By Tony Eluemunor
Subterfuge, deception, lies, and pure tricks (let alone wickedness and unforgiving spirit) come up when former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s name is referenced. Obasanjo has been blessed with a long life and is now either in his 80s or 90s, but he is not about to change from his well-beaten path of disdaining the truth and frustrating wisdom.
Hey, is there any Nigerian who does not know that the Obasanjo administration was neck deep in the Third Term scheme or is unaware that each Senator and House of Representatives member were offered N50 million and N30 million respectively so that Obasanjo would benefit from a constitutional tenure elongation that would allow the President to have a Third Term in office? Perhaps, what is not public knowledge is that five billion dollars (yes, $USD5,000,000,000) was collected to drive that scheme. That makes it the most bribery intensive scheme that has ever defaced Nigeria’s unfortunate history.
Yet, as recently as June 16 this year, Daily Trust reported that “Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has again opened up on his controversial third term bid, saying some state governors also wanted tenure extension. Obasanjo had severally denied plans to seek extension of his stay in office beyond 2007 but blamed some governors as the brains behind the third term agenda”. But was he involved? Who started it? The interviewer only smiled and nodded his agreement to Obasanjo’s words – no wonder why Obasanjo looks down on Nigerian journalists.
Yet, despite Obasanjo’s denial, it is a fact that the Third-Term plot started in 2001 (yes, during Obasanjo’s first term). I wrote about it in my 14-page (two pages daily) All The President’s Men report in Sunday Independent on Obasanjo’s first term, May 2004, that a third term plot was on to elongate Obasanjo’s stay as President, and that it “will fail”. Nineteen years later, Obasanjo still denied the obvious.
That brings us to Obasanjo’s evil sermon about Ibori. The Urhobo Times of June 18, 2023 reported: “Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president, has disclosed that James Ibori, a former governor of Delta State, looted $200 million but only repaid $15 million of the funds”. In response to accusations of being vengeful against him by the late former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and Ibori, Obasanjo said: “Ibori was found to have misused about $200 million after an investigation by the EFCC” and Obasanjo said to him “Go and give the EFCC $150 million assuming you have already spent $50 million. When Nuhu Ribadu arrived, I told him to deposit the $15 million in cash in their account at the Central Bank because he believed he was being cunning. He was so hunted down and taken to London, where he was put in jail. Therefore, if that was revenge, I would encourage more revenge in Nigeria”.
Having shown you Obasanjo’s lies and truths with his blaming the Third Term debacle on some unnamed state Governors and not himself or his aides, he has only tried with this answer to wriggle out of the vindictiveness charge generally held against him. Ribadu has made almost ten claims of that bribery allegation, but Obasanjo has said that it was no Bribe But Restitution. I say that Obasanjo knows it was neither bribery nor restitution.
When did Obasanjo become a restitution agent? When did the President of any nation become a law court? All these questions scream that Aso Rock cooked up the story and Ribadu played along; and the funds came from the Third Term slush fund – to blackmail Ibori!
Or did Obasanjo relate so with any other person? His former Minister of Internal Affairs, the late Sunday Awoniyi and Police Chief, Mustafa (Tafa) Adebayo Balogun were tried by the EFCC, and restitution never arose. So, was it his great love for Ibori, a man who had told Obasanjo to his face, “because of your dictatorial tendencies you are unmarketable, unsaleable, and unelectable” that he was disposed towards giving Ibori any soft-landing? And that was after Aso Rock had wasted billions in a failed attempt to foist an ex-convict stone on Ibori’s neck? No!
Unfortunately, Obasanjo has always believed he could say outrageous, illogical or even totally senseless things and Nigerians would accept them. He tried it with his Vice-President, splashing him with endless allegations of corruption. Then, to kill Atiku’s political career, he set up a kangaroo committee that found Atiku guilty of some spurious allegations in the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), and took it to the Senate to further damage Atiku. There, Atiku showed that bogus contracts attacked PTDF funds when Obasanjo began to supervise it.
That was how, Obasanjo promised in his 1999 Independence Anniversary broadcast that Nigerians should judge him on the implementation of the plans outlaid in the Presidential Policy Advisory Report a Gen. T. Y. Danjuma-led Committee produced: “this paper will soon be made public and shall constitute our operational guidelines”.
There are countless books praising Obasanjo’s administration, but none took the PPAC report into consideration. Unfortunately, the same Obasanjo who ran a stunningly inglorious administration, a monumental failure which dug the ditch which has bugged successive administrations is busy playing judge over others. Yet, Danjuma himself said at the photo session after that administration’s last Ex-co meeting: “we failed. We failed to grow the economy. We failed to create jobs”.
The $15m bribe allegation resulted from high stakes treachery if Obasanjo’s story is interposed against EFCC operatives’ statements. Or why should there be several versions of one single event? That would only happen if some or all the parties involved are lying; Ribadu himself, Ibrahim Lamorde, James Garba, a Central Bank of Nigeria staff seconded to EFCC, Senator Andy Uba and EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).
Ribadu: “Before the end of (Ibori’s) term, we met at one of his friend’s house in Abuja. I had brought several of my colleagues from the EFCC. They witnessed Ibori handing over to me a bag containing $15m in cash, as a pay-off which I pretended to treat as RESTITUTION for the monies he stole from his state. (Ribadu’s book: “My Story”, page 124)” Yes, restitution and NOT BRIBE; this rhymes with Obasanjo’s claim and points to his role in the scam) but from Wale Adebanwi’s “A Paradise of Maggots” comes this: “Ribadu claimed that Ibori brought along a bribe of $15m in cash, ‘in two bags’, Ribadu then called Lamorde, Ibrahim Magu and five other officers through the mobile phone to come to Uba’s house to pick up the bribe. Lamorde and his team took the two bags containing the money and drove straight to the CBN.”
Two books, two versions of the EFCC operatives present when the alleged bribery was given, and two versions of the number of bags, and RESTITUTION was gone from a book and as we shall see when we consider other police statements, two versions of the date the alleged bribe (or restitution) was given and when it left Uba’s house for the CBN.
Ribadu’s Abuja December 12, 2007, statement: “The money was collected in my presence at Dr. Andy Uba’s house on the 26/4/07 by Lamorde and his officers and deposited in the CBN Abuja branch on the same day”. He wrote the statement AFTER he had arraigned Ibori in a Kaduna court! Yet, in the London statement of August 26, 2009, Ribadu claimed: “On that day…my staff on that occasion would have included EFCC Head of Operations, Ibrahim Lamorde and EFCC Officer James Garba, (now it is no longer the seven officers mentioned in the book as quoted above but just two operatives) James (Ibori) was there and his servant or driver brought out the money from the house, in two (2) massive sacks containing U.S. $100 dollar bills. The bribe was made on 26th April 2007”.
The 25/4/07 in Ribadu’s 2007 Police statement changed by a day in the London version. On who handed out the alleged money to the EFCC, and those present, Lamorde further contradicted Ribadu saying that on “25th April” Ribadu told him that “there was the sum of $15 million (USD) in cash given to him and the Commission by James Ibori” (so the money was for EFCC and not Ribadu). Garba supported this version, saying that the money was there in Uba’s house on the 25th April 2007, and he was directed by Lamorde to collect the sum and deposit at the CBN, so he wrote an authorising letter which Lamorde signed – for Garba to deposit the money that same 25th April 2007, “but it was already late to do so”. Ibrahim Lamorde also contradicting Ribadu, maintained that the money was already in Uba’s residence on 25/4/07 and Ribadu “directed that I should make arrangement to collect it. So on 26 -04-07, myself and Mr. James Garba, (just two operatives, not seven as Ribadu claimed, and obviously excluding Ibrahim Magu) accompanied by Police escort proceeded to Mr. Uba’s residence. We collected the money”. So, from Lamorde’s statement, Ribadu and Ibori were not there! They just collected the money from Andy Uba!
About Ibori’s presence in Uba’s house, Garba contradicted Ribadu; “In the compound, I saw Mr. Andy Uba and he directed some men, to carry a brownish long bag, very heavy, into the booth of the Director’s (Lamorde) car. This happened after the Director and Uba had exchanged greetings on our arrival to Uba’s house”. So Andy Uba directed the operations! Ibori wasn’t there.
Ribadu claimed in his London statement that he never questioned Ibori over the alleged bribery, because he enjoyed immunity until he left office on May 29, 2007. If so, why didn’t EFCC raise that question when an investigation team questioned Ibori on 4th July 2007 or even at Ibori’s arrest? Till this very moment, EFCC never questioned Ibori over the alleged bribe.
EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) even contradicted himself: years after he said in Federal High Court, Kaduna, that EFCC collected the alleged bribe from Andy Uba’s house, he changed the story at an Abuja High Court that determined that the money should be permanently deposited at the CBN; he said the money came from unknown agents of Ibori. And if the EFCC was so sure that it collected the money from Ibori, why did it institute the suit to determine who should keep the money?
Who can explain why a Ribadu would have been given an advance notice of a bribe and he would not use any devise, even if ordinary mobile phone, to record it? Yet, on page 103 of his “My Story; My Vision”, Ribadu claimed a woman attempted to bribe him “during a meeting in a private house and the conversation was recorded without her knowledge”. That was in 2003, so why did he not repeat the procedure in 2007?
Lastly, at Protea Hotel, Ikeja Lagos, Ribadu, as Action Congress of Nigeria’s presidential candidate for the 2011 election, said Ibori did not bribe him as Mr. Ikechukwu Amaechi reported in a national newspaper, and challenged Ribadu to react if he had been lied against. The challenge still stands. Several other journalists, including Steve Nwosu of the SUN and Tunde Abdulrahman then of THISDAY were there. That was in 2011 and Obasanjo engaged in tall devilish tales about that bribery allegation in 2023.
Specifically, from the Federal High Court, Asaba, comes this from Justice Awokulehin’s ruling: “Count 66 Charges the 1st Accused/Applicant with making a cash payment of S15,000,000 (Fifteen million Dollars) to the officials of the EFCC in order to influence their investigations and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004. The evidence in respect of this charge are the witness statements of Nuhu Ribadu, Ibrahim Lamorde and James Garuba. Their statements are to the effect that the money was collected from one Dr. Andy Uba in his residence and not from the Accused/Applicant. It is shocking that there is no witness statement from the said Dr. Andy Uba who can say whether or not the 1st Accused gave him money and the purpose for which the money was given and to whom he delivered the money. Yet, countless commentators leveled all sorts of charges against Justice Awokulehin!
Nasir-el Rufai wrote in “Accidental Public Servant” (page 335 “President (Obasanjo’s) third term team spent a lot of time raising huge amounts of money – more than $300m by Nuhu Ribadu’s informed estimate. And on page 339, El-Rufai added: “Nuhu directed the financial intelligence of EFCC to track cash movements, mostly from the states into Abuja, which accounts, most of the money ended up in and so forth. Most of the money was allegedly going to companies and bank accounts controlled by Andy Uba”. El-Rufai continued on the next page: “Most of the money came from Governors friendly to Obasanjo but some also came from Lagos-based businessmen”. On page 349 El-Rufai hit the nail on the head: “it was from Andy Uba’s house that payments emanated from” when the bribery proper started. A well-known Abuja Minister once said he personally ferried N75 million apiece to national legislators representing Abuja.
Former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara said in November 2014 “The Congress Watch”, page 13: “on Thursday the 16th May 2006, by 1.30am the sum of N250m was brought and I refused the money. So, mine was not even N50m. In fact, it was N250m with a promise, if everything worked out, they would bring more to me”.
So it is no surprise that the money $15m came from Uba’s house, the Third Term purser, according to El-Rufai’s book. And EFCC operatives, Lamorde and James Garba, two EFCC operatives who actually collected the money said categorically that Ibori was not there when they collected the money from Andy Uba’s house in Andy Uba’s presence!
August 31, 2012, the Channels TV reported Andy Uba saying “All I know about this matter is that Chief James Ibori brought some money to the then EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. The details of the transaction were undisclosed to me at the time. The money was handed to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who invited his then Director of Operations, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to fetch it”. That is another contradiction because four years earlier in both Kaduna and Asaba Federal High Courts, Ribadu, Lamorde and Garba had said that the money was collected from Andy Uba, in his house, and Ibori was not there. So much for this afterthought from Obasanjo’s former Man Friday.
Obasanjo should please explain how public agencies and states contributed for his Presidential Library that is better known for its lordly hotel, or the PTDF contract bazaar, the shady Ikoyi Houses sale for which Obasanjo’s “beloved boy” the late Dr. Ojo Adinoyi Onukaba was beaten black and blue, his face pot-marked by wounds, simply because he authored a press statement for Atiku Abubakar stating that Atiku had no hand in the sales.
A day to when Mrs. Mobolaji Osomo, the Housing minister had promised to reveal the documentary evidence pertaining to the sale of the federal government’s landed property, Obasanjo sacked her. Case closed. He should explain the drones his administration bought from Israel which an Israeli newspaper, Haaretz reported, May 31, 2006: “the President’s Office the President and his aides were indeed involved in the decision” on “the $260 million deal” which “according to the value of the equipment, and even if Aeronautics profits from the deal reach 100 percent, the scope of the deal will not exceed $150 million”.
And when will he, a restitution agent, get the refund for Nigeria? It is worrisome that another base, disreputable, sordid, and seedy matter –a truth-telling challenge -unites Obasanjo and Andy Uba – his Man Friday.