There must be consequence for corruption, says Osinbajo
THE other day, the vice presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, held a media parley in Lagos.
The discussion, organised by the First Friday Group, was to afford Osinbajo the opportunity to present what he termed APC’s ‘Road Map to a New Nigeria’ and field questions from the press.
After all formalities, a member of the group and Presiding Pastor, Trinity House, Ituah Ighodalo, noted that the state of affairs of the nation necessitated the media parley, with six major objectives in mind.
One, for as many that had not met him in person, to see the face of Professor Osinbajo and know the stuff he was made of.
Two, as one of the methods Buhari and Osinbajo have adopted by meeting people one-on-one, to listen to Osinbajo speak in a simple, genuine way about issues and things affecting the people, and how to address them when they get into office.
Three, Osinbajo’s readiness to listen to questions and to give clear answers, as well as listening to suggestions.
Fourth, to encourage, as many of those who believe in the Buhari-Osinbajo Campaign, to get involved, as change agents, and speak to people in their families, communities, places of work and local governments to support something fresh and different.
Five, to encourage people to register, as many that complain will not register or vote — a situation that should be discouraged.
And six, to get people involved financially, as campaigns cost huge financial outlay.
Having laid the reasons for the gathering, the floor was given to Prof. Osinbajo, who, unveiling the APC Manifesto, came up with a blueprint on how his party would deliver the following:
Create jobs, provide quality education, build affordable houses, provide universal basic healthcare, care for the less-advantaged, address transport, power and infrastructure problems, and very palpably, fight the endemic corruption that has pervaded the system.
In addition to bringing an end to ethno-religious crisis, communal clashes and terrorism, Osinbajo lamented the spate of corruption in the country and promised:
“We will block all those leakages and ensure that whatever money comes into the state comes into the state and that there is consequence for corruption.
“Oil has been at the highest price in the history of this country in the past five years. Yet, we are in trouble. Now, it’s dropping; what are we going to do?
“Without accountability, I don’t think we can resolve any of the problems we have.”
Osinbajo iterated that if there was no consequence for corruption and anybody could deep his hand into the public resources and steal billions, “like the money for pensioners and there is no explanation till today and there is none whatsoever, it then means that whatsoever anyone makes away with, there is no punishment and invariably there is no accountability.”
“I believe one of those things that Buhari would stand for is accountability and I think that this country needs that at this stage if we are going to resolve the numerous problems confronting us, especially as we go into the next few years with dropping oil resources,” he said.
Osinbajo continued: “We certainly need a government that can be held accountable and that can account for the resources. If we don’t have that, I really do not see how we can solve the problem.
“We have earned the largest amount of money for five years on oil, which has been at the highest price in the history of this country and yet, we are in trouble.
“Now, with half that price, and it is dropping, what are we going to do? Without accountability, I do not think we can resolve any of the problems we have.”
Then followed the Q & A, which excerpts appear below.
WHAT informs your style of campaign and how are you going to sanitise the public sector?
The whole essence of getting involved in politics is to identify with the society and solve their problems.
Maybe because I am a pastor, I see the issues on a daily basis. I think my commitment, as a Christian and as a pastor, is to the millions of people who are suffering everyday.
So, I cannot understand how people just do big rallies when you don’t talk to the people. You have to talk to them somehow, and I don’t know any other way of talking to people except going there and talking to them out there on the street.
Many people have said to me it is dangerous; and that how many hundreds of thousands of people are you going to talk to.
But I find that continuous engagement on the street is better than a thousand seminars. I think that talking to people on the street and hearing their complaints is very important.
Today, at Shitta in Surulere, a woman told us: “I do not just trust you politicians, when you get there. I have three children; we struggled to send them to school and now, they are out of the university, but having no jobs. What are you going to do?”
When you come across people like that, it is much more impactful; it makes an impression on you.
Such a statement should create the desire to do the right thing, and to do this properly. Other things, of course, have to do with the next question.
With the country earning almost 50 per less of what it was earning a year ago, what specific plans, proposals does an APC government have to pay for the things listed in your programme?
I want to say that the whole issue is management of resources. For me, it is irrelevant whether the cost of oil is N500. With the way our resources are managed, there is no way we can cope with anything. I don’t know any other oil producing country that is losing 400,000 barrels of crude a day.
400,000 barrels are being stolen everyday, with extremely sophisticated equipment being used to divert oil from the pipelines.
In addition, people carry these things to a barge that take 14,000 barrels of oil and take it to a tanker somewhere offshore, which has to do with official complicity.
There are some countries that will survive on 400,000 barrels of oil a day. Ghana is surviving on half (200,000 barrels) of that, aside from other things that they may have.
So, the first and primary issue is to stop that whole drain on the economy.
What is your position on value-based spending?
We function in an environment where there is a great deal of corruption, which cuts across not only the legislature and even in the executive; it’s everywhere.
And this is because there is absolutely no consequence for corruption, and what we see today is complete impunity.
It modifies behaviour completely the moment people realise there will be consequence for corruption.
When I became Attorney General in 1999 in Lagos State, we did a survey of lawyers who would work in the Lagos State Judiciary.
We asked them their perception of judges and the judiciary in Lagos State? Eighty-nine per cent said they thought judges and judiciary were notoriously corrupt. That was in 1999.
Since the day the state was inaugurated in 1967 up till 1999, not one single person, judge or magistrate, had ever been sacked for corruption, which, of course, was killing the system.
I held a meeting with five or six senior judges who, at that time, were earning N67,000 as their take-home pay.
Now, you give someone that amount and you give him the power of life and death — the power over peoples’ livelihood and all that — and they can’t send their children to school, and they can’t pay their families’ medical bills, then you exposed them to some kind of temptation that most of us are not exposed to.
I then asked them how much they needed and how much it would cost them to educate their children. Many of them had their children schooling abroad.
When we were trying to put the figures together, one of them just said to me: “AG, let us stop this nonsense. You, too, know as well as we do that this thing you are doing is not realistic. With N67,000, you cannot do the things we are talking about.”
So, it was clear to me — and them — that we were pretending to pay them and they, too, were pretending to earn that money.
One of the chief problems judges had — because I worked in that sector — was the fear that they would leave office and they won’t even have a home to retire to.
Any honest judge earning N67,000 a month cannot build a home in Lagos.
So, when we decided we were going to give anyone, who becomes a judge, a house for life in Lekki or in Ikoyi or GRA in Ikeja and land, we also pay medical bills and holiday allowances.
So, judges became comfortable with the warning that there would be consequence for corruption, and by 2002, 22 magistrates and three judges had lost their jobs.
When we did that survey again in 2007, the same question was asked of lawyers who practised in court not just of High Court judges and from 89 per cent, it was down to zero per cent!
That happened because they were better paid and their remuneration was good. But more importantly, there was consequence for corruption.
I think what we need to do in our society is to ensure that everybody across the board: executive, legislature and judiciary — there is consequence without necessarily looking back and be chasing after people.
You won’t get anything done if you are going to go back and be looking for who did what and who didn’t do what.
But going forward, we should be able to say that if you are corrupt, wherever you are, whoever you are, there will be some consequence for it which, is a better way to approaching the issues of corruption and transparency.
How do you replicate, in other states, Lagos State’s method of generating income?
Really, unless we are able to get a kind of Lagos State government into the states, we may not be able to replicate in any direct way.
A lot of what Lagos State has done has been largely due to the fact that government has adopted the system of continuity.
I said I served in Lagos State for eight years, but even now, I’m actively involved because we have a collegiate system.
How do you assess the current power sector reforms, improve on it, as well as tackle the issue of gas flaring?
Though there is a measure of commitment in the ongoing reforms, we, however, firmly believe that there is need to decentralise this thing.
We have a major problem with power generation and that’s why I’m saying that we need to decentralise. I don’t think that the current arrangement is the best.
We also believe that transmission cannot remain in the hands of the Federal Government.
Industries are suffering; everybody is suffering; even small-scale industries can’t work with the kind of power situation we have found ourselves.
In 1999, we had about 3,000 megawatts of power; now, we are barely doing 4,000 megawatts of power. That just doesn’t make any sense; we simply can’t continue that way.
We are going to review the caps on the cost of gas (flaring) and engage in proper energy mix.
The issue is very crucial because the oil companies think it is even better to flare gas rather than to sell it.
We are paying attention to that, as it is necessary to make it profitable for those who own this wealth.
What is your plan to reduce the nation’s reliance on crude oil, diversify sources of revenue, revamp the manufacturing sector and address the issue of high rate on mortgage loans?
Our plan will focus on agriculture, especially on food crops. Our government will subsidise agriculture or pay for items produced while we also look at other areas like the entertainment industry and trading.
We have a detailed plan for the manufacturing sector but critical to this is the power sector.
We need power to be able to do any serious manufacturing, deal with the issues of land and approvals and reduce lending rates.
If we are going to encourage development of housing, then we must have preferential rates for our mortgage. If we can bring it to a single digit, we should.
What is your take on the Petroleum Industry Bill?
The PIB is priority, and I think that the will to do it is what is lacking. The executive must push the bill and ensure it is passed.
Any bill that is so central to our wellbeing and to the wellbeing of our most important resource must be passed.
We’ve had all sorts of issues going back and forth about this but I think it really comes down to the will to do it.
Will your government be able to ‘bring back our girls’?
We will definitely explore every single option. We will explore the privilege of a Commander-in-Chief, who is leading from the front and understands the military. I mean no disrespect to the President.
And we will equip the military and encourage the officers. Nobody is better trained than some of these guys who were trained in the best schools.
Then, we will create jobs to discourage recruitment of dissidents, which the Boko Haram sect is exploiting.