Senator Femi Okurounmu: We warned Tinubu about child rapist Buhari
Senator Femi Okurounmu led the committee that midwifed the 2014 National Political Conference as chairman of the National Conference advisory committee set up by former president Goodluck Jonathan.
In this interview, he assessed the Buhari administration and more, declaring that President Buhari is promoting Northern hegemony. Excerpts
What is your assessment of the Buhari administration?
My assessment is that Buhari administration is going just the way I expected it to go. It’s doing just the things I expected it to do. It’s only those who are not familiar with Nigerian history and Nigerian politics that will be surprised about what is going on now. People like me are not surprised, and that was why we warned our people before the elections about the dangers of voting for the APC in the presidential election, that in the long run, it is not good for Nigeria, it is not good for our people, so I’m not surprised about what is going on.
Clearly, what is going on now shows that Buhari is a president out on a mission, and the mission is to reinstate Fulani hegemony over the whole of Nigeria. We’ve always said that Buhari is a Fulani irredentist. This is not a new posture of his. He has always been so, even in his first coming as Head of State, he behaved the same way. You will remember that when he was fighting corruption as a military Head of State, those who were most persecuted were the UPN governors, the progressive governors of the UPN, NPP and the GNPP. They were the most persecuted, even though they were the least corrupt. Their administration between 1979 – 1983 were most progressive, they achieved the most for their people, but when he took over power, it was they he persecuted the most, so this is not new with him. Every time he has the opportunity, is to reinstate Fulani hegemony. That is what he is doing now. Look at the appointments he has made. The first nine appointments he made, only one was from the South, I’m not talking of Yoruba now, I’m talking of the entire South, all the other eight were from the North.
The subsequent 32 appointments, because we’ve been keeping track, only six was from the South, 26 of those 32 were from the North.
There were six appointments he made yesterday (penultimate Thursday), again only one of the six was from the South. How does one justify that in a country where there are so many ethnic nationalities and the South and the North are almost about equal? Why will the appointments be so preponderantly favouring the North to the disadvantage of the South? Even if you are to say its time to punish those who didn’t vote for him, did the Yorubas not vote for him? The Yorubas under the propaganda of Tinubu and his acolytes kept crying this agenda of change, supporting Buhari, even though we were warning them that the agenda of the APC of North are totally different. The APC of South were making themselves to believe that there will be change, whereas the APC of the North had only one agenda – to reinstate Northern hegemony, to get power back to the North and get the Fulani back in the control of Nigeria. That was the only agenda they had, nothing else. They only exploited the APC in the South so that they could achieve their aim. One would have expected that Tinubu, with his years in politics should have seen it, but because of his selfish interest, his selfish ambition, he couldn’t. He was been driven by selfish ambition and so he went along and supported the agenda which he knows was not going to be in the interest of his own people. I kept reminding him of Afonja of Ilorin who was betrayed by Alimi. Afonja was betrayed by Alimi even though he was the one that sought the cooperation of Alimi because Afonja was trying to rebel against the Alaafin of Oyo. Afonja achieved his purpose, but after achieving his purpose, what happened to him?
Alimi killed him off and took over and the Fulani established their Emirate in Ilorin, and that was how the Yorubas lost Ilorin forever. Tinubu is the modern day Afonja. I remember I wrote this in several papers because I’m not saying this for the first time. What we had anticipated is what we are seeing now.
Don’t you think it was a grave error that an agreement was not reached on power sharing among
the different blocs in the APC?
Tinubu had his own agenda. The agenda of Tinubu was personal, purely personal, and Tinubu was only using the Yorubas to achieve his personal agenda. Tinubu did not understand the Fulani man. He believed he could use Buhari and that once Buhari is in power, he will effectively be in control. That was why I said he doesn’t understand Nigerian politics.
He should have listened to people with more experience. Money is not all you need to do politics, you also need experience. Tinubu underestimated what Buhari will do when he gets to power. He thought he will be dictating to Buhari. He tried to dictate who will be Senate president, he flopped. He tried who will be Speaker, he flopped. Those controlling Buhari are the northern hegemonies, not the Tinubu party.
What is your take on Buhari’s anti- corruption campaign?
The anti-corruption campaign so far, I think it just mere propaganda. I say that for several reasons. One: as a president seriously interested in fighting corruption, you must try to wage a war that must be effective. If you want to try people for corruption, you try them in court, whether they are special courts or regular course. It is the judges who will try these cases, how innocent are our judges of corruption?
There have been so many studies done saying the judiciary is the most corrupt institution in Nigeria. In 1994, there was a committee under the late Justice Kayode Esho that investigated the judiciary which strongly indicted our judiciary, which led to the retirement of so many judges. In 2002, there was another one under Justice Babalakin, which strongly indicted the judiciary. Since then, the judiciary has become even worse, to extent that judges openly lobby to be appointed to election tribunals because elections tribunals have become where people just take money and get judgment. Election tribunals are just cash and carry affairs.
A lot of attempt to fight corruption has been stalled by the judiciary. Between 1999 and 2007, there were several cases of investigations, but they couldn’t prosecute them. Most of the cases in court against these former governors have been stalled by judges. More than 12 cases of governors who have been indicted between 1999 and 2007 are still lingering in the courts because the judges will not give ruling. The first step is to clean the judiciary. The judiciary is filled with corrupt people, and you cannot be passing judgment on corrupt people if you are corrupt. Secondly to fight corruption, we must go back to when corruption became a serious cancer on Nigeria. A lot of people have diagnosed this to mean the Babangida era. It was during Babangida‘s era that corruption became institutionalized.
It became a fad because everybody was doing so, and nobody was punished. It has to go back to the Babangida era which led to the Abacha era. All of us know the extent of corruption under Abacha. Although Abacha is dead, a lot of those who worked with him are still alive. A lot of money stolen under
Abacha are still abroad. The agencies fighting corruption are also very corrupt.
We must go back to Babangida, Abacha, Abubakar administrations and also Obasanjo when we had the 16 billion dollars power contract scam. Nothing was done. After all the noise and fury, it all died down. Nobody was prosecuted, nobody was punished.
Why then is the Jonathan administration being singled out for probe?
Because his mission is to fight Jonathan. Look at a person like Obasanjo in alliance with Tinubu, in alliance with Buhari. Their mission is to fight PDP and Jonathan. If you want to fight PDP, PDP didn’t start with Jonathan.
You have to look at what the PDP did between 1999 and 2007. It was then Obasanjo used the EFCC as a witch hunt instrument against his opponents, and those who were loyal to him could get away with anything. In fact, it was because Obasanjo’s regime was so corrupt, that it became difficult for Yar’Adua to fight corruption. Of course, Jonathan is an extension of Yar’Adua who did not want to become president. He was not interested. The people interested were people like Ibori, Odili and so on. What Obasanjo did was to show them their files, which had been compiled by Ribadu about the extent of their corruption, and threatened them with prosecution.
He said if they did not want to be prosecuted, they should drop their ambition and go and fund Yar’Adua. He made these people to fund Yar’Adua’s election and Jonathan. When Yar’Adua got there, knowing who funded his, campaign, how could he go after these men? Obasanjo made it impossible for Yar’Adua to fight corruption and it now turned to a situation where when Yar’Adua got to power, those who were always hanging out with him were the Iboris and the corrupt clique within the Obasanjo administration. If you are going to fight corruption, these are the people you have to go after. Nigeria should have seen that Yar’Adua’s not fighting corruption was due to the way Obasanjo imposed him and made corrupt people to fund his campaign.
Don’t you think the Buhari’s emergence is similar since his election had to be sponsored by politicians?
In fact, look at the leader of the APC, Nuhu Ribadu when he was still active as the EFCC Chairman in 2010, appeared before the National Assembly during plenary to give them a list of governors that had been indicted. He made a special reference to Tinubu that his own was of international dimension. So, if you are going to start fighting corruption,
certainly, you cannot leave Tinubu out. Ribadu has the files on a lot the governors in APC. If you say the PDP was corrupt, how come its leaders came from PDP? If they were corrupt in PDP, did they become saints an soon as they joined APC? They were all in the same camp with Jonathan but because of their Northern agenda, they crossed over to the APC. A lot of people in APC today will have to lose their shirts if Buhari is going to really fight corruption. Amaechi and Tinubu should be some of the first to be probed and jailed.
But we learnt there is no documented evidence to probe Tinubu
That was not Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC.
The EFCC as I’ve said is also corrupt.
Let them call Ribadu and ask him.
Even all of us in Lagos State know the extent of Tinubu’s corruption. We knew what Tinubu was worth in 1999.
Today, he has three private jets. We can even start by asking him the source of the funds for those private jets. He has almost acquired the whole of Lagos
How was he able to acquire all those properties without any trace of corruption?
These are questions, that must be asked. Tinubu could have been jailed in 1999. All the schools he claimed to have attended in his INEC form were fake. He was guilty of all those things Gani Fawehinmi alleged.
You belong to the Afenifere which backed Tinubu for governor; don’t you think you should share part of the blame?
Afenifere supported him to be governor.
Afenifere people are not all saints.
Tinubu turned out to have been the black sheep within the Afenifere. No sooner had Tinubu become governor than he turned against Afenifere. He turned against Baba Adesanya, He turned against Adebanjo. He turned against the whole organization, and he led a rebellion of his fellow governors, because they now had money, and you know in Nigeria, everybody follows whoever has money. Tinubu betrayed Afenifere. He was a rebellious Afenifere man. All the problems in Yoruba land
today was due to Tinubu’s rebellion.
That was what split the unity of Yoruba land that has continued till today.
You midwifed the national conference, can you tell us your experience?
My experience is that naturally; those
who benefit from the status quo would not want a change. The reason many of us have been crying over the years,
including Tinubu was to stop Northern hegemony, the idea of first class citizenship and second class citizenship, where some people would think they are born to rule and others are born to serve. Everybody was feeling that this was inequitable. Not only that. A lot of power was concentrated in the Federal Government. So whoever controls the Federal Government more or less has a strangle hold on everybody else in the society, and that is why the competition for president, was always so severe, and that was why the North always wanted to hold on to the presidency.
So, these are some of the reasons for asking for a national conference to restructure, to decentralize, so that all powers does not reside in the center.
A lot of the power can be devolved on the federating units so that the struggle for the centre will become less severe, less cantankerous, and the idea of born to rule will be removed, so that all of us can have a sense of equity, sense of justice.
These are some of the reasons why many of us have been advocating for a national conference. In fact, all of us in Yoruba land, including Tinubu were advocating for it, but when Tinubu saw that there is a personal advantage for him to back the Hausa/Fulani people, who did not want a national conference, all of a sudden the national conference was not necessary. That it was a diversion. He was speaking on his own immediate advantage, thinking that if they get to power, he will become very powerful. Because of this, he changed his course, turning around to oppose the conference.
He was only aligning himself with the North because the North have always been the ones opposing the conference. If you look at the constitution we operate today, it is a constitution tailor – made to promote Northern hegemony, to make the North dominate the rest of us. Starting from when Gowon had 12 states, six in North, six in the South and Awolowo was his lieutenant. There was justice.
There was every reason to create those 12 states so that they could get the support of the minorities for the war effort. It was done in a fair and equitable manner, but as soon as the military hegemonies took over, they began to destroy things until finally, they started creating local governments and today, the North has 200 local governments more than the South, and those local governments became a basis for revenue sharing and representation in parliament.
Even in terms of 19 and 17 states, they have an advantage because each state has the same number of senators, and when you get to the House of Representatives, they have bigger advantage because Kano State alone has representatives than three states combined. The constitution was tailor–made to favour the North. That is why the North has never supported any national conference.
That was why when Jonathan finally agreed to have a national conference, the North opposed it. That was surprising. What was the national conference. It was a betrayal, a betrayal of the Yoruba people.
Don’t you think the conference timing was rather late?
You know we have been fighting for something for more than 30 years. There have been several presidents before Jonathan. We made presentations to them, they did not listen, including Obasanjo. Finally we found a president who finally agreed to carry it out. You cannot say because of the timing, therefore it’s wrong. If that is what we want, any timing is good timing, provided we will solve Nigeria’s problem once and for all. If we solve the problems, generations will still be having elections and those elections will be on the basis of equality. Before Jonathan, we made presentations to them, they did not listen. Finally, we found a president who listened and who finally agreed to carry it out.
You cannot say because of the timing, therefore, it’s wrong. If that is what we want, any timing is timing, provided we will solve Nigeria’s problem once and for all. If we solve the problem, generations will still be having elections and those elections will be the basis of equity and justice for all Nigerians. If we don’t solve that problem we have now, we will have to conduct elections without carrying out the recommendations of the conference.
Now we are back to square one in the terms of ethnic domination, back to the problem of suspicions among one another. These are the things that create instability. It is not only Boko Haram that can create instability. Once other sections of the country feel they are being oppressed, they are marginalised, they too will begin to organise mini rebellion. The instability will multiply around the country. Instead of us solving the causes of instability once and for all, we are engaging in the causes of instability. That is what is happening.
How were you able to face criticisms, especially from the northern axis while carrying out your assignment?
Well, I’m not new in politics. I worked with Awolowo. I cut my political teeth under Chief Obafemi Awolowo. As soon I took up the assignment, I already knew what the position of the North would be, what their stand would be, so I was prepared, fully prepared. Fortunately, we already had some kind of accommodation between the South-east and South-south. We were already meeting under the umbrella of the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly.
The Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly visited Jonathan several times on the issue of the national conference before he finally gave in. Because we had this meeting point, we were not as divided as in previous conferences. We were able to adopt some common points of view for the South, just the same way the North is always together. Not only was the South together, we were able to get some elements within the Biddle-Belt. The Middle- Belt are the most persecuted people in this country. They are in the North, but they are being persecuted by the Fulani people of the North.
Their own persecution is worse than that of us in the South. They cannot complain. If they do, they get persecuted even more. It’s like a slave complaining against his master. Because of that they supported us in the South, and because of that alliance between the South and middle-belt, we were able to get most of the recommendations that will be for the better governance of this country, recommendation, that will devolve power, ensure equity, that will decentralize the Federal government; that will foster equity; that will foster justice, and give more power to the states. All these we were able to do at the national conference, but the North was opposed to them. The North wanted the conference to collapse because they couldn’t have their way, still we did not allow them to. That made them more determined that power must return to the North.
With all these strides, how did you feel when President Buhari said he would not implement the outcome of the national conference?
As I have said, I knew from the word go, that if he wins, he will not implement it. That was why towards the elections we organized a strong campaign that Jonathan is only the candidate of all the candidates who will implement the resolutions of the national conference. (Gov) Mimiko led that campaign and we all rallied round him.
We held several meetings around Yoruba land, to let our people know that because we have been the ones championing this national conference, we finally got a president who listened to us, we had the conference, it was very successful, we have achieved most of our objectives, if we vote for Buhari, we are going to throw away all that we have achieved, whereas if we vote for Jonathan, he has committed himself to implement these resolutions.
Of course, the people are always right, our people decided they will vote for Buhari because of the Tinubu propaganda machinery, because of the money. Unfortunately, people cannot distinguish between news and propaganda. Tinubu is able to control the media network throughout the country. Almost every newspaper editor is in his pocket. He dishes out what he wants people to hear, and everybody who reads them thinks this in the news. Everybody was carried away by the change mantra, and we all voted for Buhari, so this is where it has got us.
What are the lessons from all these?
The lesson is that people must always know their history. Today, a lot of those in school don’t even know what happened twenty years ago, and there is no nation where people don’t know their history and make progress. In every Jewish school, they are taught the history of second world war, how Jewish people swere persecuted in Europe, how six million Jews were killed. Every Jewish boy knows that. If you go to America today, and you want to become an American citizen, they will give you an exam. If you don’t pass it, they won’t give you citizenship.
When you talk of Buhari’s record as Head of State, how many voters were mature then to know what happened, so it’s easy to deceive people. That is the problem. Our people don’t know history
Any regrets about the national conference?
No regrets at all because the report is there. We have made the effort. There is a saying that once you try, you try and try again.
We shall keep making the efforts until we die, but if we die, subsequent generations will take up the struggle. The struggle must continue until we achieve a Nigeria where everybody feels there is no ruler, there is no servant, and of us are equal citizens. That must be the ultimate goal. I have no regrets at all.