An associate of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, who was prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on alleged corrupt charges, tells BAYO AKINLOYE that calls for the probe of the ex-president’s third-term bribery allegation is a wild goose chase
There are calls from various quarters that former President Olusegun Obasanjo should be probed for the third-term bribery allegation against him. What’s your view?
Who are those saying that?
There are many Nigerians calling for a probe of the ex-president on cases like Halliburton and Siemens scandals; even recently, a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, stated that Obasanjo could be probed for the third-term bribery allegation. Do you agree with that view?
You may not know the history of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission. They are Obasanjo’s ‘babies.’ When he assumed office as a democratically elected president of Nigeria in 1999, through his various foreign trips, he discovered that there were a lot of financial discrepancies in the country and felt strongly that something must be done to curb or reduce the trend, which has earned Nigeria the tag of being a corrupt nation – in fact, one of the most corrupt in the world. He was determined, with the support of foreign governments, to establish institutions that will fight corruption head on.
An attempt was made by the National Assembly, particularly at the House of Representatives under the leadership of Ghali Na’Abba, to repeal the law (establishing the EFCC act). If Obasanjo had allowed the law to be repealed by the National Assembly, he would have lost credibility as anti-graft crusader. It took the intervention of the Supreme Court to ensure that some disgruntled lawmakers did not succeed in scuttling his anti-corruption campaign. Therefore, how can you now tell me that such a person, who brought up an idea and fought to ensure that it became a reality, with every successive government after him using the institutions to fight corruption, should be probed for alleged corruption or tagged as being corrupt?
But the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba, alleged that there were efforts by the executive arm of government then to bribe lawmakers to include third-term for presidents in the country’s constitution.
He made that allegation because he and his supporters were not allowed to repeal the law establishing the EFCC. I can only conclude that people are jealous of Obasanjo. He has done so many things to serve his country. He built roads, airports, ports and so on. Obasanjo has achieved a lot for the country; it is no wonder if people talk against him out of envy. We, who are close to Obasanjo, know that he is not corrupt.
Obasanjo was also accused of harbouring corrupt people in his administration.
Who are those he was harbouring? Did he spare his daughter, Iyabo, when she was accused of corrupt practices? Did you remember what happened to (Sunday) Afolabi (a former Minister of Interior)? He was charged to court by the ICPC (on corruption charges). Can you remember how a former minister (of education, Prof. Fabian Osuji) was dismissed from the Obasanjo cabinet (over allegation of bribery)? Did you know how close I was to the (ex-) president? Despite my closeness to him, the EFCC hounded me as if I was a criminal. I was arrested by the commission and detained for a couple of months. I had to go to court to demand my release; the case was decided in my favour and the Federal Government hasn’t paid the N5m damages the court said it should pay to me for unlawful detention. I was investigated by the EFCC despite the fact that we were close. And, you say Obasanjo is corrupt?
It is public knowledge that you’re a close ally of Obasanjo but can you vouch for him that he is incorruptible?
Let me tell you: Obasanjo is not corrupt. He was a successful farmer before coming back into government in 1999. You can’t probe him for what he didn’t do.
But he was said to have only N20,000 in his bank account in 1999 when he assumed power as an elected president. How successful could he have been?
If a man says he is broke, does that mean he doesn’t have a property worth more than N2m? Obasanjo has a lot of businesses before he became the president. He has large farms, school, quarry, and other business concerns. Since he left government in 1979, he has been running his farming business.
So, he was never broke at a time?
No; what do you mean by being broke? Anybody can be broke but that doesn’t mean the person is wretched. That someone is broke doesn’t mean he does not have ventures that can bring him money or things he can sell to raise money. Did he (Obasanjo) not have properties? Did you know how many properties he put up for sale to move on with his business? He never stole Nigeria’s money as president. He was never involved in any corrupt practice; those speaking against him (or that want him probed for corruption) are just talking. Talk is cheap.