Tuesday, August 04, 2015 9.51 AM / PremiumTimes
Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, took some time off his busy schedule to speak to a PREMIUM TIMES team at his Abeokuta home about some of the issues he wrote about in his book, “My Watch”. In the excerpts below, taken from the first part of the interview published; President Obasanjo addresses the issue of NOI’s many resignations and his view of her conduct under the President Jonathan administration.
PT: We won’t. But you know a lot of people believe that between 1999 and 2007 when you left was a time that a lot changed in Nigeria for the better. And people just keep saying that you destroyed everything that you put in place with the successors you enthroned.
Obasanjo: But take Ngozi (Okonjo-Iweala), who worked for me. And who worked competently for me. Because I know Ngozi’s weaknesses, but I know her strong points. Her strong point is technical competence. But Ngozi needs to be led and to be supervised. Now will you comment on Ngozi who worked for me as the same Ngozi who worked for Jonathan? Will you? But it’s the same person
PT: At what point do you think she derailed if I may use that word?
PT: Is it at the point that you changed her – because you removed her as finance minister. Was it at that point that she began to derail?
Obasanjo: She derailed because….when Jonathan even said he wanted her, I said ‘I hope you can manage her.’ And Ngozi herself sent me a text (and) I told her times have changed.
PT: But why did you change her? She was managing the economy very well for you. Why did you now remove her suddenly?
Obasanjo: I wrote it in that my book.
PT: It didn’t come out clearly enough?
Obasanjo: It must have come out. Maybe you haven’t read the book very well. I said I’ve touched reform. I’ve touched almost everywhere except Ministry of Education and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So one day, I was in my office and the Head of Service, Yayale (Ahmed), came in. He said ‘look, you are looking not happy, what is the matter?’ I said I am worried about two ministries and the ministers who can do the work I wanted to be done there in these two ministries are already doing good work where they are. And he said ‘talk let me see.’ I said education and foreign affairs. And he said ‘who are the ministers that you think can do the job.’ I said Oby (Ezekwesili), Ngozi, and El-Rufai. He said ‘what is Oby doing for you now?’ I said Oby is doing Solid Minerals. He said ‘Sir, in all sincerity, I know you don’t like to rank ministries, but will you say Ministry of Solid Minerals is as important as Ministry of Education.’ I said yes I don’t rank ministries, they are all important. He said, ‘Can’t you take any of these three to do education and then get somebody else to do solid minerals?’ So I took Oby there. Now in the Ministry of Finance we had got debt relief, so I could afford to take Ngozi to Foreign Affairs. That’s all. And then she had Nenadi (Usman) who was the minister of state. She’s not a buffoon. And then, which is also part of her weakness, she came to me and said, look, since it’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she will like to take International Finance along with it. I said talk to your sister with whom you are working and I don’t see anything wrong with that provided you work out a relationship. But she didn’t accord Nenadi the recognition and the consideration that was necessary. I then said the ministry of International finance should go back to Finance and that happened. She said she couldn’t act. She put in a letter of resignation. And she had done that before, and before she could come and get people to come and beg, I announced acceptance (of her resignation).
PT: She once resigned before and she took it back?
PT: Which means you were always having disagreements…
Obasanjo: No no no. I know her character.
PT: So why did she resign the first time?
Obasanjo: She just felt if she cannot have her way, with me…. If I am the one in charge, then it has to be what I see as what is the best interest of the nation.
PT: So even when she resigned, if you didn’t announce the acceptance she would have come back. So all efforts to make her come back didn’t work?
Obasanjo: No no no. Because I had announced.