Interview with ...
|Why we are where we are|
"E PELE sir"
Pres Obasanjo: "You too pele"
Pres. Obasanjo: "Congratulations to you too"
"For a while I was worried about the elections sir, but it is good that
all has ended well"
Pres. Obasanjo: "I was not worried. Once God gave me the go ahead for a second term, I knew that he will do it. It is the Lord's doing. The Lord that I worship is a faithful Lord. If anybody tells you that he put me here, tell that person he is joking. I am here because the Lord wants me here. It doesn't matter what anybody says"
"But the opposition is not happy with you sir"
Pres. Obasanjo: "Which opposition. I am not aware of any opposition. We are in charge"
"Ojukwu and Buhari for example. They are still in court."
Pres. Obasanjo:"Ojukwu and Buhari. (taps the table) Well, let them stay in court. The courts are part of the democratic process. I don't see how that should worry me. I do my job, let the courts also do their own job. "
Pres. Obasanjo:"There is no what if...Buhari and Ojukwu have to justify certain things.That is why they are in court. Don't worry. I spoke with Ojukwu last night on the phone. He sounded quite happy. I am expecting Buhari to come and see me some time soon. Don't worry. These are reasonable people. They only need to justify certain things and that is all. If I were you, I wouldn't worry myself at all. We are on course. By the Grace of God, we are on course. (Grunts, shuffles in his chair).
"But there is so much disquiet around the country sir"
Pres. Obasanjo: "The only place where there is disquiet is inside that your small head. Which disquiet? Look, I think that the problem with this country is you journalists. The NSA (National Security Advisor)has been talking to me about what we can possibly do about you people. I have been asking him to be patient."
"You need us sir."
Pres. Obasanjo: "I don't need you people. What I have is bigger than the media. I have the mandate of the Nigerian people. When I read the nonsense that you people always write, I am tempted to listen to the NSA."
"Thomas Jefferson once said that if he were to choose between a government without newspapers and newspapers without government, he would rather choose newspapers and do away with government."
Pres. Obasanjo: "Don't quote Thomas Jefferson at me. Jefferson didn't know what he was talking about. If he was dealing with the Nigerian press, he would have had second thoughts. I am looking at a number of options. In due course, newspaper publishers may have to be held responsible for what their papers publish. We cannot have journalists behaving like terrorists. And I am not going to allow anybody to run this government for me on the pages of newspapers. In fact I have stopped reading Nigerian newspapers. I am tired of the rubbish that you people write. That was how Tell magazine went and wrote that there is corruption in Aso Rock. Can you imagine such nonsense?"
"Copies of Tell were seized by security agents sir."
Pres. Obasanjo: "I don' t know about that"
"It was in the papers"
"Pres. Obasanjo: I have just told you I have stopped reading the rubbish that you people write. Your publishers will have to answer for that someday."
"Press freedom is one of the achievements of your administration sir."
Pres. Obasanjo: "The more reason why we should discourage press madness and foolishness. Take the fuel price increase"
"Yes, the fuel price increase. It is a serious matter."
Pres. Obasanjo: "There is nothing serious about it. It is the best decision we have taken this year."
"But people are already protesting"
Pres. Obasanjo: "Nobody is protesting. You see, that is part of the falsehood been peddled around by the Nigerian press. During the campaigns, I told Nigerians that we were going to increase fuel prices. The people were happy with it. At least now, they can get fuel to buy. There are no queues anymore. The report that we have is that people are now buying at N40 and they are excited. Before the increase, smugglers were the ones making all the money. We have stopped them. They are the ones behind the so-called protests. The media needs to be more imaginative."
"I think it is the people themselves.."
Pres. Obasanjo: "Which people? The people who voted for me? Please, please..." (taps the table)
"But the Nigeria Labour Congress is threatening to call out all workers on strike by Monday 30/June, unless the Federal Government goes back to N26 per litre.."
Pres. Obasanjo: "Nobody can blackmail me. The NLC cannot tell me how much I should sell my fuel. I won't take that. There are too many vehicles on the road anyway. If you can't pay N40, then go and park your car. Shikena."
"The NLC is defending public interest."
Pres. Obasanjo: "Where was the NLC when people were buy fuel for N70 in parts of the North, because of the activities of smugglers."
"But the refineries have to work, government should put the refineries in
order so as to ensure steady local supply instead of importation of fuel
which is what the price increase is meant to subsidise"
Pres. Obasanjo: "Nobody can tell me when to repair my refineries. You see, the problem is that you people are not well informed. If you know what I have done to get those refineries working."
"I am afraid the NLC going on strike at this time is not good for
democracy. It is too early in the day."
Pres. Obasanjo: "Well, ASUU went on strike, what happened? If the NLC wants to go on strike, they are welcome. Nobody can tell me how much I should sell my fuel simple."
"It is a serious matter sir."
Pres. Obasanjo: "Don't worry. Adams is a good boy. I believe he is talking about strike because he too needs to justify certain things. He has to give the impression that he is leading the workers. But to tell you the truth, we took the decision to increase fuel prices after due consultation with labour. They were part of it from the beginning. Adams is a patriot. He is a far more reasonable person than those rascals in ASUU. I am having a meeting with Adams and his boys soon. I am sure that they will be reasonable." (shuffles in his chair).
"But what about the ministerial appointments?"
Pres. Obasanjo: "Look I am sorry, that matter is closed. If you are looking for an appointment, you should have come earlier. Now, it is late, I have sent my list to the Senate."
"It is the list I am talking about."
Pres. Obasanjo: "Yes? What about it? Your name is not on it"
"I am trying to say that you had promised to have a brand new cabinet."
Pres. Obasanjo: "Yes. That is what I have. A brand new cabinet, with a brand new President." (rocks sideways in his chair)
"You said it will be a cabinet of technocrats."
Pres. Obasanjo: "Yes, that is what it is. I am proud of the list. Do you have any problem with that?"
Pres. Obasanjo: "Then, you are foolish. Nobody tells me who to appoint as Ministers. It is my government. It is my prerogative. I will appoint whoever I like. I hear some of the people who wanted their names on the list are disappointed, and so they have been sponsoring a campaign of calumny in the papers. That is nonsense. Look, I set up a committee. The members of the committee are serious minded citizens. They interviewed a lot of people. At the end, we could not make use of many of the names that cropped up. If I give you the security report on many of these people , you will be shocked. The problem is that you people don't know anything. I am proud of the names that I have sent to the National Assembly."
"Perception is important sir."
Pres. Obasanjo: "What perception? (shouts) I say, what perception? Look, look, nobody is going to tell me who to appoint into my cabinet."
"Take Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. You are bringing her from the World Bank. I think the woman is making a mistake. The first thing she will discover is that the Nigerian economy does not obey any of the rules of the World Bank. I am even surprised that you will bring someone from the World Bank. About a month ago, you were in fact criticising the World Bank for not understanding the Nigerian economy"
Pres. Obasanjo: "Yes?"
"Then, there are some old and recycled people on that list. Chief
Cornelius Adebayo. The man was Governor in Kwara state about 20 years ago. He is an old man. Ambassador Adeniji is about 69. Mrs Osomo is close to 70. Fabian Osuji is 61. Isoun is 65. There is even a man on the list whom they call an Elder. We don't get the impression of youth."
Pres. Obasanjo: "You are talking rubbish. What of Funke Adedoyin, El Rufai, Mukhtar, Liyel Imoke.."
"The problem sir is that when you look at the list, you don't know what
all those names stand for, other than that they are the kind of people who will be so grateful to you, they will never rock the boat. You promised a lean cabinet. Now you have a large cabinet of 42 Ministers!"
Pres. Obasanjo: "I don't know about that. The Governors also made recommendations. The party was also involved."
"You have chosen to retain a man like Professor Babalola Borishade. A man who presided over the closure of Nigerian universities for seven months, and according to the NUC, the country lost about N43 billion"
Pres. Obasanjo: "Borishade did a very good job. That is why I am keeping him."
"Then Iyorchia Ayu; is he the only man in Benue state? He has been Senate President, and Minister on two occasions in the past."
Pres. Obasanjo: "If you have any problems with Iyrochia Ayu, you can go and sort it out with him."
"Professor Tuner Isoun did nothing as Minister of Science and Technology. And now he is back."
Pres. Obasanjo: "And what are you going to do about that?"
"Then Funke Adedoyin. People are saying her name is there because the father is your friend. I mean, what has she done to merit a Ministerial
appointment other than being a rich man's daughter? It gives the
impression that any rich man can buy a position for his daughter."
Pres. Obasanjo: "If you have a daughter you want as a Minister, send her CV to me. I will look at it. Okay?"
"It is not just right. My fear is that all these people will not be able
to do anything. I am afraid that we are just going to have another four
years of nothing."
Pres. Obasanjo: "If that is your personal opinion, good luck to you."
"In fact there is one man on the list from Osun who was arrested initially
in the Bola Ige case. It is like the Omisore thing."
Pres. Obasanjo: "I don't want to talk about that. I am not the police. I am not the judiciary. You people always say Omisore, Omisore, but nobody is thinking. Am I the law court? I have my job to do. I do my job. Let other people do theirs. All I know is that Omisore is a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic. He is even now a Committee Chairman. If you have any problems with him, go to him, don't complain to me about Omisore."
"It is about Bola Ige"
Pres. Obasanjo: "Bola Ige is dead. I remember that when he died, journalists were writing that that was the end of Nigeria. Rubbish. This country is greater than any human being. It is greater than Obasanjo. It is greater than Bola Ige."
"Your daughter sir?"
Pres. Obasanjo: "My daughter? What about my daughter? You are married, so you can't talk about my daughters. You better look elsewhere."
"That is not what I mean sir. I mean, Iyabo is being tipped as a
Commissioner in Ogun state."
Pres. Obasanjo: "Look, look, I don't discuss other people's wives. I resolved long ago, that I will never discuss other people's wives. What other people's wives do is none of my business."
"I am talking about your daughter. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello"
Pres. Obasanjo: "She is Mrs Bello. What she and Mr Bello decide to do is none of my business. Besides, she is an adult. She is also a politician in her own right. I cannot dictate to her."
"If she is made a Commissioner, it would be because she is your daughter."
Pres. Obasanjo: "I have just told you that that is not my problem. Why don't you go and complain to Gbenga Daniel. He is the Governor of Ogun state. I don't run the state for him. This is a federal system. Daniel is in Abeokuta; I am in Abuja. It is a long distance."
"I am glad you are talking about federalism sir; take the proposed local
Pres. Obasanjo: "I am not taking anything. I am through with you. Don't tell me any rubbish about federalism. I have more important things to do. Good day...
You, get me the NSA on the phone. "