I Should Have Impeached Obasanjo – Na’Abba

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba in a recent interview talks about his regret of not impeaching former President, Olusegun Obasanjo when he had the chance.

A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba, in this interview with JOHN ALECHENU, speaks about his trials, regrets during his time serving as the speaker.

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He talked to Punch’s John Alechenu and talked of the what it meant to be at the forefront of Nigerian politics.

Excerpts

What have you been doing ever since you left the forefront of Nigerian politics?

I have been facing my private business since I left the House of Representatives and I am also involved in politics. Politics is something that I cannot really bid farewell. Therefore, I am still in politics.

Have you met President Goodluck Jonathan before and what is your relationship with him?

Yes, I have met President Jonathan. When he started his campaign to contest the Presidency in 2011, he invited me to join his campaign and after discussing with him and agreeing on certain things, I joined the campaign and I played a very active role in it. Eventually, he won, and of course, he was sworn in as the President and we have been interacting.

What is your impression of his government?

My impression of him is someone who doesn’t carry people along. There is so much disconnect between him and the people of Nigeria. First of all, this is somebody who has never for once worked at the centre; he has been a provincial person all his life. He didn’t really know people around the country when he became the president. And what is worse is that he did not try to know people. He was cocooned in the Villa. He hasn’t got reach and this has been his failure. He has been caged and put under the impression that he is performing well; and that he is the best thing to happen to Nigeria since its creation. Today, he is seeing the result of all of these things. Nigerians have turned their backs on him because he cannot perform; he simply lacks the capacity to perform.

Your tenure as Speaker marked one of the most turbulent relationships between the executive and the legislature in the history of the country. Why?

This was so because we had philosophical differences. While in the legislature, we believed that politics should be developmental; the executive believed that politics should be about power. Because we had these differences, the stage was set for a clash between the legislature, particularly the House of Representatives, and the executive arm. That was what took place during the four years that I was Speaker. I thought that the key to the sustenance of democracy was the legislature and that the legislature must be defended in anyway and that was why I ensured that nobody messed around with the legislature and in the process, we almost impeached the President.

What were the basic reasons the House of Representatives, under your leadership, moved to impeach the then President Obasanjo in 2002?

Our reasons were cogent and verifiable, there were several constitutional breaches. The budget was not being implemented as well as a lot of other things, which are in public domain.

Why didn’t the impeachment move sail through?

We backed down because some elders were asked to come and exhort us to accepting to water down the impeachment. Eventually, we were persuaded not to continue, not because we were not right or because we were not sure we were going to succeed, but because these elders told us many things about the unity and stability of this country. Eventually, we heeded and I must admit that I regret listening to them because it as a result of us listening to them that Nigeria is in this mess today.

Chief Audu Ogbeh was said to be one of the elders who were on the delegation and he was said to have told you the possible implication of truncating the tenure of another person from the South-West barely a few years after the June 12 crisis. Is this true?

These were some of the reasons they advanced but I also knew that as of that time, the South-West wasn’t really supportive of Obasanjo but because of the interest of the establishment, such reasons were advanced.

How true is the claim that your action then was precipitated by monetary inducement than principle?

As far as I am concerned, I have never received money from anybody to sabotage the efforts of the House of Representatives that I led. I set a precedence and I made sure that the House was vibrant, robust and had focus. There was no way I could do anything that could undermine my own efforts, therefore whatever you hear in that direction is false.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission later went after you for various alleged offences. Did you see the hand of the former President in the 50-page petition filed against you?

Definitely, it was President Obasanjo who orchestrated the attempt by the ICPC to have my office and the House probed. The person who went to swear the affidavit was a known acolyte of Obasanjo and it was not the first time. He did the same to Anyim Pius Anyim. That was primarily Obasanjo’s intention when he was setting up the ICPC; his sole aim was to harass anybody who opposed him.

Do you think you would have escaped the hammer if the Senate and the House did not modify the Anti-corruption Act, which gave you immunity from prosecution?

The amendment of the ICPC Act did not stop the ICPC investigation. When they realised that the cases initiated against Anyim and I were politically motivated, they had to drop them. They were no longer interested in the cases because the ICPC knew that the cases were purely political.

How did you feel after you were ‘sacrificed’ by your party in order to prevent you from returning to the House of Representatives?

There are characters within the party that did not like the activities of some of us. Like I told you, we have philosophical differences with some of these characters. Politics, as far as they are concerned, is about power, which will enable them to steal the resources of the people as they like. And ours was to try and see a country on the path of development through good governance and decent political practice. That set the stage for us to go into conflict and, up till now, these people have not forgiven me. That is why I had these travails within my former party, the PDP.

Some of these people you are making veiled reference to are today in the APC. How do you contend with this reality?

The struggle continues; the journey through life is not easy and we are involved in a struggle to make our country better. I have adjusted my thoughts and my political thinking to accept that, with or without office, I should be a beacon of hope for my people. The struggle will continue; it doesn’t matter whether or not I am elected governor or president or whatever. Politics is not just for office; it is simply an opportunity to serve. We want to make sure that there is good governance in Nigeria.

It is said in some quarters that your political clout was not as strong as you thought and that by your actions in the House, you went against the power that made you, hence they brought you down. Do you agree with this?

Who are the powers that made me?

You tell us.

Nobody made me as such. My colleagues in the House of Representatives made me because they were the ones who elected me to be their Speaker. When I became Speaker, I served their best interest and if you ask my colleagues, they will tell you that I served them to the best of my ability. Honestly and sincerely, nobody outside the House of Representatives played any role in electing me to become Speaker. Anybody who tells you that he made me, whether it is Obasanjo or (Chief Tony) Anenih or whoever, is telling you lies.

How does it feel being one of the several founders or foundation members of the PDP who have left the party for one reason or the other?

This is a very unfortunate development in our polity. It is very sad the way these things are happening in Nigeria and it’s a sad commentary on our polity. Good work must be recognised, rewarded and even compensated and people should not bring about noble things only to have a sad certificate. Obasanjo tried to disband the BoT of the PDP during the first anniversary of the PDP in 2000; it was my intervention that prevented him from doing that. The BoT then consisted of all the founding fathers of the party but during the time he was President, he frustrated as many of them as possible out of the party and the presidents after him, including Jonathan.

Na’abba had joined the APC from the PDP recently and this was the third time the elder statesman has moved parties in the past 7 years.

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