Ex-president dismisses PTF probe report
The desperate battle to secure former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s support for President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid may have collapsed, The Nation learnt yesterday.
Dr. Jonathan and Chief Obasanjo met for about one hour on Monday night at the former president’s Abeokuta home. The President requested for Obasanjo’s support.
“It’s too late; I’m sorry,” Obasanjo reportedly told Jonathan.
A source close to the meeting told our reporter on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media.
At the meeting were two Christian leaders – Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and Bishop David Oyedepo of the Winners’ Chapel – who attended at Obasanjo’s request.
None of those at the meeting spoke about it, but it was learnt that it was brief because Obasanjo insisted that for him, it was too late to back Jonathan.
The former president has been a virulent critic of the Jonathan administration, which he accused of embracing corruption and burgling the anti-insurgency battle.
Jonathan replied, slamming some “elder statesman who talk like motor park touts”. He, however, did not mention Obasanjo.
Also yesterday, Obasanjo advised the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, to recruit “men and women of character” – if the party wins the February 14 election.
Obasanjo said such abound in all political parties and also in every part of the country, adding that they make things better for a government, the country and the citizenry.
According to the former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT), the advice applies to other political parties.
Obasanjo spoke also on the report of the probe panel on the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), for the period Gen. Buhari was the chairman, saying the “report was not of any material importance”, as he was convinced that Gen. Buhari made no personal gains while his tenure lasted.
The former president said he deemed it necessary to bring up the PTF report publicly now, believing that Nigerians, particularly politicians seeking elective offices, would “face issues rather than trivialities”. “Issues based campaigns are very important,” he said.
Obasanjo, who noted that he is still a card-carrying member of the PDP and had chosen to remain firm in the party at the ward level, said regardless of the political parties participating in the general elections, Nigeria comes “first” and should remain “paramount” to him.
The soldier-turned farmer was addressing a group of APC chieftains who visited his Abeokuta home. Among them were Gen. Buhari, his running mate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Barnabas Gemade, Chief Audu Ogbe, Chief Bisi Akande and Senator Bukola Saraki among others.
The APC national leaders and stalwarts, including wives of the party’s presidential candidate and his running mate arrived at Obasanjo’s mansion at 11:25 am. Gen. Buhari intimated the ex -President of the APC’s road map for the country and sought for his “support, trust and understanding” that the party’s in-coming government at the centre would give the nation a “better” and “quality” leadership.
Gen. Buhari said: “Your Excellency, under whom I served the most lucrative appointment of the minister of Petroleum Affairs for three and a quarter years before he sent me on course.
When I set about the programme of going round the states, somebody had the temerity to ask me that when I come (to Ogun State), shall I call on Chief Olusegun Obasanjo?
“I don’t think I answered the man, I just looked the other way. I think that I should not come here (Abeokuta) in whatever capacity without calling to pay my respect.
“Sir, it’s a fact that you know more than all we know about the problem that we are in. But what we will do is try to convince you to believe us that we are going to do better.
“We expect your understanding and support, although you insist on remaining in the PDP. I have reached a certain degree of frustration in my attempt for you to try to shift a bit but you have refused.
“Briefly, we have been going around three fundamental issues: security, economy, corruption. This vicious circle is what the APC is determined to break. Because without security, there is no way the country can settle down not to talk of living in it.
“So many people, educated and uneducated, some said up to 60 per cent, will say Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder. And then corruption; we believe that if we are able to stop corruption, a lot of resources will be available to invest in infrastructure, get the factories to reopen, get jobs, and get goods and services.
“So security, economy, in terms of employment, production, manufacturing, goods and services, and then agriculture will again give impetus to employment. We have to be systematic and work to make sure that the vast land we have is cultivated not only to produce food, but to produce raw materials for agro-allied industries, which used to be very viable but which we allowed to die because everybody has concentrated on getting oil money.
“Now the oil money is dwindling rapidly; I think we better come back to our senses. Sir, briefly, this is what we intend to do and this is contained in our manifesto. We are not going to be inflexible the way some people accused us of doing it.
“We are going to be dynamic as we go along and that’s why I said we are here to seek for your understanding, for your support, in spite of the political card you hold.”
Replying, Obasanjo said he put off all engagements outside the state capital yesterday in anticipation that Gen. Buhari and his party would visit him, urging politicians to engage in campaigns of “issues” and how to solve the nation’s “crying problems” rather than inanities.
Obasanjo, was apparently referring to the campaign of falsehood and misinformation against Gen. Buhari regarding his tenure at the PTF as chairman, noted that he did not find anything against him from the inquiry initiated into the establishment’s books.
According to the former President, he called off further inquisition into the PTF matter when Gen. Buhari assured him that there was no personal benefit accrued to him while his tenure at the PTF lasted.
Obasanjo said: “Our paths have crossed on a number of occasions and when I was told you are going to be coming to Ogun State, I wasn’t sure whether you will come here or not. But I told my boys; I said well, whatever programme we have outside Ogun State for today, let us shelve it just in case Muhammadu and his party and his team decide to call here.
“You have kindly underlined what I want everybody to remember; that I am a card-carrying member of another political party. But I have always also said that party or no party, what is paramount for me is Nigeria. And that will remain paramount as far as I am concerned.
“There is no political party in the world that is made up of saints and our own political parties in Nigeria will be no exception. All the political parties have saints and devils among them.
“But because what you are campaigning for is the votes of saints and devils to be able to win an election, I wish you well. Muhammadu, maybe I’ll remind you of one or two things.
“When you were commissioner for Petroleum, you went out for a meeting of OPEC and because of my carelessness, you give me anything. I am very careless about what people give me as presents. One of his colleagues gave me a hand-made shoes and I wore it once and I gave it to my ADC.
“So, the man then came up after about one month, he said ‘look, where is the pair of shoes I gave you?. Normally, I shouldn’t ask of it but I haven’t seen you wearing it; you are wearing these wretched shoes instead.
“I said I’ve given it to my ADC. He said the shoes cost £250. So, he called my ADC and said, ‘ADC, oga gave you a pair of shoes? He said ‘yes’. ‘Go and bring it’. When he brought it, he said when next I travel I will get you a captain’s pair of shoes.
“Muhammadu heard that story. So, he went and they gave them present; I think it was a gold coin and he came to me and said, assure me that you will not give this thing away. So I had to assure him that I will not give it away. After I had assured him, he said alright you can have it. It’s meant for you really since I was representing you.
“I must confess today that I didn’t give it away but in recent time, I cannot locate it. Another thing that I want to sayý, when you were going to become manager of PTF. We talked about it and when you finished and I took over, we looked into it.
“I haven’t said this publicly, I would say it publicly now. When we looked into it, there was really nothing amiss, except that organisation went from road building to mosquito net buying and all sort of things.
“And what the investigation discovered is a bit of inconsistency in prices and all that. In one area, mosquito net might have been given for N50; in another, N45. And then remarked that this is fishy. We should look into it.
“And I called my brother and colleague; I said this and he said, ‘look, we are managing billions of naira and I tried to make sure I see everything. But I will not say that what they have said about this is correct or not correct. But I can assure you I tried to see everything.
“I said, ‘okay. Muhammadu, between me, you and God, was there any personal benefit for you? And you said ‘no’. I said that is the end of the matter. Although there was that investigation, its report was not of any material importance.ý
“I thought that I should say it today that I have this opportunity because I hope people will face issues rather than trivialities. On occasion like this, issues are very important. And you have mentioned three areas which are demanding issues in Nigeria today.
“I will just beg all of you who are contesting to add one to it; you mentioned economy, you mentioned corruption, and you mentioned security. All of you I will beg of you to add infrastructure. It’s very important. You may take it as part of economy but I will take infrastructure as special and give it special attention.
“For all political parties that are trying to woo us to vote for them in the coming election; let’s go away from red-herring, let’s go away from trivialities; let’s face issues and tell the people of this country what we will do to deal with these crying problems of our country.
“Having said that, I will also say that while a party must be microcosm of a nation – and in a nation you will have the good and the bad and a good party must have all these in them. But what matters is that when that party has to go into government, it must look for men and women of character. And we have them in all parties, we have them throughout the nooks and crannies of this country.
“I cannot end without reminding you, even though I saw some old faces(past PDP members), but some of us will remain firm, at least at the ward level where I am very active in my party.”
A massive and enthusiastic crowd welcomed the APC Presidential candidate and his running mate to Abeokuta.
form: NATIONS NEWSPAPER NIGERIA.