‘If it’s for common good, nothing bad in godfather politics’
Former governor of Anambra State and acclaimed estranged godfather of incumbent governor, Willie Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) who has now thrown his weight behind the candidature of Oseloka Obaze of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next Saturday’s governorship election said the reason for his switching camp was his successor’s inability to provide quality governance for the state. He spoke to NIYI BELLO (Political Editor)
People are surprised that your relationship with your political godson, Obiano, has turned sour, considering the campaigns you did for him in 2013.
If you have interacted with human beings, you would have known enough of some of them to be shocked over what they do. I read Philosophy and I know about Blaise Paschal, who, in his book described man as a Chimera, an animal in Greek mythology that had two heads, he is an angel in one and a brute in the other. Such contradiction is what we see among human beings. Yes, I campaigned vigorously for him and everywhere I went with him, they asked me question and I told them he would perform and if he did not, I would be the number one person to campaign against him. There is nothing wrong with backing somebody you think can deliver the common good, nothing at all. And there is nothing wrong with withdrawing your support if the person derails. That is why I am at the centre of the campaign for the PDP candidate. And as someone campaigning for my party, I have restricted myself to the truth and I will continue to do so. Every statement I make to buttress the need for a change in the governance of Anambra is the truth.
What role did you play in Obiano’s emergence and how much of him did you know?
I don’t want to go about how he emerged. He has emerged and did not perform, let somebody else try it. It’s just that in this country, so many people have emerged and they did not deliver. Even in the First World, people have emerged and they did not perform and they were asked to go.
I met Obiano in the bank. I was a Bank Director and Bank Chairman. The relationship between a Bank Director/Chairman and someone who works in a bank is not close. However, we knew each other. And I believe that if someone has risen to a certain level in life, there is at least minimum standard of behaviour you can expect from him. For example, when I went in there, I was looking at where I was coming from and the things I wouldn’t do. When I was being impeached, I remember some prominent Anambra people were telling me to do some things, but I declined. I don’t want to do things that in future I will regret.
Beyond this what issues do you have with the Governor?
I don’t have any issue with Mr. Obiano. I have issues with Governor Obiano. Whatever issue we have, I have forgiven him. But for Governor Obiano, he has turned governance into what it should not be. You’ve been reading wonderful things in the newspaper, but let Governor Obiano invite you to Anambra. When I was going for second tenure, I invited journalists three months to election and we toured all the projects we were doing and the investments we had attracted. Governor Obiano said he has attracted $7.8 billion worth of foreign investment; can you people come and inspect those yam fields where we are going to get 10 million yams, or the Ugu field, or the rice field, or where those investments are?
But there are stories that you demanded N7.5 billion from the governor
That is a lie. On 23rd December, 2016, he came to my house for the first time since he became Governor with an ordained Bishop to plead for reconciliation and to ask for my support for his re-election bid. There, I asked him about the 7.5 billion and he said it did not come from him, that he only heard it from people. Now he is the one saying it. I’m sure the Bishop will be listening to us. And other people who have been in the same meeting with him and I where I have reiterated that I do not want any kobo from him, will know that I have never, on my honour, ask Obiano to pay me money. I have not even been paid my severance allowance since I left office, which I am entitled to. I left about $156 million in office. Nobody has ever left one dollar. If I was desperate, I could have comfortably taken just $30 million and it will remain $126 million. Nobody on earth will leave money and go and beg the person he left the money for to give him some.
Because I made it clear to him that I would support my party and perhaps being told that my support was critical, he now resorted to blackmail. He is doing violence to himself because Nigerians will be reading in between lines and will know who to trust and who to deal with in future. It is unfortunate.
There are also stories that you left a debt of N127 billion for the state
The day I left office, I did not have any unpaid certificate of work that had been executed. I did not have any certificate of supply that was delivered that was not paid for. As an accountant I expect him to know that contracts are not debt until executed. He was just trying to confuse the people through half-truths. Let him explain to the people that he included contracts yet to be executed.
When I became governor in 2006, Dr. Chris Ngige had awarded the reconstruction of Zik’s Avenue – the major road in Awka, and a lot of other roads. These were ongoing projects. Because he paid for all the certificates generated, I did not say, based on the contracts unexecuted, that he left me with debts. No contractor came to me that Ngige owed him. Likewise, ask Obiano to tell you how many contractors that came to complain that Peter Obi owed them.
The biggest contractor we had when I was in office was RCC and IDC, go and ask them if I owed them. Our biggest supplier was Innoson, Coscharis and HP. In each case, I paid them in advance. I bought over 1000 vehicles from Innoson and paid him at least six months to one year before he supplied me one; the same with HP.
As Governor, I had dedicated amount I shared among contractors once allocation came. That was why, under me, work went on non-stop. Immediately my successor was elected, I explained all this to him in the hope that if he got it right, Anambra would be the ultimate beneficiary. I even took him to all the international partners working for us. Ironically, it was Oseloka Obaze, using his international contacts that connected us to most of them. We went to the World Bank, DFID, UN, JICA, EU and UNDP. In fact I explained to him our relationship with the UNDP, how, after I allowed them to use our Lodge as office after the attack on their office and how the state had benefitted many folds. Surprisingly, one of the first things he did was to issue UNDP with a quit notice.
I am trying to recall all this to show you how well we meant for the success of the Governor. Rather than face governance, he was peddling falsehoods against me, including the accusation I bequeathed debt to him. Ask the Governor to give you the schedule of those debts.
What is happening show the quality they’ve reduced governance to in my state today. It shouldn’t be. It’s like a situation where they say my state was able to export vegetables worth $5 million. Where was that vegetable produced? What was the refrigeration process? Where is the documentation process? It is like my state saying they are exporting rice. You saw the president on October 1, thanking states that are producing rice; he did not even include Anambra that is now, according to the governor, a net exporter of rice. My state say they had order to export ten million tubers of yam, but everybody knows that in Anambra, most of the yams we eat come from Benue and Taraba States.
I think what is happening is that in the absence of executed projects to use to campaign, they are inventing lies and dressing them as truth. Have you asked yourself why this controversy about the money I left now that there is an election?
But the issue of the money you left is still controversial
There is nothing controversial about it. Some people are deliberately introducing controversy where none exists. All my life, I have managed money. I started business early in life, right from my primary school. By the time I got to the university, I was already traveling outside the country for business. Even as a student, other students gave me money to hold for them, because they knew that with me, their money was secured. Whether in business or government, my attitude to money remains essentially one- prudence.
On the 17th of March 2014, that I left office, there was a total of N25 billion cash in different accounts and another N23.6 billion normally set aside to execute some projects already identified, or to finish critical projects already on. It was part of the two-year salary for last set of civil servants we recruited; we did so in order not to encumber the new governor. Ironically, these funds were tied to specific projects like the Amawbia to Amansea, NYSC main office at Umuawulu/ Mbaukwu, the hotels and malls. We also had critical projects like the Three Arms Zone, which included Governors Lodge. We did not include them in our hand over note. So if you are talking about total naira I left, it is actually N46.6 billion. In dollar component, I left $156 million. We had $56 million in Fidelity Bank, $50 million in Access Bank and $50 in Diamond Bank. Today, going by current dollar rate, the accruals and others, the money is about N200 billion. And these are not monies that were left in foreign banks. Journalists should verify this. That’s why I laugh whenever they try to tell plain lies.
We laid solid foundation for my successor to start strong. Let me give you an example. Towards the end of our government, we decided to build the new three arms zone, comprising the lodge, legislative building and the judiciary. We awarded the contract at N8 billion and paid N2 billion. We awarded and commenced some roads, paid mobilisation and left my predecessor to perform their flag-off.