Friday, September 10, 2010

2011: Make or break…for Nigeria – David West (Re-Printed with Apology)

Professor Tam David-West, a Virologist, was in Kaduna recently to launch his latest book on General Muhammad Buhari. He spared time to field questions from Daily Sun. He spoke on a wide range issues: “If 2011 don’t bring in credible leadership through credible election, this country will breakup. So we pray to Almighty God, Christians, Muslims, traditional religions, please, beg God take us through that turbulence, through credible election and credible leadership.” Excerpts:
Let’s start from the testimonies people said about you here. How do you feel about those testimonies?
Naturally, I feel very good, but more importantly I have to give great thanks to my God. When God created us, He did that for the good of human. So, my life is full of mystery. How I was born is a mystery. The name Tam is Taminomi, meaning there is God, it’s a mystery. So, for having served Nigeria in various capacities as Commissioner for Education, Rivers State way back 1975-79, served at the federal level as Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Chairman, NNPC Board of Directors/Chief Executive, under Gen. Buhari, before he was overthrown and then Gen. Babangida brought me back as Minister of Petroleum. Then, he reshuffled cabinet and made me Mnister of Mines, Power and Steel, January-September 1986. In each of these places, if I wanted to be a billionaire I should have been one by now. My greatest joy to God Almighty is that I served for service.
Incidentally, all those who came, spoke about the good old days in the NNPC, why is it difficult to bring back those good old days?
I said it in many interviews before, any government that cannot manage the oil industry in Nigeria for the good of the people is a bad government and must be overthrown.
Why did you say so?
I believe it must be overthrown because oil makes up at least 90 percent if not more of all what Nigeria has abroad in foreign currency. That 85 percent or more of our annual budget comes from oil means that oil is the life of Nigeria. If you want to destroy Nigeria, destroy the oil industry, then Nigeria is finished. When we got that assignment to give oil to Nigeria, we did our best and those who were around then, and who are still alive today can testify to that. The difference between the time I served under Buhari and now is that we served the country, we were interested in building the oil industry for the good of the people, not for ourselves and we are vindicated today. There is no time anybody that served under Buhari has been chased around by the EFCC that is why I am with him. After Buhari, every government, every Head of State, every minister wants to make money from the oil. So, there lies the difference.
There was difference, in terms of national orientation, moral orientation and orientation in terms of patriotism. None of the people under Buhari was interested in being an oil sheikh. But today ministers have estates and mansions in Abuja. So if you decide to love money, oil can give you easy money, oil can make you a multimillionaire in one month. They saw the soft side of oil for their own personal benefit. That is the difference. I feel annoyed at the change. I ask them at vision 2020, giving two examples that during Buhari’s time Nigeria was exporting refined products from the three refineries through off-shore processing. But soon after Buhari, hundreds of millions were lost because there is a cabal that is controlling the oil industry. While this cabal is draining multi-million daily, Nigeria is suffering.
I have been teaching since1968 in the university, I have being a professor since 1974.The situation of our universities is very appalling these days. Graduates have no job after graduation. I have been to so many restaurants where graduates have been reduced to mere stewards on the floor of the restaurants in most hotels. Graduates are taxi drivers in Ibadan and all over the country. Why should Nigerians suffer? We have had our days. If the present cannot guarantee the future of posterity, we have failed. That is what is happening in the oil industry. Oil is selling about $70 per barrel now.
Throughout the time of Obasanjo, oil did not sell less than $50 per barrel. Nigeria produces over two million barrels of oil per day, why should Nigerians suffer? I traveled to the Golf where oil belongs to the royal family but you can see wealth distributed to the Golf. Kuwait is a good example. Whenever Kuwait sells oil, it puts some amount in the bank for the future. Kuwait is so wealthy. It has bought so many investments in Europe including Dorchester Hotel in London, one of the greatest high rises in Britain. Why can’t Nigeria do the same thing? The difference is that after Buhari and his cabinet left, every person that came into office has got dirty appetite to get oil money. You can be a millionaire, multi-millionaire in one month. Nigeria is a rich country with so many poor people. It is very sad.
Do you think the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, can change anything?
No, they have not read it. Most of the people in government, including members of the National Assembly never even read the constitution. They started reading the constitution during Yar’Adua’s health problem. I heard an interview with a senator who came to the studio without reading the constitution. I do not want to mention his name, he was there to make money. You are supposed to read your constitution before coming to contest any office in government. These are the people who will say they are going to America to see how democracy and presidential system works. Most of them in government are not qualified to be there, either in morality or in qualification or interest of the country. The Petroleum Industry Bill is saying nothing. Most of them in the National Assembly are lazy. They don’t read the constitution, so how can you take them seriously? A minister came to be cleared and you said ‘take a bow and go’ without any screening. I was in America when Professor Bark, one of the greatest professors of law in America, President Reagan nominated him for a position. The Senate Committee drilled him for more than two weeks. They quoted what he wrote so many years ago in the university and he was sweating. The Vice President of America, Bidden, was to be the President of America on the platform of the Democrats. He was almost into the White House when they brought out his indiscretion in Law School 20 years ago.
What I am saying is that people go into parliament in Nigeria without being cleared. Most of them don’t read, most of them are only interested in money, constituency allowance. I have written over 50 pages on that Petroleum Industry Bill and I have not finished. If they don’t study that Bill properly and pass it, the only industry in this country will die. Oil industry is capital intensive. You cannot go and have a wishy-washy, superficial Petroleum Industry Bill, and say you want to use that to reform the industry. The oil industry Bill is useless as it is and will cause more problem to this country than we have ever envisaged. Stakeholders should also look at it. Don’t make NNPC like a cult. In fact, Petroleum Industry Bill, as it stands today, any serious government should see the unseriousness which is the title alone with 40 words. They are not serious, they should look at it again oh!

Buhari’s chance
The chance that Buhari has is such that, he has the highest moral standing than anybody in this country. Buhari has the highest moral talk than anybody in politics today. I am vindicated that they are afraid of him.
2011 will make a breakthrough for Nigeria. If 20 11 don’t bring in credible leadership through credible election, this country will breakup. So we pray to Almighty God, Christians, Muslims, traditional religions, please, beg God take us through that turbulence, through credible election and credible leadership.
But look at the difference, when I launched the main book in Lagos, Governor Raji Fashola couldn’t come but he sent his deputy to represent him. Kalu was there, Oshiornhole was the chairman, and Emir of Kano was there and so on. So if you look at it, you cannot see that audience with PDP because they are afraid of what will be said. If you are afraid of somebody that is trying to take up your political seat then it means you have something to hide. It means that person has a lot of qualities, which you do not have.
Then how do you propagate Buhari’s message, which you appear to be so passionate about?
I propagate the Buhari message more effectively as a non party man, as an intellectual. A man that I believe Nigeria respects to have record of objectivity. Since I left government with him, when he was overthrown, I saw Buhari only three times. I don’t even have his phone number. I don’t have to be a party man to tell the truth in Nigeria. I said I stake my honour when I launched the first book. I challenged all those who are his detractors. I have 300 evidences in support of him. I challenged all of them since l999, to a debate, none of then showed up because what I have is the truth.
The Buhari message will go round. I write articles, I have people, students in Port Harcourt, Abuja, Ibadan, Lagos and advertisements with my money. In fact, in Lagos and here (in Kaduna,) whatever I receive from this literary effort, 50 percent must go to the Buhari effort on project Nigeria. I am not writing book on Buhari to make money for myself. I am writing book on Buhari, to propagate the Gospel of Buhari that ‘Nigeria, please I know this man and I stake my honour, let anybody challenge me.’ If you ask any Nigeria which is the greatest evil that keeps Nigeria backward, he will say corruption and indiscipline. Is Buhari corrupt? No. Is he indiscipline? No. Nigerians are not afraid of Buhari. It’s the politicians who are afraid of Buhari. The fear of Buhari by politicians is the beginning of political wisdom. What they will do is to make sure he does not win election, by rigging. 20 11 will be different, if you rig, Nigeria will break up.
He tried it in 2003 and 2007, did you contribute to those efforts, if not why, and why now?
The one that I contributed was in 2007. So, 2007 was the effective beginning of this crusade. I knew, I was working against the tide but I am philosophically a positive thinker. Buhari’s chance was not right in 2007, no. If you look at the book you will see that the last two pages were devoted to prayer because I don’t do anything without praying to God. I don’t write anything without praying to God to guide me for the good of the society and glorify His name. 2007, was not the time for Buhari, but the seed for 2011 was sowed in 2007.
If you say, 2007 was not his time, what then will you make of the Supreme Court judgment, which narrowly made late Yar’ Adua President?
I was vindicated when I said Buhari is the moral President of Nigeria. Yar’Adua, may his soul rest in peace, was the Political President. I say so because when somebody like Buhari who is an underdog, all of them deserted him, his party deserted him and he fought to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court by votes of 4- 3 said victory is for Yar’ Adua. If an underdog can be so successful in wining 4-3 votes, he is a victor. 2007 was not Buhari’s time, but the beginning of the Buhari’s crusade.
So what are your expectations for 2011 elections?
The year Nigerians are worried about is 2011 and I am happy about it because no politician can buy the voters easily again because they are afraid of what is going to happen if they don’t get it right. Credible election and credible leadership, is what we expect.
Should the elections be shifted to allow for credible voters register, which many believe is a necessity for credible elections?
Jega should never use Iwu’s voters list. Anybody that tries to smuggle Iwu’s voters list in for 2011, the person must be prepared for a civil disobedience of massive disorder. Iwu’s voters list must be completely discarded. Jega should start again. We must get it right, we must get clean voters list. In Iwu’s voters list, Mike Tyson was a voter, Mohammad Ali was a voter and my grand mother who died many years ago was a voter. That is a disgrace for Nigeria in the face of international community.
In 2011, I have fate in my God and have faith that Nigerians will not tolerate anything shot of credible election and credible emergence of good leadership. To that extent, no sacrifice should be too much to make, to have a credible election. They must get new register. There is nothing we sacrifice to get good election that is too much. If we must shift the time to give INEC good time to get the register cleaned up, no problem. But the caveat is that every political office holder must be on half salary between January, when the election is supposed to hold and the April date, which many are canvassing for, because a good leader must be able to serve without salary. All privileges must be cancelled, including constituency allowance.
Zoning arrangement
Zoning does exist, and even Obasanjo was brought in by zoning. Why are they lying? During Obasanjo’s second term, they voted for zoning 47-2. Section 7 (2c) of PDP constitution said there is zoning North and South. If Yar’Adua is alive today, will we talk about zoning or Jonathan? No. Then what are we talking about? Obasanjo said there is no zoning. He lied, he lied, and he lied! By lying on what you signed, I am not surprised. Then, he manipulated and sent Ogbulafor away because he stood by zoning. He brought out Nwodo, who first said zoning is dead. Something that is not living could not die. Your Oga said zoning does not exist at all; you came and said it is dead. Why should you kill something that does not exist at all? Then later he said he is going to revisit it. Is that the type of thing Jonathan wants to be?
The northern governors voted on zoning that it is not constitutional. Nigerian Constitution binds everyone of us, but you cannot join a club, draft the rules of a club and violate it. Resign and contest or delete the zoning aspect. So, I asked myself, will I like an Ijaw brother, Ijaw son to be the President of Nigeria through this bumpy road and controversy and over-heated polity? The answer is no. Mathew Luther King whom I have met personally who said he has a dream that one day my little children will be judged by the strength of their character and not by their colour. Obama’s election shows that Mathew Luther King’s dream has not been realized. Because Mathew Luther King is a descendant of slaves, while Obama’s father is a Kenyan, his grandmother is white. So America did not elect a free American slave.
Is it not strange that you’re promoting a northerner against a fellow Ijaw man like you?
I feel very proud. I said if Jonathan were my father today, I will do what I am doing. I am a very proud Ijaw man. Buhari is a northerner and I am a southerner. Buhari is a Muslim and I am a Christian. My family has been Christians since 100 years now. In 1908 my paternal grandfather founded St Michael Church, in Buguma. My maternal grand father founded another church in my area in 1913. Buhari is a Fulani, I am an Ijaw, Buhari is from Katsina and am from Rivers State. Why do I love him? That should make people do away with this bestial sentiment and look for a credible leadership in Nigeria.
I worked with him and I know him. There is nothing I have said about Buhari that I could not write it. Jonathan went to secondary school in 1975 when I was already a professor for two years. If an Ijaw man, a Niger Delta man is President of Nigeria, of course I will be very happy. But through normal channel, not through illegal means because what you get illegally will not be in the interest of the Niger Delta or the interest of the Ijaw. You are sowing seeds of future problem for us. If Jonathan, an Ijaw man goes through the normal way and he is elected I will dance and will be among people to go and embrace him. But what is happening now, I will oppose it with the last drop of my pen.
Jonathan is acting Obasanjo’s script and no apologies to him. I have even written about it. When I said this long ago, that Jonathan is Obasanjo’s switch, have I not been proved right? Obasanjo himself is showing every example that he wants to have a third term by default. I have been to Ota many times and I have personal letter from Obasanjo to me where he addressed me, as ‘my dear Tam from Olu Obasanjo.’ We cannot follow Obasanjo whether right or wrong. Anything that is not in the interest of Nigeria and to say that even my own father I will oppose him.
What is happening is not in the interest of Nigeria. Let us forget about this north/south dichotomy, it is artificial in terms of Nigerian leadership. People have made all sorts of noise about the word ‘Goodluck.’ They have made all sorts of spacious infantile analysis of how God is behind him. I said no, I looked the other way round not because I want to be controversial.
I made a difference between Godluck and Goodluck. If God wants to give you something, it should not be at the expense of another person. God will not give you something that will make you smile and make the other person weep. That is not how God works. We are rational human beings, God has given us the wisdom to think and the conscience which is the sign of the word of God in us to know what is right and what is wrong.
Conscience has two components, the passive component of conscience that said what is right and what is wrong and the active component of conscience which is more important. I cannot with clear conscience say, Goodluck Jonathan being Governor of Bayelsa State was good luck. He had to be governor of Bayelsa State because Obasanjo never wanted Alamiesiegha, because at that time it was suspected that he would run with Atiku. Obasanjo had to gun him down for opposing his third term. He stage- managed a Kangaroo impeachment for him. He was impeached illegally.
So, Jonathan became the Governor of Bayelsa State at the tears of Alarniesiegha and that is not how God works. Jonathan became the President of Nigeria when Yar’Adua died and we are complicating matters for him and he is also not helping himself. There is a wise saying that ‘for the prince to be wisely advised, he also should be wise in the first place.’ Jonathan was going to Akwa Ibom, Obasanjo followed him and so many things. Are you helping him? You are showing that Jonathan is a puppet on your opponent.
The National Assembly has all the right when it was so glaring that Yar’Adua cannot come back. They were afraid to do the right thing. Either to make a medical report about him, vote 2/3 majority, set up a medical panel and declare him permanently incapacitated for Jonathan to become authentic President. They were afraid to do that. Impeach him, you did not impeach him because the constitution says to impeach the President and the Vice President, you must let them know what they did wrong and give them some time to reply. The National Assembly misdirected themselves, and put us in this mess.
You can’t talk doctrine of necessity when there is a provision for something like that in the constitution. Is that how you want my Ijaw brother to be President of Nigeria, through a means that is constitutionally flawed? Then as if that was not enough, when Yar’ Adua died, oh my God! Then they took my son, Jonathan I am sure through Obasanjo again, and swore him immediately even when the corpse of Y ar’ Adua had not been buried. Would Jonathan like it ifYar’ Adua had been in his position as the Vice President?
We should know that the Nigerian Constitution has no time limit on the time for swearing in. Nigeria Constitution says when the President dies or permanently incapacitated, the Vice President will take over. It never gave time limit. In the case of Jonathan, I agree that there should not be a vacuum, I understand, but here they were forcing him to do unconstitutional means and made you an acting President and law court of Nigeria says an acting President has the power of the President. These are all the things I have against my Ijaw brother, my Ijaw son. With what has happened, they did not put themselves on the good side of history. By doing that he did not also put himself and the Ijaw people in the good side of history. So this is my grouse.
Since you started this crusade, have you ever received any call from any Ijaw man to caution you on your stand on Buhari? If yes, how did you handle the situation?
Oh yes, I state my position to them just like I am stating to you. They are very understanding. I had a very long interview with a paper that is coming up in Port Harcourt. They know that what I am doing is for the interest of the Ijaw and they are so happy about it. PDP brought militancy in Nigeria in Niger Delta. We have our problems but militancy of today is because PDP used the thugs to rig elections. What justification do we have for that cause deprivation, if criminals will have to use militants to protect them? Why should militants be saying they want to relocate to Abuja to protect Jonathan, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Does he need militants’ protection? All the arms of security around Jonathan, what will the militants do when they say that they were relocating to Abuja to protect Jonathan? Are you not causing trouble? The riverine area is different from land oh!
They have done two things to him, just like Nwodo when he said zoning is dead. The Constitution said the president must not only win majority of popular votes but two thirds of the election. How can a northerner dominate without the help of the South? Northern strength is Southern weakness. Shehu Shagari in 1979 won 60 percent in the old Sokoto State and 75 percent in the old Rivers State. No president from the North can dominate without Southern collaboration or vice versa. No Christian can rule without Muslim collaboration or vice versa


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