Yar’Adua’s Last Interview with TheNEWS: “Nobody Can Hold Me Hostage”

Yar’Adua’s Last Interview with TheNEWS: “Nobody Can Hold Me Hostage”

Monday, May 6, 2019 4:35 pm


The Yar’Adua interview cover design

Former President Umaru Yar’Adua died nine years ago (5 May 2010). Notable Nigerians, on Sunday, 5 May, paid tributes to him. Among them was one time President, Goodluck Jonathan, who was Vice President when Yar’Adua was on the driver’s seat. According to Jonathan: “On this day nine years ago, I lost a friend, colleague, brother, and boss, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. He was a selfless leader who placed national interest above personal and ethnic gains. He used the opportunity he had in public service to build bridges of love, foster unity and give hope to Nigerians.”

When he was alive, Yar’Adua visited TheNEWS and granted us an interview. Below is the full text, exhumed from the archives:

“Preface: The Man, Yar’Adua”

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

Katsina State Governor, Umar Musa Yar’Adua, the presidential standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has a deceptive outlook. It is when he interacts, especially with journalists, that his real nature comes to light.

When he visited TheNEWS headquarters on Sunday, 8 April 2007, editors confronted him with certain impressions that the public had about him. He took his time to explain, as he did in all the media houses he visited.

First, the state of his health created a rumour of his death, which President Olusegun Obasanjo had to dispel by publicly discussing with Yar’Adua on phone, while still on his Germany hospital bed.

Yar’Adua has always been blunt about his health. He actually received treatment for a skin condition that had some effects on his kidneys. When he went for treatment in Saudi Arabia in year 2000, his kidney had been infected. Thus, he underwent dialysis in 2001. That, as he once explained, was the last he had.

His admirers wonder why Nigerians make so much fuss about Yar’Adua’s health. They cited world leaders who were not whole: John Kennedy, Addison’s disease (a withering of adrenal glands); Dwight Eisenhower, pulmonary problem; and Franklin D. Roosevelt who was confined to a wheelchair. Even as a contestant, Victor Yuschenko’s disfigured face, as a result of poisoning, was treated at an Austrian hospital. He is, today, the President of Ukraine.

The other issue is whether or not Yar’Adua would be a hostage to some powerful vested interests. He told TheNEWS: “Let me assure you that nobody, individual or group, will hold me hostage to do what is wrong.”

What are those problems he would tackle in the first six months in office as President. He told this magazine’s editors that he would frontally tackle the power and energy problems facing the country.

Yar’Adua was born in Katsina town in 1951. He started his education at Rafukka Primary School, Katsina in 1958 and moved to Dutsinma Boarding Primary School in 1962 from where he completed his primary education in 1964. He attended Government College, Keffi in Nasarawa State between 1965 and 1969 and proceeded to Barewa College, Zaria for his Higher School Certificate. Yar’Adua studied Chemistry at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from where he obtained his M.Sc. degree in Analytical Chemistry.

At various times, he taught at Holy Child College, Lagos (NYSC), Katsina College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria, Kaduna Polytechnic and ABU. He also worked at Zambo Farms Limited, Funtua and was Board Chairman, Katsina State Investment and Property Development Company.

His foray into politics began when, as a lecturer, he mobilised for the defunct People’s Redemption Party. He was also a founding member, People’s Front under the leadership of the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua.

Yar’Adua once told The Punch about what shapes his world view: “Studies in Chemistry and Physics made my views and actions so profound. Here we are on Earth, only one of nine planets in the universe (though new studies are pointing at the existence of 11 planets in all). While our Earth goes around the sun in one year, the moon goes around the earth in a month. The same sun has a galaxy it goes around once in 200 million years. The galaxy we belong to has over 100 billion stars – called the Milky Way – and each one its own array of planets. Meanwhile, there are over 200 billion galaxies in the universe. So when you look at this universe, where do you place yourself? I think we all should be humble as human beings in the face of this staggering reality.”

As an austere man, he publicly declared his assets in 1999, a move that attracted praise from Nigerians. He has one plot of land in Abuja which he is developing with a N90 million facility from Unity Bank. Will he carry his unique nature to governance if he becomes president? He explains all these in this interview with TheNEWS’ senior editors.

Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. By Marcello Casal Jr./ABr – Agência Brasil [1], CC BY 3.0 br, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2216762

“Nobody Can Hold Me Hostage”

Q: Your emergence as the presidential candidate of the PDP was perhaps against calculations within the party. For that reason, there are people who are not particularly happy. How have you been able to reconcile these aggrieved candidates?

By reaching out. I have reached out to all my colleagues. We have had excellent relationships, both personal and official, since 1999. Many of them I had known before 1999 and it was really easy to reach out and talk to my colleagues and friends. They know that the ticket can be described in another respect as a joint ticket of the governors, the PDP governors, because much earlier, we had an understanding among the PDP governors that we will examine the possibility of having one of us as a practical candidate. Since we had that understanding, we have had several meetings among ourselves as PDP governors, trying to have a consensus and trying to pitch one of us as the party’s presidential candidate. And when it came, of course, you know anybody who is aspiring for political office and you don’t get what you aspire for, from the beginning you get to know where support is especially. Since I had an excellent relationship with them and with this understanding to have one of us emerge as a candidate, it was quite easy for us to reconcile as a family. That was what happened.

How did you actually emerge, given that there were accusations of arm-twisting here and there?

Let me, first of all, say this. In the process of internal party selection, through party primaries, there are many legitimate tools. I have participated in party primaries several times. One of the first things a party does, any party that is worth its salt, is to try to achieve a consensus, because that process of consensus, has greater unifying effect for the party than any other thing. Why the consensus first? Because it does not compromise the legitimate constitutional rights of members; because it is the willingness to submit yourself to say OK, we shall have a consensus and put up one candidate. When the consensus fails, then you go for primaries. Now in this particular case, there was the intention to build a consensus, building the consensus around the governors, because we decided beforehand that we should have one emerge as a candidate so that when we go for primaries, we have only one governor among the PDP governors contesting against other aspirants who are not governors.

And we had this intention, but the important thing to note is that when we had this agreement, there was no specific governor at the time singled out. Then, we indeed all agreed that whoever among us emerges will be supported by the rest of us. You can hardly explain at what point the specific choice was made. At the end of the day, actually, you will see that it was God who finally chooses because you can see from what happened that some of our colleagues who were not in the race began to say, OK, ‘since we reached a consensus, we will go this or that.’ You will find out that their opinions ultimately determined what really happened.”

Could you also share your thoughts with us on how you felt that day. How did you feel?

I felt greatly humbled. One, I felt a great burden of responsibility has now fallen upon me. And I felt somehow, the very act of being a candidate of PDP has changed my life once again, because I had to prepare myself mentally and politically for greater burden of responsibility.

How strong and prepared is Yar’Adua for this onerous responsibility?

Very strong

How strong?

You see, for a very long time, I have been highly committed to this nation and I truly love this nation and its people. In fact, I feel that there is an inner force that is propelling me because I believe genuinely and sincerely that Nigeria has great potential to be one of the greatest nations in the world. We have the necessary human capital, intelligence and abundant material resources that all along and throughout our history as a nation really indicate that it is a question of what we chose to become. I am sure that we have everything it takes to become a great, prosperous, industrialised nation. The truth is, I have always believed that one of the basic problems of our country has been trying to have an honest and sincere leadership that is truly and sincerely committed to the people of this country, to their progress, dignity and the attainment of human happiness.

I have always believed that one of the things we need to do is to ensure as a nation, we restore respect for law and order, work hard sincerely and honestly and then look at the critical areas of our economy and identify those things that truly make a nation to grow. In that regard, develop a long term plan to ensure that we achieve this. Once we do this, our nation will transform and we will build a peaceful, most prosperous and industrialised nation where everybody in Nigeria, men and women, will have equal opportunity to be able to make use of their human potentials to contribute to the development of the nation and humanity. We have the capacity and for me, this is the deep-seated belief that really gives me the inner strength and energy to go on. I feel that the challenge that is ahead of us to build this nation is what we can surmount within the shortest possible time. I have no doubt in my mind that if we set ourselves to it and chose to do what is right, within one decade and a half, this nation will be completely and totally transformed.

If on May 29 you are sworn-in as President of Nigeria, what critical areas will you face in the first six months?

In the first six months, it will be power and energy. That is what is so critical, and I have said publicly that I will declare the sector a national emergency because almost all the other sectors of our economic and social life, in trying to develop a modern nation, depend on it. This sector impacts on the development of other sectors and without sorting out the problems of the power and energy sector, we will just keep going around. It is the most critical sector which drives a modern and industrialised economy. We must, as a nation, commit ourselves to solving the problems of this sector. We have the potentials.

We have the oil and gas sector. The gas of course, we have not even been utilising because a lot of it is being flared and the agreement we had is for taking it out while we have great challenges, even when a substantial portion of our power and energy needs help. That does not make sense to me. We need to ensure and sustain production and generation of power, transmission and distribution. So within the first three months, I should have developed a road map for the solution to the problems of the power and energy sector. This involves not only electricity but also gas, harnessing and piping it to all major cities across this country so that it can lower the cost of industrial production and also provide for our domestic energy needs.

We must be self-sufficient within the shortest possible time. That is what I intend to do so that within the first four months, by the grace of God, one would have a concrete, realistic plan to achieve this self-sufficiency. Then we will set out the machinery for achieving this target power and energy supply in this country. Once we do this, about 50 per cent of the problems of other sectors of the economy or social life in Nigeria would have been solved. It is going to impact on the life of every Nigerian if it is achieved. Therefore, we will even go beyond it to produce excellence because within the system, you must build a mechanism whereby you can produce excellence that will ensure that you also produce men and women who are exceptionally gifted and you will give them the opportunity for these exceptional gifts to manifest. This is because, these are the people who provide breakthroughs in various areas to catapult the development not only of nations but of humanity.

Right now our level of education is not capable of doing this because really, the standard is extremely poor. Frankly speaking, we can say that our system of education today is in a crisis and we need to take it as a very serious priority, have massive investment in the sector and mobilise not only resources from government but also from the private sector, because it is a very critical sector.

Wealth creation is also another area of great priority. I have been governor for close to eight years now. One of my experiences as governor is that what happens really when you make a genuine, honest attempt to perform your function is such that you recognise also the real limitations on what you can do. One of the greatest limitations in my experience as governor, which I believe is the same with most states and governments in this country, including the federal government, is that revenue available to governments, come mostly, (about 90 percent), from the oil sector. I think if you take out Lagos State or Rivers State, I don’t think there is a government in this country, including the federal government, that gets not less than 90 per cent of its revenue from the Federation Account. My experience is that, and the truth that Nigerians must face is that these revenues are totally inadequate and insufficient to address the developmental needs of Nigerians. This is because we have focused all attention on the revenue from the oil and gas sector and critically failed to examine this sector.

As it operates today within the Delta region, it is really an extractive industry, not a productive industry as far as Nigeria is concerned. Almost all the investments in this sector from the oil companies are in the upstream which does not provide job, industrialisation, commerce. It is just to take the crude oil to be processed outside and bring back finished products. In effect, there is no development in the downstream sector to make it productive. We collect rent and royalty from this activity which we, in fact, call the national cake and it is that the elites of this country have been fighting over. Now, this is what really constitutes the revenue to the various arms of government in this nation. And from my experience as governor, this revenue, even if it were to continue, cannot adequately meet the development needs of Nigerians.

I can tell you, if you have to provide minimum standard acceptable education to every child in Katsina State, whereby a graduate can go anywhere in the world and compete with any graduate in the same field, you will find out that the resources or revenue from this sector, almost 80 per cent, will go into the education sector, which shows that really, we must recognise that the revenue that we get from this sector is insufficient to address the developmental needs of our people. Therefore we must begin to create wealth, make sure that the primary sectors of production – the agricultural, solid minerals and indeed even the oil and gas sector – are worked on to make them active. When we make them active, that is when we will have the economy to provide a basis for our industrialisation, to make the service sector grow phenomenally. I believe these are some of the efforts the present government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has begun. The only thing is that it will take some time before the result can manifest. For instance, I know that there are efforts in the agricultural sector; presidential committees have been set up to encourage the production of certain crops, for example, the production of rice.

Just compare these two policies: During the Second Republic, there was a presidential committee under Umaru Dikko, then Minister of Transport, to import rice into the country. This time there is a presidential committee to encourage the production of rice with the directive that it should work to ensure self-sufficiency, to provide products that will meet local demand and produce surplus for export. You can see the difference between the two policies. If this government had set up the presidential task force and said, import rice, we have abundant foreign exchange to do that, within three months this nation will be flooded with rice and the price will come down and people will start ignorantly to say ‘oh this is good.’

That is not the case. Where you have a situation where the committee is to work for the production of rice within the country to meet local demand, ensure production of surplus, you need to invest money in research so that you can have high-yielding seeds that will multiply, triple or quadruple the production per hectare. To do this, even if the research institutes are able to produce a seed, it will take a minimum of two rainy seasons to conduct field tests. Then you will require another minimum of two rainy seasons to reproduce the seeds that you will distribute to the farmers. You will need to train extension workers in the technology of the production which they can transfer to the farmers. So the decision you have taken and the policy you have put in place will not begin to produce result until about four or five years. But when the results begin to come, it will help build the economy, produce jobs, create processing-related industries, ensure the emergence of rice mills etc. This is what will drive the economy.

I think this idea of creating wealth is what this nation must do and I intend to ensure that, if by the grace of God I become the President, this nation will sit down and recognise that our almost total dependence on revenue from the extractive aspect of the oil and gas sector is wrong. In this way, we can never develop as a nation and we can never solve our development problems and we can never break out of the circle of poverty or transform from underdevelopment to a modern industrialised nation. We must make our production sector actively productive in such a way that revenues that will be available to government from the payment of royalty and rents from oil and gas industries should not constitute more than 30 per cent of the total revenue available to government. At least, a minimum of 60 per cent must come from taxation because individuals are working and earning a living, there are lots of companies, as industries would have sprung up everywhere.

The other that I believe is also critical is to develop this capacity for mass transit. This government has begun the process by initiating the upgrading and modernisation of our railway with a plan for the re-development of the sector over 25 years. A modern industrialised and active economy cannot supply itself on road transportation alone. Whilst we get our economy really moving, which we are beginning to do now, the mass movement of people and goods must be dependent on railway and waterways. I think this will form one of the critical infrastructure required. The other infrastructure is of course, so obvious.

That is peace and security. Security, in the first instance, is a fundamental constitutional responsibility of government. But also, let us not forget that security really should be part of the developmental infrastructure. Without adequate security, not only will we not talk of bringing foreign investors, even domestic investors will not feel safe to invest their money because if they invest where there is no security and their property and investments get destroyed, they can be wiped out economically. That is why people are more willing to go on either government contracts or trading since that involves no great risk. The other is the issue of land reform. This is a constitutional issue. Land is an asset and the land laws that we have, vests all land in the government. That means no individual or companies can own land. You can only get it on lease. The effect of that on the economy and on the capacity of individual to access funds from the capital market to better their lives is devastating no matter how good your proposal is.

Consider a farmer with one or two hectares of land and he has a very good proposal, he cannot have access to loans to execute his project within the capital market because when he goes to the banks, they can’t take the land as collateral for the loan because the land does not belong to him. They only take it if he has a property on the land. What this means is that you have millions of Nigerians out there who have land or farm assets which they don’t have the capacity to develop. The lands are there amounting to hundreds of billions which lie fallow, which is a great inhibition on the opportunities for Nigerians. Almost all peasant farmers are excluded even though they have the land asset because the laws say it is not their own.

The alternative to this is micro-credit. It helps but it is not adequate to provide the needed relief. So these are some of the areas that are extremely critical. It is true that there are ways to grow and develop a nation. There are ways to stagnate a nation when it is growing and there are ways even to destroy a nation. All these really depend on the leadership, but then you have to identify the critical areas. This is what I intend to do it by the grace of God I become the president. I am not going to run a federal government that is a jack of all trade.

I identify these critical sectors that I believe are highly critical to the development and transformation of our economy into a modernised and industrialised economy and concentrate on ensuring that we achieve this. Let me tell you, if I become president by the grace of God, if I am able to solve the power and energy problem in this country and I am able to change the education sector or move it from crisis and I am able to ensure adequate security in this country, I will be satisfied. I think it is time we sat down to isolate and identify these critical areas, and seriously as a nation, address them and get committed to them.

The other area is the issue of the Niger Delta. That is part of the security situation of the nation. What I have been advocating is what the federal government launched last week. That is the overall master plan for the development of the Niger Delta. That is what I have been advocating. What the Niger Delta needs is a holistic development plan along the lines of the Marshal Plan of Western Europe after the Second World War. That is what we need. We must develop such a plan and for the nation to be committed to it because the region is strategic to its economy. Any nation must move and do anything to secure its strategic interests. There are no two ways about it.

The Niger Delta region is strategic to the economic survival of Nigeria and this must be recognised. This is what should guide our policies toward the development of the Niger Delta. The master plan has been produced, we will look at it to see if it is really far-reaching. If it is not far-reaching, we will deepen it and make it far-reaching enough to make it quickly responsive to the problems of the region.

First, the important thing is that you must have a plan that has the capacity to generate confidence and trust. The criteria and character to work out the plan must be holistic, must cover all the developmental needs of the region, must not be ambiguous, with all elements of the plan clearly identifiable. You must have clear, set targets complete with ways and means of funding the plan. Once this plan meets these criteria, then the confidence and trust will be generated. To be able to achieve the transformation of the region will take time but once the confidence and trust of all concerned are achieved, then if there are any criminal elements we will deal with them as a nation because this will fall within the overall improvement in the security situation in the country.

You left out the issue of health. I want to know if you will stop this official travelling abroad by government officials while they leave the rest of us to die in Nigeria. Are you going to stop that by improving health care in the country?

When I talk about human capacity development, I talk about education because education is something that the individual himself has control over. Once you give somebody quality education, he can take care of himself and a lot of things, including his health and that of his family. But generally, the human capital development that we require has these two aspects – education and health – because no matter how educated a person is, unless he is healthy both physically and mentally or psychologically, there is a limitation to what he can contribute.

Let me take you back to the issue of power. We want you to be specific about what exactly you want to do. The federal government is building some power plants through which it hopes to generate 10,000 megawatts but the feeling of industrialists is that 10,000 megawatts is not enough for Nigeria. Are you going to build new power plants or look at other sources of energy generation? Why are we also not considering solar energy?

When I said I will declare the sector a national emergency, one, I would tell you straight away that we will deregulate the sector and embark on private-public partnership.

Let me tell you on a lighter note. I saw a slogan on the table of one of my colleagues. I didn’t comment on it but I told myself that I like the slogan. It says ‘nothing is impossible.’ So, what I am saying is that we will target in terms of electric power generation, to generate 30,000 megawatts in this country by 2011 and I want, within the first four months, to come out with a plan to generate this 30,000 megawatts. Now, how we are going to do this is that every potential energy sector will be involved. And every player – government, individuals, committees – will be involved. Already, the government is planning a low transmission network. What this means is that everybody or community or government who wants to generate power can do so and then sell the excess power so that it can go into the loop.

This is what we are going to do. If you look at the telecommunication sector, which has been deregulated so that everybody can participate, we will look at the legislation and every other areas to ensure that investment into the power sector comes from every angle and we will ensure that shortage of power and energy is examined from every angle. Solar, wind, nuclear, hydrothermal, every form of energy will be required because the more energy we generate the more the consumption. Once you are able to generate energy to solve the problem of one sector, you will be surprised that the demand will rise phenomenally because once you stabilise the power and energy sector, you will find that the level of economic activities will increase too. So, once we begin to provide sustained power supply, demand will increase, just as production will also rise phenomenally. So we need all strategies and all sources of power and energy. To tap them, we need everything, just as we need to do in the education sector.

It appears that you are likely to continue with anti-corruption. Will yours be a photocopy of that being conducted by President Obasanjo or will there be variations or total departure?

I don’t want to personalise this issue. What is important for our nation is to make systems work, so that fighting corruption will be the same situation no matter who is president. It is important you ensure respect for law and order. That is the most important thing. When this respect is there nobody will be able to debase the trust of the office he is occupying. And no matter the responsibilities attached to any office, there are laws and regulations governing how to conduct and discharge such responsibilities.

Why we have corruption is because those laws are being disrespected and the procedures are being broken. So what I am getting at is that we should forget about the style of one person or another. We must ensure that institutions and systems work in this nation. Take the EFCC for instance. There is a law setting it up and EFCC is a national institution, a national organ. The law that set it up is there and unless the law is amended, it should function in the same way and manner under anybody. So this is the effort that we have to make. We will fight corruption relentlessly because it is something no society can condone, no nation ought to tolerate and really it is like a disease, like cancer. You allow it, it will spread until it destroys the entire body. And I think the major step we have taken under President Olusegun Obasanjo by establishing institutions that are created by law to fight corruption, I think they are correct measures and if there is need to strengthen them, we will do so because it is important we wipe out corruption from our public life.

Does it then mean that your administration will consider auditing the administration of President Obasanjo?

I have answered this question several times. If by the grace of God I become the president of this country, I am not going to start probing the previous government with a view to finding out which were the things that were done right or which were the things that were done wrong because I believe that in the first place, it is not what I have been elected for. The reason is that once you embark on this, I can assure you that the first term of four years you will spend it doing nothing. That is why I said what we should do is to ensure that systems function. We will continue to work and face the challenges ahead of the government, but if in the process anything comes up that needs to be looked into and investigated, it will be done. But to go there and say, for the sake of it, let us look at what has happened here, I don’t think that is necessary. It is totally unnecessary and it will just attract unnecessary attention and energy.

There is so much cynicism in the land. I can imagine some of our readers reading all these and saying, don’t mind him, he is not going to achieve all of these. How do you hope to instil confidence in the citizenry and how did we come about this cynicism in the first place?

Cynicism came about because of abuse of trust by past leadership. It got to a point where frankly speaking, the government lost credibility, responsibility and moral authority. When I was sworn in as governor of Katsina State, the first challenge I took up was to establish a moral authority with the government because I believe no government can govern effectively and efficiently without moral authority. And while people are struggling to be governor or president, you have administrative authority conferred on you by the constitution and you control certain programmes of the state. But you have to act before the people and citizens must willingly accept that moral authority, and you can only do that by building trust and credibility.

Let me tell you some of the measures I took as governor to build moral authority and credibility for the government. When we came into office, I made sure I told senior members of government, the executive council, that for this government, one thing that we must do is that any obligation of this government must be fulfilled and the first obligation of the government must be fulfilled as fast and as expected. I say the first thing is that whatever is the entitlement, allowances of workers will be the first charge of the state treasury because it is a covenant we have entered and we cannot, as a government, not fulfil our covenant.

Secondly, any agreement the government enters into with anybody, individual, corporate bodies anybody anywhere, must be fulfilled as part of the covenant without fail. That was why for the first eight months of the administration we didn’t award any contract because we had to verify and settle all previous liabilities of the government – civil servants, pensioners, contractors. And then we began to plan. Today I can tell you that for the past six and a half years, there has not been anybody who works directly or entered into an agreement with the Katsina State government, where the government failed to fulfil its part of its agreement as and when due. I will give you one example. If you are a civil servant and you get to retirement age, you put in your notice, the last week of your disengagement you will get your cheque and all your entitlements and the first month after your disengagement, you will begin to get your pension. We decided to do this in order to achieve credibility and moral authority, to build trust and confidence in the government. The governor is the only person with the constitutional power to spend state funds from the treasury, but I subjected this power to supervision.

What we have done voluntarily is to constitute a committee of which I am chairman as the governor. The deputy governor is a member, as the secretary to the state government, head of service, the commissioner for finance, Accountant-General of the state government and the Director of Budgeting. Any single kobo that is going to be spent must be reviewed by this committee. These are issues that ensure the building of trust, confidence and credibility of the government and there are ways of building moral authority. I believe it is extremely important you understand that government action in building moral authority, upholding covenant and trust, in building credibility impacts on the general conduct of the society and nation.

When I enter into an agreement and I break it, you need to go to the authority to get redress. If the authority itself is breaking the agreement, what kind of society are you going to get? One of the greatest challenges President Obasanjo has faced is to establish the rule of law in this country. It is those values that make provision for honesty, transparency, accountability, sincerity and hardwork and these really sum up and translate into the rule of law. Once we do these, our nation will be on the path of progress. There is nothing that is left to chance or whims and caprices of individuals.

Everything that concerns the public, there are rules governing how they should be done. Once these rules are respected everything will move smoothly. I was surprised that when I went around for campaign, in every state I have had an interactive session and people will tell me, we want you to do this and that. I tell them I will not do so because I am not going to be a whimsical president.

There are rules and processes or laws that govern how government functions. What I can promise is to be just, fair and to conduct the works of my office in conformity with the system, laws and regulations establishing the office. If I become the president, the nation’s money does not belong to me and I am not there to do what I like with it, neither am I there for you to come and ask for favour. There is something I find amazing and people expect it to be so. Anywhere you are a governor, people think that the state resources are yours and that you can do whatsoever you please. Even the allocation of projects, people don’t actually expect you to take everything to the Technical Department so that the entire state is considered. People will always come to ask the chief executive a favour as if it is his money to dispense as he wishes. We must stop this culture.

You spoke about the problems of the elite fighting over what the country gets from oil and gas. If you don’t go punitive, do you think you have the will to combat corruption?

Yes. I have the will. You see, it’s a challenge and like I have said to you when I saw that caption… nothing is impossible. Of course I know that there are other things that are not possible but sincerely, we must have the courage to do things that are difficult. Once you start what you are doing, on a clear ground that is just, you go ahead and do it. There is nobody in this country who will stand up and tell you that corruption should be condoned. Nobody is going to say that and therefore, I think we must have the courage to fight corruption. This President has begun doing this and we will continue with the effort. It would take time and it will not happen overnight, but with sustained fight, with increased tempo, we are going to get there.

Are you basically saying that you will not become a hostage of some powerful mogul in this country?

I have no doubt in my mind that power belongs to God and I have no doubt in my mind if I become president, in this country it is God that has made it so. I have absolute belief in that. Secondly, I believe that God who has made me the president is the same person I will have to give account for my actions. Let me assure you that nobody, individual or group will hold me hostage to do what is wrong.

How do you look forward to the contest on 24 April?

I look forward to it with great confidence. Like I have told you already I have resigned myself and have accepted totally that whatever the outcome is, I will be thankful to God because that is the will of God. I will be thankful to God even for the opportunity to run for the office.

You look rather serious, too serious in fact. I wonder whether you have a lighter side?

The issue of Nigeria, the problems and challenges constitute very serious business and I think they deserve all seriousness. I think the lighter side will come after my term is over if I have a course to celebrate.

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