Anti-graft war: Buhari’s fight is wrong headed – Yakassai
Alhaji Tanko Yakasai has never hidden his position on recent political developments in Nigeria. In this interview, he wants the present anti-graft war to be widespread and accommodative of some big names that had become rich overnight. He also wants the Federal Government to make public the findings of the investigation into the activities of the PTF as well as the outcome of the probe on power and that of oil subsidy inaugurated by the House of Representatives at different times. He also charged APC and president to shed light on their presidential campaign fund in the same way that of the PDP is being scrutinized, even as he faulted the singling out of Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) in the corruption war. He spoke to DESMOND MGBOH in his Kano residence.
For a start, I will like to have your thought on the ongoing anti-corruption war. Many are of the view that the target is the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Maybe I will think differently. For me, it is not the Jonathan administration that is the target. It is Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) who is the target. I say this because, right from the beginning of the administration to date, apart from Col. Sambo Dasuki, I have not heard of any other public officer being arrested in connection with corruption in this country in this way. And I have said before, that if the current administration wants to fight corruption, we have many cases to begin with.
You remember that during the Obasanjo administration, he appointed a committee to investigate the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTDF) under the chairmanship of Professor Harun Adamu. The committee investigated the activities of that organisation and submitted its report. Till today, nobody has heard anything about that report. In fact, it was only during the campaigns, either last year or this year, that I saw excerpts of the report in one of the dailies. There were lots of revelations in that report. There were also lots of cases of abuse of office, graft practices and so on in that report. I think that that report can be a starting point for a genuine fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Next to it is the Power Probe Report. You remember the one appointed by the House of Representatives, which investigated issues related to power in Nigeria that came up with the huge amount of money expended on power project in Nigeria? From that report, we know that some companies were paid upfront and some of them never visited the sites of the contracts that were awarded to them. And many big names were mentioned in the report, the same for the huge amount of money that was taken from the public treasury and paid to these contractors. That can be another report that should interest this government because till date, that report has not been published. The third report is that of Farouk Lawal committee on oil subsidy. That report can also be something the Federal Government can dust up and take the culprits to court.
When this is done, we will see the anti-corruption war by this government as widespread and nationwide. But to confine it to a single public officer, I don’t like it, particularly if you consider the fact that people see Col. Dasuki as one of the officers reported to have arrested President Buhari when he was head of state. People see his current experience as a vendetta; as nothing but a payback time. I think I will plead with the present administration to expand the scope of the anti-corruption activities to cover more areas and more people. There are people- ministers, governors, permanent secretaries and so on who are known to have become rich overnight – I don’t want to mention names but I think that we can also target them, rather than devoting all our time on Col. Dasuki. I am not saying that the government should stop asking Col. Dasuki to explain himself…… I don’t want to comment on that issue simply because I have not heard Dasuki’s side of the story. But one thing I must say is that the size of money involved in these three investigations that I have just mentioned, is 10 times more than the money for which the government is after Dasuki.
Sir, let’s take it that Dasuki is the target. But what is also targeted in the context of the security vote disbursement is the PDP’s presidential campaign fund. What is your thought on this, especially as nothing is heard about the sources of the funding of the APC Presidential Campaign fund?
I have an idea of what you need to spend for a presidential campaign. When I was in the APP, I was the chairman of the APP Presidential Campaign Committee. Then, we were looking at the cost of the presidential campaign – that is, what can be defended in the court of law. We are not talking of things that cannot be mentioned in the court of law like what can be given to the police, what can be given to INEC, what can be given to the SSS and so on – it was really enormous.
Now, coming to your question, the two major parties that contested for the last elections were the APC and the PDP and the kind of activities that the PDP undertook were similar to the activities that APC undertook. For instance, they both toured the whole country in the course of their campaigns. They also travelled by plane, by aircraft. And I believe that whatever one of these parties spent as its campaign fund, the other party must have spent as much as that, or near to that amount.
Let us investigate how much the two major political parties spent during the presidential campaigns and see how much money was legitimate, legal contribution to these parties and how much of the funds they spent were not from legal, legitimate contributions.
Sir, are you saying that Buhari cannot morally defend the cost of his own presidential campaign?
I just want to know how much was spent on his own presidential campaign. Is it the same as that of Jonathan? If it is the same, then from where did he get the money? These are simple questions. Aren’t they?
But, Buhari will tell you that some people gave him money….
(Cuts in) Who are those people that gave him money? He has to mention them and then we will take it from there.
But there should also have been rich members of the party that could have made substantial donations; and of course, some rich states.
Let him tell us how they gave to him their support or their contributions and where the states sourced the money that they doled out. One journalist told me recently how much three important people contributed towards the campaign efforts of the APC- I will not mention their names- but I can assure that the amount was enormous. Let us know how much was spent on his presidential campaign and who and who contributed to the fund.
And that brings Gov. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State into this. Recently, the governor drew attention to the fact that the Single Treasury Account was nothing but a ploy to pay back resources contributed to the campaigns of the APC. What is your thought on that and the controversial payment of huge consultancy fee to the consultant appointed to handle the project?
Even before then, there were allegations that somebody funded the party in so many ways. It was alleged that governors who emerged as result of that funding were made to award contracts in favour of their sponsor and they are made to pay back huge sums of money to the companies owed by the individual that assisted them to get to power and they are still patronizing those companies. I am not surprised to hear that some people are making huge money from this single account operation.
And the controversial jeeps to former leaders?
What I read in the papers was that Col. Dasuki said that he gave money and cars to President Buhari and President Buhari said no, he did not take money but that he had taken cars. He also was quoted as saying that this was in line with the practice that former heads of state were given vehicles. What we need to know now is, first, whether other former heads of state- Gowon, Obasanjo, Shagari, Shonekan, Babangida and Abdulsalam were given such vehicles at that time. And also, let us wait until Dasuki explains further how…… because it is a dispute. Dasuki has said that he gave out money and Buhari said that he did not take any money. I am sure the matter would come up again. At least, one of them must be telling the truth. So, let us wait until that matter comes up again, then, we will be able to say who is telling the truth and who is not telling the truth. But in any case, President Buhari admitted that he had taken the vehicles and the very vehicles given to him were taken from the security votes and not from the budgeted money. …… Then I don’t know if there is any legal implication to that.
Are you saying that he too should answer some questions?
Well, if it (what he got) is part of that general largesse, then whatever happens to other people who took that money should happen to him. But for now, let us find out if he was given the cars alongside the other former heads of state or if he was given in isolation. But if it was given to him in isolation, then something is wrong. The issue is this. If it is an offence to take money from Dasuki out of the security votes, then whoever takes either money or assets purchased with such money is equally guilty of receiving illegal assets.
A report just came in that Col Dasuki has just been re-arrested (a few hours before Wednesday’s Presidential Media Chat). How do you see the issue of security agencies re-arresting the accusing persons after each bail? What is your thought on this in the light of the fact that we are practising democracy and the courts are supposed to be respected?
I am hearing of his re-arrest for the first time. I am surprised to hear this because I am hearing it for first time. But, why Dasuki alone in this matter? Okay, why are they splitting the charges against Dasuki? Why can’t they put them together? If you remember, when Lucky Igbenedion, the former Governor of Edo State, was taken to court, he was slammed with over 100 charges. They can put all the charges together, and then charge him for that. Why wait until he is granted bail and then you re-arrest him. This is very ridiculous. I am very surprised. I am hearing it for the first time but honestly I am very disappointed.
A number of people would say that the body language of the President may be affecting the judiciary, else they would have to contest cases of disrespect for their orders.
Well, the trouble in Nigeria is …..I don’t know. In other countries, the judiciary would have spoken. In Nigeria, in order to prevent a happening like this, the court directed that the accused person should not be arrested I think between nine in the morning and six in the evening. So, I hope that it is not too late for us to hear a court come out and speak out on this. This is because this whole thing is making the judiciary look ridiculous. They need to exert their authority because they are an independent arm of government. They ought to, because they are the last hope of the common man.
Do you see the ‘Dasukigate’ eventually leading to the arrest of former President Jonathan, especially as Dasuki is perceived to have acted largely on behalf of the previous administration?
I will answer this question, but I will rather wait until we hear from Dasuki.
But what is stopping Dasuki from stating his side of the story?
The case has not started. You do your defence when the prosecution has submitted their own case and have presented their own witnesses. The case has no started.
But it seems that the Federal Government is watering the minds of Nigerians and selling their own point of view on the “Dasukigate”
Certainly. This is a trial by the media and not in the courtroom. They are deliberately leaking pieces of information here and there, in order to prejudice the minds of Nigerians and the minds of those others outside Nigeria.
The Federal Government says the military has achieved the December deadline for routing of the Boko Haram Sect. However, some Nigerians are saying the war is far from over. They say that, given the continued bombings and killings of tens of Nigerians. Are you one to agree with them?
Yesterday, it happened in Maiduguri. Yet, I remember seeing a minister say that they have technically finished with Boko Haram. And I don’t know what technically finishing an opponent means when the opponent is still operating and causing havoc. I am waiting for the day after tomorrow to come (1st January 2016) to see whether we have finished with Boko Haram or not. Of course, I will be happy to see that we finish with Boko Haram. I pray that God would make it possible for us to forget Boko Haram by the day after tomorrow, which is the 1st of January. Our hope is that the target date of the Federal Government to overrun Boko Haram insurgency would be realised.
Pointedly, how would you assess the fight against insurgency in Nigeria?
Well, in terms of the insurgency, the military is fighting. They are definitely doing their best there. But I would not say that there is much change from what it was in the past. I learnt from Lai Mohammed that by this time last year, there were so many local government councils under the control of Boko Haram, but today, there are only two. Well, I did not know that before now. But I am hoping that the remaining two councils would be liberated tomorrow.