[By WALE AKINOLA]
Tam David-West, a Professor of Virology, was a former Minister of Petroleum during the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida. He was the former Chairman, NNPC Board of Directors and former Chief Executive of NNPC. He recently spoke with some journalists in Lagos on issues of national interest after he was conferred with Symbol of Integrity Award by the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL). WALE AKINOLA was there.
How would you react to the Symbol of Integrity Award conferred on you by the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders?
The Integrity Award is the greatest thing I have got in my life, because I even value it more than my PhD in Virology. This is because I worked and passed some examinations before I was awarded PhD, but after my 27 years of active service with government in different capacities, a group finds me worthy of the integrity award. That is why I said it is a thing of joy for me. I want to make it clear that no Nigerian oil minister has ever been as powerful as I was then because I was a Minister of Petroleum; Chairman, NNPC board of Directors. I was Chief Executive of NNPC and it was General Buhari who gave me all these when he was the Minister of Petroleum. But after 27 years of temptations, a group that I don’t know decided to give me an award for integrity, and I want to say that it is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me in life and not only myself but also some people with credibility and conscience such as the former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande and late Gani Fawehinmi.
So, today is one of my best days in life and I really appreciate the organiser and I want to assure them that I will not relent because you cannot buy my conscience even with all the money in the mint, and I think maybe that is what CACOL saw in me before this award was bestowed on me. This is a great award and it is not only for myself, and I think it is also a moral message to young men and women in the society who don’t believe in corruption that there is reward for always standing by the truth because the good name is better than silver and gold. To me, the award is for everybody that shares the same vision with me.
How would you react to the IMF’s call for total removal of fuel subsidy?
The call is suicidal because there is nothing like fuel subsidy and I have said it several times on both the print and electronic media that anybody that talks about fuel subsidy is fraudulent, and if IMF is talking about fuel subsidy, then IMF is fraudulent. I told Okonjo-Iweala, who went to IMF and World Bank to talk about fuel subsidy that there is nothing like fuel subsidy. I said that no fuel in Nigeria should cost more than N40 per litre, and others have proved me right. Fuel subsidy is fraud and I have been vindicated because I published an article in the Vanguard newspaper in the late 1990s entitled “The sabotage theory of our refineries” and now the refineries have been sabotaged completely so that they can import fuel despite that Nigeria is the fifth producer of petroleum in the world. We belong to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), but we are importing fuel. I can say categorically that there is no fuel subsidy and I challenged the Minister of Finance, Okonjo-Iweala, President Jonathan and others who are talking about fuel subsidy to appear with me in the public debate to prove that there is nothing like fuel subsidy, but they never accepted it and when they held their Town Hall Forum here in Lagos on fuel subsidy, they avoided me by not inviting me. They were afraid that I would expose them, because fuel subsidy is fraud and I have been vindicated.
Also, Okonjo Iweala is always talking about excess crude account but as far as I am concerned, there is nothing like excess crude account. Rather, there is extra crude account. This is because excess and extra are different and when you talk about excess crude account, you have done everything to give more money, while oil is extra if you base your budget on sale for 40 dollars per barrel and the oil goes up to be 50 dollars per barrel, the 10 dollars you gain is not excess, it is extra, therefore, saying that something is an excess crude account is a lie and fraud and still Okonjo Iweala keep on saying that our foreign reserve had gone to 70 billion but what has she done to use it to take care of the country? It is like somebody who says he has a hundred million in the bank but cannot take care of himself or his children.
Sir, what is your reaction on state of emergency recently declared by the Federal Government in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa?
It is a self indictment. Yes, it is in the Constitution that a state of emergency can be declared by the President if the country is in a state of war, threatened or there is breakdown of law. The declaration of state of emergency by the President is constitutionally proper, but is it right? By declaring state of emergency means he has failed as the Chief Security Officer of the country. It is a self indictment and I can assure you that state of emergency cannot solve the security challenges in some northern parts of Nigeria. Is it necessary for the President to declare a state of emergency? Did Boko Haram insurgency start today? The President had once said that there was Boko Haram in his government and he later said that Boko Haram people were ghosts. I doubt it very much if the state of emergency can achieve any result because I would not be surprised if in the next few days there is another explosion somewhere just to defile him. He has the right to send Army to those areas, but can’t he send the troops to the affected areas without declaring a state of emergency?
The President can send ten times Army he had sent to Borno, Yobe and Adamawa without declaring a state of emergency. So, his declaration of emergency is superfluous because it was not the emergency that made the Army to go there. They can go there without any state of emergency because he is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. It is a wrong logic to declare state of emergency because if the insurgents go to the neighbouring states, will Mr. President declare state of emergency there? As a matter of fact, Nigeria itself is a state of emergency. So, Mr. President should declare a state of emergency on Nigeria as a whole not some parts.
In your own view, how can corruption be totally checkmated in Nigeria?
It is sad that some people who speak against corruption on the radio and television are as corrupt as Satan. Unlike some countries world over where corruption is social ethics, an average Nigerian does not like corruption and if you have a country where the populace don’t like corruption, then the battle is simple. Nigerians must rise against corrupt leaders, and this can be achieved. I will not shed any tear if the mobs are lynching corrupt leaders. Rather, I will be rejoicing because they have destroyed the system. I have been a Professor since 1974 and isn’t it sad that most of our graduates are now taxi drivers because the government has failed to employ them? When I was a minister, 1.5 dollar was N1 and N2 was one pound. But today, it is about N240 to one pound, N160 to one dollar. Isn’t that a disaster? Some people argued that we are not a failed state but my argument is that if we are not a failed state, we are fast failing state and the earlier we realise the better, because Nigeria is in emergency point and it is for President Jonathan to declare emergency on the country.
In the next few days, Nigeria will be celebrating 14 years of uninterrupted democratic rule. What is your overview of this?
Celebrating 14 years of democracy is a total nonsense. In the first place, do we have democracy? Isn’t it absurd to celebrate 14 years of democracy when there is no democracy? How can you have democracy with rigged elections? In democracy, you vote for those who want to rule you but in Nigeria, you rig instead of voting. There is no democracy in Nigeria, and there is no federation in Nigeria, but we have a very fraudulent nation because our democracy is fraudulent and federalism is fraudulent. Still, our government wants to celebrate the amalgamation of 1914, isn’t that hypocritical?
The Aviation ministry has threatened to launch an investigation into the document that Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State used to procure his jet. What do you have to say about that?
Why does the Aviation ministry need to wait till now to start its investigation on a plane that has been flying for over a year? If the aviation ministry is now telling us that Rivers State government’s jet that has been flying for over a year does not have a document, then we are not safe. What they have done is a self indictment, because how can a plane be flying in a air space for one year and suddenly it is discovered that it does not have any document? I know the truth will definitely prevail, because Amaechi cannot be irresponsible to fly a jet without the necessary documents. Why is it now that they discover that? What has Amaechi done? President Jonathan had his highest votes in Rivers State and without the governor of a state supporting him, he couldn’t have got that votes. But the presidency started witch-hunting Amaechi when it alleged that he wanted to run for vice presidency in 2015, but that is a big lie.
What is happening now in the Rivers State is quite unfortunate and it is setting the state back. President Jonathan should bring out Amaechi’s corruption and mal-governance records and I will join him. But right now I can’t argue what is his own personal vendetta and you can’t personalise the country because Nigeria is bigger than everybody. You can because you are a President and put the country into trouble. And if you say Amaechi is too stubborn, the governors’ forum is the forum for all governors in Nigeria, not an extension of PDP. I have told Jonathan before and I can repeat it as we do say in Ijaw that if you chase a chicken too much, you will fall down and the chicken will go.
If all what Jonathan is doing is to guarantee 2015, I will say that he has lost 2015 by fighting 2013 because Asari Dokubo cannot help him. Asari Dokubo is my cousin and he used to stay with me in Ibadan. How can Asari Dokubo say that the northerners are ‘Gambaris’ (parasites)? And that Awolowo was a criminal? He is an irresponsible boy. He used to stay with me despite that he dropped out of university twice – University of Port Harcourt and University of Calabar. If you have done an Elementary Biology, you will understand that there is no state in Nigeria that is parasite. One of the President Jonathan spokespersons, Edwin Clark, abused me that I have no house. And if as a former Minister of Petroleum of this great nation I don’t have a house, it is a credit to my own personality. Jonathan should be very careful about the sycophants that surround him because despite that Edwin Clark and his cohorts are saying that Jonathan is the greatest, if anything happens to him, God forbid, all of them will run away.
Clark has also abused all the tribes in this country because of his selfish interest in Jonathan government, but he has forgotten that only Ijaw votes wouldn’t have made Jonathan the President of Nigeria. If the support had not come from other tribes because the total votes cast for him by Ijaw people was 24 per cent and the record is there for anybody to cross check. Jonathan is in Aso Rock today because of Obasanjo manipulation, and Obasanjo is a Yoruba man. The person who made the motion to make Jonathan Acting President was a Hausa man, but it is sad that Jonathan is allowing his aides to abuse those who made him President. Asari Dokubo’s Niger Delta Volunteer Force does not exist again but he told Jonathan that he had 40, 000 people. I don’t think Asari Dokubo controls 400 people, because I know those who are with him.
Sir, don’t you think that based on the recent killing in the Rivers state if the crisis persists, the Presidency may declare a state of emergency in the state?
Yes, that is what they are trying to achieve, but they have failed because Amaechi has controlled the state very well. If they resort to action and reaction, if you kill, I kill; then, there would be crisis and Jonathan may declare a state of emergency. The state of emergency does not solve anything. Rather, it causes more tension and if it is not well handled, it may lead the country into serious crisis, because the state of emergency declared during Awolowo-Akintola crisis led to civil war. Amaechi is very popular in Rivers State because if he doesn’t do well, people would have criticised him. If Amaechi’s ordeal is not political, why is it that the sins against him were not made public before it was alleged that he wanted to run for vice presidency? They actually wanted to impeach Amaechi just like it was done to Ladoja and Alamieyeseigha, but Amaechi is very smart.
Is there any hope for this country?
Yes, I still have hope that the country would be better, but if I don’t have hope, I would not be talking to you now. But things cannot go on like this because we are gradually slipping into anarchy and there is only one step between anarchy and collapse. We cannot go on like this, because the polity is heated up and it would be very hot from now till next year and this is 2013. I pray that something terrible would not happen between now and the end of the year, because I can see more and more crises. I told the President Jonathan that he cannot win war against Boko Haram by force of arms.