Musiliu Obanikoro served as Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in the immediate-past administration of Goodluck Jonathan.
In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Samuel Ogundipe, Mr. Obanikoro, a one-term senator and former Minister of State for Defence, tells his own side of the story from his abode in the United States, as Nigeria’s anti-graft officials continue their investigations into his activities while in office, as well as those of his two sons, Jide and Gbolahan.
You dared the government to seek your extradition in a statement you released a day after your property was raided in Lagos, did you do that because you’re in America or because you’re confident of your innocence?
You know why I am laughing? Because they have trivialised government by all those senseless propaganda that they’re perpetrating all over the place. These people you’re talking about, they know they don’t have anything that will withstand judicial scrutiny.
They will never attempt any extradition. I, Musiliu Olatunde Obanikoro, am inviting EFCC to petition America to extradite me to Nigeria. The whole world would now see their charade for what it is. It is even good for everyone to know the truth, including those who are sympathisers to the All Progressives Congress.
Because, in Nigeria, you’re either on this side or the other side. But this American system is unbiased. They’re neither for me nor for them. So, let them bring the tissue of lies that they have put together and submit everything to serious judicial scrutiny and let us see whether it will fly. I am inviting them to do that.
Let them tell us how APC elections were funded if it was not government funds that they used. So why are you persecuting people that lost election and maturely and showing respect for peace and tranquility of Nigeria submitted themselves to the rule of law and accepted the verdict of the people and you’re now turning around to witchhunt them?
Maybe they’re trying to tell Nigerians in advance that if they lose elections they will not let go. And I have two good examples to show that if the APC loses election they will never hand over, they would rather destroy the system than hand over government to the winner. My son was a victim in Lagos. We won elections and they refused to hand over without blinking an eye. The councillorship election of my son and chairmanship elections were won by the PDP and they took everything away from them—just like that.
But, as the saying goes, the law is like a sieve, so it can’t catch all offenders. Similarly, if you’ve done anything to breach public trust as a minister, shouldn’t you be made to pay for your actions in order to deter others from committing similar offence?
My brother, don’t let us be naive. There are petitions against [Minister of Transport, Rotimi] Amaechi and there are petitions against [Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Tunde] Fashola with the EFCC. They have decided not to touch them because they are in government and they are in APC. We are all Nigerians, are you telling me all APC members are clean? And I am telling you authoritatively as someone who had worked extensively in security institutions in Nigeria that government funds at the state level were used to help APC win elections.
You see, it is unfortunate that these people will use propaganda to destroy people unjustly. And, in this month of Ramadan, God will visit them in his own way.
All this time they were talking about, my son, Jide, was out of Nigeria. We have evidence to show that he was not even in the country. We have evidence. That is why I am telling them to bring the matter to a neutral ground where they will subject it to proper judicial scrutiny. I am inviting them, I am begging them in the name of God. Jide was not even near Nigeria throughout the period in question. He was here in America when the whole funds they’re talking about were released. My other son, Gbolahan, didn’t have access to that kind of money. Did he work for government? How could he have that kind of funds?
Are you implying that the EFCC plucked those figures from thin air, including bank accounts and firms said to have been linked to your sons?
It is unfortunate that the media in Nigeria are allowing these people to abuse them. They’re not using you, they’re abusing you. Ask them to give you the account details —since they have decided to try this matter in the court of public opinion. Let them publish the account numbers publicly.
Why not go to the Corporate Affairs Commission and obtain those documents there independently? That is why I am saying ‘let them come and seek my extradition’ then we will see whether all the lies they’re propagating in Nigeria will fly here.
It is one thing to use their power to intimidate judges and compel them to do things that ordinarily they wouldn’t do. But because they’re trying to put everybody in a cage, they will blackmail, they will intimidate just to arrive at a desired conclusion. But luckily, God gave me the wisdom to seek more knowledge after office, that’s why I am here in America and not in Nigeria for them to persecute the way they’re persecuting others.
Tell EFCC to give you all the documents of the company and account statements from the banks. Let them publish everything in the papers. And anywhere you see Obanikoro’s name, you should crucify me.
Neither Jide nor Gbolahan has interest in Sylvan McNamara Ltd. or knows anything about the N4.7 billion fleece?
I am volunteering to pay for the publication. Tell EFCC to make them available then you call me, I will pay to have it published in the papers for all Nigerians to see. Not a kobo can be traced to me nor to my children. Not a kobo.
There’s a paper trail, this money was not just given in cash. There were bank transactions according to them. At a time they claimed the money was part of the $2.1 billion arms procurement funds. Now, they have changed it that it’s from the National Security Agency’s imprest account.
Now, assuming, but without conceding, assuming that it was from NSA’s imprest account, does the law not allow the NSA to use its imprest as it pleases when it comes to security? Does the law not allow that? Go and read their release today, they said it was from the NSA imprest account. Let me tell you, I am not defending Dasuki, he’ll defend himself. But in terms of security parlance and the challenges we were confronted, N4.2 billion was too insignificant against the threat that we faced.
I worked as Minister of State for Defence and I know the meaning of imprest account, so discretion is very key in this area.
I am telling you and I am appealing to all Nigerians to also join me in asking them to seek my extradition.
Did your sons leave Nigeria because they knew the authorities were closing in on them?
My sons have really established persecution, politically. You cannot be releasing something to the media for the past eight months and now you’re coming out to release the same thing by yourself. Something that you have used to destroy, to tarnish and reduce me in the public and going to my house without a valid court order.
They claimed I have forfeited my property, how can I forfeit a property without a due process? You see, my brother, the danger we face in Nigeria is bigger than what all of you are admitting. I am telling you, the danger you face in that country, if EFCC can go to a magistrate and lie to them and get an order that someone has forfeited his property, without a fair hearing? Without any letter inviting him to come and explain anything? Without the judge seeking to know the other side of the story before granting such forfeiture order? Nigeria is in a great trouble, my brother. We are in serious trouble. This is worse than a military era. Far worse than a military era.
I am going to petition the National Judicial Commission on the activities of the judge. I do not have any business account anywhere in the world. Since I don’t have any business, you cannot trace any money to a business account. How can you forfeit someone’s sweat without hearing from them?
Now, talking about my sons. Let me tell you, Jide went for a course in Holland–let me tell you, I want them to come to America, I am repeating myself– so that the two of us can have serious judicial scrutiny. Jide went to Holland for a course in fish farming. But it is convenient for the EFCC to go to a beer parlour shop and be speculating. You cannot say people should not go and improve themselves when they have interest.
Gbolahan also has a very good reason to be out of the country. Gbolahan has a valid explanation and a genuine and honest reason to be in America. But from what we’re seeing now, we can tell that we’re in deep political trouble with the government of the day.
Let me tell you, I will not honour any invitation from the EFCC and neither would I allow my children to be part of that charade.
Having gone to my house without inviting me or inviting my children. They subjected my grandkids, my teenage kids, my wife and daughter-in-law to this kind of embarrassment, it is evident that I cannot get any fair hearing from them.
It is unfortunate that they would jump fences into my residence in which there were two-year-old, three-year-old, four-year-old-children. Every man deserves fair hearing. You must have your day in court. Now taking that privilege away from people and not dignifying them, to me, is not good.
You don’t need any soothsayer or any pastor or any imam to tell you that they have a predetermined position as far as this matter is concerned. Either officially or unofficially, they have never invited me.
Let me tell you something new today, about a month or two ago, we got a letter from the bank that Gbolahan’s account was frozen. We went to court in Abuja. EFCC came to court and lied that they never froze the account. Their deposition is in court. Our lawyer, Onoja, has their deposition in which they said they never froze the account.
So, we have all the proof to prove in a fair judicial system that these people are witchhunting us and that they’re persecuting us. We have sufficient evidence and we will show it in the court of law. Let them bring anything they have. I can show it to you that there is no where–whatever evidence they have–that they can link me, Musiliu Olatunde Obanikoro, and my children directly to any of the claim being made by them.
Why did they lock up Femi Fani-Kayode? What did he do that their own campaign spokesman did not do? This is someone who had no idea how money for campaign was sourced. You also had a publicity secretary who paid the media just as Femi did and he’d never been invited for anything. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. There’s a clear evidence that whatever the EFCC is doing now is just persecution, political persecution. They have gone from arms money to other things.
What did operatives make away with when they raided your property and that of your son? Has your family enumerated the items to you?
That is no longer relevance as far as I am concerned. I have asked my lawyers to challenge all their activities in the court. I am a law abiding citizen, but I will not allow anybody–no matter how highly placed–to humiliate me, to rubbish me. I have been in public office for more than 20 years and I have never been found wanting. For them to call me a thief, it means a lot to me, even if it doesn’t mean anything to them.
Every of my properties can be explained. These were things acquired not when I was in government.
Including the exquisite vehicles and other valuables said to have been wheeled away from your home?
Up till now, they have not given us any court order to the effect of everything they’ve done. As I speak to you, they have not. Our lawyer was there today for over four hours and they didn’t give him anything.
Nigeria is in trouble. If people of goodwill don’t stand up and ask these people to follow due process–all I am saying is: follow due process. Nobody, should be above the law, including the institutions that are saddled with the responsibility of law enforcement.
If all of us submit ourselves to the rule of law, that is when we will have orderliness. We will not have orderliness when people trample on the individual rights with impunity and knowing that nothing will happen to them. I want all Nigerians to be patient and let us bring this fight against corruption to the international arena and see how it would play out.
So you’re going to remain in exile rather than submit yourself to Nigerian authorities?
I did not say that. I cannot say that. Nigeria is my country, a country that I love dearly. What I am saying is that, once EFCC is made to conform with due process, rule of law, fairness, equity I am prepared to submit myself and come home.
We learnt you recently graduated from Oglethorpe, yet you’re determined to remain in the United States for a while, are you afraid of the president?
One thing I know General Buhari does not have is tolerance for opposition. I can say that anywhere. He does not tolerate opposition. You can see that this point is quite evident in all his activities, even though it would have been in his interest to allow opposition to thrive. If the PDP had killed opposition, they won’t be in power today. Anyone that speaks against Buhari now is an opposition and they will deal with him.
As I am talking to you now, I am enrolled in a leadership training course. I am also studying Spanish after which I intend to enrol to study French. I have started Spanish now, I learning Spanish now.
You didn’t apply for a job, how are you sustaining yourself?
I am an old man, who will employ me? People see old men as liabilities.
But you have the skill, you’ve been educating yourself all over, after all?
Yes, what I can do here is consultancy, and you have a lot of activities in that aspect here. There are so many companies that are interested in public ventures in Nigeria and they need people like us who have been in government to advise and do paperworks for them so that they can have informed position as far as their interest is concerned. There’s a lot to do here, actually.