On April 2007 Elections
Even those people who are complaining about the last election, many of
them are saying Yar'Adua is a good man, is it not so? They are not
quarreling with the outcome, they are talking about the process.
On Rule of Law.
My views about this are quite well known, that the rule of law should
not become a shield for the wrong doer, it should also be a sword for
doing what is right.
He did a lot of good. He is a very talented man, and sometimes, being
talented can come with a very big price. Relations can afford to be
more appreciative of such talent.
If we want to be real musket tee, I will tell you look, one of the
Nigerians I admire most is Nuhu Ribadu. He has done a lot for the
image of Nigeria. To me he is one of the greatest Nigerians, and I
want to be on record on this; He is a great man. He is fearless, he is
courageous, he cares about Nigeria, He is passionate about Nigeria,
and puts his life on the line
in doing that. We need many more Ribadus. I also know that the same
Ribadu himself, has a number of time spoken with passion about the
process, about doing things right.
AN INTERVIEW WITH CHIEF OJO MADUEKWE, THE
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER IN PRESIDENT UMARU MUSA YAR’ADUA’S CABINET
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ojo Maduekwe, was
recently in the United States as a participant in the 'Nigeria Meets
The World Conference' organized by ThisDay, and the United Nations
General Assembly session. He spoke exclusively with
Below is the full text of the interview with the
Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs:
On April 2007 Elections
you think the last election was a stumbling block to the development
of democracy in Nigeria?
: No matter how imperfect an
election is. I don't see the point you are making about an election
being a stumbling block to the development of democracy, can you have
democracy without an electoral process? You can complain about the
imperfection of the process. You can even talk about electoral
malpractices, which of course the tribunals are set up as part of the
electoral process to deal with. But I can't understand what you mean
by implying that democracy can take place without the right of the
ruled to choose their leaders.
asked the question because the president himself, the current
president, said the election was flawed, almost like self indictment
: He did not say the election
what did he say?
: He said there were
imperfections in the process.
(Cut in!) that is flawed.
: It does not make it flawed.
it is imperfect, it implies 'flawed'
: There is no place where
election is perfect. We make no excuses for what went wrong in the
last election. We are honest enough to say, that look, it could have
been better, and that is not an indictment of PDP or of government,
because the opposition parties did not come out of this looking more
so saintly. In Abia State where I come from, and I am National
Secretary of PDP, that is being accused of all kinds of
transgressions; I don't know what you think that I, National Secretary
of the party, of the ruling party that is being accused of rigging,
alright, in Abia State, the PDP lost election, now what are you
suggesting? that the people of Abia were so opposed to PDP that no
matter how capable our rigging machinery might have been, the popularity
of a party that did not exist for more than five months was so heavy
that PDP rigging machinery, you know, in the home State of the
National Secretary, I mean isn't that ridiculous?
Would you say that the electoral abuses were mostly perpetrated by
your party, PDP?
: You see, Let us be responsible
in dealing with this issue. An electoral process consists of a day
announced for voting. There is also a timetable for announcing the
results, and there is a timetable for the aggrieved to go to the
judiciary. I think it does not show democratic temper, if you
participate in one phase of the exercise, and then you want to rubbish
the entire thing without availing yourself of the opportunity of any
injustice being addressed. In Abia, we felt that what happened in Abia
was not the reflection of what the people of Abia actually had in
mind. So we are in court, we are not asking for the roof to be pulled down.
So why can't other people who feel that what they suffered whether as
individuals or as parties, why don't they have enough confidence in
the legal system as to allow the legal system to make a pronouncement?
do you think is going to happen at the presidential election tribunal?
Is the President also preparing himself for the possibility that he
might lose at the tribunal?
: You don't expect me as a
lawyer to answer that kind of question. Alright? you are speculative
It doesn't deal with...eh
is it possible?
: That...what is possible?
he could lose the case at the tribunal?
: This question is neither right
in journalism nor is it right in law
in!) Sir, new age, conscience-centered journalism... I will
move on to other topics. At a point, it looked like your ministerial
appointment was not going to be approved in the senate because all the
Senators from Abia opposed your nomination, what was the problem?
: Go and ask them
(Intervenes!) can we talk about
is the time...
It is the time, yes.
: She has spoken very highly
Thank you Sarah (Special Assistant). On international topic. What is
your preferred option(s) to Nuclear Non Proliferation?
: Nigeria is committed to the
peaceful uses of Nuclear Power.
a now familiar mantra...(laughter). What about the morality implied in
nuclear threat by powerful nations to 'lesser nations' that they
reserve the right to use this destructive weapon whenever they think
their interests are threatened, and a way of reminding these 'lesser
nations' of who is in charge?
: (Cut in!)... I am a Minister of
Foreign Affairs, I am not a professor of ethics
News: I am
aware you are Minister of Foreign Affairs, that is why I am asking
you the question.
: Let us come back to the
want to come back to the election?
: Oya, go, let me make one or
two observations. When I was National secretary of PDP, I issued
statements, warning our members about electoral malpractice by PDP
members, and I did say that we didn't need to rig to win that election.
We are already in control of 28 out of 36 states and for us, usually
message is as important as the results announced at winning. We don't
need to rig. We control the Federal Government and several state
governments. As a matter of fact, as you know, all State Governments
were folding up their party identity, ANPP, whatever, and coming over
to PDP, and the way to win elections really, is when you have people
coming over to your side. So I issued that statement. I asked the law
enforcement agents, arrest any PDP member, no matter how highly
placed, who is found in electoral malpractice. This statement was
published in at least four Nigerian newspapers. Full page advertorial,
not just as news. Paid advertorials, a lot of money - over one million
Naira. We now also issued a separate statement condemning electoral
violence. No other party did that. We are not the police, why I am
saying this is that, unless people are ready as civil society and
other interested people, get involved in the political process, eh
look, my friend, you are rigging, and blow the whistle, and get the
police to do their work, it is going to be difficult for us to begin
to get it right. and the sooner we begin to get it right the better,
because a nation is better off when there is not only a free and fair
election, but when there is perception that it was free and fair.
Because then you are not distracted from defending your victory and
all that, to make sure of issue of illegitimacy is taken care of. Our problem is that.. eh
and here... I want to continue to remind myself that I am no longer
the national secretary of PDP, so I don't get too much accused of
partisanship here. I am a PDP member, PDP leader, I am a Minister in
the PDP government, so there is no way you can take away PDP from me.
So, the truth of the matter is that, you know it yourself, that before
the elections many of the opposition parties certainly gave up. Rather
than spending time to campaign, to educate people about the power of
the vote, to educate people about how to vote, and how to defend
their votes, they just spent the money they have coming to America,
going everywhere, blowing the whistle that there is rigging, there is
rigging, there is rigging, ahead. It appeared that they had already
made up their minds that they were going to lose any way. That is what
is going on now, so its like people had already made up there mind
that the election would not take place. We have to now get back to a
situation where, and it is important, and people like you can help here,
that a politician should know the mere fact that they are involved in
the election, no matter how imperfect it is, it is a contribution to
the democratic process. And If it is not right this time, it is going
to be right next time. The practice is to just keep on, keep on saying
that, because it is not possible that everybody in PDP is a rigger or
is malevolent and all that, just like I would not say everybody in
ANPP or AC are riggers or people who don't believe in fair and free
election. And I can tell you, I can defend the opposition parties on
this issue, and I expect them also to be able to concede to me, PDP,
the same amount of decency I want to give to the opposition parties. At the leadership level of politics, I can say this that I have
been involved for nearly 30 years now, people do not sit down my
brother, say, national secretary, national chairman, eh governor, eh
this that that, people do not sit down, and if I can say this about PDP,
I can also say it about the other parties, and say look o, this
election is coming, gentlemen, oya, we want to rig it, how are we going
to rig it. It doesn't take place. So, without my condoning rigging,
and that is the last thing I want to say, and I will listen more to you.
Without my condoning rigging, wherever rigging takes place, all rigging, like all politics is
local. What we need to do, for me, it is not possible that AC or ACP
or any of these parties would sit down, even what happened to us in
Abia, it is not possible that PPA, the other opposition party could
have sat down at the national level and say we PPA we are going to rig
in Abia. I don't see leaders doing that kind of thing no matter
how terrible those leaders are. They should also be able to acknowledge
that there is no way, Ojo Maduekwe, National Secretary, Ali National Chairman, Annenih,
chairman of the board of trustee, ok the leader of the party then
President Obasanjo, we would have sat down in a place, this election
o, ah we must rig it. It doesn't happen like that, and that is why
we issued the statement we issued to say, please if anybody is
involved in rigging, please, please, police, do your job. So what we
need to do since and for instance, as despicable as rigging is, all
rigging like all politics is local, is that each one of us come from
somewhere, we come from a village or a local government, we are not
just people in Abuja or people in Lagos. The national elite that is
generally interested in democracy, in electoral integrity should go
back home where we come from, spend time with the people and let them
know that this thing does not have to be something that we must win at all
cost, no, let us do it right. Failure to do it right hurts
everybody, both the winner and the loser. It is a local responsibility
on the part of the national elites
Before the election, Chief Obasanjo said, It was going to be a do or
: He was misunderstood. As
always, as often...
is also being demonized now by everybody, Is he a demon?
: I couldn't have served a
demon. He was misunderstood. It was his own way of explaining the
importance of the election. You know the way people describe how the
thing is so important? It is just a matter of speaking
the rule of law now translating to the "ruse of law" in this new
government of President Yar'Adua? And are there moles in this
government planted to protect some privileged individuals?
: (laughter) That is a very
interesting question, because while I was sacking people, I am sure
you would have followed my story while I was Transport Minister,
controversial as it was. I mean, nobody sacked more people as minister in the
cabinet of 1999 to 2003. No minister sacked more people than myself.
The cause are there. I have a very heavy ministry at Transport, NPA
NML, name it, now when people were complaining about oh, Ojo, the
rights of the people who are being accused of some wrong doing, those rights
are not being adequately protected, even as a lawyer, I just had to be
philosophical on this issue to say; the law should not just be a
shield for the wrong doer, it should also be a sword for doing what is
right. My views about this are quite well known, that the rule of law should not
become a shield for the wrong doer, it should also be a sword for
doing what is right.
Minister of Foreign Affairs is not liked by most of our readers ....
sorry, the Attorney General
: Actually, when you said
Foreign Minister, you corrected yourself, It is possible to say it is a Freudian
slip.... May be the truth of the matter is what you said earlier on...
opinion of you is different from this AGF. When everyone was on siren
as a minister, you rode your bike ...
: (laughter), you must be one of
the very few who appreciate that kind of gesture.
responsible people in responsible places do things by example, small
gestures like riding a bicycle can make a difference.
: We are running late, I will
give you more time on Friday, once the President leaves, The
President is going... Thabo Mbeki is expecting us. In this kind of
situation it is difficult to give quality interviews. Friday, in the
morning hour, we will have more quality time. For now let me say that
it is a tight rope, ok, what you are referring to is really a tight
rope, I understand how you feel, and I understand the crusading zeal
that eh obviously the system requires, and I have myself, if it is
wrong to have a crusading zeal, I have already pled guilty to that. So
many of the people I sacked in the transport, I was told, no, I
shouldn't have done it that way, but I said if they didn't like it
they should go to court, but they did not go to court because they
knew that even if there was procedural flaws in what
I did , the substance...
order word, you were trying to use the Transport as a 'sword' for
doing what is right?
: what they did in the place,
they cannot hide under some fig leave of procedure to stop me from
cleaning that place.
that not what they are doing now, are they not hiding under the fig
leave of procedure right now?
: I understand what you are
talking about, but let us put it this way, the thing is that ok,
today, a nice person who means well might run roughshod of procedure
because he has a clear goal about what is right and what is wrong
News: So you
think the Attorney General means well?
: No, no, I am putting it in
certain kind of context. Then the whole issue of rule of law, do you
understand it? and I am still telling you as a lawyer it is not just
the outcome that is important, why are people talking about the last
election? Even those people who are complaining about the last election, many
of them are saying Yar'Adua is a good man, is it not so? They are not
quarreling with the outcome, they are talking about the process. And
it is that process we are now beginning to address. I have not heard
any one saying Yar'Adua could not have won, PDP could not have won. I
have not heard anybody who is saying that. They are saying the
PROCESS. That goes to tell you that as important as it is to get
the right outcome, we should do everything to... If we want to be real
musket tee, I will tell you look, one of the Nigerians I admire most
is Nuhu Ribadu. He has done a lot for the image of Nigeria. To me he
is one of the greatest Nigerians, and I want to be on record on this; He
is a great man. He is fearless, he is courageous, he cares about
Nigeria, He is passionate about Nigeria, and puts his life on the line
in doing that. We need many more Ribadus. I also know that the same
Ribadu himself, has a number of time spoken with passion about
the process, about doing things right. We are in a situation where
things are just beginning to gel.
the President believe in him - Ribadu?
: Of course the President
believes in him
can he believe in him and also believe in Aondoakaa at the same time?
: I am sure the two of them can
work together, and they are already working together, and good people
like you should not help to widen the gap ... (laughter)
would like to talk to the Minister (AGF), may be you can help arrange
an interview before he returns to Nigeria?
: I believe you need to talk to
him, I did not know him before this government, but I believe you
should talk to him.
the current feelings about Chief Obasanjo, do you think he has any
future that has not been destroyed in Nigeria?
: Even he himself has said this
matter should be left for history. I believe that was a wise word to
say. He did a lot of good, he did a lot of good, and nobody is
perfect. He did a lot of good. He is a very talented man, and
sometimes, being talented can come with a very big price. Relations
can afford to be more appreciative of such talent.
really appreciate taking your time to talk to us at the
NigerianNews, we hope we can continue where we stopped on Friday.
Again, thank you very much for having us Sir.
: We have only one country, you
know, my plea is, as they say here in America with the MoveOn.org, we
should just move on. If we open a quarrel
between the past and the present, we may lose the future. and in this
matter, in this matter I think you put little more introspective, and
rather than I looking at the other person and say that one did this
and that one did that and all that, I should look at myself and say no
matter how good I am, Is there anything extra I could have done for
Nigeria that I have not done? Even if the best of us ask ourselves that
question, we would find that there is still little extra we could do
for Nigeria we have not done. Let each of us be the change we want to
see in that beautiful country, and it can be done
Thank you Mr. Hon. Minister.
Footnote: The planned Friday continuation was not
possible because of the Minister's schedule.