In this interview with JESUSEGUN ALAGBE, a former aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Reno Omokri, speaks his mind on President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war, his loyalty to former President Jonathan, among other political issues
You are one of the most outspoken critics of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, especially as regards its anti-corruption war, while always defending former President Goodluck Jonathan. Would you say all the alleged looting under Jonathan that has been exposed by this government never took place?
I thank God that you said ‘alleged’ looting. I deal in facts, not allegations or speculations. If all the Buhari administration has on the Jonathan government after three years are allegations, then that ought to tell you a lot.
Here is one fact for you. In terms of corruption, Transparency International, the only global body recognised as an arbiter on corruption, has said that the Buhari administration is more corrupt than the Jonathan government.
Whereas under Jonathan, Nigeria made its best ever improvement on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, moving eight places forward from 144 to 136 in 2014, today, Nigeria has made its worst ever retrogression under President Buhari, moving backwards 12 places from 136 to 148. This is a fact.
Let me give you another fact, you will agree with me that the biggest thief in Nigeria’s civil service history is Abdulrasheed Maina, the former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms.
He was dismissed by former President Jonathan and declared wanted. All of a sudden, he turned up in Nigeria with a double promotion. The Buhari government should tell Nigerians who recalled, reinstated and double-promoted Abdulrasheed Maina.
Nigerians may further recall that according to Dr. Junaid Mohammed, Maina was said to have been given armed guards. Nigerians may further want to note that the Attorney General of the Federation went to court to halt a Senate probe meant to unravel the Maina mystery. On this issue, it is pertinent to state that the Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, revealed that she warned President Buhari about the Maina affair before he was reinstated.
While the Buhari regime is also explaining that, they should find time to explain to Nigerians why the $25bn contract scam at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has not been investigated till today. They should also explain why subsidy payments, which President Buhari termed ‘a fraud’ during the campaign, have jumped to 1.4tn per annum, yet the price of petrol has nearly doubled to 145 from 87? If petrol prices go up, then subsidy should go down. If subsidy goes up, then petrol prices should go down. It is mathematically impossible for subsidy to go up at the same rate and time price goes up. These are facts.
Now let me ask you, between facts and allegations, which are more credible?
Is the Buhari government’s persistent blaming of President Jonathan for the looting not justified?
How can it be justified? No amount of allegations is justifiable without facts. Thank God it was an All Progressives Congress senator that got up on live television and revealed that this administration has borrowed more money in three years than the Peoples Democratic Party borrowed in 16 years, yet what has been the impact?
Till today, no one in the Buhari administration can point to even one project that the President Buhari-led government has initiated, started and completed in three years except the Daura helipad which was built for the President’s own use. Great leaders think of the people they lead. It is weak leaders, like Buhari, who think only of themselves.
In the first year of Jonathan, he had initiated, started and completed over 1,000 projects, including three universities and the revival of the Lagos to Kano railway. In his second year, he had completed 2,689 projects, including five more universities. By his fourth year, he had started and completed over 10,000 projects, including three new power projects, 10 power sub-stations, 189 health care centres and four more universities (bringing the total to 12 and 165 Almajiri schools).
These are specifics. Now I ask you to name one project initiated, started and completed by the Buhari administration in three years? And Buhari had the guts to insult former President Obasanjo. Really?
President Buhari is an ungrateful beneficiary of President Obasanjo’s good governance. He is an ingrate for saying he is paying Obasanjo’s debt. Obasanjo did not spend $16bn on power. Obasanjo actually paid all our foreign debts and left a total reserve of $67bn. It is Buhari who has borrowed more in three years than the PDP borrowed in 16 years.
Last year on former President Obasanjo’s birthday, President Buhari called him a statesman ‘with commitment to good governance’. Today, he is hinting at probing Obasanjo’s alleged $16bn power project contracts just because Obasanjo is against his re-election. Is that the action of a man with credibility and integrity?
In your criticism of President Buhari and his men, you seem to use a lot of abusive words. For example, in several of your social media posts on Wednesday, you referred to the President as an ‘ungrateful ignoramus’ and to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, as ‘Linus, Liability, Liebaran, etc.’ Why do you have a liking for such words that are often seen as abusive?
How can the truth be ‘abusive’? If I call a thief a thief, can that be abusive? Truth is bitter. I will not flatter the President. I am an ordained minister. I serve God through Jesus. When my Lord was talking to the Pharisees, He called them ‘hypocrites,’ ‘brood of vipers,’ ‘blind leaders of the blind,’ ‘children of hell’. When He was talking about King Herod, He called him an ‘old fox’.
I am not abusing the President or Lai Mohammed. I am describing them. An ignoramus is an ignorant person. How can you claim that Obasanjo spent $16bn on power when as President the facts are available to you? That proves that President Buhari is an ignoramus.
On Lai Mohammed, he said just this week that the President had fulfilled his campaign promises. I am asking you and Nigerians, is that not a lie? What do you call someone who lies? Is it not a liar? Please let us call a spade a spade and not a garden implement!
Someone needs to remind Lai that he is meant to be fasting during Ramadan and that fasting is not just abstaining from food, it includes abstaining from lies! Lai should fear God!
President Buhari campaigned to secure Nigeria. Look at how many people have died in Nigeria between January and today. In Benue State alone, 481 people have died. In Kaduna State, it is close to 300. In Zamfara State, it is said to be above that. Taraba State is claiming over 700 deaths. I am not even mentioning the Boko Haram theatre of war. How many people are dying in war-torn Afghanistan?
Afghanistan is officially at war, yet more people died from terror in Nigeria in 2018 than in Afghanistan. In the first quarter of 2018, Afghanistan had 763 war-related deaths. In the first quarter of 2018, Nigeria had 1,351 terror-related killings. Do not take my word for it. Please Google this fact I just mentioned. Yet, Nigeria is officially at peace.
Buhari is a plague on this nation. Never since the civil war have we had death on so wide and so high a scale. How many of us will still be alive if Buhari is re-elected in 2019? You or your family may be next!
Recently, a political commentator, Nduka Anwuzie, claimed in an article that you’re hypocritical and that oftentimes, even as a pastor, you’ve also told lies to cover up the President Jonathan government. Anwuzie said you ought to use your position as a pastor to tell the PDP officials accused of corruption to return the monies they looted from the treasury. Is this something you might consider doing?
I am a very specific and fact-oriented person. I have a bestselling book, titled Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years: Chibok, 2015 and Other Conspiracies.
If this fellow, whom I have never heard of, is serious, let him be specific and list even one lie I have told. I challenge him. If you know him, beg him to take up the challenge.
As regards telling PDP officials accused of corruption to return the monies they looted from the treasury, only a barbarian will tell the accused to do such. If a person is convicted, I will be the first person to tell him to return his loot.
But since the Buhari government and its paid vuvuzelas like to dwell on accusations and allegations, let me throw one of my own. If the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission wants to arrest young men living large without an identifiable source of income, then they should start with Yusuf Buhari. Yusuf does not have a job. He has not undergone the National Youth Service Corps programme. His father had to borrow to buy nomination form. Where did he get the millions for the BMW power bike?
Your social media critics often ask you to return to Nigeria to come and continue with your opposition to the President Buhari government, but you always respond by saying you will be arrested if you return. What specifically are you afraid of?
When my book became a bestseller, my brother, Boyowa, who is my carbon copy, was detained at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport [Abuja]. A number of news organisations carried the story. You may want to Google it. This administration is allergic to truth. That is why they will do everything in their power to shut someone like me up, but God is greater than them all!
Why do you think former President Jonathan doesn’t reply President Buhari and other All Progressives Congress officials anytime they blame him for the poor state of the country?
Because former President Jonathan is a man with a very deep belief in God; he once said, ’My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian’. The man is too decent for them.
Look at the recent revelations by Victor Uwajeh, the former Special Investigator to the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Property. He accused the President Buhari administration of waging an anti-opposition war and not an anti-corruption war.
He exposed that he was pressured to go after Dame Patience Jonathan and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Why would Dr. Jonathan respond to them when God is already exposing them?
Do you think he’s afraid of being probed should he respond on such occasions, seeing now that former President Olusegun Obasanjo is being attacked over $16bn power projects the moment he [Obasanjo] started criticising Buhari?
It seems you do not know that former President Jonathan has already been probed by this administration more than any other head of state in living memory.
In fact, it is quite funny that President Buhari, who is celebrating Abacha, a known and convicted thief, is going after Dr. Jonathan, a man who achieved what he does not have the capacity to achieve. What an irony!
On Tuesday when Buhari made some savoury comments on the late dictator, General Sani Abacha, you said when you schooled in England, your university had a module on Abacha’s thievery. Can you tell us exactly what you learnt about the late dictator in the course?
Well it is public knowledge. The late General Sani Abacha was established to have stolen over $5bn, which prompted the United Kingdom’s Financial Services Authority to tighten anti-money laundering laws because they were embarrassed by the sheer scale of that tyrant’s thievery.
I read law in England. We were made to study Abacha’s thievery as a test case. My colleagues knew I was a Nigerian. My lecturer was a former adviser to the late Mrs. [Margaret] Thatcher. If embarrassment could kill anyone, I would have died during that class because of shame. Yet, this is the same Abacha that President Buhari is praising!
Do you think that Abacha deserves all the accolades being showered on him by President Buhari?
How can? I ask you, how can? A man who had killer squads who killed Kudirat Abiola, Chief Alfred Rewane, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’adua (retd.), Bagauda Kaltho, Sola Omatsola, amongst others?
Abacha ruled for five years and Nigerians were spending hundreds of thousands to get a mobile line. He died and within 18 months, Obasanjo had made it possible for any Nigerian who wanted it to get GSM for next to nothing.
It is only someone like President Buhari, who enjoys backwardness, who has no sense of decency or decorum or even shame, that can idolise such a thoroughly nasty piece of work like Abacha!
In your working with President Jonathan then, would you say he lacked a firm grip on his cabinet members, considering the alleged massive financial malfeasance they carried out right under his nose?
But history goes against what you are alleging. Two of his ministers were accused of corruption and President Jonathan fired one of them on the same day and the other after a two-week investigation.
Compare that to President Buhari.
His former Secretary to the Government of the Federation [Babachir Lawal] was caught red-handed in corruption, yet he did not sack him for six months and only sacked him when there was public outcry.
The man was sacked and, according to Junaid Mohammed, he [Lawal] was allowed to nominate his own cousin as his successor. Till today, he has not been charged!
President Jonathan investigated the then-Group Managing Director of the NNPC [Andrew Yakubu] and found him wanting and immediately sacked him and the government sent a petition to the EFCC to investigate him.
What has happened to the current GMD of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, after the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, exposed that he had awarded $25bn worth of contracts without due process? Nothing.
You are said to be among the few who have remained loyal to President Jonathan. Why did you choose to stay so?
Because I am loyal to my conscience, not my stomach. But ask yourself if those around President Buhari can say the same? Let us take President Buhari’s spokesman, for example. Garba Shehu was Special Assistant on Media for years during the President Obasanjo administration. Garba did not resign from that government.
In fact, Garba Shehu was affiliated with the PDP for 12 good years. He has been in the PDP for more years than he has been in APC. He was in the PDP longer than I have been associated with the PDP.
Garba Shehu cannot deny this because his office was opposite mine at the Presidential Villa between 2003 when I returned from the United Kingdom and 2005 when I went to the United States. Garba shehu used to craft very strong anti-Buhari press releases for the PDP during his 12-year sojourn as a PDP member, which included years spent as SA Media under Obasanjo. Now he crafts press releases for the same man he once attacked against the same people he once praised! Garba is the epitome of AGIP, meaning Any Government in Power. I am the epitome of loyalty. There is no basis to compare myself with him. I follow my conscience. Garba follows his stomach.
Does he [President Jonathan] ever compliment you for your loyalty?
I am not doing it because of former President Jonathan. I am doing it so that my Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Son of God, can say to me on the Judgment Day, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.
In April when the Federal Government released its looters list, you came up with your own list almost immediately, including the names of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; APC governorship candidate in Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; and others. Has there been any lawsuit or threat of one by the people you mentioned in your list?
There has been not even a hint of a lawsuit because I spoke the truth. And just to prove how confident I am, I challenge any of those mentioned in my own looters list to sue me if they are innocent. Truth fears no lawsuit.
As a matter of fact, Saturday PUNCH did an interview with the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, where he praised me for coming up with such a thorough list. I am only one individual, yet my list was thorough and based on fact.
The Buhari administration has over 200,000 civil servants at its beck and call, yet its list was full of gossip, rumour and hearsay.
Recently, you and a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, had an altercation on social media over former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s comments on herdsmen killings. Have you resolved the matter?
I did not harbour any grudge so there is nothing to resolve. As is usual with me, I spoke based on facts. I do not have time for speculation and gossip.
On herdsmen attacks, what do you think should be done to stem the situation?
Herdsmen are terrorists not criminals. They are listed by the Global Terrorism Index as the world’s fourth deadliest terror group. If the Buhari administration can treat herdsmen who kill in the same way as it treated the Indigenous People of Biafra, who don’t kill, then the problem will be solved.
Look at how the President of Ghana dealt with them. Ghana issued a shoot-at-sight order on herdsmen. Since then, have you heard of even one herdsmen killing in Ghana?
Tell us one thing you think President Buhari is doing right.
Three years ago, he said the following words:
‘I wish I became head of state when I was a governor, just a few years as a young man. Now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do.’
I concede that he was right then.
What advice would you give to Nigerians as the country prepares for the 2019 elections?
If you love yourself, if you love your children, if you love your parents, if you love your siblings, if you love your neighbours, if you love Nigeria, get rid of the Buhari administration.
To show you how little the lives of Nigerians matter to President Buhari, at the very hour that Christians in Benue State were burying the two Catholic priests and their 17 parishioners killed by Buhari’s killer herdsmen kinsmen, the President was receiving members of the Buhari Support Group.
In the same vein, at the very time that Benue State was mourning the 72 persons killed by herdsmen on the New Year’s Day, President Buhari received APC governors, who went to endorse him for a second term.
Let me end with a quote the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, of the APC made on February 16, 2018. He said:
‘I feel let down facing the people of this state whenever I remember the promise I made to them that when they elect President Buhari into power, these killings will end. Unfortunately, things are now getting worse.’
Buhari is a let-down. Vote him out!