In this interview with JOHN ALECHENU, a former President of the Senate (2003-2005), Senator Adolphus Wabara, speaks about the N55m bribe-for-budget scandal, the third term saga and the recently concluded National Conference
Sometime in 2005, you resigned as President of the Senate over N55m bribe-for-budget scandal. What happened to the case?
Frankly, that brings me to my naivety. I call it naivety because I always allow things to run its course. But you are talking of 2005 and next year will make it 10 years. Of course, you asked earlier why I’m not active and why I have been silent. You see, I’m a man from a very humble home. I’m one that expects that things should take their natural course. That’s why I waited for that judgment discharging me from the Court of Appeal. That judgment was challenged by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission up to the Supreme Court. One thing is very clear and it is that no member of the judiciary can say that I, Senator Adolphus Wabara, have come to lobby for anything. I’ve not lobbied anybody. But I have exhausted my patience as we speak. Even if I was going to be imprisoned by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo because I refused his third term bid, I would have served the term and I would have been out by now. I’m just asking the judiciary to expedite action as per the judgment delivered in the Supreme Court that this matter should be taken back to the lower court for a retrial and it should be done expeditiously. It is two years now since that Supreme Court judgment and I have not been arraigned in court again. So, for me, I see it that I am being used. I’m a very good friend of Mr. President and Bayelsans. I don’t expect anything from him until I’m cleared from this case of corruption. But I want to now hold the bull by the horns. I’m going to ask my lawyer for whatever it is worth to now ask for a mandamus to compel the ICPC to prosecute the case in accordance with the judgment of the Supreme Court. I will not die until I’m either imprisoned or cleared and discharged in this case. How can the accused person be begging the government and the ICPC that the case should be tried in accordance with the judgment of the Supreme Court? I had a judgment clearing me from the Appeal Court. They went ahead to appeal in the Supreme Court. But for two years now, I’m still hanging. Please, I am calling on the government of Nigeria and the judiciary that they should take up this matter as quickly as possible. This is 10 years of my life gone for nothing.
Why did you say you are naive?
The issue of naivety is that I have not behaved like a Nigerian. If I were to behave like a Nigerian, this case would have been over. I also would not have resigned my position. I was once number three citizen of this country. So, I know what obtained in governance. But I have been naïve and I don’t go to anybody. In fact, they will even think that I’m arrogant – some will even say why has this man not even come to see us or to come to appeal for assistance. I didn’t go to anybody. Even the judgment that came in my defence at the Court of Appeal, I never knew who gave the judgment. I was in London when that judgment was given. I never went to anybody and that is the way God will get me out of this problem. I’m going through a phase. Ten years of my lifetime, for crying out loud, is unfair on this government. So, they should either prosecute or unchain me. That’s what I mean by naivety.
Would you have adopted a sit-tight approach?
You are right if you say a sit-tight approach. But it’s not my father’s seat. When I was Senate President, it was not my father’s seat. As soon as Obasanjo wanted me out because I opposed his third term bid, and that even brings me back to another issue; that was why he refused to even give me the national award which I ought to have received in 2003. Immediately after being inaugurated, I was supposed to have received the GCON national award in 2003. Whatever he contrived came up in 2005. But because he had approached me in 2003 – a month or two after we came in, on this third term thing and I didn’t know where he was coming from, I said ‘no, Your Excellency, this cannot work.’ In 2003, he told me clearly that the way I was working, I would continue as Senate President in 2007. I said ‘excuse me sir, how can I continue as Senate President when by 2007 the equation would change; the zoning would change and it would be a northerner who would become the Senate President as we have it now’. That was the end of my discussion with him on that day and that was what cost me the GCON. It was not even the case of the N55m bribe-for-budget scandal that came up in 2005.
But people would say that the third term thing came up in the full glare of the public after you had left office. Does it mean that the agenda had been there all along?
The third term thing, if you have not heard, started from May 29, 2003 when Obasanjo was inaugurated for a second term. That was why when I became Senate President on June 3, 2003, he invited me to his office sometime in July and that was the longest time I had stayed with Obasanjo – for two whole hours. My younger brother, the then Chairman of Hallmark Bank, was also there. The Chief of Staff to Obasanjo then, Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed, was interrupting the meeting every 15 – 20 minutes for two hours and Obasanjo kept telling him to wait. By the time we came out, there were so many ministers and many foreign dignitaries waiting to see the President. They were wondering what these two brothers were doing with Obasanjo inside. It was then he told me that I was doing a very good job and if I knew that was what he was angling for I would have told him off. Anyway, I told him how could I be Senate President in 2007? He was trying to recruit me but I refused to be recruited.
The third term thing did not start when Nigerians started seeing the handwriting. We saw the third term thing then because of the desperation, because his time was running out. He had a National Conference too at that time and I said I wasn’t going to fund that confab – I said you have your contingency which then was N 1bn. I said you can fund your confab from the contingency and that was why that confab cost him N900m. We have all these details. But I didn’t know I was dealing with a man who will never forgive. He begged me to be present at the opening ceremony of that conference and asked me to please ensure that I came there with Aminu Masari (the then Speaker of the House of Representatives). If you guys were watching, I walked across Masari and dragged him physically for us to go there for the opening ceremony. As soon as we finished the opening ceremony, we left them.
There was the N50m third term largesse then, did you partake of it? We learnt that N50m was brought to your house?
Of course, no. I didn’t collect any money. But that is another story and it is true that they were distributing N50m. But unfortunately, some of those who did the distribution are the ones enjoying the government today. If people like us did not kill the third term, those who are in power today wouldn’t be there. Many of those who shared the money are still in the Senate today, those who physically distributed the N50m. Those of us who killed the third term are not even remembered. I know that on Thursday, May 16, 2007, that was the day the third term agenda died. By 1.30 am, the sum of N250m was brought to me in my house. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission can come after me and I will tell them the whole story. N250m was brought and I refused that money. If you juxtapose what I’m saying now with my speech that morning of May 16, 2007, I said anybody who has collected any money on my behalf should please return the money to where it came from because I knew what I was talking about. Somebody could lie that I collected that money and just keep the money. I refused that money when it was brought to me. So, mine was not even N50m. It was N250m with a promise that they would bring more to me if everything worked out fine.