Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has yet again opened up over the estranged relationship between him and his former deputy, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, saying that despite the fact that the latter was corrupt during their regime, he (Obasanjo) had to take him along for his second term in office in 2007 due to expediency.
“At that time, politically, I needed to carry him (Atiku) along but then to put him in check,” said Obasanjo.
Obasanjo, who said that he was unaware of Atiku’s activities until law enforcement agencies in America alerted his government, however, confessed that he could not in good conscience ask that his deputy be investigated then.
He, however, said he could not ignore the calls by the Americans to investigate the ex-vice president, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did then.
The ex-president added that the allegations by the Americans were justified since Atiku is a fugitive in United States.
“I don’t know if he can go to America…He travels? Travels to where? To Dubai? Let him go to America and return to Nigeria”.
He also took a swipe at the same EFCC, saying that the commission had lost its original vision of a bold and fearless agency capable of fighting economic and financial crimes in the country.
Obasanjo made this criticism in an interview published in the current and special edition of Zero Tolerance magazine, a publication of the anti-graft agency to mark its 10th year anniversary.
Obasanjo also denied ever prompting Ribadu to investigate anybody for political reasons but he was quick to admit that Ribadu went haywire.
The ex-president also faulted the choice of Mrs. Faridi Waziri to head the commission after its pioneer chair, Nuhu Ribadu, was unceremoniously removed by the late Ptresident Yar’Adua, saying she did not have the cognate experience and connection needed for the position.
Talking about Nigeria’s position on global corruption index before and now, he said: “There was a lot of work that was done to achieve that feat (moving from position number 2 to 45). I think we have come down to only being above 34 countries; that shows that there must be a lot that the EFCC should be doing that they are not doing.When you have gone that far down, it becomes very difficult to climb again.”
“I had the vision of an EFCC that will be fearless, bold, untied to the apron strings of the executive, legislature or anybody for that matter, and Ribadu was bold, fearless. I never told him this is the one you should pursue and investigate.
“When I was personally accused, I sent the mail to EFCC and to ICPC. I asked him to carry out clinical investigation, leave nothing out, and they did. And EFCC of my dream carried it out; that is the type of EFCC that I want,” said the ex-president.
Also recalling events leading to the build-up to the 2007 general elections, Obasanjo said: “He (Ribadu) brought a report to me and said these people are corrupt; how can I, in my position, receive a report that said these people were corrupt.
“I didn’t ask him to carry out an investigation. He even came out and said he had found 28 governors as corrupt and later on, unfortunately, Ribadu hobnobbed with one of the governors he had found corrupt and that is where things started going haywire,” Obasanjo said.
He, who said Ribadu did very well until he lost his direction when he (Obasanjo) left, however, faulted the way he was kicked out of office and declared if given the opportunity he (Obasanjo) would re-appoint Ribadu as EFCC chair and warn him to desist from corrupt company.
“He did so well that he became a threat even to the incoming administration; that’s what happened. He was so successful that his success began to be a problem for him,” he added.
On why Ribadu’s successor was a wrong choice, Obasanjo said he learnt that it was a now convicted governor who scouted for her for the late Yar’Adua administration.
“I know that the woman they brought to replace Ribadu (Farida Waziri) was not the right person for that job, because I understood that one of those who head-hunted her was James Ibori. If James Ibori who is now in a UK Prison for fraud head-hunts somebody who will fight corruption in Nigeria, then you can understand what happened,” said the ex-president.
Waziri, however, in the same edition of the magazine, denied ever knowing ex-governor Ibori until she met him after her appointment at the presidential villa during one of her routine visits to President Yar’Adua.
“I never knew him. I never knew James Ibori. When I was appointed, I went to the Villa very often because the president called his staff and told them Farida has free access to him 24/7, whether in the office or villa. So I went there very often and I met Ibori; he was always there,” Waziri said.
She said the Ibori toga probably stuck to her through a former minister of justice, Michael Kaase Aondoka, who she called her “younger brother” on account of hailing from the same local government area in Benue State who, she said, was close to Ibori.