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Life Story: Ojo Maduekwe, Sold Akara To Help My Mother Feed The Family

 

Chief Ojo Maduekwe

                

His aged but graceful face comes alive with the sparkle in his eye balls as he stands before an august audience in Canada. His enthusiasm and camaraderie are infectious. As he introduces Nigeria’s Vice President Namadi Sambo to the Canadian Prime Minister, his grin widens –mission accomplished. After the high-powered engagement, he saunters out of the grand reception hall and instead of ride in his chauffeur-driven vehicle as a distinguished Nigerian ambassador to Canada, he opts for a bicycle. As he rides through the chilly air, his lungs expand, his face brightens and he feels like a youth. Back home in Nigeria, when he mooted an idea that bicycles should be considered as a good alternative to other means of road transportation, everyone asked for his head. A one-time Minister of Transportation, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Canada, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, is a quintessential lawyer, politician and diplomat. In this interview with Stanley Nkwazema, he narrates various episodes that border on his late father, mother, himself and his children. He talks about his love for the country and how his party, the PDP ruined the opportunity to stay in power

My Childhood and Presbyterian Parents
It was a beautiful experience; I had a happy childhood. I was born into a home that literally was waiting for me because between me and my eldest sister, there was a gap of eight years. My parents had a boy, two girls and then me. My parents and other siblings were all excited when I arrived. I was born in the year my father graduated from the theological seminary in 1945. He had finished from Hope Waddell Training Institute in 1928 where he was a contemporary of Nnamdi Azikiwe. He graduated with Cambridge Senior Certificate and Grade 1 Teachers Certificate. He was a headmaster for many years, doubled as missionary teacher and later became General Manger of schools, under what was called Church of Scotland Mission. The Presbyterians came into Nigeria from Scotland. In Scotland it is known as Church of Scotland. In 1940 after working as a headmaster, he decided to be a pastor and went to the seminary. By the standard of those days, he was a highly educated person and they were concerned that his level of education was such that the church would not be able to pay him. For the five years he was in seminary, there was no salary. When he graduated in 1945, his salary as a pastor was less than what he was earning as a headmaster. I was born into a family that believed in service, that de-emphasises the importance of money.

Ojo is an Igbo man from the South-East
The name ‘Ojo’ is Igbo because in my part of the Igbo area – Ohafia in Abia State – it is a common name but the original name for the person called Ojo is Mbila. What I have on my certificate is Mbila.  Mbila is the Igbo name for water yam. Water yam is highly revered in Ohafia and Igbo culture because it is the yam that does well in the soil when other yams are not able to. The usual tradition was if a farmer wants to soften the soil before planting other yams, he will plant water yam. Mbila can survive under any condition and it also makes way for other yams. Those are the qualities that were celebrated in the history of my family. The name is Mbila but the celebration of the name is Ojo. Those who are from my village still call me Mbila.

My First Hero
My father Reverend Uma Maduekwe was my first and still my most enduring hero. My first experience of somebody reading was from him in Ogoja in Cross River State, where he was a pastor. He loved to read aloud and exercise his pronunciation. That led me to the love of books. I took after him; the love of reading and the loneliness of the secluded places that we lived in as a pastor’s son without a lot of people to play with drove me to a lot of reading. I took much interest in reading and the people that captured my imagination are people who were in the public sphere like Winston Churchill, Williams Wilberforce, Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, etc. Some were reformers like Martin Luther King. Quiet early, I was fed on an intellectual diet of people who made an impact through public service and that got me interested in a public career. When you admire a person you want to be like him. I thought I should be a pastor like my father. But I think I got a little confused and ended up with law. I have always admired a career that involved public speaking, dealing with an audience.
Because of the kind of quiet environment where we lived – the pastor lives away from the village with all the white people coming around. By the standards of those days, it was a fairly privileged kind of life. He was not very wealthy because pastors of those days were not like today. It was a comfortable kind of setting. Since my parents waited for me for eight years, my elder sisters ‘spoilt’ me. It was a happy childhood, but not all rosy because I cannot forget when my father became very ill to the point of death. He was a man that had trained many people and my parents were proud people; very self-reliant. They were the kind of people if they had financial challenges, wouldn’t go to anyone to ask for help. They would want to rough it out by themselves. I still remember that as I told a story in a primary school at my village. I told them that I used to be in this school when I was a child. And few years after, we went to Ogoja. This person you are seeing here today had some challenges, but it had a dramatic effect on me. I ended up holding key positions in Nigeria. If you stay strong and confident you will get somewhere. My mother had to work to be able to sustain the house because my father was totally paralysed from his neck down. Help wasn’t coming from anywhere so she had to make akara (bean cakes) to be able to sustain the house. When she gave me the akara to go and sell, I would eat about half of them and when I came home, she would ask for the money but I would say I was pushed and fell. So every day I had a story about being pushed down? Maybe that explains why akara is my favourite but it also reminds me of where I came from. After my dad got better, God gave me the capacity to do well. I got double promotion and was moved to the next class – from Standard Five to secondary school. Normally, you go to a secondary school at Standard Six, but I did the entrance exams in Standard Five and I passed.
My father kept moving around as a headmaster and pastor. We were at Presbyterian School Ogoja, St. Stephens Anglican School, Umuahia, Anglican School Abayi, Umuocham, etc. Papa’s working experience was both Presbyterian and Anglican. Because of health reasons, he couldn’t continue with his pastoral works – he had huge parishes to cover; like Ogoja were he would ride bicycle all over the hilly countryside which eventually led to his ill-health. He had two health crises: I was in Ogoja when he had respiratory challenges and almost died. Even as a child I remember the story. After that period, the doctor recommended that he should go back to being a headmaster which would be less stressful for him. Not long after that, another illness came up and he was paralysed for a year – from neck down. The first day he was able to sit up in Umuahia, the whole house was screaming in joy and he was able to stand and walk. He was able to live up to 87 years old.

Riding bicycle as Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada
When I got to Canada and during the presentation of Letters of Credence, the Governor General was speaking to me and my wife and asked how we were adjusting and I said within five days that I arrived here I already got for myself some bicycles and he said I would really enjoy Canada because it is a bicycle-loving country, even as a Governor General, he was riding a bicycle. In Canada, whenever I was in town, I would do at least five bicycle runs a week, which is about four kilometres. And when I got to the village I did it regularly. In a way, the bicycle story was provoked by the media. When I was Minister of Transportation, I said something at a transport seminar, that there was a need for us to have a holistic approach towards transportation and meant that every means of transportation should be looked at. Where the government could provide buses they would. But over the years it suffered from lack of investment and the (Olusegun) Obasanjo administration did its best to see how the transportation infrastructure could be rehabilitated. For goodness sake, people do not need to wait for the buses to be all over the place to make short distances of movement or someone in Wuse waiting for a bus to take him to Garki. Just get on your bicycle, ride. I was the first Minister of Transport that managed to do a Master Plan of integrated transport infrastructure. It was approved by the Federal Executive Council. Even the present government, I am sure, is still looking at that document. President Olusegun Obasanjo was very happy when I produced that document and he asked other ministers with the responsibility that had to do with transport like Aviation, Works to identify with it. That meeting was what brought about merger of ministry of Works, Aviation and Transport. The headline after I made that statement that we should use every means of transportation was: ‘Minister of transport says Nigerians should go back to using bicycle.’ The editorialising was fairly hostile that this minister rather than solving the problems of mass transit was sending us back to the Stone Age by asking us to ride bicycles – by the way can he even ride bicycle? They retorted.

The Bicycle Challenge
I love challenges. I saw the post that if I could ride bicycle staying in the comfort of being a minister with all the cars and called my assistant, the former FRSC boss Osita Chidoka who later became Minister of Aviation, I told them that my name had been on the media that I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle. So I wanted to ride a bicycle this morning to the Federal Executive Council. They advised it was risky. Then, rain started that morning and my staffs were celebrating that it would stop me from riding the bicycle. I still went on my bicycle and I did not know that NTA was following me, it became history. We went to the executive meeting and there were a lot of hostile editorials. One of the articles said who will not ride a bicycle when he has all the security men following him. So I told my security men to stay away, as soon as I turned the corner to start going to the villa, there was a head-on collision between two buses and I was close to one of them, people were hurt but I was brushed down. The police assisted me and I came back to the house and went to the cabinet meeting. When I got there, the president looked at me and asked if there was any problem and I said no problem. We did it two more times and the President spoke to me and said, ‘Ojo, you have made your point’; that’s how I stopped the bicycle riding. It was my attempt to bring back urban renewal and also to see that Nigeria is at par with the rest of the world. I came up with a policy that every contract for every major road in all our cities should have bicycle lanes. My argument is that we travel all over the world and see people exercise on bicycles and we don’t bother. It was a way of challenging us to live healthy by riding bicycles. Let us not be too dependent on cars. It was misunderstood and even President Obasanjo said so and promised me one that with his friends and myself we would ride a bicycle. That did not happen because he was too busy. I am still very passionate about the bicycle and I am happy when I read reports. I went to the University of Lagos as minister of transport to deliver a speech on ‘Democracy, Good Governance and Corruption.’ While delivering the speech, the students were talking about bicycles. When you go to some of the great universities in the world, you won’t see much of cars, but bicycles. It is healthy; it reduces pollution. They liked the idea and I mobilised about 100 bicycles for them. The president was very impressed and used the ministry of transport as a pilot scheme. The government directed that every MDA should have it and we had about 710 in all ministries and agencies.

School Friends
There are three names I can mention now. Thank God, we are all alive. In secondary school, I met Albert Attah in Hope Waddell and we became very close friends; we were in high school together and he was a very talented person. I don’t know what he saw in me but he kept on saying ‘Ojo, you are likely to succeed.’ We are still very good friends up to date. Felix Ofia is another friend. We met during the Civil War and as young men we all got enlisted and we fought during the war. He is one of the most outstanding lawyers now. Another friend of mine is Eze Akano; he is a graduate of chemistry from the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He was the best man at my wedding. There are many other friends that I have and many of them are highly accomplished people. Through my friend Eze Akano, the father saw me as a family member and gave me a chieftaincy title in his village about 1993. I have other friends from my immediate village that we went to the same school together. Elder Ukagha Amogu is another dear friend of mine. It is an interesting relationship because we grew up together and went to the same school and he is the father of Mrs. Osita Chidoka.

Being a Parent and My Parents’ Impact
My parents were very strong disciplinarians; mum was tougher but they were loving and caring. One thing above every other thing I take always from the memory of my parents was that they were very encouraging to me. Whatever distance I set for myself, they encouraged me to get there. They were not rich and even before papa got sick, as a pastor he earned 5 Pounds Sterling a month. We lived okay but the sickness was the problem. Even when he wasn’t sick, we were not a rich family. I didn’t get spoilt by having too much money around and I didn’t get bad by extreme poverty. There was always enough except for that one year. For my parents to allow me to venture into any ambition without reminding me about the financial implications had a huge impact on me on how I relate with my children.
The kinds of lawyers who have an address in the Western House are those who were doing quite well. Law is a jealous mistress so when you live it for a long time and you are not there to make the money and wasn’t like a partnership you won’t make the money. Indeed, 1998 was not the best of times for me financially. I was elected as a senator under the UNCP, but the election was cancelled because it was during the military period under Abacha. Now we were going into the PDP and AD era and I was trying to get another nomination to run for office and it was becoming tough financially. It was in the midst of that that my second daughter told me that she was through with her first degree and ready to go and study Medicine. From when she was one year old, she argued a lot with me. She asked me the school she should apply to and I told her to apply to the best schools and she asked if I had the money and I asked her if she was challenging me. The Harvard Medical, the leading medical school in the world, admitted her and Washington University also. The point about this story is not that she got admission into these universities but what determines her going to Harvard which didn’t have scholarship at the time. Washington University was offering her scholarship of $100,000 US Dollars per year. The universities were competing to have her because of her grades. She was the top of her class in University of Texas, Dallas, and they gave her tickets to visit the three campuses. She called me about the scholarship but Harvard is Harvard. She went to fill the forms in Harvard and when asked to fill what was my salary which she did, but for the fact that they didn’t want to lose her, they gave her another form to fill for scholarship. That’s how she went through her medical school. She finished there and got her MD. They chose her again out of seven people in the class for a surgery programme. By the record of Harvard Medical School, in 200 years of the school, she was the first female black surgery student. It was a special class called Health Science Technology, combination of Harvard and MIT. Out of 120 students of Harvard regular programme, they take some students they consider to be gifted. She went to University of Pittsburgh, a leading place in America for Robotics. Right now she is an assistant professor in Medicine heading a cancer unit. Why I am telling this story is that I remember my father did not stop me from reading Law because of the financial implication. The career path that led me to politics and all the things I have done in politics were more likely to be visible through my career in law. I owe that to my father not trying to suggest that it was going to be tough for him to finance me. I have four children; two of them are surgeons. My first son is Uma, a surgeon and he attended North Western University. I didn’t argue with him when he was going to read Medicine because my father didn’t argue with me when I wanted to read Law. My first daughter, Ulari, which is the name of my mother, is like a mother to all of us. She is married to Imo State-born Professor Charles Dike of Yale. He is more than a son in-law to me and we have two grandchildren. The last born, Ukiwe, also went to a university in Texas where he got a degree in Business Marketing.

My Ministerial Screening
When I came for Senate screening, I was asked that since I had always been a boss and was now going to have a boss, how I was going to handle the situation. I said it wasn’t all about me being a boss because the time I became a boss, I never sought out to be one. I came into politics out of a sense of service to my country and to serve God through public service. I have been lucky in the process of that and I have got many key positions that made me a boss but the heart of it is service. If you are not good enough to have somebody to be your boss, then you are not good enough to be a boss. Going to be an ambassador and one out of 100 ambassadors when I used to boss 100 ambassadors myself , is a kind of going back to school and I looked forward to that. One can be a minister of foreign affairs as I was for three years without making an impact. I was a very powerful foreign affairs minister because the president gave me a lot of latitude to take decisions. I don’t know of any foreign affairs minister that was able to take that type of decision without getting instructions first from the president. I had a great time because the president trusted me and my judgment. It doesn’t matter how well I did, like some will say, I did not do well. But I came up with citizen diplomacy which to me is still the heart of diplomacy. The idea was we don’t want any Nigerian anywhere in the world to suffer any kind of disadvantage of the green passport. I tried to democratise our foreign policy by making sure that the welfare of the Nigerian citizen triumphs above everything else. Even if we go to war to stabilise anywhere, it is how it will benefit the Nigerian citizen. You may do all that, but if you have never run a mission before, because you are a politician not a career diplomat, you can’t really call yourself a diplomat. For me, going to Canada was a completion of my education as a diplomat to run a mission and also understanding the ministry of foreign affairs better. From the top, I could see the forest called diplomacy, but going to Canada was going to enable me see the tree and the combination of seeing the tree, forest it has made me an all round diplomats. I was able to raise the flag of my country very high while in Canada. I was getting invitations to places which even other ambassadors could not get. They treated me in Canada as a former foreign minister.
The way the foreign minister in Canada refers to me as our colleague former Foreign Minister of Nigeria before he mentions High Commissioner of Nigeria to Canada, showed the much we were able to achieve. A former Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Agagu said Ojo organised the biggest investment outing Nigeria has ever had anywhere in the world. The Vice President, 11 governors, 12 ministers and over 300 Nigerians were in attendance. I got the Vice President of Nigeria to meet the Prime Minister of Canada. Normally, the Prime Minister will not see anyone if not President. My three years stay in Canada was very productive in terms of diplomacy for Nigeria. It was also a great education for me to equip me more effectively to be a diplomat because even in my retirement, I intend to be a strong voice on how Nigeria engages the world. Part of my outcome of being in Canada is the training of gifted young people because based on what I did there, I was asked to be on board for a Canadian foundation that trains first class graduates in Mathematics; give them opportunities to have PhD. So far, they have trained 1000 Africans and 200 Nigerians. I have been appointed Senior Adviser to the Canada-based forum on federation. Nigeria is a member and all the federations in the world. Coming from a country with a conflicted story of federalism, my being asked to be senior adviser there is quite instructive.

Recalling Oluwole Rotimi from United States
It was a painful experience for me and you may have observed that generally I have refrained from commenting on this issue even when many people thought I should do so. What my friend Ambassador Oluwole Rotimi did was putting out in the public domain a complete distortion of the facts as early as two months ago at a ceremony in Lagos when one of Nigeria’s most celebrated diplomats was launching a book and there were a lot of eminent Nigerians there. I first saw a reference to me in an article written by Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, where he mentioned that Ambassador Rotimi criticised me for behaving like an emperor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and got him wrongly removed. The easiest thing for me would have been to make available to the public the letter that Ambassador Rotimi wrote to me describing me as a renegade Biafran. I had to exercise restraint not to act on that. Not only because of my concern of the confidentiality of documents in my position as a minister, but also to avoid creating more problems. The healing has not taken place because he kept talking about it. A newspaper did an editorial on me and called me a tribalist and it is one of the newspapers that I respect because of the quality of people there. They didn’t bother to call me and interview me. They just did an editorial on me that I was turning the foreign affairs into an Igbo enclave. I stayed calm and refused to engage Rotimi on that.
When President Barack Obama emerged as President of the United States, before his inauguration, I went to President Yar’Adua and told him that as the President of Nigeria he is the automatic the leader of the black world because Nigeria is the biggest black country in the world. This is an historic event of a black person being the president of the most powerful country in the world. I urged him to take advantage of that occasion by being in attendance. May God bless President Yar’Adua; he was a very deep thinking man and I enjoyed working with him. He agreed and asked what I intended doing and I said I would be there with other people. That was what got Senator Hilary Clinton to phone me and thank me for what I did and it is what established the relationship that led to her telling the American Ambassador to Nigeria that on her visit to Nigeria, she wanted my private residence to be the meeting place. Before we went on that trip, I needed to be briefed by my Ambassador about what was going on in Washington, to give us the direction. The ambassador before then had not been sending me dispatches. I was in Canada for three years, though I had been a former minister, I was sending dispatches to headquarters. You must report back to the headquarters on what you see in the country you are posted to. That is what the headquarters will use to make policies. I was not getting any from my ambassador and he wasn’t calling me. This is someone I admired; he was close to my former boss who is my mentor forever, President Olusegun Obasanjo. I did not see why I should have a problem with him and I didn’t think I had the luxury of time to begin to enter into any dispute over why he had not been briefing me. I just sent him a letter. I asked a retired Permanent Secretary who was my special assistant to draft the letter and you could imagine anything better than having a career diplomat to draft the letter and I signed. I made sure the letter was in offensive requesting Rotimi to come and brief me on what is going on in Washington on the transition.
I wanted maximum information to enable me advise the president. I wrote to the two of them to come. That was the only crime that I committed. Rotimi on hearing that I invited him and his deputy got angry and called my official, Ambassador Onobu and asked why I should invite him and his deputy at the same time. Onobu told him that I meant no harm but needed to brief the President and wanted the two of them to be around. But if he felt bad about it, he should call me because the minister that he knows if he realises that innocently he has offended you, this minister will apologise. I said he will not call me. The next thing were two letters from Ambassador Rotimi saying that he felt insulted by my letter that by the way, ‘I, Rotimi, was Quarter Master General in the Nigeria Amy that saw to your defeat in Biafran Army’ and that he had been so many things and had succeeded in life, that he didn’t need to be someone like minister of foreign affairs who does not have the capacity for the job, and a Biafran (at that).
When I saw the letter I was shocked and asked where it came from. I couldn’t share the information with anybody. I was too disturbed. At first I did not mention it to President Yar’Adua. I allowed things to calm down for two months. Within that period, Senator Jibrin Aminu who was the chairman Senate Committee on Foreign Relations told me what Rotimi said that he had just told me off. Aminu said he informed Rotimi that no matter what it was, I was still his boss and how could he be digging up civil war issues. This is a man who speaks for Nigeria all over the world. He said he would bring Rotimi to come and apologise. Senator Sanusi Dagash also told me the same thing about Rotimi. At that point, since he was going around talking about it, I had got two ambassadors recalled. Recalling an ambassador is more difficult than getting a minister removed. No minister recalls an ambassador; only the president on advice by the minister recalls. So why the blame I am getting from Rotimi on his recall?
Yar’Adua was a very intelligent president. I got my own kinsman and woman from Imo State who was heading Missions in Ethiopia recalled. If I had done that with my own kinsmen and with the permission of my own boss, I was being attacked that I was busy throwing out my own people in the ministry and if this issue comes up with Rotimi and I was going to act like it didn’t matter, it means I was going to destroy myself and credibility. I had to take the letter to the President. In fact, I gave it to him in the aircraft on our way back from Ghana when we went for the inauguration of Atta Mills. My boss approved the recall of Rotimi and I didn’t mention it to anybody. It was after then I called my boss President Obasanjo because Rotimi was close to him and I told him. Obasanjo confirmed Rotimi had told him already. Obasanjo said he would bring Rotimi but I said, ‘Sir, it is (too) late. I just had the approval of President Yar’Adua today for his recall,’

My Mother Two Girls’ Lives, I Married One of Them
Her name is Uche and we are from the same village. It is almost like marrying the girl next door. My mother was a missionary. The Scottish missionaries so much liked my mother and they wanted to send her to Scotland, then my father came home and found my mother and got married to her. My mother became very passionate about saving twins because they were still killing twins in my village at the time. My mother’s close friend gave birth to twin girls and knew she was in danger. If the children were not going to be killed, she would leave the village. She was getting ready to run to another village when my mother heard about the story. She went to her and encouraged her and because my mother was a pastor’s wife working with white people that gave her authority with government. Based on that, my mother gave the twins their first bath and food. Many years after as I was growing and hearing the story, I got fascinated. The older twin is Nnenna and the younger twin is Uche. Out of fascination about the story of the twins, when I came home, I started asking of the twins. The one I saw is the one I got married to. She has been with me and this year will make it 40 years of our marriage. She keeps saying that if she knew I would be a politician, she would not have married me.

The Trouble with PDP
What is happening to PDP tends to happen to parties that have been in power for many years and in a new democracy. PDP’s success became also its undoing.  PDP did well in his original mission of providing a big tent. That big tent was going to be a formidable platform that will make the return of military rule impossible. Whatever anyone will say about PDP must give that credit to that strategic, pragmatic arrangement that led to creating the party, putting an end to military rule. The failure of PDP was that after it had managed to keep the military out, it did not make the transition from being a ruling party to being a governing party. The issues of ideologies were not addressed. What is the philosophical, ideological glue that has brought together this wonderful pragmatic coalition? What is our position on foreign policy, agriculture, security?  It is not the question of what you have in the manifesto. Discuss this at meetings and even quarrel over them. Let ideas be the ties that keep the party. There were no ties that bind members in PDP. It was just a huge election machine. Very good at winning elections, but did not do well locating the ideas of what to do with that victory.
Since we failed to locate the ideas of what to do with victories and we managed to still develop Nigeria in many ways, we did very well. But there was no common threads running through those achievements that will enable us tell our story. So PDP became even inarticulate in telling its story. When another group came, some of them from PDP that left because when you have another large party like that and that is not able to have a common thread running through is a problem. The party became too large and obesity is a problem whether in physical form or in politics and there was no strong opposition. I think if it was an APC at the time when we were in government, we would still have been in government by now. Because the APC would have held the members accountable and we would have been a lot more disciplined. But because there was no opposition at the time, the opposition had to come from within the party.
It was like a titanic that would never sink. PDP was like an unsinkable ship and now the rest is history. We shouldn’t lament too much about what happened 16 years ago. PDP was bound to lose those elections. Some of us saw it coming, even from far away Canada. It was bound to lose elections because impunity was not being addressed; PDP was even breaking its own rules. It couldn’t even articulate its own achievements. It was just towards the end of the election season that achievements were being put out there as development achievements. Some of us wondered where all these things were all along. I prophesied on what was going to happen. I said one day Nigerians would ask for a change that will send PDP out of office and that change meant not because PDP failed to do what the electorates want it to do but it may be out of boredom.
In anticipation of that change, it meant that PDP needed to re-strategise when Nigeria got bored with us because we had been there for many years. What should be the new message we should offer Nigerians? Because we failed to do that, the boredom people were having with PDP and other things which were not exactly in our control, some things we could have improved upon. All these conspired that we had to lose the elections. Part of it also was the insurgency in the North-East. It was a problematic challenge because every country goes through a learning curve on how to deal with insurgency. If dealing with this insurgency is that easy, America would have concluded with Iraq and Afghanistan long ago. Jonathan’s administration needed a learning curve. Our military has never handled that type of challenge before. It is not the same thing as fighting in some of the African countries they go to. There was a perception within the international community that maybe Jonathan was not moving against Boko Haram with the resolve and ruthlessness the terrorist group deserves. Ruthlessness does not mean breaking laws; it means as compassionate as you may feel about collateral damage.

You are focused on what you want to achieve and that Jonathan had a handicap of neither being a Muslim nor coming from the North, or being a retired General. Any attempt to move against the insurgency in the North with the totality and the aggressiveness required would have the political undertones. Stories of corruption; money that was voted for insurgency but ended up in private pockets was also another issue. All that was making the round in the international community, added to the picture of a presidency that was not up to the task.
Let nobody fool you that the international community doesn’t have the capacity to influence the direction of the events at the domestic level. We politicians usually make these intellectually lazy comments that the foreign community may not have a vote here but in a global world, they have a way of influencing the national elites here in Nigeria to go in a direction that could embarrass the government of the day. Where we are now is to retool the party as the several editorials have come up in the past since democracy. Each one of them said for the sake of the nation, PDP should get its acts together to provide a credible opposition, that failure to do that, could lead to dictatorship. It is just the natural part of things that if the ruling party does not have a strong opposition party holding it accountable, forces of authority will take over in the ruling party. It almost happened in PDP. It is part of why we are paying the price because there was no opposition to make us more accountable. I have been so blessed by being a member of PDP. The party has given me the platform to occupy some of the highest offices anybody can occupy in a country.

Why should I abandon a party like that?
I have to join hands with the likes of Jerry Gana to say yes we did wrong on a number of issues as a party. Like I said in an event, PDP has to be a party in penitence before it can be a party in power. We are not a corrupt party; let nobody deceive you that everybody in the PDP was a thief until it is proved. Many people came out and served decently. When I went to my daughter’s graduation as a minister of transportation, I had promised her a car but I couldn’t give her because I didn’t have the money. I don’t have a house in my state capital. I like good things but if I can’t afford them I leave it. Some of us have served this nation loyally and faithfully. There are members of my family and community that don’t talk to me because when I became minister of transportation and you are from my family, you are disqualified from getting a contract. I kept to my words. If they were contractors with the ministry before I came in, it won’t be a problem. A lawyer who was running my chambers in Western House kept asking of legal briefs in many government departments. When he went there they would tell him that his boss was minister of transportation and he wanted to collect everywhere. So when he told me, I told him that no brief would move to my legal office because that’s a conflict of interest. He thought I was joking and he still wrote to them and they told me about it, I gave him the sack and closed down the chambers. When you go through that background and your party in government is being portrayed as a corrupt party, you will certainly feel bad.

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