- Kenny Martins says Muhammadu Buhari chaired the meeting where it was agreed that Nigeria needed more political parties aside PDP, APP and AD
- Martins reveals how Goodluck Jonathan's government was brought down by a woman in the government
- He also speaks on what he thinks are the chances of Atiku Abubakar and others who want to battle Buhari in 2019
Kenny Martins, a chief, has, over the years, become a rallying point for political stakeholders and players in the country. To many, he is one of the unseen hands behind the goings on in the country. A very close ally and in-law of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, Martins gives insight into the very deep details of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the role Muhammadu Buhari played in the proliferation of political parties in the country today and why it would be difficult to beat the latter in 2019. He spoke with Eromosele Ebhomele, Damilare Okunola and Emma Osodi
You had been a bit silent for sometime now until recently when you granted an interview. Where are you now politically?
I have always been at the centre. So politically, I am still at the centre. Talking about silence, I've not been quiet. I have been contributing my beat to see how best we can struggle to create a country of our dream. I have never been known to be that partisan. For a very long time now, I have seen myself as a statesman particularly when you consider the role I played in the emergence of the major political structures we have today. If you remember, it took some of us to bring to birth the APP (defunct All Progressives Party) and the PDP. And within a year after 1999, there APP, PDP and the AD (Alliance for Democracy).
Majority of us felt disenfranchised and believed that the political space was not liberal enough. And some of us, led by me, championed struggle for the creation of parties. It was a major battle between us and the PDP and President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar were on top of the PDP. I felt I may have been part of the APP at the formative stage, I may have been part of the PDP and I may have been part of bringing the Afenifere together, begging and imploring and I remember what it took. I had a meeting with Abraham Adesanya, the late Bola Ige and also Olu Falae. I remember that meeting in his office just about two weeks after Abacha's death. I informed them that it would be necessary for the Yorubas, the south-west and what we then called NADECO which was a blend of the southerners and the northerners, to come into the mainstream politics, because we could see Chief Awoniyi leading what would become the PDP. With the five Abacha parties now having been proscribed, there was the need for the Afenifere to lend their weight and this gave birth to APP. After its takeoff, Afenifere pulled out.
Then fast-forward to 2001, we found that PDP was still taking the advantage and APP was there as a counter-force, the AD had taken over the southwest, it was an epic battle. I remember well had to go round the six zones of the country and mobilize the leaders of the peoples of Nigeria - the likes of Adesanya, Ige and Falae in the southwest, Dafinone, Chief Horsefall and others in the south south, Paul Unongo of the middle belt and many others. When I look at it historically now, the first major meeting was held in Arewa House in Kaduna and was the first time the Afenifere would cross the Niger to the north for a meeting. Awolowo never led the Yorubas to a meeting in the north. Do you know who was the chairman of the meeting?
No sir, who was the chairman?
General Muhammadu Buhari. Three days to the meeting, I went to his house and said: 'Sir, the government has done everything to stop this meeting. They have put up security and all forms of hurdles. This is a meeting where we can liberalise the formation of parties. It is my right and encapsuled in the United Nations charter. Would you please chair the meeting for us?' That was the birth of the new parties. At the conclusion of that meeting, the communique was clear, direct and brief. When that had gone out as the conclusion of the meeting, the government said 'no' and we went to court and won. Then the government grudgingly asked INEC to give us three parties. They registered those parties but did not register the National Conscience Party (NCP). So I went back to Gani Fawehinmi and told him these people only registered three parties; this is not the essence of the struggle. Everybody can register a party so far you can meet the guidelines of INEC. It is my business what I want to do with the party. I may go for one single reason like the environment, I may go for the economy. I can have a reason to form a party and if the people believe in me, they will vote for me. So we went back to court.
You know the government can be very mischievous, they registered 12 parties of their own and registered the rest of ours. So it finally registered 30 parties. Those parties are what all of us are running upon today. We do use it to laugh that if we didn't fight for those parties, they would not be in existence. And the reason was clear. There were only three parties and people did not find it easy to interact and it was a perfect recipe for coup planing because when you choke the people, they would find a way to liberate themselves.
There have been complaints that since 1999, politicians have not met the expectations of the people. How would you react to this?
Let us thank God for where we have found ourselves because it would have been far worse. If there is anything, it is that we have learnt a lot of lessons and there are still so many lessons to be learnt. At least we have made a lot of progress. When people talk about politicians delivering on their promises to the people, there will be no doubt that we are not where we should be. We have failed to realise our potentials. What Nigeria stands for today, if you measure in percentages, may not be scoring more than 40 percent in terms of potentials and capacity and it stares in the face. Security is not where is should be, the economy is not where it should be, infrastructure is not where it should be. But one thing is that in spite of all these odds, we have managed to stay together. We have also managed to keep the process going. Yes, we may be 58 years old, but democratically, we may not be that old. I believe that if you look at the states of the federation, some may have been luckier than the others depending on who they have had as their governors. In those states where you have had good governors, who have proven themselves to be above board, you can measure their progress and see that the yearnings and aspirations of the people are being met. But overall, I will say it is true. The politicians have not been able to meet the yearnings of the people.
With people like you, one would wonder why Goodluck Jonathan failed in 2015. What actually happened?
I still say it that beats me that Jonathan let down my generation because we considered him, when he took over, as the ambassador of this generation. He did many things right. Yes, he came to power asking for one term, there is no doubt that if he had performed, not even optimally, but to a larger degree of what you can call 'pass', he should have got a second term.
Did he actually ask for one term?
He was not the one asking just because he was not in a position to ask. He was a VP who was stalemated by the cabal of that time from even taking over and the nation and forces had to intervene on his behalf in order to become a substantive president and then go to the election. You know as a president, you don't win elections by yourself. To win election as somebody from the south south, you had to use some placation to the north. There has been this agreement since 1995 that power would rotate round all the zones one by one four years each. President Obasanjo having spent eight years, the rotational tenure became right years. It was clear that Yar'Adua was supposed to spend eight years from north. Yar'Adua died. That is why people are asking for the amendment of the constitution so that if the president dies, there should be a plan to pick his successor from the same zone to take care of that term.
Under Goodluck Jonathan and Yar'Adua, it became a stalemate because the people wanted to complete his term but the constitution did not make room for that. So when it was time for the election after he had completed Yar'Adua's term, the month said they would take the four remaining years. It took somebody like President Obasanjo to go round saying Jonathan would do just one term. "Let him just finish this one term and go." And he was obliged. The nation obliged. That one term commitment would have been overridden by sterling performance. I don't even know whether there was a performance, not to talk of sterling. That was his problem and the reason was very simple. He only had to do one or two things.How can you leave the earnings of the country in the hands of one woman, Diezani? Everybody was crying that there was a woman more powerful than the president. Nobody will take that. There were other issues but that was the main one.
We were earning so much money and it was not reported to the Central Bank or the federation account as it should. I remember the then CBN governor, now Emir, came out publicly about it. He was not the only one, foreign multinationals were all saying about the need to change that particular woman. She did not allow somebody like Okonjo-Iweala who was finance minister to perform. This and some others spelt his own doom. By the time it was election, I had so many friends who were sure that the man had won. They said they were celebrating his victory and I used to laugh. I believe in Nigeria and that is why I say we have moved a lot.
When they took a decision that he should go by a universal pronouncement via votes, in the good old days, it would take the soldiers to change the government. That is why everybody is so sure now that you either perform or we check you out. You can see that the APC today is already shouting to high heavens about their performance records, bombarding us with a lot of performance evidences to tell us they are performing. But that is the decision of the people.
But I always say for this, they should give Jonathan the credit. Himself and Jega will forever be heroes of democracy in that dimension. They have put in place an almost infallible electoral process. We have no option than to follow it. And once we follow it, the result would be delivered as the wish of the people is reflected. In any election you have now, if you try to cut corners, it would be quite clear that you are calling for anarchy. Jonathan saw it coming and he said he needed to go. His lieutenants who were all over for stage and calling on Jega...I remember my friend, I don't want to mention names...it was not necessary, the people had spoken. So Jonathan should be given the kudos for that, he put in place a process that even the rest of the world have come to salute.
Analysts argue that for the PDP, it was luck taken too far because it had the likes of Donald Duke and Peter Odili. But it decided to pick Jonathan as Yar'Adua's running mate...
Those issues, to me, don't count as such. There is a Yoruba saying that I can only help you to find work, but I cannot do it for you. That they put Jonathan there, a man with PhD qualification, is not a mean achievement. We never had one of that in Nigeria. Odili is a man of the people and Donald Duke is s fine gentleman whose capacity in the area of the economy is not in doubt. But that is not to say Jonathan too...you see, to be a president is a big deal, but not the biggest deal because it is your team that matters.
Abacha was a sick president. He even succumbed to the illness - let us leave the apple and the other stories - but he had the likes of Mustapha who was in charge of the security. He had the General Adisas of this world in charge of roads and they were working. And in fairness, before he had a fallout with General Diya, he had a number two man. He had General Useni in charge of FCT who was doing his job. Remember dollar was stabilized throughout the period he was in power. Let's leave the excessiveness and the NADECO and the human rights angle, we are talking to different things here. So in essence, all Jonathan needed was to listen to the experts in his government. His problem was that he did not listen to those who he picked to do the job and he succumbed so easily to governors' pressures. These are factors or qualities that nobody could read when you picked him as a VP.
When you look at it, nobody is talking about coup anymore; when there were coups, they used to be in the ranks of major and above, in other countries, they were sergeants and they performed. This man, Sankara, we see a hero today, what was his rank? To be a president, just have the ideals, focus, the passion, be pushful and dedicated and concerned for the wellness of the people. Jonathan was too aloof. Well, it is not my job; like I have said, he did well, history will write the scorecard for his government.
People are rising up to contest against President Buhari in 2019. How easy will the ride be?
If you say this is about democracy and you say it is a democratic contest, the word 'easy' doesn't ever come in. You can ask the current president himself. Did he ever have it easy? He had battles upon battles until he finally won. So anybody who wants to contest against this president and thinks it is going to be an easy ride, the person should go back to his village, because there is nobody who is in power that would not do everything that it takes, I am sorry to say 'both the fair and the unfair' to show that he has an edge. So sometimes in politics when you say it was not a fair contest, was the contest really fair from the beginning? See the Ekiti primaries that happened recently, you could see all kinds of antics that were employed. This was the primaries of a state, I don't know what the income of Ekiti is - the IGR and FAAC - but you can see the amount of battle, money deployed, coercion and subterfuge.
The thing is that for those who want to contest against a president, like those contesting in Ekiti, we should start being realistic and pragmatic. Jokers should step out of the way and line up behind one or two serious contestants, then there can be an equal contest. Otherwise, there is nothing they can do. In Ekiti, 33 people took forms; that is a joke. Now, they are accusing Fayemi. Did you not know his capacity when you went to contest against him? That is no more a contest. I am just using that as an example to show that President Buhari has thrown his hat into the ring. The contenders should go and get together and pick one or two of their bests to stand against him. And it is still not going to be easy. In his own case, they used to lose it all the time until they came together and asked: 'Of all these contenders, who has the best chance?' Let every person with good better chance line up behind the best so you can have a sure ride to power.
What level of optimism do you have for Atiku Abubakar?
Just pick one amongst many if they can make up their minds to adopt this strategy.
But do you think Atiku can one day rule this country?
I cannot say. I am not God. Even Buhari contested many times before he won. Atiku was a former VP. He has the reach, is cosmopolitan and has his networks. But like I said, the man is sitting there, you want to contest with him, you can't come with up to 14 people against him alone. Think of the matter now. How the thing go work? It won't.
Atiku's chance can only be brightened if he and the rest of the contenders do an assessment of each other and form an alignment behind the best. That was what they did against Jonathan. And even at that, see what it took to beat him; upon all of them coming together, it took only two million votes to beat him. If you want to contest with him, you don't just come with about 14 against one man. The battle is lost already. I hope I am saying the truth as the right signal. It is not indicative of my support for Buhari. I am a realist. I am neither for Buhari or Atiku or any other. I am just telling you their chances.
Would you say this need to united forces is part of the reasons for the creation of Obasanjo's 3rd Force?
You know for President Buhari to emerge, it took the same formula. We have found out that for you to be able to unseat a governor at the state, even a senator in a district, a president, there must be the need for a coalition. It has been proven with the APC. Now that the formula has worked and Obasanjo was one of the strong pioneers of that formula, you know he started his wahala too with Jonathan much earlier, wrote his letter as always, and doesn't change, I would say that he is treading a proven path. He is applying a proven equation. The next is will the rest of the country join him? Once they do, I would say that President Buhari is in big trouble, if they don't, they have played the card that would allow President Buhari to retain his seat. Those are the two options left now.
Then, there is the issue of time. That coalition is time-bound. You don't apply it too late in the day. Maybe that is why President Obasanjo started so early like the prophet in the wilderness shouting that coalition so the rest of the people would hearken to the cry and move over to it so that like the APC, thy would take control. It is not even like he would run the government for them. I believe that the coalition would have a chance if the other players rally round him.
2019: Kenny Martins speaks about Obasanjo's coalition, Buhari's chances Legit.ng