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Akunyili angry because she was expelled from Yar'Adua cabal - Dabo

From KENNY Ashaka, Abuja
Saturday, March 06, 2010


Dr. Akpelamen Godwin Dabo Adzuana, national president of Benue Elders Forum and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is at it again.

He is not only angry with the Minister of Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili but has also prepared to prove that the minister is bellyaching because her membership of the President Umar Yar'Adua's cabal was terminated abruptly.

Hear him: 'Yar'Adua's cabal is made of eight people. I can't name them now because I know all of them and it will be unfair for me to name all of them. But they all know themselves and Akunyili, my sister, knows the cabal. She knows those who constitute the cabal.

'She was a member of the cabal before. Akunyili was a member of the cabal before. She was among those who were close to President Yar'Adua before. But something went wrong. Something happened.'

When asked what happened, Dabo, who exuded confidence throughout the interview, replied: 'What happened was that the cabal felt uncomfortable with her. They felt her leg was in Jonathan's camp and also in Yar'Adua's camp. That was why she had to be kept at bay. A few ministers, who are members of the cabal knew when the President was coming back. They arranged the logistics for his return. But because Akunyili was no longer a member, that is why she was left out.'

Dabo believes the General Ibrahim Babangida will succeed Yar'Adua, and he says: 'The North is going to sit down and decide who is the most sellable.'

What is your reading of the political situation now?

Let's put it this way – some very vicious people, members of the so-called cabal operating in Nigeria have heated up the polity by taking actions or making statements that are inflammatory; statements that will not move us forward, but retard our progress towards a valid and durable democratic culture. Everybody would be ill, but the way the illness of the President has been treated, I wish it had been treated differently. The most amazing aspect is that the president was coming back and the vice president was not informed.

The ministers were not informed. Only a few people knew that the president was coming back. On the day that the president returned, I was amazed that somebody called me from London a little before midnight. I was in Mike Ozekhome's house when the person called me to say that the President would soon be landing at the airport in Abuja and that he had already left Saudi Arabia and was going to land. So, I was surprised how we in Nigeria did not know, but somebody who was in London called me. The person works in the Nigerian High Commission. He called me to say that the President was on his way.

The President arrived exactly within the time the man had stated. So, it's obvious there was lack of confidence because, at least, somebody should have told the Acting President. He should have been informed. But he was not informed. Why was he not informed? He is the head of this government. He is the head of Nigeria. He should have been informed.

The explanation these people have given - some of the people who were involved in this smuggling exercise - is that Jonathan had some people around him that if they had told him, these people would have heard and they possibly would have taken counter measures. This was their contention. They mentioned about three or four names as people who are very close to him, whom they didn't want to know and that was why they didn't let him know.

They told you the names of the people?
Yes, they did. But it's not fair for me to reveal the names. But they are people close to the Acting President. One of them is a businessman who was formerly based in Jos. He is one of the people who are very close to the Acting President. But I said to them that no matter what happens, you have a responsibility to have taken him into confidence because he is the law since he became the Acting President by enactment of the National Assembly. So, you should have taken him into confidence. They gave various reasons. But as far as I'm concerned, there is no extenuating circumstance why they shouldn't have told the Acting President. They should have told the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate President. These three people should have known what was happening. But they've given reasons they did not because they didn't want the whole thing to leak.

Did they explain to you why they didn't tell the Speaker and the Senate President, even if they wouldn't tell the Acting President?

They didn't tell them because, one, the action that the Senate President and the Speaker had taken, by jointly passing that emergency resolution empowering the Vice President without consultations with the appropriate people made them unhappy. That is their explanation.

And then they smuggled in the President.
He was not smuggled. The President was brought in legitimately and accurately. Those who should know were informed. I have found out that those who were supposed to know were told. When you carry out a covert operation, like what was done in bringing the President in, you don't let everybody know. You get only a selected clique to know and that clique is in existence. Now that Jonathan has become the Acting President, he will have his own clique. There is a clique in every leadership and the Yar'Adua administration cannot be an exception. The Yar'Adua clique has people who are very experienced and who have been in this business for several years. So, it's easy for them to operate. But I am saying that Turai made a mistake. She should have spoken to the Acting President because the buck stops at his table. So, she should have spoken to him and briefed him. I still believe that that is the proper thing that should have been done.

You used the word smuggling. Now you are saying the President was not smuggled in. How do you reconcile that?

I used the word smuggling in the context that he was brought in without many people knowing. That's the context in which I used the word 'smuggle.' He was brought in a way that many people were cut off from seeing him. So, to that extent, he was smuggled in.

It seems you know so much about the 'smuggling' in of President Yar'Adua. What was that meant to achieve?

There are extenuating circumstances. He is still ill. He was ill at the time and if he had been brought in so openly, so many people would have been at the airport. More than one million people would have been at the airport and that would have adversely affected his health. So, the way he was brought in, without any disturbance and interference from press watchers, wishers and other people, was the best thing to have done.

What would you say about the scenario created immediately he arrived? There was supposed to be a FEC meeting, which did not hold.

The FEC meeting should not have held the day after the President came back. They should have deferred that meeting because the President returned the previous night. They should have given time to study and speak to him, brief him and see whether he was capable of talking. So, that meeting shouldn't have held. It was the right thing that the meeting was cancelled. The meeting shouldn't have held because the President had returned and they didn't know the state of the President's health and they went and fixed a meeting. Do you want to carry the man in a trolley and bring him to the meeting? He has not been certified okay. Even if the physician had briefed the Acting President, the point here is that you needed time to allow the man to settle down. If you travel on a long flight from Europe to Nigeria, you need some rest.

But he was not to chair the FEC meeting because there already exists an Acing President.

Yes, there is Acting President, but if Yar'Adua comes back and he's able to chair the meeting, he should have gone straight and chaired it. But he wasn't able and that is why they said wait until today. There is an Acting President who is steering the affairs of the country today.

On arrival, President Yar'Adua is expected, by the resolution of the National Assembly, to transmit a letter about his arrival. Why would you not want him to follow the path of the rule of law?

Are you now telling me that the democratically elected President of Nigeria has to take permission from the National Assembly to perform his functions?

The Constitution is meant for us to follow. The National Assembly followed it and appointed an Acting President. Don't you think it is important?

The moment the President steps on Nigerian soil, automatically, it is invalidated. When the President comes back and assumes duty and reports in office, that thing is invalidated.

Are you saying what the Senate did is illegal?
Well, the courts are going to decide whether what the Senate did was right. But, for me, all I am saying here is that the Senate and the House of Representatives acted within their understanding and competence. But there are many people who believe that they acted wrongly.

What do you believe?
As far as I am concerned, empowering the Vice President to take over to ensure continuity was okay with me. It was perfectly okay with me because we were stagnant. Nobody knew what was happening. Rumours were taking over and all kinds of stories were being fabricated. Nothing that was being heard was the truth. People were lying. But now that the Vice President was empowered to perform the duties of the President, which of course he was performing; there was nothing that he was not doing. During the Jos crisis, he deployed troops there. He was performing the duties of the President without the National Assembly's approval. He was doing that and the President or his cabal did not query him.

You have used the word cabal, just like the Information and Communications Minister. Who make up the cabal, if I may ask you?

Well, the Yar'Adua cabal is made of eight people. I cannot name them now because I know almost all of them and it will be unfair for me to name all of them. But they all know themselves and Akunyili, my sister, knows the cabal; she knows those who constitute the cabal. She was a member. She was among those who were close to President Yar'Adua before. But something went wrong. Something happened.

What happened?
What happened was that the cabal felt uncomfortable with her. They felt her leg was in Jonathan's camp and also in Yar'Adua's camp. That was why she had to be kept at a distance. A few ministers who are members of the cabal knew when the President was coming back. They arranged the logistics for his return. But because Akunyili was no longer a member, she was left out.

Is this a privileged information?
What I mean is that she was one of those close to Yar'Adua and part of the circle of friends in the past. But suddenly, they noticed that she was vacillating from here to there and as a result of that, a decision was taken that she should be kept at arms length. That is why she did not know. Otherwise, she would have known about the plan.

Could that be the reason for her outspokenness of late?

I knew this young girl, Akunyili, from a very tender age. She had been as brutally frank as she is today. I remember her father. This girl, at a very tender age, will tell her father you are wrong when her father was wrong. The father was a rich man and she would tell him he was wrong. I think the problem was the methodology adopted. I think that those who are close to President Yar'Adua did not take so many other people into confidence. But if they had taken so many people into confidence, the plan wouldn't have come to fruition the way it did. Akunyili was one of the most trusted people in the Yar'Adua administration. But between December and January 14, something went wrong. But that is not to say that she is not part of the government.

What really went wrong?
What went wrong was that some ministers were no longer consistent with their known position on the Yar'Adua development and as a result of that, they had to be kept at arms length.

What do you think generated that kind of suspicion?

The point is very simple. Abuja is very large and Abuja is very small. You know who sees who. You know who talks to who because there are people whose responsibility it is to know who is talking to who and who is not talking to who. But the point here is very simple: Akunyili was among the 12 people who were regarded as pro-Yar'Adua people in this cabinet. But around January 14, certain things were noticed in her behaviour, in her conduct, in her private and open speeches. About six days before the Anambra election, certain things were noticed and she was not the only one.

The same thing was noticed about some other few people too. They were not as consistent as they had been previously. Let's put it this way. You are a democratically elected leader. You are not well. People you regard as your own close friends and allies are hobnobbing with other people that you are suspicious of. What do you do? You either take precaution or you cut them from the source of knowing what you are doing or you keep them in abeyance.

If you say this of Akunyili, will you also say the same of Dr. Jonathan? Was he also vacillating? Why cut him off, as it were?

He was not cut off because he has other sources of getting information. He, as the Acting President, has other sources of information that are available to him. So, he should have known that something like that was happening. It means he was not yet in control of the machinery of control. Otherwise, he should have known. The Director of SSS should have informed him. The Director of Military Intelligence would have informed him. There are many ways he would have known that Yar'Adua was coming back. The people in charge of the airport would have alerted his staff that a special flight was coming in at 1.44 a.m. So, what he has to do is to ensure that he has a reliable and effective monitoring system because he should have known. There is no reason he shouldn't have known because I first of all knew about it in the night. Somebody called me from London and told me. But before that, a journalist who is a lawyer told me earlier in the evening, but I didn't believe him. This was a reputable journalist who is also a lawyer who told me that he heard reliably that the President was coming back but I did not believe him.

Akunyili said she was fed up with the lies being told about the state of health of the President. Don't you believe her?

I believe her. But there is justification for those lies. Dora cannot openly disown her colleagues and dissociate herself from what they are doing. It's unfair. This thing was being done for a purpose. Even if they were lies, these are justifiable lies. Dora is like her father who would see black and say it's black. Dora is not a politician. She is an academic politician and if she were a real politician, she will know that it is not every time you see black that you will say it is black. Those of us who have been in politics for a long time know there are times you see black and you say this looks like black but let me cross check and see if it's really black. So Dora shouldn't have said they were lies. There are many times that silence is better than speaking out the truth. I have learnt that in my years on earth. You must remain consistent and say the truth. But there are certain things, like this Yar'Adua health issue, which was so complicated that Dora shouldn't have said her colleagues were lying.

Yar'Adua's mother, Hajiya Dada, couldn't see him. Are you aware of that?

There must be a reason. If she didn't see him, there must be a reason.

What reason can you conjecture for a man not to see his mother but has been seeing others?

It may happen that maybe the mother will see him and she will break down or suffer emotional pains. She can be prevented from seeing him, as justification not to cause her disaster.

This is speaking like the politician that Akunyili is not.

I am saying that the mother could be prevented from seeing him, if seeing him would create more problems for the family. But I know of two young men related to Yar'Adua who came from Katsina and saw him last week, on Friday. One of them saw him on Friday and the other saw him on Saturday.

Then why is he not speaking to Nigerians?
The President is on medical leave and he's not obliged to speak to Nigerians. When he is free and able, he will come and speak to Nigerians. Jonathan is now acting and should speak to Nigerians on his behalf because Jonathan is the Acting President or Akunyili can speak as the Minister of Information.

You are back from treatment and your deputy cannot see you. Is that part of being on leave?

Did he tell Jonathan or members of the Federal Executive Council that he was coming back? He came back because he's still on leave. And when he came back, he said Jonathan can carry on acting as the Acting President. So, what else could he have done? I can see some people have taken Turai to court. This woman has a right to protect her husband. How can you hold a woman responsible for being protective of her husband? But let me say one thing that is very certain. I am happy that I have been vindicated because I told Nigerians that the North will not give up the Presidency in 2011 and the PDP yesterday took a resolution supporting my contention. Jonathan will act till the end of his tenure with President Yar'Adua and then a Northerner will take over.

Why would Jonathan act till the end of his tenure? You just told me that President Yar'Adua sits, gets up, drinks tea and sees people. What then would stop him from resuming soon? Will he not get well before his tenure expire?

He is not yet well and we have to acknowledge that. If he gets well tomorrow, he will resume work tomorrow and Jonathan's tenure is ended. But we are saying that if Jonathan must act as Acting President, he will remain till May 28, 2011 when a new President will come on board on May 29, 2011. We have about two or three northerners who we have in mind that will come. The North is going to sit down and decide who is the most sellable, most acceptable of the three candidates.

Who are these three candidates so that northerners can start preparing their mind?

Well, the North knows. Among the three, there is one indisputable candidate. There is somebody who is just indisputable. He is there only to be invited to come in. That is one. The Presidency is going to be simple. It will be between Babangida and others.

Have you spoken to Babangida about this?
I don't need to speak to him.
Did he tell you that he's interested?
I cannot tell you whether Babangida is interested or not. The point here is that Babangida would have been the candidate in 2007, but he gave way for Yar'Adua. We have Babangida as the leading presidential candidate who knows Nigeria and Nigerians know him; who has been tested, very competent, a result-oriented leader who is capable of performing; a man who will restore Nigeria's glory; everything that Nigeria has lost will be restored under Babangida's presidency. I wish you were in Minna when Babangida's wife died. Everybody who is somebody in Nigeria and who is not even somebody in Nigeria was there to sympathize with him. All the governors were there. All the former presidents were there.

All the ministers were there. Anybody who is important in Nigeria was there to participate and something happened which was very funny. At a stage, Babangida became emotional and I asked him, 'Sir, why are you becoming emotional?' He said I have seen people here that I have not seen for many years. I have seen friends and people I know don't like me come. I'm happy that in death, most of those people are united with me. We who are Babangida's boys happen to know that there is a ground swell of opinion that the only person who can stand the 2011 election on behalf of the PDP and will win convincingly is President Ibrahim Babangida. I've not spoken to him, but I'm saying that I wish he could stand for election. I know he's the best candidate.

Can you really use the crowd that came to sympathize with him to judge his popularity?

I've seen death in Nigeria. What happened in Minna was a miracle. I wish you were there because I was there and I couldn't believe what I saw.

Who are the other two candidates?
The other two candidates are any other candidate that may emerge. For instance, Bukola Saraki, son of Olusola Saraki and the Chairman of Governors Forum, may come in or you may have Alhaji Danjuma Goje, governor of Gombe State. These are people who have great acceptability. Forget about Buhari. He contested many times. Somebody completely new may come. But the point now is that the people I think about are very simple. I think of Goje, governor of Gombe State. I think of Saraki, the Governor of Kwara State. These are the two people I think of mostly. Shekarau of Kano State would have come into reckoning, but he's not in the PDP and by hook or crook, the PDP will win the next election.

How come you are so sure about Babangida being the president of this country?

By the divine intervention of God, millions of Nigerians pray everyday for Babangida to become president of Nigeria. I want to tell you that if there is fairness, if there is justice and reward for what you have done right, then it means Babangida is there and will be there and he's going to do Nigerians proud. Don't forget that EFCC tried everything in the world to get Babangida; but they couldn't. Ribadu came back and said he had tried every corner of the world but could not find anything on Babangida. This is a man of impeccable character. This is a man of honour.