was convenient for him, I was his right hand. I teamed up with him against former Governor Gbenga Daniel; fought the latter to a standstill; took the party structure from him and handed it over to Chief Obasanjo. I worked with him (Chief Obasanjo) to produce the platform that his anointed candidate for the 2011 general elections in 2011, Gen. Tunji Olurin. It is common knowledge in Ogun State and the South West that Obasanjo and I were inseparable until recently. These are facts that are in the public domain and cannot be denied. So, if he now turns round to be calling me names, then it should be clear to all that it is all politics. The truth is that I have not committed any offence and nobody has ever requested for my extradition. If there is anything to the contrary, I challenge Obasanjo and his cronies to produce it or forever remain silent.
Even when they have refused to see or hear; I yet refer them to the Interpol report which exonerated me of any wrong doing, both locally and internationally. It is dated 4th March, 2008. The Interpol in the six-page report, signed by ACP Haruna H. Mshelia for the Commissioner of Police (Interpol), particularly at Clause XI says “That contrary to the allegation, the suspect was not found to have engaged in fraudulent/clandestine activities as all records were checked both locally and internationally and all our probes were returned negative. The suspect was never declared wanted or convicted either in Nigeria or anywhere in the world.”
It went on to say in Clause XVI of the report “That all our letters written to Interpol London, Lyon, Washington and Cotonou relating to enquiries on criminal/drug/conviction records of the suspect were returned negative to the effect that the suspect was never convicted of such offence in their territory.”
The NDLEA in a counter-affidavit in one of the cases I filed in the courts to clear my name said, from their records, I have never been involved in any crime.
Again, in an 11-paragraph filed by the Office of AGF and dated 16th September, 2010, in the suit I filed against it at the Federal High Court, it stated that, “No request for the extradition of the Applicant was made on the 20th day of July, 2010 or on any date to the Respondent or to any Federal Agency by the United States Government or any other country…The Respondent or any of its officers or any agency of the Federal Government has not received any request from any country for the extradition of the Applicant for any offence whatsoever.”
These are documents that are already in the public domain. They can be accessed in various court registries. The indubitable and incontrovertible facts are:
1. I am a successful businessman who has been a well-known philanthropist in West Africa since the 1980s.
2. In the Republic of Benin, I own, among other valuable assets, one of the largest cotton ginning factories in the continent in the Republic of Benin since 1992 and I have been one of the major importers of cement, sugar and rice into West Africa for the same period until I went into the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry in 2003.
3. My business investments today include a chain of hotels, a construction company, Banks and financial services, the most valuable real estate developments and other enterprises.
4. I have never lived in or visited the United States of America and been involved in any narcotics or criminal activities in the United States of America.
5. In 1998 as a result of my political activities in the Republic of Benin I was wrongly introduced into an indictment in the Northern District of Illinois, United States of America involving a group of drug pushers, members of which had been arrested and convicted in 1994 in the US and as a part of a plea bargain transaction had indicated that they had a West African link.
6. None of these confessed criminals mentioned my name and repeatedly indicated to their jailers that they did not know their West African accomplice by any other name than “ALAJI”
7. Apparently, the US embassy in Benin, which was facilitating the enquiry by the US Authorities as to who the “ALAJI” could be, somehow received information from some mischief-makers that it was me. Since I appeared to fit the profile, my name was introduced into the indictment in 1998 by the US authorities.
8. All this happened without reference to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Nigeria or in the other relevant West African countries in which the enquiries were being made and unknown to me who at the time regularly visited the United Kingdom in pursuit of my cotton trading business in Liverpool.
9. On one of such trips in 1998, I was accosted at the City Airport in London and eventually informed that there was an international arrest warrant for my arrest issued by the United States.
10. I was therefore detained and an application for my extradition to the US was made to the British Courts by the US authorities through the British Crown Prosecution Service.
11. I declared from the moment of my arrest that I was not the person involved in the alleged narcotics business and that this was a case of mistaken identity.
12. As a result, an identification parade was conducted by the British authorities in which the leader of the confessed criminals in the US clearly stated that I was not the man they knew as “ALAJI”
13. However, the US authorities decided not to reveal this information to the British court and were able to secure an order in their favour in 1998 for my extradition to the US.
14. Fortunately for me, the result of the identification parade came into the hands of his lawyers early in 1999 before I could be taken to the US and they immediately commenced an Habeas Corpus action in the English High Court, Queens Bench division, for my release and the vacation of the committal order made by the Court.
15. The English High Court in December 1999 delivered its judgment in which it agreed that the order for my committal was null and void having been the product of unfair proceedings in which exculpatory evidence had been suppressed by the prosecutor.
16. The US authorities did not appeal that decision but immediately had me rearrested and commenced a second extradition process against me at the Bow Street Magistrate Court in England before District Judge Tim Workman.
17. This trial in lasted three years with several witnesses attending the trial to give oral evidence before the court, and mountains of documents being tendered.
18. The Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) sent two of its top operatives to give oral evidence and to be cross examined during the proceedings.
19. In his judgment, delivered on the 10th of January 2003, District Judge Tim Workman came to the conclusion that the new identification evidence produced by the US Government was worthless and unreliable, and that I was clearly not the person involved in the narcotics transaction for which the indictment was made in the US and that I should be discharged.
20. The US authorities did not appeal this decision and have not pursued me or made any other attempt to extradite me since that decision.
21. All these facts are now matters of public record and the relevant documents have been published severally. Even at that, they are available for scrutiny by anyone who is interested in knowing the truth.
22. Therefore, Obasanjo’s obscure scholar, Lansana Gberie, cannot be a genuine scholar if he indeed wrote the statements quoted by Obasanjo, which are evidently a figment of his imagination.
23. Concerning the Nigerian lawsuits, which were also equally twisted and deliberately misrepresented by Obasanjo’s scholar, these arose out of the mischievous attempts by some politicians then led by Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD), to malign me in the same way Obasanjo’s letter seeks to do.
24. Most of the lawsuits were commenced in 2010 in Libel against OGD and his newspapers.
25. In order to justify their false allegations, these politicians began to pressurize the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to resuscitate the US indictment against me in Nigeria and to instigate an extradition process against me on the baseless accusations.
26. When I became aware of these moves, I commenced an action at the Federal High Court in Lagos against the AGF seeking an interpretation of the Nigerian Extradition Act and determination of some questions as to whether the AGF could exercise his powers under that Act against me in the context of the findings of the British Courts that I am not the person involved in the alleged narcotics transaction and in view of a decision of the US Court of the Northern District of Illinois, delivered in 2009 (upon the application to remove my name from the indictment) confirming that I was not a fugitive from justice in America.
27. The Federal High Court in this Suit No. FHC/L/CS/938/2010 in its judgment found that the AGF could not exercise any power against me under the Nigerian Extradition Act when I had been found not to be involved in any alleged crime in the US and when I was not a fugitive.
28. The AGF appealed against this judgment on the ground that since no request had been made against me before I filed the suit, hence the action was pre-mature.
29. The decision of the Court of appeal was based on this narrow issue and agreed with the AGF that since I did not prove that a request had been made against me to the AGF, then my personal right had not been breached and therefore the action was pre-mature.
30. That appeal decision has been appealed and it is still pending at the Supreme Court.
31. It is the judgment of the Court of Appeal that Obasanjo and his group have used the mass media to twist into the constantly repeated falsehood that the Court of Appeal had ordered my extradition to the US.
32. The gang contrived a report in the Chicago Tribune for use here in Nigeria that the case against me was still on in the US. I have never said the case in the US has been closed. What I have often said is that I am not the one being sought for alleged drug offences, and that the British courts had established that fact. Even the Chicago Tribune report also said that the British courts freed me after ruling that the prosecutors had tainted their eyewitness identification evidence by failing to disclose that the main suspect said I was not one of them. It was based on this that it discharged me. Even the American court, as per ………………….., in a judgment dated….has said that I am not a fugitive from justice. Upon my exoneration by the British courts and the cancellation of the international warrant against me by the US authorities, I have applied to the court in US to quash the charges against me. That process is ongoing and I will fight it till I get justice.
33. Obasanjo and his ilk chose to either ignore all the above facts or deliberately twist them to serve their wicked purpose of maligning me.
THE WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION
Former President Obasanjo seizes every opportunity to pretend that he is opposed to corruption, whereas this same man used his office to railroad contractors into building an expansive Presidential library and other edifices, including an imposing hilltop mansion for him while in office. We all know that most of the nouveau riche billionaires that his administration produced are neck-deep in one economic crime or the other, and for which some are facing trials. See who is talking about corruption? The same man who suddenly came into ostentatious wealth during his second coming as President, so much that he flies about in a private jet; has blind trust in choice companies, schools and farms in almost every state of the federation. Many national assets were sold at give-away amounts under his watch. He was the Minister of Petroleum for eight years, and at some point, the Minister of Power. What did we get in return? Comatose refinery and powerless plants! It is on record that in spite of his grandstanding and showmanship, none of the indicted political office holder was convicted for corruption. I recall how he made the prosecutors to enter a no case submission for his cousin who was accused of corruption. The man was a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence. Is it not said that those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble? Shouldn’t simple discretion have dictated that he buries his head in shame and lead a quiet life? Is he the only past leader alive? Why is he the most controversial? Why is he always playing the ostrich?
Yet, this was the same man that former EFCC boss Mallam Nuhu Ribadu described corruption under his watch as worse than that of late General Sani Abacha, according to United States cable obtained by Wikileaks.
The report stated that a meeting which the former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Robin Sanders, had with Mallam Ribadu to discuss his removal from the EFCC, Ribadu told the US ambassador that Obasanjo was good at covering his tracks while admitting that corruption was worse under Obasanjo.
Ribadu was quoted as saying that former President Obasanjo knew how to play the game. “Although he created the EFCC and understood its importance for him with the international community, Ribadu explained, that by far and even more than the Abacha days, corruption under Obasanjo’s eight years was far worse.
The extracts of the cable reads: “Ambassador asked about Obasanjo and his daughter, National Assembly Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, who is currently being investigated over contracts to an Austrian company. Ribadu said that the EFCC had called her in on December 27 and questioned her for hours. They also had documents on the transactions and questioned the head of the Austrian company. In the end, he added, we determined that there was no illicit enrichment of state funds, but a business deal gone badly between two parties, where promises were made and not kept, and one party getting mad at the other. On former president Obasanjo, the Commissioner said, he really knew how to play the game. Although he created the EFCC and understood its importance for him with the international community, Ribadu explained, that by far even more than the Abacha days where he was the sole thief, corruption under Obasanjo’s eight years was far worse. However, he added, Obasanjo was a political machine and knew how to play the game for the international community, cover his tracks and for good or bad got it as regards to what the EFCC’s role was and should be.” Need I say more?
OBASANJO & PRESIDENT JONATHAN
The fact of history, which Obasanjo seeks to obfuscate with his latest attempt to distance himself from the present administration, is that he is the least qualified to accuse anyone of lacking in honour and integrity. When President Jonathan got into office, Chief Obasanjo was always going to Aso Rock to eat breakfast and take tea and coffee at the expense of the Yoruba nation. When he saw that President Jonathan is insisting on the rule of law and allowing the institutions of state to function without let or hindrance unlike what obtained in the past, he is now criticizing him. Obasanjo does not have the moral justification and rectitude to criticize President Jonathan on corruption. He who must come to equity must come with clean hands. President Jonathan may not have acted brashly as he (Obasanjo) did in his heyday. But he is slow, sure and steady as exemplified in the conviction of former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori and others still standing trial for corruption across the nation.
The state of our country today, in spite of the bold efforts of the present administration to turn things around, is easily traceable to his failures as a leader. The foundation for the ravaging corruption, the failure of state institutions, the economy and the polity are easily traceable to his tenure. This was a man who told the whole world that he never wanted a third term in office, yet he made funds available for the project. Recall the Mofas account scandal. I am also reminded of the Siemens scam, the Halliburton mess, the Power scandal and the shame of the Privatisation exercise, among others.
Under him, Nigeria recorded many high profile political killings that could only be compared to the Abacha years. I recall that people like the then serving Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige; Chief Marshal Harry and Alfred Aminasaori Dikibo, among others, were killed under his watch. Chief S.B Oluwalogbon, who was his friend and one of his major sponsors, was almost killed on 2nd December, 2001. No fewer than 36 bullets were shot at his black Peugeot saloon car. Thank God, he was in another vehicle. Harry was a former National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) South-South, Niger Delta. He later defected to the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). Shortly after he decamped to the (ANPP), he was assassinated in Abuja. Dikibo was murdered on the night of Friday, 6th February, 2004. The world woke up to hear of his death on Saturday, 7th February 2004, which was a weekend. Chief Obasanjo had his media chat on Sunday, 8th February 2004 where he declared that Dikibo was killed by armed robbers, even when no investigations had been carried out to justify his conclusion.
He, more than any other Nigerian, had the most opportunity to turn the fortunes of Nigerian around, but he bungled it.
If any Nigerian President was surrounded by criminals as his closest allies, it was Obasanjo; especially during his two terms as civilian president of the country. The records are there for all to see. He even used some of them to fund political campaigns and execute other crooked projects.
PARTY POLITICS & DEMOCRACY
It is preposterous and duplicitous for those who lack basic democratic credentials to be pontificating on such ideas and ideals. It is fact of history that during his reign he represented what party politics and democracy should not be. This was a man under whose watch the majority had their say and the minority had their way. From Plateau to Ekiti, Anambra to Oyo, minority lawmakers impeached governors. He destabilised the National Assembly so much that senators and members of the House of Representatives were always changing their leadership. He removed party officials at will, and some say, at gun point. He disqualifies people after winning party primaries. Under his watch, the country witnessed the highest number of election petitions and reversal of mandates, occasioned by his corruption of the electoral system and the political space. Pray, what democratic credentials qualify such a person to be sermonising on democracy and party politics?
My candid view is that in spite of the storm generated by the activities of some aggrieved members of our party, all genuine leaders, elders and members of the party across the length and breadth of the nation must rally round the President and the leadership of the party at this crucial point in time. This is because the issue is not about them but the stability of the country and the future of our democracy. The elections are over. We all have a duty, as patriotic Nigerians, to stick out our necks to protect this mandate. We cannot afford to look the other way at this crucial point in time.
Whereas, it is the inalienable right of all adult humans to nurse ambitions, such should not be to the detriment of the orderliness and good governance of Nigeria or any part of it. It should be pursued with all civility and within the ambits of the law. A situation where people, no matter the pretence, seek to bring down the roof just to score cheap political points would not augur well for the system. We owe it a duty as patriotic citizens with equal rights in the Nigerian project to defend the present mandate.
We should not allow anyone to pool the wool over our eyes and insult our collective intelligence. It was former President Olusegun Obasanjo that told us in 2010/2011 that President Goodluck Jonathan that was the right man for the job and urged us to vote for him. He told us that the man was not corrupt and that he was the best man for the job. He knew his worth and that was why he supported him to power. But, like it has been suggested elsewhere, he probably did for his own selfish interest, portraying same as “national interest”. He thought he could pocket them. But no sooner had they shown that they could hold their own than he began throwing all the political jibes. I am reminded of the same way he sought to support General Muhammadu Buhari during 2011 elections when he saw that things were not going his way. The whole is watching us. Nigerians are wise and would not allow themselves to be led by the nose by some pseudo-democrats now masquerading as champions of the democracy, Rule of Law and due process, whereas they are after their selfish interest – indeed, their credentials do not support their claims.
2015 & THE POLITICS OF THE SOUTH WEST
In the South West, we believe that the ACN has lost its identity as the traditional party of the South West by going into the merger with other less popular parties. Now, our people no longer see the All Progressives Congress (APC) as theirs. With the air of uncertainty about the leadership, sharing ratio and the vaulting ambition of some of its leading lights, our people see the PDP as a better alternative. The only challenge we have is those of the men of yesteryears who have refused to come to terms with the present reality on ground.
At this juncture, I wish to remind them that power belongs to God. He promotes one and demotes the other. As I have often said I am not in a popularity or leadership contest with anyone. I am grateful to the almighty Allah for what he has done for me and through me.
In the South West, we know ourselves. We know who is who. It is the irony of our democratic space that those who have never been able to deliver their polling booths since the beginning of the present democratic dispensation in 1999 are still parading themselves as the Alpha and Omega of Nigerian politics. They use our people to bargain and live off them. Now, the good people of the Ogun State, in particular and the South West, in general, have seen through their scheming and shibboleth, and are wiser for it. They would no longer allow anyone to lead them by the nose. They are irrevocably committed to uprooting the opposition from within and without.
My appeal to all our leaders, elders and the young is for us all to come together and be focused. Let us harness our individual and collective resources to build a party and government that all of us can be proud of. Let us lay aside all self-serving and parochial interests, and rally round the present administration in delivering on its Transformation Agenda as exemplified in its Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), massive investment in education, successful privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), revamping of the railways, among others, knowing full well that we have no other country to call ours than Nigeria. Let us support our leader, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to do more.
Just as I was about rounding off this letter, I read newspaper reports that he had breakfast with President Jonathan in Kenya, some 24 hours after his hypocritical letter went public. Although I know that our President was not fooled by the gesture, I recall how he ate pounded yam with former Senate President Chuba Okadigbo and erstwhile National Chairman of PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh, and still moved against them. The old man executes good and evil acts with equal ferocity. No one should be deceived. For, as it is said, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.
While it is true that the nation may be facing some challenges, they are not peculiar to it. Over the past decade or so, the world has been faced with a new wave of terrorism and economic meltdown, occasioned mainly by corruption. Examples abound from the United States to Iceland, the United Kingdom to Greece, Mexico to Pakistan, among others. Yet, the people have kept faith with their leadership. The recent re-election of President Barack Obama drives home the point more succinctly, in spite of the economic and employment challenges facing the American people.
Perhaps the point should be made – and poignantly too – that the earlier Obasanjo purges himself of his messianic postures the better it would be for him and the nation at large. He is quick to recount his “exploits” while in office. But the truth is: the foundation of some of the challenges that we are grappling with today were laid during his years in office.