Transcript

PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite
Style:MLAAPAChicagoClose

loading...

Democracy and the Rule of Law In Nigeria

Speaker: Ojo Maduekwe, Nigerian Minister Foreign Affairs
Presider: Princeton N. Lyman, Council on Foreign Relations
December 9, 2008
Council on Foreign Relations

Share

PRINCETON LYMAN:  Are they on?  They're on.  Hello?  Can I be heard?  Okay.

Good morning.  Good morning, again, and welcome.  And thank you, all, for being here for what is a special occasion to hear an address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Nigeria Ojo Maduekwe.

He is a man of great distinction and a wonderful reputation in Nigeria.  He has served in many capacities.  He has been the minister of Transport.  He has been a special adviser to President Obasanjo.  He has been ecretary-general of the People's Democratic Party.  And he is now minister of Foreign Affairs.

But I think the thing that strikes me, Mr. Minister, is that I had the privilege of writing a preface to a publication of your speeches some years ago.  And you have been one of the most articulate spokesmen and analysts of the challenges of democracy and leadership in Nigeria, and that book is a fine inspiration for all who read it.  So it's a great pleasure to have you with us today.

We're in kind of an informal setting here, although you're welcome to use the podium if you prefer.  But what we thought we'd do is ask you to begin and speak on the topic you've chosen, which is democracy and the rule of law in Nigeria.  And then you and I will answer a few questions, and then we'll throw it open to the audience here.

There are members of the press here.  I've asked them to meet with you at the end.

And again, I wanted to welcome you.  Thank you for coming.  And it's a great pleasure to have you, the minister of Foreign Affairs.  (Applause.)

OJO MADUEKWE:  Thank you.

Ambassador Mr. Lyman, whom I'm proud to say and I'm sure he will be embarrassed if I say openly he's my old teacher.  (Laughs.)

I have many other teachers who are here, too many for me to mention by name, but I can see the good old faces that I've had the privilege of meeting over a long stretch of periods.  Of course, our envoys in Washington, His Excellency Ambassador Rotomi and immediate past ambassador, Ambassador George Obiozor.

And let me just wrap up the protocol list by just simply recognizing my wife so I can deserve her for dinner.  (Laughter.)  All others are, of course, fully recognized and appreciated.

I want to just say a big thank you for this privilege.  It's always a privilege to appear before the Council on Foreign Relations, even if one wasn't going to have an opportunity to speak but just merely to accompany one's boss, one's president, to be (guests within ?) the last year, again through your facilities.  And you also chaired that event when I came with President Yar'Adua.  And this now, fortunately, again, on his behalf to thank you for that great opportunity.  As you all know, he thoroughly enjoyed it.  And he went back home with a renewed commitment on the rule of law and the theme of democracy in Nigeria.

So when I told him that I had this invitation to come, he was very delighted.  And there's no way I can fit into his shoes.  He blazed a trail I can only follow.  So I'm here to complement what the president did last year, and I like the formality of it all.

Let me say up front that we do appreciate criticisms about our country.  As one of your most famous -- this person had once said, Adelaide Stevenson, criticism is (higher than patriotism ?).  And a country which is really a work in progress, like Nigeria, that naturally faces tremendous challenges not only in terms of size and many ethnic groups -- over 300 -- facts, you know, some of you have gotten your PhDs on these issues.

If Nigeria can make it, it provides a powerful locomotive for the whole region, both on the issue of democracy, economic prosperity and, of course, one of the areas which we have already acknowledged have done very well, which is peacekeeping operations, ensuring that Africa is stable, and Africa will not be an exporter of terrorism because of failed states or failing states.

So the role of Nigeria, I won't go as far as using former Secretary of State's famous description of America as an indispensable country.  We all like to say that about America.  (Laughs.)  It would be presumptuous for me to say Nigeria is an indispensable country in Africa, but  I’ll leave it to your guess as to whether the rest of Africa can really move without Nigeria.

We (are bound ?) by the strategic implications of Nigeria making it and the strategic implications of Nigeria not making it.  But I think the story is far more positive than people wish to acknowledge.

And while we feel flattered by the criticisms and indeed the raising of the bar all the time, we also feel that this is in everybody's interest -- friends of Africa, friends of Nigeria and Nigerians themselves that Nigeria should make it.

There's a need for a more frequent recourse to the time-tested principle of positive reinforcement.  It all helps because it's all about capacity.  And capacity is more than state capacity.  It's more than the infrastructure for rule of law.  It's modern living, the capacity to punish and reward which is one of the things that -- the casualties are lost due to military rule in Nigeria.

Capacity includes a collective service team, the feeling that yes, you are making it and that you are not perfect, but you are getting there.  I'll give you an example.  The compliment that Nigeria continues to get on its peacekeeping role, has  made the sacrifice for us in that area, not (audio break) (reliable ?) than will have been the case.

We are in Darfur, as you know, very strongly there.  We have the largest troop contingent there.  And we made a commitment to be in Somalia.  The prime minister of Ethiopia has spoken to my president several times that all they are waiting for Nigerian troops to move into Somalia so that they can pull back.

Of course, one valiant battalion was placed by the former president.  The current president is determined not only to make good on that commitment, but even to increase it to three battalions.  What is required is the logistical equipment to move in.  Some promises were made to us by the U.S. government -- they have yet to deliver on that.

But just to let you know that we are ready to put our young men in harm's way to bring stability to Africa.  We are moving ahead, whether or not the promises that were made to us are fulfilled.  The president gave assurances -- the German president when he was in Nigeria (certainly ?) that in the next few months, the Nigerian troops will be in Somalia, and we intend to move it from one battalion to three battalions.

Why I'm I mentioning that is that the positive reinforcement thing is working in the area of peacekeeping.  Not too long ago, the U.N. secretary-general appointed a distinguished Nigerian general to be his major adviser, which by implication means he is going to be the head of the entire U.N. peacekeeping operations.  So it's good to mention that, an example of how engaging Nigeria can bring about positive results in every aspect.

Concerning the main topic that I was invited to speak on, the rule of law, President Yar'Adua made a strategic decision without any pressure from anybody to elevate the rule of law to a defining principle of his legacy.  He's talked with everybody, including with the party leaders.  When in his inaugural speech, which luckily he didn't give it to any of us in the party to look at (scattered laughter), here's a president who has emerged in a process which, no matter how much that process was questioned, the antecedent of that election was that his party controls 28 out of 36 state governments.

So I mean no amount of earthquake -- political earthquake -- could have a brought about a result in which PDP would have lost election in the kind of setting we are in in which the tendency is for people to find being in the opposition too cold, so the change of a ruling party with such a dominant status.  We haven't got in there yet.  I look forward to the day when that will happen.

But in the freest and fairest election, PDP was bound to win that election.  And yet, this president said at his inaugural, I know the process that brought me here has a number of flaws, and I am determined to do something about that process so that next time, even if it's somebody else, the tendency for those who lose an election to go de-legitimatizing the process will be a thing of the past.

And he quickly went and created an election reform panel, 80 percent of whom were critics of the election and indeed critics of the party.  Those who were not critics were people who had presided over respectable institutions, like the judiciary – former chief justice was put there.

It's a good example to mention to show that the whole issue of rule of law, electoral integrity is something that is deep, that the president feels very passionate about.

Now, having made that strategic decision, there were going to be political implications, some of which were not going to be very palatable.  Because if you say you are going to be very rigorous about due process, that means you'll be moving from the questions to the answers.  You will not have the answers already and just simply be looking for the questions to fit in.

The latter tends to create a sense of speed.  I mean, if you have the answers, everybody knows this is the answer you have, and you thought that this is where I'm heading to, it creates a sense of momentum and speed.

If you saw that -- let's agree on the questions first and then move to the answers, that due process of questions first and answers first might give unwittingly an impression of slow process.

I thought the need to underscore this point because unfair comparisons have been made between the two administrations.  The Obasanjo administration that came in 1999, which I was very proud to be a member of and I served there for a full eight years.  And I am proud of the leadership Obasanjo provided.  And I am very honored to have been part of it.  And the Yar'Adua administration which, of course, followed Obasanjo administration and, in many ways, is part of the processes and PDP, which I was national secretary of.  One thing that was very much on the mind President Obasanjo to the extent he could, perhaps -- you know, his influence as the president and leader of the party, might give some sense of expectations was who can succeed him, who had the best capacities to fight corruption, to continue with the good governance issues.  That was a major consideration.

In that committee of six, as we're looking at candidacies and so on, that President Yar'Adua, as the governor of Katsina, was the only governor who went beyond the requirement of law to declare his assets publicly.  And with perhaps far less resources than many other states, he was able to make Katsina state a modern state, a lot of infrastructure and a lot of health care, educational, you know, matters he did.

So when the president came, he understood that if his administration is going to move Nigeria beyond where President Obasanjo left it, he had the task of consolidating on the gains of the previous years.

I like to make this analysis about comparing the two regimes is often like comparing apples and orange.  One was a pioneering regime, in many ways, because we -- (inaudible) -- in 1999, long before the doctrine of failed and failing states had become quite fashionable.  Nigeria was, beginning by 1999, to look like a case study in those areas.

And again, if you will forgive the Biblical metaphor, Moses, who delivered the children of Israel from Egypt through the desert, was not a very polite person. Pioneers are not very polite people.  (Laughter.)  There's nothing very polite about the harshness of the desert.  And Moses was adequately recommended by the almighty God by just getting to Caanan's edge and not moving to Canaan because he was too angry with the people he was too angry with the people he was leading to freedom.  And when he was asked to just tap on the rock for water to come out, he hit the rock.

But I make no excuse for him.  You can always -- we are waiting for his memoirs.  But a lot of the things for which he got beaten upon from 1999 to 2007 are the numerous things of pioneers.  They are in a hurry to get things done.  They are leading into the desert, and they are dragging you kicking and screaming.  And for those eight years, Nigerians were kicking and screaming. This is about -- fight about corruption.  My good friend, Ribadu, of course, had the capacity for the demonstration effect in this fight, which is necessary to create a certain sense that impunity is about to be broken.

So he will go to the National Assembly and announce that 32 governors are corrupt.  And of course, that excited everybody because nobody had ever shown those kind of guts before, to make that kind of announcement up front.  But he's a lawyer, just like I am -- we both are lawyers.  He wanted to make an announcement that 32 governors are corrupt; it’s another thing to get a conviction because it means that the investigation will have been done.  And then the matter will be brought to court and the convictions obtained.

Incidentally, our judicial system is very similar to that of United States.  We all draw from the common law system where the accused has rights, too.  The accused is presumed innocent until convicted.

So the administration of President Yar'Adua comes in and says, well, the drama of fighting corruption is understandable in a pioneering regime where the whole issue of impunity can be challenged and those who are corrupt should now know it's not going to be business as usual.

But now in a successor regime, what it is important now is to ensure that the process in fighting corruption follows the law that sets off that fight. See it's not a -- it's not enough just to name and shame, you've got to get convictions.  And since it's not a capital offense, and I don't think anybody in this room is asking us to start executing people for corruption because, again, there would be a hue and cry about human rights violations there.

When the accused is charged to court, he will be on bail.  If many of you know how much some of us wish that a number of these governors, who have been threatening us with their ill-gotten wealth, should simply be put away, I'm sure even President Yar'Adua would be quite happy about that.  But having made a strategic decision about the rule of law, it meant that he himself was bound by that commitment.

I say, if the accused was allowed by the court under our system to be on bail, it would be unfair to turn around and blame the president and say he's not even fighting corruption just because people we perceive to be corrupt are moving around freely. In America, they will also move around freely because they will be on bail.

We also have separation of powers in Nigeria.  The executive will not interfere with the judiciary.  I believe that what is needed here is to understand that there is a national consensus largely inspired by the president's commitment in the area of rule of law.  There's a national consensus in favor of the rule of law, in favor of democracy, in favor of electoral integrity.

Some would say, are we making rule of law a theology of the state? Perhaps. The reason is this -  If you look at what has led to failures in Nigeria in the past, it was not due to lack of good policies nor due to a lack of intellect.  I was in – Benin Republic when Nigeria was being peer reviewed.

And Prime Minister Meles, prime minister of Ethiopia, referring to the panel report on Nigeria that said that Nigeria's most important asset was its oil and gas.  Prime Minister Meles disagreed with that.  I said that Nigeria's most important asset is, I'm quoting his own words, its exceptionally gifted and talented people and that it will appear in many ways the oil and gas have been a curse and not a blessing.

And no matter the pessimism about Nigeria and quite often the bad news that comes out of Nigeria that embarrass even the most optimistic about Nigeria.  Most of you have encountered Nigerians who are not -- we're not saying we're a special breed of human beings.  Most of you have encountered Nigerians.  You can’t accuse them of being lazy.  You can’t accuse them of being laid back.  (Laughter.)  In fact, some of their problem is that they are too enterprising, and some of them for the wrong reasons.

So the president, therefore, takes the view that what has held us back as a nation of highly talented people to run much faster, to make more progress is that for some reasons which go beyond blaming everything on the military.  The rule of law ethic has been completely eroded.  The basic instinct of many people in Nigeria, including people who have held power and who have been in government is to break the law or, at best, to ignore it.

And this president believes that if he can, even if there are political consequences, get us back -- I mean, you know, in Nigeria, the mullah is a teacher in the Islamic world.  The mullah is a teacher.  This president is a mullah.  He sees himself, and rightly so, and we should accept that choice he has made as the teacher of the nation.  It's that didactic rule of the president as a teacher, the governor as a teacher, the senator as a teacher that will have been missing in our experience.  And once you can get it back right on that moral plane.

This is the law.  Until this change, it's the law.  Nothing is going to -- I'll tell you even myself thirty-five years as a lawyer and someone who has been in government since in 1999, I was a little uncomfortable towards the end of last year.  That discomfort -- I mean, at first we were a little bit shy to speak about it openly.  But it was troubling -- a form of education for us.  But later on we could appreciate where the president was coming from.  And it is easier for us to now identify  with it.

Here were billions of Nira, unspent money, unspent because the budget did not follow the executive.  The budget came late, was approved late.  Unspent because the due process bureau took -- well, of course, had to follow -- look at a contract to make sure that the contracts -- the pricing was right.  To cut a long story short, all this meant that by the end of the year, roughly speaking, over 60 percent of the money appropriated to be spent to build roads, to build bridges, to build schools had not been spent.

And so the minister spent it, and we're rushing to cabinet with a memorandum why this contract, this project, so that that money will be spent.  And the president kept asking only one question.  Does any one of you have the capacity to spend this money within the budget year?  The answer was no.  He ordered that all that money should go back to the Treasury.

Of course, that was going to make him unpopular because if he allowed that money to be spent, he was going to have new (inaudible) -- projects would start --- people would go to him and say, yeah, we are beginning to see something.  But he said no.  It would be against the law, to be against the budgetary process to now spend money which you cannot finish within the budget year.

Rather if that project is that good, get it back to the full end-year  budget.  I'm saying this because that kind of process is bound to slow things down.  But it leads to greater accountability.  It leads to less corruption.  It leads to an atmosphere in which the culture of rule keeping is restored.  The erosion of the culture of rule keeping is the single cause of inadequate development in Nigeria.

Because I would prefer this to be an interactive session, I want to conclude my remarks.  President Yar'Adua has made a preference in favor of competence over charisma in the fight against corruption.  By his temperament and by his nature and by his own analysis of what is wrong with the Nigerian system, he has put more premium on institutional capacity over individual messianic missionary zeal.

Institutional capacity, he believes, is likely to make the fight against corruption more sustainable, long before all of us have left the scene.  Individual messianic zeal can have the kind of demonstration effect, the kind of balance, the color, the impact that would make folks here in America cheer us and clap for us, and say, yes, something is beginning to happen in Nigeria.

But the danger there, again -- and that should worry everybody -- is that in a country like Nigeria, like many other African countries where the structures of the states are still weak, where the capacity for law and order is still being developed, emphasis on individual charisma and how one individual can make a difference -- and I'm not in any way ridiculing that, no, because sometimes my own style is that way.  But emphasis on that can indeed be ultimately subversive of the fight against corruption.

There can be a corrupt way of fighting corruption, there can be a way of fighting corruption that now slides away from the major goal of fighting corruption through power plays in which the corrupt are mainly those who are your enemies.  And those who are your friends, no matter how corrupt they are, they can't be touched.

And when that happens, what you are going to have is the national consensus in favor of fighting against corruption will begin to diminish.  And we may not end up with a lynching mind-set out there, which can be very corrosive of good governance, which could lead to settling of political scores in the name of fighting corruption, and which, again, in a country that is still trying to consolidate democratic gains, that lynching mind-set could very dangerously -- and here I'm about to make a very dangerous remark--  if one can't talk freely and openly in a highly esteemed group like this, what has gone on?

I've been telling many of my friends that, look -- and I think the economic meltdown even reenforces that point.  We haven't quite gotten to Canaan yet.  We are still in the desert.  The democracy of Africa still needs to be nurtured carefully, not in an indulgent manner -- we should be told when we are wrong but we should also be told when we are right.

But I'm old enough to know that the very first military coup in Nigeria and all other military coups that took place all were started by saying we are fighting corruption.  The politicians cannot fight corruption, and in a situation where we have global economic crisis and much of the orthodoxy about free market capitalism, even democracy may now come under siege.  One hopes that any apprehension that some messianic people in challenging environments like Africa that are still stranded between the market and the state, and where democracy has been reduced to purely electoral democracy, and these things are not yet completely democratic.  And in fact, democracy has been the base in conceptual terms by looking at it in terms of how many rules has a democratic government passed, how many hospitals has a democratic government built.

And people are still not able to know that the real reward for democracy is democracy itself.  We have to be very, very careful how we unwittingly foster an environment where highly messianic people whose methods are likely to be non-democratic may attempt to think that the beating-up of a country like Nigeria from outside Nigeria is an indirect invitation for some other kinds of interventions which could be very embarassing to our friends in America and elsewhere.

We believe that a capacity to correct excesses in the system, excesses in democracy and excesses in government resides  within the system.  And we will urge your patience and understanding so that what will be, at worst, be administrative, however administrative, difficulties and the learning experience all -- (inaudible) -- are going through, including even the challenges that derive from the maturation of the process of fighting corruption, those things should not be elevated into an issue of statecraft.

Administrative (ideology ?) is different from statecraft, is different from the guiding ideology of the states.  And we urge you to continue to -- there is this signpost.  I don't like that signpost.  It can be -- (Inaudible) -- very interesting.  We see where there are -- (inaudible) -- in Nigeria and the U.K. was in how soon they will finish this road.  Traffic has been challenged because of the road repair and all that.  This was just like that -- please bear with us.

I think there's need for you to bear with us.  (Laughter.)  Afro- or indeed Nigerian pessimism sure.  After the "Yes, We Can" eruption of Obama election – Afro-pessimism should now go to the dustbin of history.

Nigeria has the capacity.  Nigeria has the will.  The Yar'Adua administration is determined to provide the ultimate definition to a can-do Nigerian society that knows that it has a historic responsibility to ensure that Africa does not have to be a continent of lamentations, but we might be a continent of opportunities.  And that we can provide excellent model of how a society can live in peace and discharge this responsibility not only to its neighbors but to the rest of the world.

Look at Nigeria more from point of view of a glass that is half full than a glass that is half empty, and join us to light a candle and not to cause the darkness.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

LYMAN:  Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.  And let me add my welcome to your very distinguished delegation, Mrs. Maduekwe, our old friend Ambassador Obiozor, Father Matthew Kukah, others here well known to us.

And of course, Ambassador Rotimi, we're glad to have you with us this morning.

Let me just ask one question, and then I'm going to throw it open because you've raised a lot of very important questions here and challenges, too.  But in the fight for corruption or during the Obasanjo administration.

Mr. Ribadu was kind of the symbol of that anti-corruption element.  And it's one thing, as you say, to go from one process to another, but there seems to be a driving of him out so far that the impression is that what's being driven out is that determination to get at corrupt figures.  And the latest is the man may not even be able to stay in the country.

So that perception -- and then there's a secret trial of Henry Okah.  The question is, where is the president on this in terms of defending that tradition?

MADUEKWE:  Thank you, Excellency.  I -- it would be wrong for anyone to fail to acknowledge the important work Nuhu Ribadu did.  He broke all the (means?,  the means?) that certain people could not be touched.  He was an extremely courageous young man.

But also, like those kind of people, there's also the need for them to know that the system, because only with exceptional courage in providing leadership -- that system also needs to be protected.  And the rule of law is the way to protect the Nigerian state and to ensure the fight against corruption continues.

So what we are really having a political transition.  There are problems of adjustment, not a withdrawal of commitment to the fight against corruption which, as your colleague said, Nuhu Ribadu very much symbolized.

But to take it to a higher level, a more sustainable level, without mentioning names, when Nuhu was there, he -- well, there's no was I can mention -- say this without mentioning it -- when he was there, he conducted an investigation on one of our most prominent leaders in Nigeria.  In fact, that person was very important in the party and was very close, at the highest level of leadership in Nigeria.  That person was really director-general of the campaign of the president.

But of course, we don't blame Nuhu that he didn't charge that matter to court, because even here in America -- and I mean it; and I'm not joking about this -- I don't think any government, whether in the (United Nations ?) or Britain, in the fight against corruption, if you have your enemies -- the opponents of government are corrupt and your friends are corrupt and there's not enough space in detention centers to put all of them – I think it makes administrative sense to start with the enemies, and hope your friends will take notice.  (Laughter.)  Every fight against corruption is selective.  You can't lock everybody up.  Even the investigative apparatus would be overwhelmed.

 

So I'm not here to blame Nuhu that he didn't take on the deputy national chairman of the party.  There were enemies of the government that were also corrupt, and Nuhu started with them.

 

And remember, one day the friends of government, if they don't turn a new leaf, they too will get it.  That was strategic in -- (inaudible) -- but people are forgetting that fact.

 

It was all upon this man who was a powerful man and he was well placed himself to even do the kind of (audio break) -- could even point out to Nuhu whom to investigate on corruption.  Now, he became the director general of President Yar’Adua’s campaign -- Waziri, who is the chairperson of EFCC.  Otherwise, really it was to pick the investigation that Nuhu did, and charge this man to court.

 

That's the meaning of rule of law.  As painful as it is, and this man is my own friend.  I would like to see him -- I pray every day that the courts will find him free of the charges.  But he's having his day in court.

 

The thing about the fight against corruption is that it's like an arrow which has left the bow; it cannot be recalled.  And what President Yar'Adua is saying is that even those who are fighting corruption should be careful that they play strictly by the rules so that they don't get consumed by the process itself.

 

The issue of Nuhu Ribadu is a sad one.  It's an unfortunate destruction, because it tends to polarize.  You now find people who are grateful for the courage Nuhu showed, and I'm one of them.  You find now almost an inevitable moving into (accounts ?).  It shouldn't be like that, and we believe the international community can help us here because the more you lionize Nuhu and make him look like the persecuted and keep cheering him to martyrdom, the more it's complicated the situation.

Nuhu is a member of the Nigerian police force which, like any other police force anywhere in the world, have their own rules of discipline, of command structure and hierarchy and so on and so forth.

That point must not be lost, because if we now -- because Nuhu did a wonderful job and I would be, even as Foreign Minister of Nigeria, even as a private citizen, I will be the first to say anywhere that Nuhu did a good job.

But if we now mix that, his doing a good job, with the fact that he is no longer amenable to discipline of his employer, the Nigerian police force, he's a special breed of Nigerian who has to be -- then that's the negation of rule of law.  Even Nuhu himself, and I know very well, I don't think he will be -- ordinarily be happy for the kind of wrong attention he's getting.  It's a great disservice to the fight against corruption.

LYMAN:  Okay.  Let me open it up, and we'll take several questions.  So Larry Diamond, please identify yourself, although I've already identified you -- (laughs) -- and your affiliation.

We'll start with Larry.

QUESTIONER:  Larry Diamond from the Hoover Institution.  Good Morning, Mr. Foreign Minister.

MADUEKWE:  (Off mike) -- Larry --

QUESTIONER:  So we know your honorable character and we know your good intentions.  You have many friends in the room.

But the tone of some of your remarks that this could become a lynching, that we have to be careful, that we can't give an excuse to new military coup-makers, this requires patience.  It's the sort of thing we've been hearing for the last 30 years.

Now, one of the things that's different is you're saying, look, we want to build institutions.  And so I'd like to ask you a very specific question.  What are you doing to build these institutions?

Are you hiring more people?  Are you training more people?  Are you getting assistance from the World Bank and development agencies to raise their capacity?  What is the budget of the EFCC and the counter-corruption institution relative to what it was a few years ago?  What is the staffing, relative to a few years ago?  What is the level of legal autonomy for them to operate and prosecute?

And if I can ask you a question I asked you many years ago, what about saying, okay, one possible additional institutional aid in this, to enlist society in the battle to help us with this problem, is to make the declarations of assets -- that all high officials have to file -- publicly available for scrutiny.

MADUEKWE:  Larry, I'm very, very grateful for what -- your comment.  And the question, and I couldn't agree more.  Really, I couldn't agree more.

And you are right.  And we're very sensitive about that, that we don't begin to sound like a broken record, keep offering the same excuses all the time.

And I made a comment back in July -- I don't know if I mentioned it here.  I'm just from Atlanta, where I was invited to speak on what Nigeria expects from the next U.S. administration.  A very distinguished audience, like the one we have here.

And for me, the foreign minister of the largest black country in the world, to make that kind of statement, that -- that resonates -- (inaudible).

The Obama election really has denied us, the black -- the elitesof Africa, we've run out of excuse for failure.  (Laughter.)  We've run out of excuse for failure, because Obama broke the ceiling glass.  And it wasn't donated to him, as we talk in Nigeria -- they said donate presidency to this tribe or that one.  (Laughter.)  America didn't do that.

So now as Abraham Lincoln proclamation, it's now time for somebody of a -- (inaudible) -- color to be in the White House.  Can the blacks go and meet and give us a name?  No.

Obama was simply the best of all the candidates, and he won.  Eleven percent population bloc, which in America could not have produced a president, other than on grounds of fair play, merit and all that.

And we have to increasingly (sure?), if I may put it a little -- quite graphically, that the DNA for excellence is not foreign to Africa, that the DNA for justice, for fair play, for integrity and really the fight against corruption.

The world is tired, and they should be tired of hearing our excuses for failure.  So even if the kind of comments I made tend to replay old excuses, I assure you I'm also on a learning curve myself.  (Scattered laughter.)  To now speak more the kind of language that is a "yes, we can" language, and not a language that offers excuses.

To confirm what you are saying -- and that's the beauty of this kind of an engagement -- okay, let's put it this way.  When the U.S. ambassador met me and said part of the difficulties about the new EFCC is that the chairperson has removed a number of people that were trained by the FBI, and the lamentation over that was now becoming a major foreign policy issue.

I said, well, it's a pity a minister of foreign affairs has the difficult role of explaining a lot of things, including those things that he couldn't have been there when the decision was taken, like I wouldn't be there when the chairman of EFCC asked some of the people that Ribadu asked to leave, to leave.  And have to do the defense with credibility is the challenge of my job.

But I can tell you, Ambassador, that maybe if we had an opportunity to discuss this with the chairperson of the EFCC I could have asked her do you have to send those people away?  She told me she has good reasons for sending them away.

Now she has sent them away.  Why don't we make progress, Ambassador?  Let's not get stuck and maybe she'll -- the chairperson of EFCC sending those FBI (outfront ?) -- let's not make it an issue because if we make it an issue, the two partners, United States and Nigeria, that are agreed on the need to improve the situational capacity and fighting corruption, we'll all lose in that sense, you know.

You have the capacity, are rich enough to train more people.  Those people that were removed from the EFCC were not kicked out of government.  And EFCC alone cannot fight corruption.

Basically, just work in the EFCC are people from the Nigerian police.  So if they are removed from EFCC, they go back to the general police force and strengthen the investigative capacity of the Nigerian police force to fight corruption.  So maybe what the chairperson of EFCC did, she didn't -- not being a foreign minister, not being a diplomat, she didn't understand the diplomatic implications of what she did.  Then let's make progress.

So the point I'm making, Larry, my good friend -- he's one of my teachers I was referring to.  He abandoned me many years ago.  I hope he'll come back to -- (laughter) -- upgrade my knowledge in a number of issues.

Okay, now we are using these opportunities to request for more support in institutional capacity for EFCC, to train more people in here.  I've spoken with the chairperson.  She is very, very much looking forward to that.  The president too would be very delighted to have more support for EFCC.

In terms of training, in terms of equipment, in terms of facilities, we are also looking at ICPC.  ICPC in fact, came before EFCC.  Part of what made EFCC so successful was when it was really very specifically dealing with money laundering and, of course, after 9/11, issues of money laundering became even more sensitive.  And Ribadu went with the kind of punch and aggressiveness it required.

Now, ICPC is the older one that has to do more with those in government who have doing all kinds of stealing.  And that too requires some strengthening -- at the time a justice of the supreme court, is there.  They have required by the way they do things.

Yes, he's talking about volunteers, whistleblowers.  ICPC -- because (inaudible) -- they've just organized what is called anti-corruption volunteers.  Because this fight against corruption will definitely not go very far unless we have whistleblowers and that they are protected.  So that also is in place.  So a lot of things are -- faith-based organizations are also moving on.

Finally, on the issue, in response to your question is that -- and the -- Nuhu must get the credit for that -- because of the huge excitement created by what Nuhu has done, and interestingly, even the painful controversy arising from what he's traversed, the fight against corruption has gotten to an irreversible level.

We will have learned lessons.  I -- you can't say this on behalf of government, and this not -- (inaudible).  If we're to deal with the issues that have happened that led to this (inaudible)battle,  I'm sure even government agencies will handle it differently.

Things kind of got a little bit out of hand, and what happens in a democracy like this is that you don't want to micro manage.  And that is, again, one problem.

And I'm happy, Ambassador, to talk about perception.  It's somewhat more about perception, not about the reality.  Part of that perception is that we have been through times that have -- (inaudible) -- color of Nigeria on these matters.  We're through a long period of the maximum ruler, the head of state, the president of Nigeria has always been a maximum ruler who can make sure that the number of pregnancies in a year are up to the level that the state house will want.  And that every single road in Nigeria is fixed.

So Nigerians are still -- even pro-democracy people in Nigeria are still expecting whoever is president of Nigeria to be a maximum ruler.  So if Nuhu Ribadu, in times of an internal power fight within the police force, it's -- quote/unquote, it's "ill-treated, then everybody say, Yar'Adua, where are you?  What are you doing about it?”

And yet Yar'Adua doesn't get credit when now he gives a directive to say come on, this guy has finished his course at NIPSS. Why are you holding back his certificate?  Give him his certificate.  The president did that.  He didn't he have to climb down from the high hall as a president to give instruction to one small government agency.  But he did that.  And he doesn't get credit for that.

So I think we should see all this in the context and see that both the police, which are having a running battle with Nuhu Ribadu, that took them to court -- that’s the other dimension that other people ought to be conscious about --Nuhu Ribadu took his employers to court.

And it's just like -- I don't know how it is here in U.S.; it's just like an FBI official taking FBI to court while still in the service.  If one of the conditions of service and working in FBI, they should exhaust the process of -- and any -- (inaudible) -- and not taking a (place ?) --

You know, this command paramilitary organization, they have the different rules from the top you and I are used to.  These are some of the issues that I hear in court, and when he's in court, the president again -- there's a limit to how much the president can get involved and do it.

So I think we should just hope that all this unravels and concludes in a manner that both Ribadu, the police force, the Yar'Adua government, all the force, will pick the necessary lessons and just move on.

LYMAN:  I'm going to take three quick questions, and then our time will be up.

All right, Pauline, the lady there, and the lady there.  So -- and let's take them one, two, three, right in a row, and then let you have the last word.

QUESTIONER:  Pauline Baker from the Fund for Peace.  Your Excellency, thank you for being so candid.  I want to shift the attention a little bit to foreign affairs.

And you said in your opening remarks that it's hard to imagine solutions to Africa's problems without Nigeria, and yet Nigeria's been very quiet in some of the boiling crises that are coming to a head.

I'd like you, in addition to citing the battalions that you're prepared to contribute to Somalia, talk about what happens next.  Isn't that contribution going to have the threat or the risk of your getting bogged down in Somalia, just as the Ethiopians have?  What comes next?

I'd also like you to comment briefly on Nigeria's policy toward the Congo, Darfur, and particularly Zimbabwe, because so many leaders now are calling for the removal of Robert Mugabe.  Is Nigeria going to speak out on that as well?

LYMAN:  Okay.  The -- and then the lady right there with her hand up.  Brief questions.

QUESTIONER:  Yes.  When Ngozi Iweala was finance minister, the government provided for the budgets of the states to be printed in all the local newspapers so it would be more difficult for money and what it was intended for to disappear.

After anti-corruption was moved from her portfolio and she subsequently resigned, that policy was stopped.  And The Economist speculated that Nigeria was being actually softer on corruption since her departure.  And I was wondering if you could comment on that.  Thank you.

LYMAN:  Let me take one question.  The minister needs a short break, and he'll come back to answer.  But go ahead.

QUESTIONER:  My question -- I almost -- Nigeria sounds wonderful.  But I was in Nigeria last year on a couple of UNDP missions, and they are working on anti-corruption as well. And I think they want to see the whistleblower protection and so forth.  But I wonder if one should just focus on --

LYMAN:  If you'd make it very brief --

QUESTIONER:  --it's going to be very brief.

LYMAN:  -- we're running -- we're very late.

QUESTIONER:  I wonder if the focus should be on the anti-corruption agencies as a case of Nigeria commitments to the rule of law, because if you look at the rule of law in its broad sweep, as it should apply to a democracy, do you think Nigerian people would say that this administration is committed to the rule of law?

LYMAN:  You're going to take a break, and we'll be -- just hold on for a few minutes.

While we're waiting, Mr. Ambassador, did you want to say anything?  Do you have any words you would like to say?  No?  Okay.

When the minister returns, we'll finish up in about five minutes.  I realize we're running over.

MADUEKWE:  I'll be brief.

(BREAK)

LYMAN:  Everybody please retake their seats and we'll let the minister have the last word on the questions on foreign policy, on what's happened to state budget transparency, and a final word on anti-corruption.

MADUEKWE:  Thank you very much.  I'll be -- well, I know -- (inaudible) -- pressed for time.  So I'm going to be brief.  Thank you for all the questions.

Yeah, okay, in quick succession, not necessarily in the way the questions were asked.  Nigeria has been very high profile in taking on the issues referred -- of Zimbabwe, of Mauritania, DRC.

In the case of Zimbabwe, Nigeria was the first country at the AU summit that took on Mugabe.  We condemned the intimidation of voters in Zimbabwe.  We said that the presidential runoff was unacceptable to us in Nigeria and that the only way forward was the March elections and that Mugabe should talk to Morgan.

We said that Nigeria was a frontline state in southern Africa, not only for those fighting apartheid, but also today we are a frontline state insisting on good governance.  But the good government we are now involved in at home, we can't close our eyes if that is not happening elsewhere.

I must say it here, that before Nigeria made that statement, what was happening was quiet grumbling by many African presidents and foreign ministers.  Privately people felt that what was happening in Zimbabwe was wrong, but there was a feeling that it was not politically possible or  politically correct to take on Mugabe openly.

Nigeria literally broke ranks and provided leadership there.  It was after Nigeria spoke, that other countries, about 15 countries, now spoke.  But Nigeria was the first.  And nobody could speak for Mugabe, because Nigeria has shown leadership.

I would make the point that when there is electoral failure in African states -- and we use the (example ?) of Nigeria, that the first coup d'etat in Nigeria was because of electoral failure in 1964.  And that coup d'etat led to the sad episode of military intervention, military rule in Nigeria -- in fact, led to civil war.

So electoral failures can lead to civil wars in Africa.  And when the civil wars occur as happened in Sierra Leone and happened in Liberia, because of the role of Nigeria in Africa, we get drawn in.  And even up to now it's still difficult to admit openly the amount of money we spend in Sierra Leone and Liberia and the loss of lives of our young men.

So we have an interest in African states.  We are not the policemen of Africa.  We have an interest in African states beginning to do the right thing.  That speech was well-circulated.  Except for the Foreign Secretary Milliband of the United Kingdom, who called me personally to thank me for that speech, we didn't get any kudos from any other countries we thought should celebrate the new Nigeria, because that kind of statement coming from Nigeria was not expected, and we did it.  And, of course, Mugabe abused us there in the meeting and said look at Nigeria kettle calling pot black.  What have we got to show in matters like electoral.  We say, well, we have atoned for our sins.  We are now beginning to do the right thing.  And because of that, we can speak freely.  But it was a very dreadful -- (inaudible).  It was because of our intervention that Morgan now was able to start talking too.  And then Mugabe started talking to Morgan.

Since then, we have remained consistent to say that these talks must conclude and the agreement that the two leaders signed, they have to honor -- honor the agreement.

Yet, there are difficult challenges at this stage.  There was a difficult challenge about -- but watching all those people die of cholera and the increasing meltdown of the state.  Fortunately for the cost in Zimbabwe, the whole land issue, which, of course, was not well-handled by -- particularly by U.K. and even the United States did not show very courageous moral leadership on the issue of the land issue in Zimbabwe.

But we are of the opinion that Mugabe is a bad advocate for a good cause and that we won't allow him to be hailed like many of the African leaders, who simply take a good cause and use that for the purposes of perpetuating themselves in power and oppressing their own people.  Whether you support Mugabe or support Zimbabwe in the fight against apartheid.  So that the new rulers in Zimbabwe will now – (inaudible) apartheid against our peoples.  So that's been a dilemma for Nigeria.

Now, as the coalition gets worse -- we hope it doesn't get worse -- we hope somebody will remind Mugabe that the days of unlimited sovereignty, in which people can hide behind the fig leaf of sovereignty, and we actually use those words against him in AU and hide behind the fig leaf of sovereignty to do whatever they like and think there will be no consequences.  Those days are over under the new considerable responsibility to protect the way things are happening in Zimbabwe.

We don't rule out the possibility that, somewhere along the line, the rest the world -- even African countries are not likely to just fold their arms and allow millions of people in Zimbabwe to continue to die because of mis-rule.  When we get to that bridge, we shall cross it, and Nigeria will not be found wanting.

On the issue of Darfur, of course, we are there and we are strongly there.  We have the largest troop consignment.  In fact, the field commander is a Nigerian – General Agwai – is doing a great job.  We are also paying a huge price.  We've lost -- a lot of our people have been shot by the -- (inaudible) -- rebels, sometimes government people.  We lost eight people in Haskanita.  Add to that 44 Nigerian soldiers who were coming back from Darfur, died on the way.

So we are paying a big price for our role there.  But again, we need more international support in terms of equipment and so on.  We are committed to Darfur.

Mauritania -- you'll be surprised to hear that the coup d'etat in Mauritania, we have refused -- the foreign minister of Mauritania has sought -- even at international meetings, has sought to meet with me.  I refused.  I said, "No, you are a non-democratic government.  You will not meet with the foreign minister of the democratic Nigeria."   It is this new language now.  And in -- even though in the past we said, "Oh, well.  It's about states.  It's not about governments."  Let's talk with the foreign minister -- refuse a meeting with him.

And we are going beyond that.  We have called for sanctions against Mauritania.  Nigeria did.  We called for that at the last meeting of African foreign affairs in the margins of UN.  And I'm going to Addis Ababa on the 22nd for the Peace and Security Council meeting of AU.  And we are going to repeat that call that Mauritania, they ought to be sanctioned -- sanctions against the leadership.

On DRC, again, Nigeria was on record to be the first country that asked for a meeting of the Peace and Security Council of African Union.  Literally we were -- at first, we were being made to -- said there's no need for meeting at that level, because the Great Lakes region ministers are meeting.  We said, no, no.  If Africa must be perceived by the rest of the international community as, if I may use the word, having become adult enough to take care of it, we can't be talking about non-meddlesomeness in Africa if we are set to ensure the capacity to address the issues on the continent.

And so there's need for those, and we made a strong argument for the minister of foreign affairs to meet - irrespective of what the UN is doing there, or what- Germany or France or Britain – their minister has been there twice .  So we're meeting in Addis Ababa on the 22nd and General -- President Obasanjo.  We were already considering -- we had already recommended President Yar’Adua should send him to DRC as his special envoy, where the secretary general also did the same thing so it was a convergence of opinion there.  And right now in DRC as UN special envoy, he will be coming to brief us at Addis Ababa.

And then, finally, to the question about -- yes, that as a good initiative under -- (inaudible).  And his government has no intention of dropping that.  We believe in continuity of good policies.  And when I got back to Nigeria, I will actually ask my colleagues, the finance minister where is there any problem in the continuation of that -- it was a good initiative.  We'll have (inaudible)

I think the last question was about whistleblowers.  The coalition --

QUESTIONER:  (Off mike.)

MADUEKWE:  Yes, please.  That is the last thing I wanted to talk about.  It's something I feel very emotional about, and I won't make it long.  I've been long enough in government to tell you that I'm absolutely pessimistic that the fight against corruption will succeed best at the level of government.

The problem of corruption is so endemic, is so pervasive in our society, that it requires a whole evolution of the mind.  And that is why we are calling on everyone to be part of this exercise, including naming and shaming those politicians whose lifestyles -- especially those who come to America and buy up houses.  And Nigerians here in America cheer them on, clap for them, and feel these are the right kind of politicians.  If we don't get to that level, you can have 1 million Ribadus, you can have 1 million Umaru Yar'Aduas -- nothing is going to happen.

I'll tell you a little story, and then I'll end there.  And that tells you how deep this problem is.  And I'm sorry.  I will apologize to Monsignor Kukah for this.  Well, it wasn't a Catholic priest.  It was a Presbyterian priest in another Presbyterian church.

I was very devastated when I got this job.  And this is my third ministerial position.  And my church ought to know the kind of person I am.  And a senior pastor at the Presbyterian church called me one morning, after our morning prayers, which normally starts at 6:30 in the morning and it ends by 7.  So I was just about moving from the family sitting room to the bathroom to get ready for the day when the phone rang.  And this senior pastor called me and said, "Minister," Almighty God had just spoken to him, the pastor, that I should buy him a car.  (Laughter.)

I said, "Well, pastor, I've just finished having a meeting with God, and I didn't hear him speak."  And he told me that he was very serious about it, and I said I was also serious.  And we had a heated argument.  I said, "Look, Pastor, you haven't called me to say, 'Can we have a word of prayer?'  You haven't called me to say, 'Minister, you've been in government since 1999.  The intelligence, the EFCC, all those have scrutinized you a million times; they couldn't find a thing on you.  You have not been arrested for any wrongdoing.  We, the church, are proud of you.  You've been a good ambassador of the church.  Carry on there.'  That's what I stood by.  Part of the -- (inaudible) -- now the price of a car is more than my salary in a year.  This is a whole invitation to steal."

He said, well, maybe I should tell my friends to buy him a car.  He turned the topic.  Now, we ended on a very angry note.  But I was very distressed for the rest of the day, because I said, look, if men of God are not even praying with us who are in government, who have spoke to millions of -- (inaudible) -- sometimes millions of dollars.  We are not getting the chairing to the kingdom of God by being told to do the right thing, then that shows how deep this problem is.  So when I -- so over the last cabinet -- which half of the cabinet -- (inaudible) -- said no, they were very good people.  But the nature of government is half of the cabinet left.  And I got a lot of text messages from -- (inaudible).  This pastor of the most imminent -- (inaudible, laughter).  Apologies concerned.  I'm wasting everybody's time to be in government.

So unless we are targeting at the first base of the regime level, at the level of the community, so that the villages that are served -- (inaudible) -- and some with the minister or are some with the governor, it's of no use to anybody, because he's not bringing some of the stolen money to us, unless we do that.

And finally, on this issue, the federal government is returning only 40 percent of the national revenue.  The other 50 percent is going to the state and the local government.  And there is a lot of stealing going on at this level.  And we all come from some local government.  Unless we, the national elites, begin to go back to our villages -- if we can't make an impact in Abuja because it's too big for us, if we can't even make an impact in the state capital because it's a little -- we can't make an impact in our village.  In every village, in every community, we know those whose parents or grandparents even before the white man came.  We know those whose parents used to steal money.  We know those who could never leave public funds with them.  Why do you allow those (kind of people ?) to come and become the local government chairmen?  As a lawyer, as a doctor, as a professor, you can move into a village and say we know this is a thief.  We will come to -- we will stop it.

If the -- and the elite in Nigeria have simply abandoned their villages and believe that this thing will be sorted out by some powerful individual in Abuja, we're not going to make any progress.  And if you understand how much this is hemorrhaging our resources, our economies and our capacity to play the kind of role we should play in Africa, then it should be a call for arms, a call for arms that is beyond a single individual, to go back and to share capacity and a cultural paradigm shift that is so urgent.  And this is the world -- ask the international community to please continue to give us support in this very, very important challenge.

Thank you, and God bless you.  (Applause.)

LYMAN:  Minister, thank you for your candor, for your dedication, and for your being with us so long this morning.  Thank you again.  (Applause.)

 

.STX

(C) COPYRIGHT 2008, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE.

NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.

FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.  NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.

FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL CARINA NYBERG AT 202-347-1400.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

-------------------------

More on This Topic

Op-Ed

Nigeria's Leadership Crisis

Author: John Campbell
Business Day

"President Yar'Adua's periodic illness since 2007, beyond depriving Nigeria of its leading regional role," states John Campbell, "has also...

Transcript

A Conversation with Henry Odein Ajumogobia

Speaker: Henry Odein Ajumogobia
Presider: Princeton N. Lyman

Nigerian Foreign Minister Henry Odein Ajumogobia discusses the challenges and prospects of Nigeria at 50, and the strengthening of Nigeria's...