*Justice, rule of law and accountability are what we need
Former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, has urged the United States, United Kingdom and the German governments to expose the real treasury looters in Nigeria whom he said are known by the super powers.
He also called on the Federal Government to institute a process where famous auditing firms will audit all public office holders to ascertain their source of wealth.
The Forbes billionaire made the remarks in the United States while delivering a speech on Democratic process in African countries in the War College, Washington DC.
Kalu whose speech cut across many issues affecting Nigeria lamented many abnormalities in Nigeria.
According to him, “US, UK, Germany know those who have stacked millions of dollars, transferred directly from Nigeria to western countries without working for it.”
The former governor said the looters acquired the wealth with no trace of evidence of business transactions, services or contracts.
He also said Nigeria needs three basic things he named as justice, obeisance to the rule of law and accountability to move forward.
The former presidential candidate described Nigeria as an interesting country buried in tribalism and religion, adding that in Nigeria, people do not see good in those who wish the country well.
According to him, “People see no good in other people’s job. The leaders and the governed have become so greedy that they forget the ethics of a nation. A nation is supposed to be a committed area that must have the interest of the citizens as priority. It is only in Nigeria, that a form is clearly specified to identify tribe, state, local government and religion. That means that the government of Nigeria since 1960 have been in support of tribalism. There is no country that wants to move forward and still have such specifications in a form.
Corruption is the greatest problem in Nigeria. Those past leaders who claimed to be fighting corruption were only accumulating wealth. Most of them came to be leaders of our community with only N20,000 and below, and they make no pretence in showing their wealth and affluence in their different communities.
“I was governor for eight years. And in those eight years, I never knew somebody can take public fund as his own. I never knew somebody aside security vote can take away people’s money. People who had nothing came into office and turned to multi billionaires and nobody asks questions about how the money was made.
“I call on the government to restore a process whereby the KPMG, PWC, Deloitte and others be given opportunity to audit all our past leaders. You can not just make someone a Governor today and next, he buys a house in Victoria Island without stating how he got the money. Likewise a minister and he is already buying houses in Maitama or Asokoro.
Further speaking, Kalu recalled that “among the people who supported political movement in Nigeria in 1998, few of us are being tried. I had mentioned this in most forums I have been. The former president Obasanjo wrote to your President, George Bush Jnr, requesting that I should be arrested in United States. But your President after investigation said no.
They equally wrote to the British prime minister, but he disagreed after investigation. But I am being tried in Nigeria for a law I do not know where it comes from. But I cannot dwell on this since it’s in the Court of competent jurisdiction.
“Last time I spoke in Washington DC during a dinner, I repeated the same thing. Nigeria is a beautiful country where given the appropriate rule of law; if everyone is made to obey the rule of the land and respect the law; If all our people are made to subject themselves to the laws of the land, Nigeria will be a beautiful place to live.”
Kalu’s visit to the War college, Washington DC makes it the third time he will be visiting the college in three years.
The former governor while recounting his relationship with the Institute told the audience that the college during his eight years reign as Abia state governor had sent a 50-man delegation to Abia state during their visit to Nigeria.
He expressed his appreciation to the college which according to him, has always granted him permission to use the Institute for research whenever he is in Washington DC.
Speaking on the Nigerian economy and the orientation of the leaders and the led, the former governor said, “We need people who will see Nigeria as Nigeria. People who will not attach any religious or tribal sentiments about the country. We need people that will call a spade a spade. Last week, I urged President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the economy the way he tackled Boko Haram.
In all honesty and being factual, I still suggest that President Buhari as a matter of urgency should declare economic emergency. The economy is in very bad shape and the citizens are not happy,
“What we also need Nigerians to do is to come out and support civil democracy. Civil democracy is the only way interests of others can be protected. People blame politicians and everybody but themselves. They do not blame those who rig the elections to put illegitimate and unfit leaders in powerful. Leaders who do not think well about our society; leaders who think that the best way of living is to steal public funds. Those who think that the only thing they are elected for is to make themselves comfortable,” he said.
Kalu also appealed to the staff, the diplomats and senior military officers present at the occasion to urge the US government to assist Nigeria in fishing out those that have stolen Nigerian commonwealth.
“I am sure they know them. The government of United States and Britain know those that have stolen our money. Why hide them? When ex President Obasanjo wrote to British government telling them that I stole money to buy a house in London. They investigated and found out that I bought it in 1991 and that is the only house I have in Britain,” he recalled.
While stating his optimism in coming out victorious in the corruption charges levelled against him by the Nigerian anti graft agency, the 2017 eighth rated Forbes billionaire blamed Nigerians for what he referred to as being gullible and believing anything.
“I believe history will exonerate us. My greatest challenge is that our people are very naive, they are as naive as anything. They are very gullible and consume every lie told to them by people in authority. I was governor for eight years, for five years of that governorship, I was committed in asking the Federal Government to do the right thing. I want to reassure you people that judiciary in Nigeria are not as bad as they are portrayed to be.
When I was governor, we went to court against Federal Government of Nigeria 15 times and we won 13 times. Those in charge of judiciary only need to fix it, in such a way that one could get justice.
In addition, he said ” I believe the judiciary should be totally allowed to operate independently. I am more impressed with the court system here in United States and also in United Kingdom. I am also praying that the leaders of our judiciary will continue to improve our legal system. No matter the kind of system of government practiced in a country, the judiciary remains the bedrock of survival of that nation.
Our judiciary are trying very well and I believe that if we get our judiciary right and well constituted, that will be the beginning and turn around of our democratic process.”
Commenting on the rift between the presidency and the legislators, Kalu noted that president Muhammadu Buhari should lead a peace talk process between the executive and legislature adding that frosty relationship should not be allowed to exist between the two bodies
“This morning, my duty is very simple, to give insight on ‘Democratic Process of African countries’ and I have chosen to concentrate on Nigeria as a sample. Nigeria do not need much in democracy. The Parliament must be totally independent. The infighting in the Parliament in Nigeria should be seen that our party, the APC, has to do more. I call on the President to institute a good rapport between the executive and legislators.
The president should also lead this process. I also believe the strength of any nation depends on how strong their military are. The Nigerian military have done very well in all international engagements including Nigeria police. They need more equipment and support to do more and improve their intelligence. ”
The one time student leader also decried the decaying value system in Nigeria. He recalled what student unionism used to be in their days, adding that money is now being prioritised to values.
In his words: “In our civil responsibilities which is very important for our democratic growth, Nigerians are yet to get it right. Money is not everything and it is time we instil it in our consciousness. When I was in the university, we never requested money from any politician. It was unheard of asking any political party or politician for financial assistance.
“We strongly stood firm for Aluta. Our value system has deteriorated. When I was growing up, we used to respect elders, teachers, journalists and other professions. But it can not be said of same today. Nowadays, every secondary school leaver or university graduate wants to go into politics because of the absolute loot that have lingered since return of democracy in 1999.”
Continuing, he accused the western countries of doing less to help African countries, insisting that Nigeria needs support not aid, “Being in war college today to interact with you is a privilege and I will not take it for granted. When you talk of aids given to African countries, you find out that we do not really need all of that. We only need equal opportunity. It is only in Africa that western leaders continue to support devaluation of our currency.
Knowing full well we produce nothing, yet they keep supporting devaluation. This is not acceptable by me. The west should realise that the major role to be played is not to continue devaluing our currency when they are buying our raw materials for production. It is not right. All institutions of the West are not totally supporting Africa growth. We have to go another route to be able to grow economically.
We have to embrace technology and agriculture. We need industrial revolution and we have people who can start it up today, we have them in Aba, Onitsha and other Eastern part of Nigeria. We have people who fought the civil war and are very creative. I like the decision Federal government had taken to legitimise illegal refineries. They should also encourage them by giving 2000 of them licence to operate. They should be given crude oil to refine at 35% discount and Nigeria will stop importing fuel,” he said
Kalu also said Nigeria is a beautiful country which if collectively enhanced will have a bigger economy than United States. He added that Nigeria has everything including abundance human and capital resources.
He complained that Nigerian rule of law is zero and stated that what Nigeria need is good managers and good followers.
“We need intelligent leaders who will be able to define the policy direction and military direction of the country. I believe President Muhammadu Buhari’s ascendance is by providence and he is there for a purpose. He might not be perfect but anybody can fall sick. There are insinuations that the president is unforgiven. I call on him to forgive his enemies and vice versa.
Nigeria is our own and if there are people that have offended the President, the president should forgive them. Likewise those that feel the President has offended them. Let us live in peace with no tribalism and religious fanaticism. Let us forget sentiments and see ourselves as Nigerians. The youth restiveness is also something we must tackle very quickly.
While lamenting lack of policy sustainability by successive governments, Kalu recounted the efforts he put in place as governor to give his state an outstanding governance but was challenged by the then Federal Government. This is even as he accused the then President Olusegun Obasanjo led Federal Government of putting policies to deny him fund.
He said, “Lack of consistent government policies and sustainability is what is killing us and our businesses today. Once one government issues a policy and leaves, the succeeding government overrides that policy with no good reason.
Some people might wonder why Lagos state is doing great amidst challenges. It’s because the successors consistently followed the policies not minding whether the relationship is frosty or not. In our own Abia, it wasn’t same, my successor abandoned the policies we worked hard to put in place for Abians, and it became a disaster and people like us are being blamed.
“Some people referring to me as an entrepreneur complain that I didn’t build heaven and earth in Abia. But you see, it was strange that the first money I received as a Governor in May 1999 was N210 million. The first time I saw one billion Naira was in the month of November 2004, the records are there.
For a state like Abia with a lot of payroll, dilapidated systems and infrastructure. I cried for the state. My good friend, the late Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, Tayo Aderinokun. May his soul rest in peace knows how we worked hard to give my people the best. I wouldn’t say much because if he was alive, I would have said what he told me. Governance is not easy. I prepared a proposal with him to start middle class hotels, industries, investment on airports, Airlines and hotels for Abia State government.
The then Federal Government turned us down on the basis we cannot do it. Few months later, the money we could have used for development was deducted as part of the money borrowed from the civilian government of late Dr Sam Mbakwe.”
Continuing, he said, “Many of the moribund structures were located in Abia and our share of the debt was 650 million US dollars while that of Imo State was 450 million US dollars. The Federal Government started deducting it again. Just to make sure they punished me as an individual. They started deducting it from day one. That was not the policy before.
The policy was that they will be deducting it from the federation account. A new policy came and overruled the previous one,” he explained.
Concluding his speech, Kalu thanked the audience and also chronicled what Nigerians are asking from her leaders. He queried why all African countries are backward expect South Africa and requested the US to give Nigeria assistance in the military and economy.
He stated thus: “Nigerians are not asking too much. They are only asking for food on their table, good health care, decent school for their school, employment. All these things are what we can do. The country is capable of doing it. I urge President Buhari to re-plan the system and commit his team to doing an Economic turn around.
Nigeria has no business in being poor. Nigeria has no business in poor management of our economy. Almost all the countries in Africa except South Africa are in bad shape. Is it a curse? But I am optimistic we will lift it up. I call on all good loving Nigerians to help support the government. The West should also help us in fighting corruption. They know who the corrupt leaders are. I am saying it here in War College. You people have a lot of intelligence. All the transactions they do are in dollars. They should call a spade a spade. All transfers are done in dollars and you can help us.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am very optimisitic that Nigeria will rise to its expected state if nepotism, tribalism, religious fanaticism and all those things that draws us backward are put on hold. In this 21st century, we can’t also waste our resources. We must go back to start our technological development from agriculture. We must encourage both small scale and middle class farming.
Lastly, I thank the war college community for this rare opportunity given to me. I chose to narrow my African discussion to Nigeria unlike last year. I thank the former Ambassadors, senior military officers, Navy officers, supporting staff of the college. I am trusting you help us pass policy papers to your President for support militarily and economically. We don’t need aid, all we need is support. Thank you very much and may God bless you,” he resounded.