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Death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua : Why Obasanjo Forced Him On Nigeria, by Usman Bugaje (2)

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Dr. Bugaje

* Obasanjo deceived Nigerians  for seven years
* Insists Nigeria is a failing state and ….

This is the second part of the Dr. Usman Bugaje interview. The first was published last Sunday. Dr. Bugaje is the national secretary of the Action Congress, AC. In this concluding part, Bugaje speaks on Obasanjo’s style of governance and the cabal which the late President Umaru Yar’Adua “imported” to the Presidential Villa, Abuja from Katsina. He also offers “the real reasons” why former Chief Obasanjo, foisted Yar’Adua on the nation, insinuating, perhaps, that it was a sinister agenda which only Obasanjo knew about. Sample:  “We also heard that when he was presented with two state governors, another governor and Yar’Adua, he asked for their medical records. He then was said to have asked his own medical doctors who between the two had a worse medical record. “And it turned out from their findings that it was Yar’Adua who had a worse medical report and then he said ‘Ah! That is the man I want’, And I think he was more like let the man die. “In fact, there are those who say because of the constitutional provision which says that when a presidential candidate dies before election the election should be postponed, you remember; that he was hoping the man would….”

By Jide Ajani , Deputy Editor

When you were in Aso Rock Presidential Villa, you would have noticed some of the things that the then President Olusegun Obasanjo was doing that showed that the direction he was heading might not bode well for Nigeria?  You have always been known to complain even while you were in the Villa?
Let me start with the policies – when he first came in, he had a lot of energy and lots of ideas.

You are saying Obasanjo had lots of good ideas?

Yes, Obasanjo had lots of good ideas.
You know when he was out of power, he organized this Africa Leadership Forum, ALF, thing and he was always invited around the world to give lectures and he was part of many think-tanks.  So the experience and the exposure level was very high.

He was also on top of the situation and whenever he received visitors in his Otta Farm and people saw him in his adire attire and they tried to say the thing fitted him very well and it looked wonderful, he used to abuse them and described such people as sycophants.

We were all very encouraged and he started very well.  In fact. I will say Obasanjo started very well up to his first year because he was really up and running. But, I noticed from after the first year that the man was not what he said he was. We started seeing these signs but I just don’t want to speak on specific things because I was a party to a government but let me give indication.

One of the things I noticed was that – and some of you may remember – his priority was agriculture, agriculture and agriculture.  He always said his three priorities were agriculture, agriculture and agriculture.

But I remember that the total amount of money the agriculture ministry was receiving during that period never rose beyond N10billion – go and check it.  It was always in that region but at that same time, even the ministry of information was getting about N70billion.

My first concern was to wonder why money was going elsewhere and when he was confronted with this question his typical response was that ‘no, you don’t understand, ministry of water resources is also part of agriculture, ministry of this is also agriculture, ministry of that is also agriculture.  Meanwhile, the research institutes under the ministry of agriculture were literally dead. They were only paying salaries but unable to do extensive research work; and even the work they did, they could not share their findings with other agencies. I discovered that there was a whole world of difference between what he said and what he did. Later on, I discovered that there were efforts he was making to sideline the agreed well known processes to do certain things behind us.

When you say us, who constituted the us?
I mean the team in Aso Rock at that time.
He would never consult and whenever we confronted him, he would never give any tangible reason and after we tried to find out why about four times, it became a pattern. These were some of the things I saw and by the time it came to the re-election period, the question of him taking another vice president came up and when he was to declare for his second term, he chose to do it when his deputy was out of the country.  People had to talk to him and convince him. People reminded him that you were just a technocrat that was brought in; it was this same deputy of yours that was doing all the politics because even at that time you did not even win your own local government and it was your vice president who was doing all the work; that you can not do that. We also saw that Obasanjo started gravitating towards the Abacha politicians and we became worried because we knew what the dangers were.

Abacha people?

You know them (one of them was recently dropped as a minister). You remember these Abacha people became very prominent in his government. We were even surprised that he gravitated towards them because these were the same people who wanted Abacha to continue for life and if Abacha had continued for life where would Obasanjo be?  Today, some people even say that Obasanjo was worse than Abacha, I have not done my own analysis to come to that judgment but when I have the time I would look at it critically and decide.  But the fact of the matter is that the public perception had gotten to that level.

Your fellow Katsina man, Yar’Adua was picked by Obasanjo as a successor.  This talk about northerners not being interested in serving the people well, when you place that beside the actions of some people whom Yar’Adua brought from Katsina into Aso Rock, their manner of ruling Katsina which they attempted to use as a template to rule Nigeria, how does that make you feel as a northerner?
Firstly that statement about northerners is not fair and it is not scientific, neither is it helpful.

But I’m sure you’ve heard people say that?

Yes.  But it is not scientific. I don’t think it is fair. Now, remember the processes Obasanjo adopted in choosing Yar’Adua.  He kept promising people. The story we heard, rightly or wrongly, was that Obasanjo wanted a man who was never going to perform in the first instance. We also heard that when he was presented with two state governors, another governor and Yar’Adua, he asked for their medical records. He then was said to have asked his own medical doctors who between the two had a worse medical record. And it turned out from their findings that it was Yar’Adua who had a worse medical report and then he said ‘Ah! That is the man I want’. And I think he was more like let the man die.

In fact, there are those who say because of the constitutional provision which says that when  presidential candidate dies before election the election should be postponed, you remember; that he was hoping the man would die during the campaign period and then elections would be postponed and then he would play his politics and probably still get his Third Term.  May be that was what he wanted to do. But as for Umaru, he was never known to attend events as his colleagues did in PDP did when he was a state governor – this was well known to people; he didn’t have that network; he didn’t really know the country, he schooled in Lagos at some point but he was more like a recluse and may be this were some of the things Obasanjo saw in Yar’Adua and his inability to relate.

If you look at the people around him, they were ruling Nigeria as if they were ruling Katsina State. I don’t want to get into the pettiness of who has done what or who did not do what, these were parochial. And when we said and pointed out these things people thought it was because of elections.

I always tell people that even in Katsina State where he spent eight years he could not provide water for Katsina metropolis; which type of administration was that.

So, how do you see Nigeria getting out of this mire – economic, political, social and all that.  And even those Nigerians expect to bail them out are not sincere?
At the moment, there is no other option other than democracy. We should build our democratic institutions and the starting point would be the political parties. You can not fix this country except we fix the political parties that will then go on to lead the government.

There could be other ways but what I can see is that people should be conscious of ensuring that democracy is entrenched so that parties would be driven by big ideas and not by big men. We can do it and I believe if we are committed, we can achieve that greatness.  We have the manpower; it may take us longer but that is the only way I can see.  I do not know what shortcuts other people have, but that is what I know. Whenever the military came, they rule and whenever they are leaving, they give power to their own lackeys whom they have helped to make money.  This process of moving away from them requires a process of gradually dropping those vestiges.

If we try to sabotage the process or do it some other way we may run into problem but we must keep focus and vote the PDP and the corrupt elements out, where more enlightened citizens would take over for the good of all.

Some people say Nigeria is a failing state?
Of course, Nigeria is on the path of failing.  The indices are there. In the classification of 2009, Nigeria was classified as number 15 out of the 20 failing states.  The lower you are the better your position.  In 2003, we were not on the list. From 2004, 2005, 2006, we started featuring on the list of failing states.  We are not a failed state yet but we are on the path. We can just make one mistake and we move from there to Somalia.

These organizations use real figures from credible sources and not just something they just conjure.

Back to Atiku Abubakar’s issue:  The curious thing Nigerians would want to know is why is Atiku back in PDP and what are you still doing in AC – people see him as you political mentor, you worked with him as Adviser when he was Vice President and some even insist your fight with Obasanjo was all about Atiku.  Why are you in AC and he, in PDP?
Well, I think people who want to know are the people who do not know me enough. I decide on my own what I want to do. I have my own mind. And I do not do the politics of godfather.

Why don’t alliances work in Nigeria?
I’m happy you did not talk about merger.

I will come to that?
Okay, when you merge you become one political party – you may lose your identity along the line and settle for a new name. Electoral alliance is where two independent parties agree to field a common candidate for an election.
In theory, it is very okay because party A may have a better candidate than party B and party B might find it expedient to support the candidate of party A and help it succeed than going into that election that it might not win on its own. In reality, however, the problem is the problem of greed because people often do it for the power to want to grab and not for the good of producing the best possible person for the job or for the good of the country and the candidate usually put forward is not put forward because he has a better pedigree than the other but most times because that candidate, in the Nigerian context has a better chance of winning.

I think it is the greed and lack of the higher principle of the common good that never anchors whatever politicians usually want to do.

AC just backed out of a merger arrangement which would have produced a mega-party.  Why did AC back out?
I have read a lot about the mega party and there is a lot of confusion. Even our National Democratic Movement, NDM, is sometimes referred to as the mega party. Let me tell you how the mega party started.  It started sometime in April last year.

That was when politicians like Lateef Jakande, Anthony Enahoro, Olu Falae, Senator Sikiru Shitta-Bey, Ayo Adebanjo and of course, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was there, somebody was there to represent Bola Tinubu.  That process stalled; I was part of it and we attended about a dozen meetings, most of them in Lagos and a few of them in Abuja here.  It stalled and it’s not that we left it; it was more of it left us.

There was a time when people started thinning out was when we got to one of our meetings in Lagos.
Seven committees were created and chairmen and secretaries were proposed by the secretariat which was run by Olu Falae and Wale Okunniyi. First, out of those seven chairmen, four of them were all from the South West. When they brought out the list of secretaries, out of seven secretaries, six of them were all from the South West. At that point people felt that the leadership of the secretariat has lost itself because it could not see the big picture, it could not see beyond the South West and people started withdrawing. Again, we stayed for a very long time with them pointing out these things and again, minutes of meetings read showed that decisions taken were not being implemented and in fact at some stage, things were being done that were not taken as collective decisions and at that stage, people lost confidence in the whole thing and people actually dashed off. It was in fact because we had written off the mega party idea that we started the idea of the NDM.

We said in the NDM process, we were going to be tactical in picking the major stakeholders and getting their commitment to see the process through and this was why we had two meetings in Kaduna between the northern politicians, including General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, they gave us their assurances.  They came to Abuja and then had another meeting where they now met with other politicians from other parts of the country.

The politicians had zonal representation and we continued until two presidential candidates left and we in AC and DPP and others from the integrity group in the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, remained and we are still together. We are merging and we are going ahead.

But when you have Buhari and Atiku leaving the mega arrangement, what is left?  In Nigeria people are looking for the big names and with their absence how do you hope to build momentum?
We may have lost one battle, but we are winning the war. We will remain consistent to our principles.

People will like to know why they left.

They will tell you if you ask them why they left. What we know is that this platform was built for the common good.  We built it to fight the PDP and stop the rot in the polity. That is the issue and we are still fighting against that rot. I will not want to talk about the big men in our party. We want to take the whole country away from the politics of big names to the politics of big ideas.  What Nigeria needs now are those big ideas that can turn the country around for the better. The big men become a problem so often.  We may not achieve that overnight but we have to start.  We are less worried about the big men but we want the bid ideas. Nigerian society is not as sheepish as it often appears and people are becoming more aware and the middle class is becoming more aware of what it is supposed to do.

We want Nigerians to join other forces but not necessarily the merger. We know the people we have and we do not value them because they are big men or because they have deep pockets; we value them because of the ideas they are bringing to the table and what they stand for.  We value them because they are committed to ensuring that Nigeria becomes a better place for all of us; people with the idea of the future. It is not like the PDP where peoples concern usually is about the four-year tenure, to make as much as they want and that is why when they want to steal they steal big.  They can not see Nigeria in 25 years.  They are incapable of seeing this country 25 years, 30 years on.

You are still talking about a merger at a time like this.  This problem the opposition almost always boxes itself into is such  that they do too much talking and they meet too much.  At the end of the day, there is little or no time for mobilization and yet, the opposition would come out crying blue murder that its votes have been stolen whereas it did not mobilize or campaign?

I get the point; and I will explain what AC is doing. In terms of the mobilization you talked about, we are also concerned.

But in many places, even as we are working on the merger coming through, the actual merger is taking place at the state level – in Kwara, in Kebbi State, in Katsina and in many other states where people on their own have actually proceeded to get this thing to be done.

The people at the grass roots level are more aware of this thing you are asking and it is because they are at the grass roots and they are aware that other political parties are doing their own thing but because of the commitment of our people, they have been able to hold their own and are already doing their own merger preparatory to the big one that we are working out its details here in Abuja.  They are even the ones piling the pressure and I understand the point you have made.  Awareness is very important.

One of the things we are expected to do is educate and enlighten the people.
It is part of the programme of AC to expedite action at the local level to make sure that we go to even market days, create our own stalls, talk to people about their rights, what they need to do for their future and elections, how not to allow people intimidate them and so on. Although there are some other things that we would have liked to do but resources too are not as much.

What name would this your new party be known as?
It would be the same Action Congress, AC but with a slight modification. The broom will remain.
We have AC, some PDP leaders, then the ANPP integrity group.  We also have some of the smaller parties who want to be part of a bigger party but definitely not the PDP.

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