It is a long time now that he made this argument in an interview, three full years before he died. But the stalemate on what Nigeria does to corruption before corruption wrecks the country warrants bringing all angles to the table. If the meaning of a statement is never fixed but always open to interpretation and re-interpretation, then what he said many years ago might still add value in terms of an exit strategy, notwithstanding that this is an extract from a 2006 interview.
Not being the entire interview, the questions here do not have such coherence since only those related to his major proposal on corruption have been picked. The full interview has been published on several platforms, the link to which would be found and posted here for those who might want to refresh their memory.
Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo was constantly referred to because he was the president at the time. Those who, therefore, remove his name and put the incumbent would not be doing any injustice to the text. Read on!
That is corruption on a national scale?
Yes, national corruption because there were stories of Nigeria being third most corrupt nation in the world. This did not go down well with people because those stories and the idea of people saying the man is doing well are contradictory to reasoning. The very big matter is that Obasanjo is a reforming Presidency, some would say a crusading President. And the consequence of the reformism created the situation whereby rain water was everywhere but everybody was dry and dying of thirst. Probably Mister President did not know and perhaps still does not know but the truth is that the ordinary Nigerian is a ghost of his old self because of penury. This is the truth. Find out. Even the governors found it difficult to control people’s emotion. In which state did the governor say yes and the people agreed with him? Not one. So, it suffered from the degradation of the economic environment.
The joke is that the Nigerian security can pick the drop of a pin
It is not about whether they are efficient or not. It is about the total psychology at a particular time. Crimes are not committed because criminals are ignorant of the police. The point is that in the light of the fortunes being stashed by individuals and which the government itself has affirmed and also the US Department of State, Transparency International and sundry foreign sources, how can we convince ourselves that transition is going to be anything but war? Think about the guy out there with $10 billion in his account. He wants to be President and he could not have his way. He would organize his way and that prospect means we are faced with a security issue, not just corruption issue.
What is clear to me about the situation is that Nigerians, from 1979 to date have been driving themselves progressively to a cul de sac. There is tremendous pressure in the tunnel and there is no escape route. The ordinary person is getting angrier and angrier. So much so that the primary reaction to any disagreement is violence.
My solution would have been that we have some kind of decided action in 2007. That is that a resolution of the National Assembly would absolve everyone of guilt in all events in our history since January 15, 1966. But this must be conditional on the implementation of a parallel but integral national restitution action. That would require replacement of something like the EFCC with a National Restitution Council with power to work with EFCC as its Secretariat and investigation agency to lay all materials with respect to allegedly hidden or stolen funds and somehow negotiate with those allegedly holding them and agree on a move of returning them, allowing a certain percentage to be retained by the accounts holder, whether foreign or local. The point would be to initiate various legal measures and all kinds of indemnity in association with all actors-from foreign governments, Banks and business houses.
After this exercise, then an Act of absolution in the National Assembly which would mean closing all files including of coup makers but excepting that of rapists, murderers, arsonists.
Is this a critique of EFCC?
EFCC has the problems associated with use of terror as an instrument of control. Every concept that comes to Nigeria develops problem. EFCC is being reduced to Policing. Ribadu is doing his best but we need a broader view of the issue. When you do national restitution, then you can follow with the full force of law.
Who has the moral and political authority to do what you are saying now?
The President of course. It does not take long. He still has almost a year. They have the list already. What follows, if they want to do it, is the negotiation. If a man says this money is not mine and he is prepared to swear to an affidavit that he has nothing to do with anyone doing anything to the money, then an agreement has been reached. The rest would be a matter of details. It may be difficult if foreign actors like businesses or banks are involved but it is not insurmountable. Actually, I am writing a paper on it, trying to develop it.
Do you see Obasanjo going along this line?
I don’t know. I haven’t seen him for a long time to know his position on some of these things. But this is the position I have canvassed since the Civil War. A nation needs it at certain point because you cannot rely on punishment all the time. Even at the National Political Reform Conference, I canvassed it and quite a lot of other people accepted to work on it but for the way the Conference ended.