Tuesday, August 24, 2010

IBB: The Enigma

Below is an interview that IBB gave AIT a few weeks ago. In this case, we will allow you to form your opinion on IBB. May I add that I am impressed by his intelligence. In the last 12 years we have had a heartless and selfishly intelligent President (OBJ), and a pure-hearted but not so intelligent President (Yar'adua).

1. Why do you wish to return to power?

It is not unusual for leaders to wish to return; it is common knowledge and common practice in democratic countries all over the world. My right to contest (to vote and be voted for) is guaranteed by the Constitution. I am free to exercise this right. (it is simply not right for anybody to use his or her constitutional right to deny me or abort my own constitutional and democratic right). I also have moral and social rights to contest any elections in the country – local, state and national elections. Over the years I have developed a stock of new ideas based on experience, knowledge and deep reflection on the state of the nation. I am an advocate of “new breed” politics defined by agenda, program, leadership and mindset, and not necessarily by age. As a tested hand with experience, grasp and national outreach to confront the immense challenges facing the nation and to stabilise the ship of state. I am a member of a political party; we are in a democracy for which I worked hard to build and sustain. No one can fault or doubt my experience; I claim a good level of hindsight, insight and foresight, even national outreach as well as determination to build on well known and documented achievements in the past. As a national figure to foster the bonds of national unity – one of the critical challenges of the country. From across –the- country findings, an excellent pool of Nigerians believe in and trust that our knowledge, experience, personal profile and outreach are needed to reposition and consolidate the country’s economy, social structures and political processes.

2. Dele Giwa’s assassination

It is unfortunate that it happened, more so under our leadership at the time. However, the Supreme Court heard the case of Chief Gani Fawehinmi application to compel a trial of two officials of our administration. The two officials who were wrongly accused or suspected of involvement were never charged to court, any court for trial because of lack of evidence. IBB was only President at the time, and was never indicted personally; neither was any member of his government One of those wrongly accused or suspected has provided written accounts of what happened – published in a book which is available to the general public. A high ranking Police officer and and respected crime investigator (now retired) has published his own findings in a book also available to the general public. We gave full support to the investigation by the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.


3. Annulment of June 12 (1993) Election

It was an unfortunate event in our history. As President at the time I take full responsibility for the annulment. But I must say, with due moral, constitutional and social responsibility that the decision was based on what in our estimation was in the highest national interest. It bears lessons for me and for the nation.

4. Structural Adjustment Programme and its consequence

This was a programme of fundamental economic and social reform. The country was in a bad economic situation before we came in. Nigerians would recall the traumatic experience of queueing for “essential commodities” (essence!). Just before the Second Republic was overthrown on December 31, 1983, there were negotiations with the country’s major economic and trading partners on reopening credit lines which were blocked; these negotiations were to be facilitated principally by reaching an agreement with IMF on a standby arrangement on its loan facility and conditionality. The regime that preceded mine which overthrew the Second Republic continued to try to improve the resources for national economic management through various policies,, including more stringent budget measures; use of counter-trade arrangements (“trade by barter”), rearrangement of the country’s overdue debt obligations and negotiations with the IMF; that regime eventually discontinued the “negotiations. The situation clearly posed an impasse for Nigeria as: The country’s finances were in a parlous state; Credit lines, essential for commerce and physical imports, remained blocked as creditors were not ready to reopen them; Imports from our trading partners (nations) were off cover by the official export credit agencies; The country had lost its international credit worthiness; The country needed to embark upon contingent measures and policies such as: Privatization and commercialization of public enterprises Deregulation of banking and other financial institutions, aviation (airlines), telecommunications and broadcasting (radio and TV), etc; Improved external debt management Establishment of the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) for the control and oversight of banking and finance. As with most reform policies of any government, there were unintended hardships resulting from genuine measures to salvage the economy. Government did a lot to cushion some of the effects through a number of institutions and programmes such as settlement of outstanding debts to contractors and salary arrears, prompt payment of salaries, introduction of the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), Peoples Bank, community banks, NERFUND, National Directorate for Emloyment (NDE), Better Life Programme for Rural Women, Urban Mass Transit Programme, etc. It should be noted that before SAP, the country was at the edge of an economic precipice with dire political and social consequences. Oil, our major export commodity, was then being sold for as low as $11.00 per barrel, and even then it was difficult to find buyers. We organized a national debate on the IMF loan. SAP was agreed on by the experts we consulted. Consequently, we introduced an economic reform whose key elements were: budget reforms abolition of import licences liberalisation of access to foreign exchange through introduction of the Second –tier Foreign Exchange Market (SFEM) financial and banking system reform including liberalization of access to credit, and of many credible “new generation banks” abolition of commodity marketing boards. It should be noted that the economic reform programme (SAP) inaugurated a paradigm shift in the economic management and economic history of our country – from government dominated and controlled economy to the “expansion and deepening of the private sector economy”. Our foresight on SAP prepared the national economy and society for the new paradigm of globalization and primacy of market-driven economies, and for acquisition of new management skills, etc.

5. Corruption and its sociology

Corruption in government or by officials in government has been long standing problem in Nigeria. It was there during the First Republic. The first military coup d ‘etat was largely justified on the basis of allegations of corruption among past political leaders and public officials in that era. Regrettably, corruption is still very much with us and we need to curb it. Specifically on our last government, we inherited a system in which corruption was rife. The perception that our government was corrupt or that it institutionalized corruption”, whatever the phrase means, is grossly incorrect. First institutions and measures were established or under-taken by our Administration to fight corruption such as NDLEA, an anti- economic sabotage unit in the SSS, an economic intelligence unit in the Defence Intelligence Agency. We also strengthened the Police Force Special Fraud Unit. Second, any member of our government who was indicted or found guilty of corruption was brought to book. Finally, on the issue of my personal wealth, I want to state for the record that I am one of the most investigated former leaders of this country, and 17 years after leaving office I have not been indicted for corruption or misappropriation of public funds.

6. “Maradonna”, “Evil Genius”; Issue of Trust or Trustworthiness; “Transition (agenda) without end”; Credibility

These issues and appellations were ascribed to me by others, especially my relentless critics. I have never described myself or our Administration in any of those terms. When people make reference to drawn- out programmes of socio-economic transformation and political transition which we embarked on, they deliberately ignore the lesson of our determination to establish a stable political system; the transition agenda was based on expert advice, had to be gradual to ensure some experience and learning, and with measures to establish best practices. Yes it took long. Yes, there were changes. However, because it was geared towards far-reaching transformation of social, economic and political processes and attitudes, the programme needed appropriate adjustments from time to time. Yet, the focus remained the same. (in fact, it was only twice that the date of handover was formally adjusted- from October, 1990 , as the original date to October, 1992 as advised by the Political Bureau and accepted by the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) , and to January, 1993. It was the confusion arising from the conduct of party primaries for presidential aspirants in late 1992 to February 1993 that led to the election being held by June 12, 1993. Above all, it was a military regime at the time. Today we have a democratic regime based on rules and regulations, as well as codes and norms to which I fully subscribe.

7. Failure to appear before Oputa Panel

First, my lawyers appeared before the panel on my behalf and made definite requests to enable me to appear personally, including assurances about security and confidentiality. Unfortunately, these guarantees were not given and I had no option than to turn down personal appearance. Second, I got the intimation that the government at the time was trying to use the white paper on it to intimidate opponents and cast aspersions on my person. We were constrained to go to court to restrain this political and potentially partisan use of the report. The court upheld our prayers and protected my constitutional right, freedom and liberty.

8. “Oil Windfall” – Okigbo Report

All sorts of figures have been mentioned. Strictly speaking, the so-called “oil windfall” receipt in the Okigbo Panel Report was barely $2 billion in the Stabilization Account, not $12.4 billion. As a person and as a President, I was not indicted in any way; in fact, IBB was never personally inferred in the report. The report only said that the fund could have been applied to more productive or regenerative uses like agriculture, more debt repayment, etc. but in our judgement as the government of the day, it was also important to support some worthy causes of national interest such as ECOMOG; development of Abuja, the new FCT; provide more appropriate support for Nigerian embassies abroad; and meet certain defence and security imperatives. (see the IBB Centre’s advertorial on this matter in several newspapers, e.g. This Day, Thursday, June 10, 2010; Vanguard, Thursday, June 10, 2010).

So what do you think? You have to admit though, you would rather have him on BBC HardTalk...


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