By JIDE AJANI, Deputy Editor
* The plan was that I should die in detention
* I am not an angel, he confesses
â€œI did 200metres rope climbing to the top of a platform once. It was suicidal. When the boys heard that the Governor-General had arrived, they stopped what they were doing. How many have I not done? You donâ€™t pay ransom â€“ ransom for what?Â They released the hostages.Â What makes you think that you are more Niger Deltan than me?
My parents are from that region and you say you are fighting for my cause and Iâ€™m the Chief Executive of a state and I donâ€™t know more than you, that is bullshit.Â They have derailed, criminality has set in. How can you kidnap my mother and you say you are fighting for the Ijaw cause,â€Â charged Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa State and the man Ijaws refer to as Governor General when Sunday Vanguard sought his views ofÂ on the issue the
militants, amnesty and the roles of some governors and prominent leaders in not just the Delta region but Nigeria in general.
When last Sunday we declared that Nigerians were in for an exciting time, little did we know that we were actually taking part in a very historical event.Â Calls have not ceased to come, just as views continue to be expressed regarding the nature, content and context of the Alamieyeseigha interview.
In this second part, Alamieyeseigha, who talked tough last week, tones down as he relieves his pains and regrets during his troubles with Obasanjo.
More interesting was his soberness when the issue of graft was discussed.
But that still did not stop him from making charges against Nuhu Ribadu and, you guessed right, Olusegun Obasanjo.
In terms of betrayals, ALAMS, as he is known in some quarters, discloses how a very close friend of his, a lawyer, prepared the impeachment notice which was used to remove him in a rather shambolic manner.
DID they see you bleeding orÂ did you complain to them?
They saw it; they saw that I was soaked.Â They now took me to a police station and I was remanded in custody.
Were you kept in a cell or in an office?
This was in the cell till around 9pm from the morning when we arrived in London. By 9 pm, they came and brought my asset declaration forms. They asked me some questions, I answered to the best of my ability but at that point I told them that I needed to see a doctor. They did not listen to me.Â They eventually brought a doctor who insisted that they must take me to the hospital and that I needed my drugs.Â They brought my drugs from my bag.
Around 1am, they came with a form that I should sign. When I looked at it, they said they went to my house and they found money totaling one million pounds in different currencies and I told them I would not sign and I asked them why was I not taken to the house with them so I could verify the property list.
In any case, the form they brought was not signed by anybody.Â I refused to sign the form. They said if I didnâ€™t sign, all well and good. The following day around 12 noon, they released me.
Had the blood stopped by then?
No, but it had clotted. They said I should be signing in the nearest police station every day and that I should not travel out for almost five months that I should just be there. When I asked them why, they said what was required to prosecute me would come from Nigeria and that the materials were not ready yet.Â They also said the Nigerian government said it would take it some five months to assemble the materials for my prosecution.
I came home and consulted my lawyer, Professor Odita, QC, SAN, a Nigerian. He went to vary the conditions of bail.Â We went there and we did not spend three minutes in court, when I was discharged and acquitted.Â As we came out of the court, people were already outside jubilating but once I came out, I was re-arrested and taken back to that same cell and this time around, they came up the following day with three charges:
One, that in 2000, 420, 000 pounds passed through me to a friend. Two, that in 2002, 475 pounds passed through me to an estate agent Three, approximately one million pounds was found in my house â€“ that was on the day I was arrested. I was taken to court where my lawyer did not speak.Â I later got to understand that any black man that goes to that court would be convicted.Â They did not allow my lawyer to speak; I was remanded in prison custody.Â Within 15 days, I had been made an inmate of two different prisons. I was kept with mad people for 15 days.
Mad people how?
I mean people who are mad, insane
Again, it is interesting how mad people behave.Â Night is their day so you can never be allowed to sleep.Â Every piece of paper they see, to them, is cigarette â€“ Iâ€™d never seen something like this before in my life.Â The second prison, I was kept with a murderer who kept coming in and out of prison.Â He went to protest that I should be removed because when that spirit comes into him, in less than three minutes, he could kill and that he was praying that after this term, he should be taken to a rehab.
In fact, when he discovered that I couldnâ€™t climb the double bunk, he conceded his lower deck to me.Â He would normally prepare tea for me and if you see his body, wounds everywhere, smelling; I donâ€™t know the spirit which got inside him but he it was who went to the supervisor and protested that he did not want to kill again, that he wanted to be left alone.Â That was why they sent me back to Brixton prison.
How about medication?
After the 15th day, I was getting medication from Nigerians.
They had a clinic in prison and one Nigerian nurse was the matron, an Igbo woman, she was sympathetic.Â So I was imprisoned for 15 days.
What was the most striking thing about the way the second court handled the case?
They didnâ€™t allow my lawyer to speak, after the prosecution, judgment was pronounced by a lady.
The bail conditions were so stringent that anybody who attempted to bail me became a target.Â Terry Waya was one of them and all the problems he had later was because he addressed a press conference and because he said he had 500, 000 pounds, they confiscated his money and everybody became scared to bail me. Eventually, people pledged their houses and the first person I called when I came out of prison was Obasanjo and he said â€˜didnâ€™t I tell you I will deal with youâ€™. I called him the second time when Stella died, he was sober in that instance but the Obasanjo I know did not show any sign that he even lost somebody. My lawyers again went to court to seek my bail so I could come to Nigeria. Another judge, Evelyn, agreed, that this is an elected governor, and that if the prosecutor is not ready to prosecute, because â€˜you claimed that all the materials you needed to do that were yet to come from Nigeria, you kept him here, how long are you going to keep himâ€™?Â She decided that she would grant me bail and that any day they were ready with their case, I could come back from Nigeria to face prosecution.
She said she was going to grant me bail that my lawyer and the crown prosecution should go and work out the modalities.Â Everything was done, payments made, I had already obtained ticket to return to Nigeria, the morning my bail was to be pronounced, Bayo Ojo, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice appeared.Â We greeted, he said â€˜Excellency, Iâ€™m just coming from Nigeria straight to the court here this morning, I was already in bed when Mr. President called me to tell me that you were going to be granted bail and that I should come and stop itâ€™.
And Ojo went into the court and told the court that Nigeria did not need me; that I had a deputy who could handle my office; that I should be kept in London until my case was determined; that the government of Nigeria, under President Obasanjo, did not need me to come back home. Judge Evelyn was herself shocked.
She said that Nigeria was writing a new chapter in judicial matters, that in all her career as a judge, she had never seen a situation where a sovereign nation would go to another sovereign nation and say that its national should not be allowed to come home; that it used to be the other way; that when somebody commits an offence, they run away to another land, but this is a man you have said committed all the offences in this world, he wants to go back home and yet, you people are saying that we should help you keep him here in London.Â At that point one of their prosecution lawyers said what they were asking for was cooperation; that Nigeria is an ally and that Britain could not afford to have any confrontation with Nigeria and that if the only request was to keep him in Britain, in his house and not in prison, why not oblige. The judge kept quiet for a while and cancelled the application afterwards. I returned home but on the way, Bayo Ojo begged me, that he was only doing his job.
How did you get back to Nigeria â€“ as a pregnant woman or as a man?
The Metropolitan police was always visiting me at home everyday at their own time and they would search the house and anything they saw, they would carry.Â So after three days at home, they came again as usual and asked me to dress up, I dressed up and followed them.
I thought they were taking me to their police station but this time they passed through Nigeria House, and we went outside London to another airport â€“ not Heathrow, not Gatwick â€“ and they said I should enter an aircraft that was waiting and I asked them where I was being taken and they said just go and solve your problem at home, we no longer believe in your case. Since the day your justice minister came to this country, weâ€™ve lost interest in your matter.Â I entered the aircraft, they flew me to Ivory Coast, they did not even shut down, I alighted from the plane and they left.
Just like that?
Yes, just like that.Â I was a frustrated man and I couldnâ€™t go through Immigration because I had no passport.Â I just walked into the arrival hall and sat on the floor because at that time I was really frustrated.Â I was there thinking of what to do when somebody tapped me on the back and I turned, it was Alhaji Yahaya, from Gombe.
How did he know you were there?Â Was he a friend or was he waiting for you there?
No, I think Iâ€™d seen his face before but I couldnâ€™t place it.Â He looked like one of the Nigerians I had stumbled on during the case because many people were pouring into my house in London during the case and many of them were very sympathetic.
Even the former vice President, Alex Ekwueme; Solomon Lar had to come from Holland. Many people were just coming around everyday from different parts.Â I remember seeing him otherwise he had never been to Bayelsa neither had he visited me here in Nigeria.
He tapped me and asked what I was doing there.Â The only thing I could also say was to ask him what he was doing there and he said he came to transact a business and was on his way back to Nigeria, that he had a private chartered jet. I asked if I could join him, he said yes.
Bu t how could somebody departing come in contact with somebody who had arrived?Â Were the security men not aware of your presence at the airport terminal?
The plane which brought me was a private jet and not the usual commercial plane.Â I didnâ€™t walk into the immigration.Â I remember he gave those gendarmes $200 to allow me because he spotted me and came over to meet me.
I entered the plane with him and when we were about to take off, I saw one of the pilots. Apparently, I used to charter their plane back in Nigeria, so they knew me. We came, landed in Lagos and they offered that they were going to Abuja but that they could drop me in Port Harcourt.Â It was at that point in Lagos that I got a phone to call my ADC to meet me at the airport in Port Harcourt.Â We got to Port Harcourt airport late, they dropped me and we took off that night to Amasoma, my village, no escort, nothing. We just moved into my village.
The crowd that came when they heard that I had returned was something else; and this sent a positive or negative signal to Obasanjo whom I was told was in Sokoto.Â People came around to welcome me.
What was Obasanjoâ€™s reaction?
He ordered soldiers and policemen into Bayelsa.Â 300 mobile policemen were drafted to Government House Yenagoa.Â Air Force helicopter was overflying my house. Meanwhile, he had ordered that they should deal with me in Amasoma and because of Obasanjoâ€™s antecedents I had to flee to Yenagoa where I was driving out and driving in even in the presence of the security men.
How did your impeachment crystalise?
Iâ€™m aware, it was a Lagos lawyer (name withheld) who drafted the impeachment notice.Â He was a close friend of mine. He was the one who drafted my impeachment notice. He was the one who took the assembly men to Lagos. He was the one who took them to EFCC office in Lagos, himself, Larmode, Bello and Mangu.
The members were lined up one after the other. If you signedÂ the impeachment notice, you would be let off. If you refused to sign, you were kept there â€“ those who refused to initially sign were not allowed to go until they signed.Â They again bundled them, under escort, took them to Abuja in a plane.
About N18 million was paid from a Federal Government agency to settle their hotel accommodation.Â From there, under escort, they took them to Bayelsa to pronounce my impeachment. I was not served with any impeachment notice.Â I saw it on the pages of newspapers. I was not invited to defend the charges.Â I donâ€™t think they even ever sat.Â One man wrote the report.Â They have been begging me. People have begged, the members of the panel, even their signatures were forged. I knew when they were going to do everything from Abuja to Bayelsa.Â For that operation they removed the commissioner of police and brought another person, the state director of SSS was also changed. They came to me. So many calls were coming in that I should react so that there would be a state of emergency.
Nobody arrested me.Â I called the commissioner of police after their so called impeachment.Â I was in Government House, my father and mother were there.Â I came out, told my parents to go back to Amasoma that I would come back. They escorted me from Yenagoa â€“ combined effort of Rivers State Police Command, Bayelsa and Delta State commands, and helicopter was also flying over our heads.In Abuja, another helicopter was used to fly me to Police headquarters. I was there until December 13 and on December 14, 2005, around 12 midnight, led by Police Superintendent Mangu, I was taken to immigration in Abuja to do passport under escort.Â That is the passport Iâ€™m still using â€“ to do passport at12 midnight.
Obasanjo had instructed that I must be flown back to London. They took my passport to the British High Commission for visa, those ones refused.
Why did they refuse?
They said the man committed the offences youâ€™re talking about in Nigeria, that while I was in London, they waited endlessly for materials with which to prosecute me and nothing came, that the man is already here in Nigeria, that donâ€™t we have laws to deal with him here in Nigeria.Â â€˜We donâ€™t want himâ€™, they said. I was forced by Ribadu to write a letter, voluntarily saying I wanted to go back to London.
I wrote and gave to him, Femi Falana was there when I wrote that letter to Ribadu, he was an eye witness. The letter was taken to the High Commission. The people from the High Commission were invited to Police Headquarters. They were invited to the Villa, they tried to intimidate them to no avail. They refused to grant me visa. It was at that point when they had failed that they brought me to Lagos to begin my trial â€“ before the activists startedÂ complaining.Â That was how I found my way into the EFCC prison in Lagos.
By this time, the operated area had become so bad; my stomach had become infected that I could no longer walk.Â They now took me to a hospital where they opened me up three times to drain all the infections. They again took me to another hospital where the management of the hospital turned down their diabolical plans and the hospital refused to do their bidding. By 5:30 in the morning, without the hospital authorities knowing, EFCC people again came to pick me up to Ibadan, UCH.Â On the way, two of the operatives inside the car sent me a note that sir, where youâ€™re going, youâ€™re going to be poisoned.
Of course we went to Ibadan. A woman who headedÂ one of the departments there saved the situation.Â The woman had knowledge of what was to happen to me and she didnâ€™t want to be part of it. So she came to the hospital very early that morning and created a scene.Â They returned me to the vehicle and brought meÂ to Lagos and this time I wasnâ€™t taken to the hospital but to their cell. Obasanjo now instructed that I should be brought to Abuja and straight to the National Hospital. Of course, the thinking was that the CMD and his own personal physician would do the magic. I donâ€™t want to go into it. Again, it was properly managed and I did not die.
How long did you spend in the EFCC prison?
All together it was about two yearsWould you not agree that certain things were done by you which gave the EFCC the opportunity to swoop on you?Â Or would you say you were pure and perfect or that you didnâ€™t commit any offence?
There is nobody dead or alive that was a governor of a state and would say that everything you did was perfect or pure.
How can I claim to have been perfect or pure? That would be a lie. Every week, you are in the office things just happen that were never planned for. Look at this scenario:Â a lady walks into your office and she is in labour, she has no money to go to the hospital.
Would you say because of procedure, you will allow that woman to die? There are so many things that are unplanned for as a governor that will come your way. I am not saying that Iâ€™m an angel, no. But the questions to ask are: Was I treated fairly? Was the rule of law followed? What if I had died in the process? And all these started because one man called me into his office and said I should support him instead of another, and, thereafter threatened to deal with me.
But the EFCC said that they recovered the sum of N50billion from you?
That was what the EFCC chairman went to tell the Senate and because it was the issue at the moment, even the Senate did not ask questions. How much at that time, was used to float a bank, that somebody, in 2005 would have N50 billion. Was that money recovered in the banking system or was it packed in a warehouse? Now, where is the money? In which account and what is the interest rate?
Nigerians should ask questions? This is 2009, if indeed such an amount was recovered from me, is it not enough time for that type of money to be returned to the state government if indeed I stole the money? I did not work for the Federal Government of Nigeria; itâ€™s supposed to be money belonging to Bayelsa State government. The people need money, N50 billion will at least give them good roads. Is it not time for the EFCC to return the N50 billion to the Bayelsa State government.Â Since that was the money Ribadu claimed to have recovered, let them go and bring it from where they kept it.
They said I have a refinery in Ecuador, I have never been to Ecuador all my life.
Is it not so easy to find out since we have an embassy there. Is it difficult to find out if a non-national can have that type of investment in another country, without knowing the identity? They also said I have a wrist watch that only me and the Sultan of Brunei have. In fact, one barrister kept hammering that I have a wrist watch worthÂ N2.5million and that it was only two of us that have it. So, after the two wrist watches were manufactured, was it that the factory was closed down?Â Did I carryÂ N2.5million to Switzerland or where it was manufactured (a place which I donâ€™t know) to pay there and where is the wrist watch?
How much did you receive as a state governor?
How much did I receive as a governor for six and a half years? I received N255billion. Go to Bayelsa State and audit whether the money was spent there.
What did you return to the EFCC?
Houses I had, I gave them. Let them bring out the money they said they have seen I donâ€™t have money. They should search and say how much money they recovered from me. During my 2003 campaign, I realised N1.75billion from fund raising. The chairman of the fund raising was Major-General Jemibewon (rtd) and everything is on video, who and who gave what. But there was no opposition in Bayelsa then and so, I just spent over N200million. That was the whole money I spent on that election. I felt since my children were not on scholarship, I said let me send the money to them to take care of their school. It was aboutÂ N1.75million.
Then in Nigeria, I had N105million too and they took all of that in one bank. That is the money they said I have stolen. What they (EFCC) did to thatÂ 1.75million was to break it into bits at different times and all those ones were the charges. The number one charge was Chelsea Hotel.Â The hotel was bought by the state government and it was budgeted for. None of the management members of the hotel knew me, I did not negotiate with any of them; it was state investment. We paid N1.5 billion and we said this is what is in the budget and we agreed. In 2006, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as governor then, paid the balance. How then did the hotel become my hotel? That was the number one charge. You can go to the streets of Yenagoa and interview people to ask them: Who was Alamieyeseigha? Anybody that was in Yenagoa between 1999 and 2005 will have something to say about me.
You were in Dubai at some point?
Yes.Â I was also taken to Dubai for treatment. 12 security men were guiding me when I was in Dubai receiving treatment. If I wasÂ going to the toilet, they would follow me.
How long did you stay there?
I was there for about two and a half months.
And the government was paying for all these?
In fact, I was responsible for my hotel accommodation. Sometimes, I would stay in the hospital some times I would go to my hotel room. Some governors came to visit me – Orji Kalu, James Ibori, Lucky Igbinedion, Bafarawa and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Now, Ribadu came to Dubai and generated a letter that I was planning to over throw the government of Nigeria from Dubai and that I was attending parties and all that; that the Dubai government was purported to have written that I was persona non grata and that I should be deported from Dubai immediately.
I was whisked away and brought to Nigeria.Â Â Two weeks after, Ribadu came to me and said â€˜DSP, the level we have gone, I should accept plea bargain. It has been arranged, you will not spend one day in cell.â€™ Of course, I donâ€™t want to mention names, higher powers also intervened. They said to me â€˜DSP, they will kill you the way you are going, if you stay thereâ€™. I was reminded of how the senior Yarâ€™Adua died, I was reminded of how Abiola was killed and nothing has happened. They told me â€˜we need you to be alive, whatever they want, give them and come out.â€™
So, my brother that was how it went.
When last did you speak to Obasanjo?
I saw him not too long ago on a flight. I was going to Dubai and he said he was on his way to Saudi Arabia. He was just behind me. I donâ€™t know how it happened, but he was behind me.
Did you speak to him first or was it the other way round?
He came in and said â€˜Ah, DSPâ€™ and we greeted. He greeted me first and he asked me â€˜where are you going to?â€™ I said I was going to Dubai and I also asked him â€˜Where are you heading to, he said â€˜Iâ€™m going to Saudi Arabiaâ€™.
I said â€˜Mr President, are you not surprised that I am alive talking to you?â€™
What was his response?
He said â€˜DSP, people who did nothing in this world, they killed them for just nothingâ€™.
The Federal government is trying to package amnesty for the militants and as a leader in Niger Delta, what approach would you want the Federal government to take in solving the problems?
The problems by now would have been solved if not for selfish interest groups. When I came out of detention, I had useful discussions with Mr. President, one because he was my colleague. The interest groups you talk about are they the making of past governors or the past federal government or the present governments? Itâ€™s all round. Take bunkering for example, you see these boys that are bringing the big ships from other countries to the Niger Delta to take away our oil, do they have connection with military to bring ships to come and load oil? Who are those bringing those ships? We hear of all these shootings, when there is disagreement on how the proceeds are to be shared.Â Even former military chiefs have vessels to do bunkering.
All this information are available before government. Kidnapping and abductionÂ a new phenomenon. Whatever it is, they have derailed, it is criminality now. But some blame the governors for not taking action. They say how can a government be in place and the boys are operating in the creeks and the governors are helpless?
How can they say they are helpless? Was I not a governor before? Didnâ€™t you hear once I was in London on official delegation of the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Obasanjo called me to return immediately; I did not even check in, I returned to Nigeria, I flew economy to get to Abuja, flew to Port Harcourt and took a helicopter straight to Brass; I went by boat to the high sea. I did 200metres rope climbing to the top of the platform. It was suicidal.
How did you do 200metres rope climbing?Â With this your frame?
Of course, what are you talking?Â I was a military man
Iâ€™had never taken that type of risk in my life.
But you were able to contain the situation?
Of course, I ordered immediate release of the hostage. When they heard that the governor-general had arrived, they stopped what they were doing. How many have I not done? You donâ€™t pay ransom â€“ ransom for what?
This is my country and I know the risks I have taken regarding this so called Niger Delta problem. Obasanjo himself knows
What makes you think that you are more Niger Deltan than me?
My parents are from that region and you say you are fighting for my cause and Iâ€™m the chief executive and I donâ€™t know more than you, that is bullshit.
They have derailed, criminality has set in. How can you kidnap my mother and you say you are fighting for the Ijaw cause. They have gone beyond reason and itâ€™s not acceptable.