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President Yar’adua and corruption in Nigeria politics-4

                                                         By Nasir El Rufai

Read part One here: http://assemblyonline.info/?p=1340

Read part two here :http://assemblyonline.info/?p=1341

Read part three here :http://assemblyonline.info/?p=1343

7. Governance of Katsina StateThe PDP has from its inception, perfected the bad habit of expecting its candidates for political office to bear the disproportionate burden of campaign expenses. So Umaru got the ticket but had to raise monies for his governorship bid.

 

As the head of the Yar´Adua family, he was assumed to be wealthy. This was far from the truth. By the time Shehu died in prison, most of the businesses were shut down or near bankruptcy except Habib Nigeria Bank.Nicotes Services had been expropriated by the Abacha junta, the name changed to Intels Logistics Services and the chairmanship transferred to the Emir of Kano. Under Umaru´s non-business supervision, the family fortune was virtually disappearing. Umaru had no money to spend on the Governorship.

 

A group of young professionals of Katsina State origin, who had made money from the Petroleum Special Trust Fund (PTF) program under the supervision of General Muhammadu Buhari, came to the rescue.Their leader was Tanimu Yakubu, an Economics graduate of Wagner College, New York, and included Dr. Aminu Safana and Ibrahim Shema. Nura Khalil was part of the group but decamped to the APP. Other `businessmen´ like Dahiru Mangal and Ahmadi Kurfi (both alleged to be professional smugglers) contributed financially to the Yar´Adua for Governor Campaign in 1998-99.

Other notable figures include that played key mobilizing, but not direct financial roles included Lawal Batagrawa, Aminu Bello Masari and Samaila Mamman. Umaru Yar´Adua´s deputy was nominated by the young professionals, though not one of them – Tukur Bakori.

 

His governance style in Katsina from 1999-2007 was influenced by this history and relationships. Tanimu Yakubu became Commissioner of Finance, Dr. Safana was appointed the Secretary to the State Government while Ibrahim Shema became the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice.These three persons would continue to play key roles in Umaru´s political life from 1999 to the present time. Umaru Yar´Adua formed what he called Katsina Group of 11 (K-11) which then became group of 34 (K-34) which included his inner circle, Party leaders, State Assembly leadership and his campaign financiers as the main vehicle for the political control and governance of Katsina State.

His wife Turai, and favorite daughter Zainab, were not members of K-34, but everyone in the state came to realize how influential they can be in getting the Governor to approve policies and contracts in record time.

 

Umaru then began a process of neutralizing all sources of checks and balance in the governance of the State. He ensured that only K-34 members became leaders in the state Legislature.

 He then faced the opposition parties in the State and through patronage; conversion and intimidation virtually decimated the ANPP by 2007. Kanti Bello and Nura Khalil all briefly returned to the PDP at some point during this period.By 2003, he had won over ANPP´s main hatchet man, Dr. Sayyadi Abba Ruma to the PDP. He appointed him Secretary to the State Government and persuaded Dr. Safana to run for the House of Representatives and move to Abuja.

 

He also got Tanimu Yakubu – his then popular and effective Commissioner of Finance to move to Abuja as Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.

What commentators said about these ‘deployments’ was that Umaru could not/neither tolerate any opposition nor share the limelight with his initial financiers and supporters any longer!Others said he was rewarding loyalty, but the consensus was that Umaru was turning out to be an autocratic and insecure governor, but in a very nice, quiet and detached way.

Umaru´s introverted personality helped a great deal in his relations with the Federal Government. He hated travelling so hardly came to Abuja. He avoided most Governor´s meetings, and usually got his Deputy Governor to represent him.

 

He interacted minimally with President Obasanjo and had a testy relationship with Atiku Abubakar right from their PF and SDP days. His favorite official in Abuja was General Aliyu Mohammed, Obasanjo´s National Security Adviser, who continued to see him as Shehu´s kid brother.

This meant that unlike most state governors who frequented Abuja Federal offices and the Lagos media houses to advance their political agendas, Umaru and Katsina State were virtually off the radar.He was also seen by Federal officials as an undemanding, simple and humble governor. All these were to play key roles in Umaru´s ascent to the Presidency. In Katsina, Umaru spent the first 8 months of his governorship doing little but what he called `planning´.

 

Actually, he inherited an empty treasury, a bloated civil service, huge pension arrears, and many construction projects started but abandoned half-way. The schools and hospitals were run down, and there were no resources to tackle them all at the same time.

Tanimu Yakubu who was Finance Commissioner suggested that the state should just pay salaries until they have a firm handle on their books.Within 2 years, the books had been balanced, and helped by higher oil revenues and transfers from the Federal Government; the Katsina State Government cleared the pension arrears, reconciled domestic debts, and began the completion of abandoned projects.

 

 In 2000, Katsina State became the fifth Northern State to adopt the Sharia Law. According to Wikipedia, in 2002, Amina Lawal, an unmarried woman from Bakori was sentenced to death by stoning by a Sharia court for adultery.

The story attracted international attention but Umaru Yar´Adua refused to exercise his prerogative of mercy to pardon her. The sentence was initially upheld on appeal to a higher Sharia court in Funtua, but like all such cases in Nigeria at the time, was quashed by the Court of Appeal.Umaru Yar´Adua´s achievements as Governor are mixed depending on who you talk to. What is not in dispute was that the quality of schools and hospital buildings, urban and rural roads and fertilizer distribution system improved dramatically under his watch.

 

But Katsina State´s performance in the two national high school graduation examinations – the NECO and SSCE has not improved. Indeed according to a very critical journalist , in both 2007 and 2008, the state was ranked the worst in both national examinations.In May 2007, another former adviser to Yar´Adua when he was governor in Katsina had made similar allegations regarding the actual quality of educational and health services in the State, as different from the quality of buildings! (Note – See Sam Nda-Isaiah – “Between Yar´Adua and El-Rufai”, Leadership Newspaper, 20th April, 2009.

http://www.leadersh ipnigeria. com/ind.. .rticle&catid= 2 accessed on 04/20/2009.)Some of the critics of Umaru Yar´Adua´s administration suggest that the good buildings and roads resulted from the desire of the Governor to award construction contracts without any competitive bidding almost entirely to three companies that are closely related to him – Lodigiani Nigeria Ltd. (the Yar´Adua family business), B. Stabilini & Co. (Nigeria) Ltd., with Aliyu Bala Kuki (a close family friend), and Mangal Enterprises (Yar´Adua´s alleged campaign financier).

 

What no one can take away from Governor Yar´Adua was that the jobs were executed and to acceptable quality unlike in most states in the Federation. This was attested to by Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, then Minister of Education when she visited Katsina early in 2007.

Oby is now Vice President (Africa Region) at the World Bank. (Note – Indeed, according to the BBC on 29th May 2007 “Although he is reputed to be prudent in managing funds in Katsina State where he had been governor forthe past seven years, critics say contracts have gone to companies with links to his family’s vast businesses.”

See http://news. bbc.co.uk/ 2/hi/africa/ 6187249.stm accessed 04/27/2009.)Yar´Adua´s humble and austere personal lifestyle endeared him to many. He was not considered personally corrupt compared with other Governors.

 

 When Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria´s respected anti-corruption czar and then Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced the names of `corrupt governors´, Umaru Yar´Adua was not on the list.

 (Note – Nuhu Ribadu said Umaru´s name was initially on the list but he was persuaded to remove it by Lt-Gen Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (not Obasanjo) because “Umaru´s corruption was not personal, and was productive” relative to other venal Governors!). In the end, this piece of omission got Umaru the support of many of us for the presidency.)8. Illness, Cure and Dreams of Being President

In 2001, the second year of his first term as Governor, Umaru´s health began to deteriorate. His mentor, General Aliyu Mohammed arranged for him to go to Germany for a comprehensive medical check-up.

 

In Germany, he was diagnosed with renal failure and he was prescribed medication to supplement regular dialysis.

In all he spent nearly six months in Germany, and as required by the Constitution, handed over the governance of the State to his Deputy, Tukur Bakori.Before departing for Germany, a spiritualist from neighboring Niger Republic had met Yar´Adua and informed him that his illness will miraculously disappear within a year, if certain prayers and sacrifices of animals were made.

 

 His influential wife, Turai ensured that these were done. When he returned, he found that as Acting Governor, Bakori had allegedly squandered the state´s resources and embarked on several projects that the Governor was unhappy about.

Umaru got his deputy impeached by the State Legislature within months of his return. Bakori decamped to the rival ANPP in protest.Umaru continued to undergo dialysis until his kidney functions miraculously improved. When he returned to Germany for another check-up in 2002, his kidney functions were found to have fully recovered, and a proposed transplant was unnecessary. Yar´Adua´s belief in his spiritualist from Niger Republic strengthened with this outcome.

It was around this period that Umaru claimed to have had a very vivid dream that he will be elected President to succeed President Obasanjo sometime in the near future. Umaru Yar´Adua believed that he had been shown the future.

 

He therefore decided, and communicated this to his K-34 members that Obasanjo´s government and its policies must be supported fully and totally by every official of Katsina State – whether State or Federal, at a time when he had become increasingly unpopular in the North. This was quite courageous.Some years later in 2006, Umaru Yar´Adua was one of the few Northern Governors that strongly supported Obasanjo´s bid for a Third Term in office. Indeed, he offered to host the zonal debates for the particularly sensitive North-West zone in Katsina.

 

This led to protests in the city and at least two persons were shot and killed by law enforcement agents that confronted them. Umaru also directed all Katsina State representatives in the National Assembly to support the proposed Constitutional Amendment and expelled Aminu Bello Masari from K-34 for non-compliance with his wishes.

One of the arrowheads of the Third Term in the National Assembly was Dr. Aminu Safana – Umaru´s former Secretary to the State Government.

All Katsina PDP legislators except Dr. Usman Bugaje lined up to support the Third Term project till its defeat in the Senate in May 2006 .9. Preparing to be President

As soon as `the Third Term Agenda´ collapsed in the Nigerian Senate, Obasanjo concluded that unless he found a way to acquire and sustain the loyalty of Nigeria´s powerful (and mostly corrupt) State Governors on the one hand, as well as his team of technocratic reformers on the other, his succession will be out of his hands.

He took two steps – first he asked me and four other Abuja-based senior Federal and party officials to come up with a succession strategy. This kept the reformers which I was a key member engaged and loyal to him.

 

He then announced that he expected to be succeeded by one of the State Governors and encouraged virtually all the PDP Governors to join the race to be President.

These two moves ensured that his estranged Vice President Atiku Abubakar and other aspirants like General Ibrahim Babangida had few governors available to recruit to their camp.We held several meetings and wrote most of the Succession Strategy Paper with the help of Tanimu Yakubu – now Yar´Adua´s Chief Economic Adviser who wrote the first draft in London in June 2006.

 

We submitted the Strategy Paper and the budget of about N7 billion (US $56 million then) to President Obasanjo in August 2006. The paper is attached to this essay as Annex I. President Obasanjo thanked us and promptly filed it away and never adopted any of our recommendations.By then, virtually every PDP State Governor in Nigeria had declared the aspiration to be next president – except Umaru Yar´Adua! Obasanjo continued to be cagey, encouraging every one above the age of 30 to run for the exalted office.

Umaru Yar´Adua was finally invited by President Obasanjo to join the race through Governor Ayo Fayose

 

initially, and this was actualized sometime in November 2006. According to then Governor Yar´Adua, when he visited me – the President sent Governor James Ibori of Delta State to see him in Katsina and invite him to pick the Presidential Nomination Form of the PDP. Umaru flew to Abuja in a private jet arranged by Obasanjo and Ibori the following day.

By the time he got to Abuja, Ibori had already paid the N5 million (US $40,000) application fee and collected the form in Umaru´s name. He added that they met with Obasanjo and agreed that he should bid for the highest office with Obasanjo´s full support.Over the next three months, I held several such meetings with Umaru, arranged other meetings between him and other stakeholders, raised money to support the candidacy and hired pollsters and publicists to handle some aspects of the effort.

 

Umaru had several such meetings with State Governors and other power brokers within the PDP and outside before the Primaries scheduled for January 2007. The most notable of such included General Ibrahim Babangida, Aliko Dangote (the richest Black African in the World), Femi Otedola, Andy Uba and Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State.10. The Primaries and the Campaign

 



Umaru Yar´Adua´s anointment by President was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it almost ensured that he will be PDP´s candidate in April 2007 Presidential Elections, but throws up questions about Obasanjo´s motives and Yar´Adua´s suitability for the highest office in Africa´s largest nation.

Because Yar´Adua´s medical history is fairly well-known, many Northern power brokers concluded that Yar´Adua´s selection by Obasanjo had some ulterior motives. This concern came to the fore when Yar´Adua had to be flown to Germany for medical attention because of “a bad flu; arising from exhaustion” just before the primaries in December 2006.

This is to happen again in March 2007, just weeks to the Elections. The failure of both Obasanjo and Yar´Adua to offer full disclosure about Umaru´s health has led to all kinds of conspiracy theories that continue to haunt the Yar´Adua presidency till today.The primaries and the campaign were largely uneventful as everyone expected PDP to win whether the elections were free and fair or not. Only two events of significance took place during the period – the investigation of the finances of Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State by the EFCC and his subsequent exclusion from the primaries, and the insistence of Obasanjo and the PDP apparatchiks that Yar´Adua announced him as his running mate in an acceptance speech already prepared for that purpose.

At the night of the primaries, Umaru Yar´Adua sent for me and came out of the State Box at Eagle Square and intimated me of this.

 

An acceptance speech had been prepared for him, containing the announcement of Peter Odili as running mate. This was not acceptable to him, but he was also unwilling to disagree with Obasanjo so early in the game.

 I suggested that he rallies the governors to oppose the decision to announce Odili as running mate, and decline the nomination if all else failed. When this failed to change the combined minds of Obasanjo, Tony Anenih, Ahmadu Ali and Ojo Maduekwe, I came up with another “last resort”.

 

 I sent people to wake up Nuhu Ribadu, then Chairman of EFCC to help persuade Obasanjo since all else appeared to have failed. It was not until about 5am that Ribadu succeeded in getting Odili off the ticket.The next morning, Governor Goodluck Jonathan was announced as the running mate to Umaru Yar´Adua instead of Peter Odili. President Obasanjo then announced the Presidential Campaign Council with him as chairman. The only Yar´Adua nominee to the Council was Tanimu Yakubu who was to be Director of Finance.

The premises used by the Obasanjo/Atiku Campaign in 2003 were rented as the Yar´Adua-for- President Campaign Office. During the commissioning ceremony which I attended along with other PDP governors, ministers and leaders, Yar Adua announced his Seven Point Agenda which he said will form the basis of his contract with the people of Nigeria when elected:

1. Infrastructure particularly electricity and transportation
2. Niger Delta regional development
3. Food Security
4. Human Capital – investments in health, education and training
5. Land Reforms and home ownership

6. National Security, and
7. Wealth Creation

The President´s Economic Team which I became one of the de facto leaders when Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala resigned in 2006 began to brainstorm on how best to sustain the foundations laid by the reforms of 2003-2007 that we had spearheaded.

 

We were quite concerned that the elections of April 2007 be free and fair. We were convinced that Yar´Adua and PDP would win and there was really no need to cheat or rig in any anyway. We needed to prove that to the politicians.We therefore took the decision to hire campaign advisers for Yar´Adua, show that the Elections can be won – free and fair – and prepare briefing notes to bring him up to speed on the reform programs of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The campaign consultant was a consortium of Nigerian ad agency, (remember the PDP de ko ko ad?), (media/messaging) , British (campaign management/internat ional outreach), and American (polling and focus groups). The whole assignment cost about US $2 million over a three month period.

 

We also prepared series of briefs titled – “Preparing to be President” as basis for discussions with the Presidential Candidate. The first of such briefs is attached to this essay as Annex 2.11. The 2007 Presidential Elections, Transition and Handover

There were many concerns within Nigeria and abroad that the 2007 Elections may not hold. There were grounds for these concerns – Obasanjo had lost the trust of Nigerians after the inchoate attempt to amend the Constitution. The voters´ register was still not ready and published 90 days to the Elections as required by law.

 

Biometric voters´ identification cards promised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had not been issued, and there were cases of massive disqualifications of candidates, replacement of candidates by parties and several lawsuits arising therefrom that the levels of uncertainty in January to March 2007 were quite high.The Elections took place amidst poor preparation and horrendous logistic failures. All the politicians and political parties were determined to rig the results without regard to the will of the voters.

 

As Minister of Abuja, I was determined that the elections in the Federal Capital Territory were free and fair. I met with all political parties, INEC, regulatory and security agency heads and threatened that anyone involved in any electoral irregularity will be arrested by EFCC and prosecuted without delay.I was particularly harsh with the leadership of the ruling party which I was a member, as I knew they had the first-mover advantage in that area. The FCT elections were violence-free and had very few reports of rigging. Nationwide, the elections were fraught with many documented irregularities.

 

But most Nigerian citizens were generally relieved that the elections had actually taken place – warts and all, and that Obasanjo had not been given any excuse to declare any emergency to stay in power longer. Only a few of us in government knew different and no one would believe us anyway.Immediately the results were announced, I became concerned about violence breaking out in the North particularly where the ANPP candidate Buhari enjoyed mainstream support. I suggested to Yar’Adua, and arranged a meeting between the leaders of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to meet with the President-Elect in the Abuja residence of its chairman, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, may his soul rest in peace.

A subsequent meeting was held between Chief Awoniyi, Former Inspector-General Ibrahim Coomassie and Umaru Yar´Adua to cement ACF´s support to preach against any forms of extra-legal activities. This was helpful in encouraging all the candidates to pursue judicial remedies rather than the threatened “mass action”.

President Obasanjo had instructed all ministers and heads of extra-ministerial agencies to prepare hand-over notes and submit to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation by the end of March 2007.

 

However, face-to-face briefings of Yar´Adua and his team did not start until the third week of May 2007! Each Minister had 20-30 minutes to bring the President-Elect and his team up-to-date on the activities of the Ministry and its parastatals with branches all over the 36 states of the Federation!Only the Ministers of Finance and the Federal Capital Territory (because I supervised many other assignments in addition to Abuja; like the Civil Service Reform, Sale of Government Real Estate in Abuja, National ID Card System, the National Census, etc.) were given one and a half hours. The briefing in my view, served to confuse rather than assist Yar´Adua and his team!

Yar’Adua’s team then consisted of the VP-Elect, Babagana Kingibe, Governors Peter Odili, James Ibori, and Ahmed Makarfi. The composition of the “team” should have indicated to us that change was not on the way in our country, but we were to naive to notice.

Early in the month of May, I received a letter from President-Elect Yar´Adua to send him the names and resumes of three persons for appointment into `senior government positions´ when he fully takes over. I requested a meeting with him to ascertain what positions he had in mind.

 

He informed me that he wrote a similar letter to every State Governor or PDP Chairman as appropriate as he intended to nominate Ministers, Ambassadors and Chairmen of Statutory Corporations from the list.This distributive state-of-mind was the first sign for me that Yar´Adua was not on the right track. I suggested that if he chose his cabinet that way, he would end up with “not the best people”.

 

He listened and thanked me for my views, but explained that his election was made possible by State Governors and PDP leaders and his first priority was keep them on his side, for the time being.About the same time, Yar´Adua had asked me to work with a small group (Udoma Udo Udoma, Salihu Ibrahim, Isabella Okagbue, Tanimu Yakubu, Aliyu Modibbo, Dele Olojede and three others I cannot recall now) to work out the key priorities for his administration and provide inputs for his inaugural speech.

We had a brief discussion with Yar´Adua, Tanimu Yakubu and Dr. Aliyu Modibbo on the areas closest to the President-Elect´ s heart and began meeting in Hakeem Belo-Osagie’ s office in Life Camp. Dele flew in from South Africa, met at atleast twice with Yar´Adua and worked with us until the hand-over.

We learnt that another group of Governors were doing the same thing, and Baba Kingibe and Charles Soludo drafting another speech, but we moved on.

These activities continued until the morning of May 29, 2007 when the Handing-Over Ceremony took place at Eagle Square, and Yar Adua got sworn in. We escorted President Obasanjo to his farm in Otta and returned to Abuja the same evening.

I met with Yar Adua the next day to intimate him of my plans – go on Umrah (Lesser Hajj), a two-week North Atlantic cruise, a short course at Harvard, complete my Law Degree and then back to Harvard for a longer fellowship. I also intimated Yar Adua of my plans to set up a policy advocacy think-tank, and invest in various ideas close to my heart.

We agreed that I should meet with him when I am back from Umrah or the cruise. The transition is complete. Now we can all get on with our lives, assured that we have elected a good man, who will build on the foundations we laid under Obasanjo, correct any human errors and move Nigeria on the path of its manifest destiny. I was relieved.


 

Read part five: http://assemblyonline.info/?p=1349