To fight corruption, Buhari should start with Amaechi-Okurounmu

   Senator Femi Okurounmu is one of the vociferous Yoruba elder statesmen. The Ogun State-born politician, who was in the Senate between 1999 and 2003, chaired an ad-hoc committee saddled with implementing the convening of a national constitutional conference, which eventually held in 2014. In this interview, Okurounmu describes as selective, President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign. He also speaks on the national confab reports, agitation for a state of Biafra and Boko Haram insurgency. Excerpts:
How would you describe the anti-cor- ruption crusade of the present administration?
  Even in the area of fighting corruption, I don’t think he has done as thoroughly as a lot of us expected him to do. Even those of us who did not vote for him, we didn’t vote for
him, not because we didn’t believe in his anti-corruption fight. In fact, every Nigerian believes that we have to fight corruption to a standstill. Until we are able to reduce corruption to a minimum level, this country will not move forward. So we expected
him to really tackle this corruption holistically, not to be selective, and not to be partisan in his approach.
As it is now, he is being very partisan in his approach, he’s being very selective in his approach, and once this is the case, the whole thing loses credibility and before you know it, people will begin to look at it as if we are not really fighting corruption. It appears that, since he got to power, all the emphasis has been on Dasuki. Ninety percent, if not more, of the anti-corruption effort has been
on Dasuki. That is, on the so-called $2.1billion, which they said was approved
for arms purchase but which was diverted for other purposes. I am sure Dasuki is not the only person that has a case; a dozen more people should be investigated and if they are investigated, you’ll find that they are very corrupt. But the emphasis is only on Dasuki. That is very dangerous. A lot of people are already saying that Buhari has a personal grudge against Dasuki. For those who may not know, Dasuki was Aide-de-Camp to (former military President Ibrahim) Babangida when they removed Buhari from
power.                                                                                                                          So, Dasuki might have been one of those who removed him from power; he (Buhari) is now trying to exercise vengeance. That’s what many people are now saying. But in order to disabuse people’s mind, he should go beyond Dasuki. There are so many other people who are corrupt. This Jafaru Isa, who was supposed to be one of his close aides, we haven’t heard much about what they are doing about him. He himself has been accused of being corrupt.
But the probe has not been limited to Dasuki. Many other people admitted they collected money from Dasuki and they were also invited for questioning…
Many of them said they collected money but frankly, between you and I, in politics, when parties are campaigning, all parties spend money for their campaigns. It would be hypocritical for the APC (All Progressives Congress) to say they didn’t spend money for their campaign. They would have spent money on the convention where they nominated Buhari. We know how many billions changed hands to get Buhari to be nominated as the
presidential candidate. Many of our own governors here in the South- West had to contribute money to nominate Buhari. Money that was supposed to be spent on the people, they donated it to the APC, so as to make Buhari the presidential candidate. So that’s why many of them ran bankrupt. Therefore, we know that political parties spent money for campaign and in the case of Dasuki, all those who said they got money from Dasuki, there was no way they could have known what the money was meant for arms. They weren’t getting money from Dasuki as arms money; many of them believed they were getting money from the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party)
How about Chief Olu Falae and many others who were not in PDP?
No, that is not correct; people have alliances. There were several parties, which did not field presidential candidates and adopted Jonathan as their presidential candidate in 2011. I am not talking of 2015 now. For instance, in 2011, even the Alliance for Democracy adopted Jonathan as their presidential candidate and there were at least quite a number of parties, different political parties, which presented candidates for the lower offices but did not field presidential candidates and simply just adopted Jonathan. The same thing happened in this 2015. The SDP (Falae’s Social Democratic Party) said it was not going to field a presidential candidate and they adopted Jonathan as their presidential candidate. So they had to campaign for Jonathan. They needed money to campaign for Jonathan; the PDP owed it to them to give them resources with which to campaign for Jonathan. It’s normal.
“He should not even have made Amaechi a minister. I don’t know if you are aware, but as a journalist, you must be aware that a bank in the United States actually wrote to Buhari telling him that Amaechi had about $757million in his personal name with them”
So are you saying Dasuki should not be prosecuted if he had diverted money meant for arms purchase?
If Dasuki diverted money meant for arms purchase to politics, that is an offence. They should prosecute Dasuki on that. But, for instance, Falae didn’t get money from Dasuki. Falae got it from (Prince Tony) Aneni and Aneni was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP. So, Falae has reasons to believe he was getting this money from the PDP. Same thing with (former Oyo Governor Rashidi) Ladoja. Ladoja had reasons to believe this money was coming from PDP, so that they could campaign for Jonathan. These people have committed no offence. For instance, if Buhari wants everybody to take him seriously, he should have gone after Amaechi; he should not even have made Amaechi a minister. I don’t know if you are aware, but as a journalist, you must be aware that a bank in the United States actually wrote to Buhari telling him that Amaechi had about $757million in his personal name with them, and offered to return the money to Buhari.                                                                                                                            The only explanation that I understood that Amaechi gave was that the money was deposited with his personal name by mistake. That was the only explanation I understood he gave. So far, I have not heard Buhari ask Amaechi, his minister, any question. So, if you are going to fight corruption, you cannot sweep that kind of thing under the carpet. And there are similar cases: if you look at the Halliburton case, the report is right there on Buhari’s desk because it has been on the desk of so many presidents before him. This president could have acted on this report, but because they were not serious enough to fight corruption, they sat on the report. If Buhari wants us to know he is a different person and that he wants to fight corruption, he should pick up that Halliburton report and begin to tackle those people who were mentioned as being involved in that scandal and bring them to book. Then we will know he is really fighting corruption.
What is your view on the current agitation of the Igbo extraction for a return to the Biafra days, over allegations that they have been marginalised in the Nigerian state?
    First, talking of the Presidency that went to the North in 2015, you’ll recall that the North was too determined about it. The North, especially the Fulani, was ready to do anything to see that the Presidency went back to the North, even if it meant fighting for it. The Igbo are grossly maginalised really. But I wouldn’t think the way they are going about it is right; they are not going about it the right way. The whole idea of the National Conference was to rectify all these problems of marginalisation in Nigeria, where it seems some ethnic groups have an advantage over all the other ethnic groups.                    Some ethnic groups see themselves as the ruling ethnic groups, and they see others as their subordinates. And I think we should bring that kind of era to an end. We should now make all Nigerians equal – having the same privileges, the same rights and opportunities in Nigeria.                                                                                                                          This is what the whole National Conference was about. The North did not want it; the Fulani did not want it (National Conference). The North knew they were the ones benefiting from the stethoscope. The present Constitution places the north at a definite advantage over all the other ethnic groups in Nigeria. So anything that tends to say ‘we want to redress this injustice’, the North will resist it. And that is why the North didn’t want a National Conference; they resisted it. When we were having it, the APC was opposed to it. Buhari and his allies in the South-West were opposed to it. They said they didn’t want it now, until they had power. So now, they have more or less neglected all the reports.
Do you have the reports of the national confab?
Of course, I have all the reports. So have the reports been able to address this issue of marginalisation? Definitely, the report of our national conference, if implemented, will take care of all the affairs of marginalisation in the country because each of the zones of the country will have relative autonomy. There will be less of the Boko Haram crisis and less of this Niger Delta agitation. If we are going to be exploiting the mineral resources in your own area, for the benefits of your own people, what will be your complaint? If you are going to have your own police force, if you are going to have your own court of appeal, why would people complain? So in other words, if you dissolve power so that the state has sufficient power in areas of authority, so that they can control their own affairs…all these agitations will stop. The attraction of the centre will reduce because the centre will not have great control over the life of everybody, as it is now.
Now, the centre is so powerful. They have the power to life and death, over the rest of the country. If they don’t want you to thrive, they deny you of everything. They deny you of appointment, like they are doing for the South-East now. If you look at the appointments being made, the South-East is grossly maginalised. We have to be objective to admit that. The National Assembly, as it is, is a product of the present constitution. And the National Assembly is dominated by the North and the North, as I have said, does not want anything that will change its stethoscope. So all our recommendations are not likely to be accepted by the National Assembly. And President Buhari himself is not committed to implementing them. So when you have the executive arm and the legislature not interested in issues, they cannot be implemented. It means we shall be going round in circles.                                                                                         When agitation again gets to a point, they will say ‘let us go again into another conference.’ We all had a chance in 2011 to say ‘let us elect a President who will implerment these actions’, but we chose to do otherwise. There’s a limit to propaganda; if the facts starring you in the face do not contradict the propaganda, the popaganda work, but if you have facts and someone is giving you something contrary to them, that propaganda will not work. No amount of propaganda can tell us they have won the Boko Haram fight because, even the tenacity of the bombing by Boko Haram has become higher under Buhari than Jonathan. Boko Haram was more contained before Jonathan left than now. Every day, we have cases of bombing in Maiduguri, Yola, Yobe and so on. Almost repeatedly, there’s no week without reports of bombings of markets, mosques and homes. So how can you say you have won the war against Boko Haram?