•South Easterners their own worst enemies’
Recently, Ambassador Aminu Wali, Nigeria’s former Foreign Affairs Minister was discharged by a Federal Court over allegations of money laundering leveled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In this interview, he spoke about his pains and disappointment and the need to further redeem his reputation, especially in the international circle. He also spoke about the insecurity in the North, the crisis in the PDP in Kano State, his disagreement with Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the problem with Igbo president in 2023, the courting of former President Goodluck Jonathan by members of the All Progressives Congress and many more. He spoke with DESMOND MGBOH in his residence in Kano.
Let me say congratulations over your recent acquittal by a Federal High Court in Kano. How do you feel about the entire judgement?
I feel vindicated. I feel that at the end of the day, I have been vindicated. Through out my life, I have never been accused of anything unbecoming. I have held so many positions of public trust and I have never been found wanting in whatever I do. And I had served my country in various capacities and thank God, at last I have been vindicated by this court’s judgement. I believe that those that knew me, knew that in the first place that it was a farce. Those that don’t know me, the court has told them the kind of person that I am. I thank God for clearing me and clearing my name. The only thing that is to be done is to see how best I can clear my name internationally- because of the fact that in the course of my life, I have come across a lot of people, not only nationally but internationally. And this is something that affected me so much when I was accused of something that I knew wasn’t true. But like I said, I thank God. I now have all the time in the world to get this thing corrected. I hope that those that accused me would make efforts, on their own, to still continue to clear my name, which by their actions, had been tarnished across the globe.
Drawing from your experiences as someone who was once accused, how do you see the anti – corruption fight of the present government? Is it really doing so much?
I think it has adopted a wrong approach from the start … The integrity in a person is not enough to run a clean government. You need to understand every aspect of life before you can succeed. Yes, Buhari has made his name as Mr. Integrity, but of course, he was here before as a military Head of State. He made his mistakes. I would think that given that benefit, he would not repeat the same mistake. He has not been able to expand his horizon to encompass all the problems that are facing Nigeria. Secondly, I also blame some of the people that are supposed to be his advisers- because nobody can claim a monopoly of knowledge to governance. You must have some aides, assistants and people close to you that can be able to tell you things the way they are and to guide you- because there is nobody who is an expert in everything. As the head of the government, you rely mainly on your advisers- ministers, advisers and friends and all sorts of people can be able to contribute. But the fight against corruption should have been holistic. Any politician that is accused of one thing or the other, ninety -nine per cent of these politicians, when they come into office, are very clean people. But when they got elected into office; that is when the problem starts. Unless and until you understand the system and you are prepared to maintain your integrity, there are people, who are already in the system, that are ready to compromise you. So when I say holistic, it is to now first of all look at the pubic service itself. That is where every corrupt politician learns the act of corruption. If you are going to win the fight against corruption, you have to start by holistically looking at the system. Yes, people that have erred, you don’t protect them. Go after them. But those that connived with those people that erred, they, too, should also be brought to justice.
But today, to be a politician for any decent human is shameful- because the perception of the people is that once you are a politician, you are there to steal. Thank God, some of us were able to be properly grounded, independent, self -subsisting and comfortable even before we got into politics. And that is what hurts. I know I worked my way and very hard for whatever I am today. I thank God that there is nothing to entice me in the public service that would make me succumb to the whims and caprice of those people that are entrenched in the system to try and push people to do what is wrong. I have been content and I thank my God.
If you look well, you will notice that APC leaders are becoming attracted to former President Goodluck Jonathan -the attention, the praises and all of that. What is your take to this sudden love from a group of people that vilified all of you before?
Well , for me, I have tremendous respect for Goodluck Jonathan. He is a perfect gentleman, a true Nigerian and a patriot. But of course, he made his own mistakes – not he as a person. But by now, I believe that he knows those that gave him the wrong set of advice on some of the decisions that were taken during his tenure. I served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and I had my faults, but I was able to eschew those faults- so long as it did not go into the province of corruption or a deliberate act to sabotage or subvert the activities of government. We have had all accusations while we were in government. They even said that the Boko Haram was being funded or promoted by Jonathan. But now the people know better. Jonathan is a very decent human being, which we all know. Some of us that worked closely with him, we know he has been a very, very patriotic Nigerian, who wanted to move the country forward. Number two, the way Jonathan operated, if the incoming administration had adopted some of his policies, particularly the almajiri schools, this insecurity that we are having in Northern part of Nigeria would not have been what it is today, because the major problem that we have in the North is these millions and millions of these kids roaming around in the name of Quranic schools, with no training and no care from anybody. Once they left their homes, they are on their own. Their Mallams don’t even know where they are or where they sleep and that is what creates the society that we have today. These kids or these grown – up kids do not have any sort of training. Even the Quranic schools that they had attended, they never learnt anything. Jonathan decided to set up these almajiri schools all over the North and hoped that the state governments should take over and move on to check the menace of almajiri – out of schools problems. But nobody cared and what is happening today is a result of a prolonged neglect of our youths in the North. That is what creates insecurity and insecurity creates more poverty.
Some have been flying the kite that Jonathan could come back in 2023, that we don’t have a better offer than the Jonathan offer. May we have your view on this?
Naturally, people expect me to say I support Jonathan- and of course I do. I have before I fought for him in 2015 and my house was threatened to be burnt by my own people because of the propanganda that went around. So if today, the people of this country wake up to feel that Jonathan is the right option for the unity and continuity of this country, so be it. At my age, I am not looking for anything. I will never accept any appointment from anybody. I will be 80 in the next few months and I thank God for what he has giving to me and the kind of life that I have had all through. So for Jonathan, if the majority of Nigerians feel that he is the right option to bring back this country and to move the country forward and bring in good programs that would unite the country and get proper development, I will certainly support him.
But one other dimension is that it is looking more like it is the APC crowd that wants to adopt him for the contest
Look, whatever way it comes, what I am hoping is that from now on, our electorates should elect the person and not the party. If the person is good, you elect him from whatever party he comes from. If the voters believe that the person being voted for or within the people contesting, there is one person that is the best of the lot, certainly I will join and vote for the best person regardless of political affiliation.
Are you indirectly suggesting that you are dropping your trust in party politics?
Well, I was a founding father of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and I have been in the PDP from day one till today and I have seen the development of politics from 1999 to date. Instead of getting more and more entrenched democratically, we are now going backward. PDP came in to make sure that impunity and autocracy and dictatorship were thrown out. But today, what we have is very close to a psuedo- military system.
Within the PDP or….?
Within all parties, I mean all political parties. Democracy is a system where you allow people the choice to express their wishes and elect those that they believe can represent them and deliver what they are yearning for. But today, what there is, is that there are godfathers and governors who impose candidates on the political parties. Two, the cost of governance is so polluted, helped and assisted by the state of governance that has been developing from 1999 to date. So, to get this country well again, that is why I am saying if a person is the right person to get the country out of trouble, regardless of the party he represents, if I believe you will be able to get the country moving forward, I don’t care where you are coming from or which party you are coming from, which tribe you are coming from. I think that we should learn to go for the best person.
The people of South Eastern Nigeria, the Igbo in particular, are saying that 2023 is their time to be elected the President of Nigeria. What is your response to this?
South Easterners are their own worst enemies. And maybe, you will ask me why I said so.
Well like I said, back in 1999, I was among the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). It is very well known within the PDP that I have always been a strong promoter of Dr. Alex Ekwueme to the last. I know what happened when we went to Jos for the party’s convention. Why I said that the South easterners are their worst enemies is that at that convention, only Anambra State, which is his own state, voted for Dr Alex Ekwueme. Most of the votes that he got he got them from some of us that were able to get other parts of the country to support him. His own people betrayed him. I don’t want to call names because I know that they know that I know. But for that action of the Igbo people themselves, Igbo Presidency would have been a forgotten issue by now. We won’t be dwelling on this by now. But somehow it happened.
Also up till now, when you look at the way the Igbo people are approaching politics in Nigeria, they don’t come out as a united people. They are always divided. Now, (Gov Dave) Umahi says I am leaving because we want the Igbo Presidency, but I tell you that inside the Igbo enclave, there are those people that are aspiring very hard for the position of the Vice President. You have to have a united front and reach out beyond the Igbo enclave to get the Presidency. We really don’t want an Igbo President. What we want is a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. We don’t want Igbo President. For example, under Shagari, he was a Fulani man from Sokoto, but he was a Nigerian President. Those that worked with him knew he was a Nigerian President and not Hausa- Fulani President. So the approach the Igbo should take is to try and produce a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction, a candidate that is acceptable to everybody that feels that Nigeria is his constituency. That is what Ekwueme was able to do…to get out of that enclave and become a nationalist. That was what Dr Azikiwe was able to do. He came out of that enclave and became a nationalist. The present generation of Igbo has to go back to history and learn from history. And there are a lot of good materials from Igbo land that believe in Nigeria. They are there, but they may not be strong enough politically and financially to be of reckoning. But the people would have to give up their ambitions and look for the best candidate that would be a true Nigerian President- Not Igbo President, not Yoruba President, not Hausa President. We need a Nigerian President.
You are saying that they should produce a Nigerian President?
Yes! That is the whole point. They should get us a Nigerian President. Ekwueme was generally accepted. Wasn’t he? He served Shagari and he learned the trade from there. A Nigerian patriot. And there are a lot of them that are truly Nigerian patriots, there are lots of them in Igbo land.
The present insecurity in the North, what is the way out?
Well, I don’t think that anybody would be able to tell you the answer. The problems are multiple, multi- dimensional and it requires an acceptance of all Nigerians that we are all at fault. Poverty is the basis of all these insecurity, whether in the North, in the South or in any part of this country. If today, we have enough for everybody to be involved and employed, this issue would not have happened. If today, some of these roaming kids that are being called bandits, if they had something doing, they would be the first people to protect their property. I don’t know whether you read it too. I read it in the social media by Dr Tilde. He wrote something about what Danfodio did. And I tend to agree with him. If you could be able to get that article, it would tell you a lot about what is happening in the North. He said that the Christian Missionaries are recruiting Fulani, which he said is a good thing. Despite the fact that he is Muslim, he said that it is a good thing…. This is because most of the Fulani that are being accused of all these things had no training or learning. They have never been Muslims. They have always been pagans. It is only the set of Fulani that Danfodio managed to settle them that are cultured and trained. But those that are moving around, traveling from one place to another, they are not Muslims. So that is why Tilde said that it is a good thing because the set of Fulani that is cultured know what is right or wrong. But those that are not settled, they don’t know any faith, they don’t care and they don’t mind.
In the last few days, there has been an upsurge of confrontations within the PDP, between your faction and Rabiu Kwankwaso‘s faction over control of the party . What exactly is happening?
I don’t know whether there is a faction or not. However, I know that the quarrel that we have is rooted in a situation where somebody would arrogate to himself and would want to take over and control the party through a Movement. Yes, he has a Movement, which is more important to him than the party. That is basically the problem. When you go back to 2019, before the elections, when the R-APC came into the PDP in the state, unfortunately, the leadership of our party, for reason best known to them, handed over the Kano Chapter to the newcomer R-APC. Out of over 90 people that are within the PDP, that had aspired, that had nursed their constituencies because they wanted to contest elections, not one managed to get a chance to contest the primary election within the party. Every thing was done and dictated by Kwankwaso to suit his interests. That is what created the problem. That is why when some people are saying that the PDP in Kano did anti – party activity , I say no, the PDP in Kano did not do anti- party activity.
Nobody in his right senses would go and vote against his party unless there is a very, very serious problem. And the problem for me- if you ask me- it is the national leadership of our party that did anti- party. They deprived the people in the party the right to contest , the right to go for primaries, and they denied the electorate the right to elect who they want. Now, if you think of the persons who have been there for four , five years and you take away his right. Yet you want him to do what you want him to do. Do you think that person would support you? The best he can do is to fold his arms and say I am not going to get involved. But if he chooses to go for revenge, he would go against the party. This you should know. You don’t have to ask me to know the answer. For me, as far as I am concerned, I have no problem with Kwankwaso as a person. I want my party to win elections anyday, particularly in my twilight days in politics. But it has to have some measure of unity. That unity and sacrifice would have to come in. We have to sacrifice something and they (Kwankwaso) also have to sacrifice something. But if we don’t do that, I can’t face my people and tell them go and elect the party. In the same vein, if we don’t make sacrifice, the other faction would react in the same way. So, there ought to be a way to come together so that we can move the party forward. And I am not against it .
From what you are saying, you are not opposed to coming together on a round table, where power and opportunities would be fairly distributed?
Absolutely. I have no problem with that. I am not a control- freak and nobody should be. Let the party control itself, not the individuals or an individual controlling the party through a Movement.
I must also ask you one question. The Kwankwso faction also accuses you of romancing with the APC government and governor of Kano State? Is this true?
Please, don’t forget that Kwankwaso, Ganduje and myself we all started by belonging to the same party. We all used to be very close. We have interpersonal relationship, which predates the crisis that we are having in the party today. Inter party relationship is different from inter- personal relationship. Now, for example, if anything happens, you will see Kwankwaso coming to condole, he came to console me over the death of my brother. People interact socially. What people are trying to introduce is the politics of enmity. No ! I don’t believe in that . I have seen it all and I have done it all. After all, I was in the NPN as my party’s governorship flag bearer and my uncle, that is Aminu Kano, was the head of the PRP in 1979. He was my father’s first cousin and my father named me after him. For me, my antecedent, I don’t believe in politics of enmity.
Credit: The Sun