The last has not been heard of the recent impeachment of Sir Jude Agbaso.
While the impeachment may have been concluded on paper, ndi Imo are about to witness a series of revelations on what went down behind the scenes.
In this interview with Oluwasegun Abifarin and Olakunle Olafioye of Source Magazine,Chief Martin Agbaso sets the ball rolling again with some thought provoking questions.
Ndi Imo, over to you!
You are one of the key figures behind the All Progressives Grand Alliance’s, APGA’s in road to Imo state. How would you describe the party in the state now?
APGA, like most political parties, I would say is dynamic because we have moved from almost a non-existent state 10 years ago to the point where we now control two states. We have members in the National Assembly. So it’s becoming an attractive party. As the structure begins to grow, interest will also begin to grow and human reaction to this could be positive or negative. But let’s see what will happen to APGA in the next couple of weeks.
The State Assembly recently impeached the deputy governor. How are you taking this development?
It’s very upsetting for many reasons. It is an impeachment that is based totally on falsehood, treachery. It is important that the Nigerian people understand that that type of falsehood and treachery that mislead the public ought to be stopped. You don’t impeach a duly elected deputy governor of a state on mere pretence that a contractor made a mere allegation that this man was given a bribe of N458 million. Without doing anything to investigate this allegation, you went ahead to impeach a duly elected deputy governor of a state. One, he alleged that he gave the deputy governor of Imo state, N458 million. And the critical question is why would he give a deputy governor N458 million? This contractor was introduced by members of the governor’s family to Imo state.
This contract was awarded by the governor of Imo state. Three, 100 per cent of payment was made by the governor to this man without going through due process. And he further made additional 26 per cent extra payment to this man without following due process. So, why would the deputy governor of Imo state, who was away to India at the time this was happening, on an official assignment, be given gratification of N458 million, almost half a billion naira, for doing nothing? Does that make any sense to you? If any gratification would have been paid, it would have been to the person who brought the contractor; it would have been the person who awarded the contract; it would have been to the person who made payment to this man 100 percent without due process and further paid additional 25 to 26 per cent.
What role did the House of Assembly play in all these?
When this issue was presented to the State House of Assembly as a petition, carrying out their oversight function was to find out why this contractor was not doing his work. The first they would have done, as the man said the deputy governor called him on the phone, sent him a text, gave him names of his companies and also gave him two account numbers of the said companies was to get the call log from MTN, go through it if the deputy governor really called this man or sent him a text message. If you establish that he actually sent him this text message, then, you go to the two companies, called Three Brothers Concept and Isian Nigeria Limited, find out from the Corporate Affairs Commission who the owners of these companies are. And then go to the said banks, GTB and UBA; find out the operators of these accounts.
They didn’t do any of these things. Today, Technology is in place to track any money down to the pocket. If the N458 million that you said my brother asked to be paid into XYZ account is true, go and find out the operators of the accounts. If the money is there, bring it back to Imo state. If the money is not there, where did it go to? Is it a cheque? Who wrote the cheque? And the person that withdraws N458 million must have a photograph. So, who is this person? If the money has been transferred electronically, where did it go to? So, they refused to do any of these things.
When they now started the process, since the House of Assembly was going to do this, it is my name that is on the line; it’s my brother’s name that is on the line, let me find out. We went to MTN, got the call log, the call log does not have any discussion or whatsoever or text message from my brother to this guy. Secondly, we went to Corporate Affairs.
These two companies that they claimed belong to my younger brother, let’s find who the owners are, the names of the directors for both companies are there. They are people of northern descent that have nothing to do with the Agbaso family or my brother in particular. We went to UBA and GTB. Who are the operators of these accounts? They have nothing to do with my brother or the Agbaso directly or indirectly. But we didn’t stop there. I hired forensic auditors to trail this money. It will interest you to know that the money has been traced to two accounts, one in Dubai and one in Lebanon belonging to Joseph Dina and JPROS -, the contractor and his company. That is where we are at the moment. But let me tell you what will be more interesting to all Nigerians. We went further to the Ministry of Works, we asked for the evaluation of the work this man has done, he’s done about N196 million worth of work and N458 million he said he bribed my brother with that stopped him from doing the work is now available in his accounts. If you add the N458 million to N195 million, there is still almost N800 million that is outstanding. Where is this money? This is Imo state money. The world wants to know, Nigerians want to know where the N800 million is. You cannot give an innocent man a bad name.
Let me go back to the question you raised earlier. We went further to find out who is JBROS, the company that claimed it bribed my brother and couldn’t execute the contract. Who are the owners? They are two principal owners? This man, Joseph Dina and Rochas Okorocha’s right hand man, Prince McDonald Akano, who is the S.A Project and chairman, Contract Monitoring Committee. So that is where we are now.
What would you say is the motive behind the alleged treacherous move?
Beyond the extreme wickedness of man, beyond treachery, beyond the greed of man, beyond cruelty of man, beyond uncontrollable quest for power, the only thing I can say is 2015.
What do you mean by 2015?
Before I started supporting the governor and helping him to become governor in 2011, let me quickly tell you that my consideration for helping him has nothing to do with money. Since I had been in court for four years and my case had not finished in the court, I thought if I had won my case, the 2011 election wouldn’t have held in Imo and since he was there to run, I said o.k I would support you on the condition that you would do maximum good to the people of Imo state and that you will be governor only for four years. No money changed hands. Money started changing hands when I started funding his campaign for him to win. From the day I met Rochas till today, I have not received one penny from Rochas and I will ask him to come and say to my face If I have lied against him. At that time, we agreed that he would be governor for four years and hand over to Owerri zone because of our zoning arrangement and that was it.
All along, I didn’t think the governor has any interest whatsoever in keeping that agreement as most other agreements he has entered into. So, ab-initio, he wanted to get me isolated, destroy my political structure so that by 2015 when he begins to play his game, I will be in such a weak state to fight back. That is why they want to destroy my family name, so that I will be so devastated politically that I won’t be able to fight back. But I can tell you with good authority that he has misfired. Before this time, I was not thinking of running for governor in 2015, but the game has just started.
After he joined APC, of course APC zoned the presidency to North and the vice-presidency to the South-west. As soon as he got into APC he started telling them, “I want internal democracy.” And what is he telling them about internal democracy? He wants the opportunity, even though the presidency has been zoned to the north, to come out and run even if he loses. His game plan is to come second, if there are two, three aspirants from the North and they contest and divide the votes, he would come second. If they decide to come together and support one another and one person wins, he will still come second. Then he is going to go back to the South west and say, well I came second and he should be given the vice presidential slot. His calculation is this: The top guys that live on Bourdilon won’t allow this. If that happens, he will come back to Imo state. By this time, his Chief-of-Staff, who is now the deputy governor would have become the governor with his son-in-law running as deputy.
He’s extracting resignation from these guys. So if he loses in APC, he will come back. Madumere will resign, his son-in-law will become the governor and appoint him (Rochas) the deputy. And then now resign and Rochas becomes the governor and appoint Madumere the deputy again. That is how he intends to edge the Owerri zone out of the race in 2015. He knows that my brother wouldn’t have succumbed to such arrangement. He started plotting this game plan from day one that he started his administration. But the APC’s entry has now fast-tracked his game plan. That is what the whole plot is all about .
What efforts are you making to reverse the whole situation now?
That is why my brother is not talking to you because he is in court. We are not about to lay down and pretend we are dead. This kind of injustice cannot happen. Nigeria is not a banana republic and Imo state, definitely is not a one man business that you can run any way you like.
The contractor alleged that he gave your brother the bribe on the promise that he would help him to get local government contracts.
How stupid that statement sounds. You know the principal. You have been to my office. I am the chairman of SRG. If you have direct access to me and I have already been giving you job without recourse to due process, would you go and offer my managing director bribe or any of the general managers so that they will give you more jobs. If the man came through the governor’s family and was awarded the contract to the tune of 1.3 something billion and paid upfront why would he go to the deputy who has no power to give him job which is yet to come, and give him a bribe of N500 million for a job he’s going to get in the future, that will be the subject of the approval of the governor? The deputy governor, Commissioner for Works then did not award local government contracts. My brother did not award a single local government contract.
With this crisis in APGA, which is the ruling party in the state, don’t you think the development can give PDP the lee way to take over the state?
When a man allows his ambition to run amok the way it is in Imo state, anything can happen. PDP can take over. APGA is solidly on ground in Imo state. I am in APGA. Technically, he is in AP. So we are going to go to the field in 2015 and find out who is in better control of the state.
Are you saying you are not part of the ongoing merger.
I said I am in APGA.
How best do you think Igbo presidency can be achieved?
I can’t delve into that now. Let’s deal with the treachery of the man first.
We have seen how merger agreements ended in the past in the country. Do you think the current arrangement will succeed?
I don’t know. I don’t have any crystal ball or do you see any crystal ball here? That something never worked in Nigeria in the past, does not mean it will never work? Anything can happen. My concern is not whether the merger works or not. My concern is who is the person who can take Imo back to work and give people genuine and honest leadership. If you say you are a Christian, you behave as a Christian. If you are satanic, you live the life of a Satan.
You said your brother is in court. Are you confident that his impeachment can be reversed (cuts in).
If I don’t have faith in the judiciary, I won’t be in court. We have fair minded people in the judiciary, they are not going to close their eyes and watch this crazy drama go unchecked.
What is the relationship between the APGA in Imo and APGA in Anambra state?
Very cordial. APGA is APGA.
When you were going into agreement with Rochas, did you envisage a situation like this?
Never! If I did, I wouldn’t have gone into it. And this is what everybody is saying now. “How come you didn’t know that this was going to happen?” I tell them I didn’t know.
Is it safe to say your decision to run in 2015 is a spontaneous reaction to what you termed as Okorocha’s act of treachery?
It’s not my spontaneous reaction. I said that I was not really excited about running in 2015. But now it has become imperative because we are looking for genuine and honest leadership.
Do you think you still have the structure to dislodge Okorocha considering his power of incumbency?
That was what they said in 2011 when I said I was going to dislodge PDP. But let us wait and see how it goes.
Your brother has just served as deputy governor of the state and you are planning to run for the governorship in 2015. Don’t you think people will say you want to turn Imo state to a family business?
How? In 2005, I aspired to become the governor of Imo state. I worked very hard, very hard in preparation to become governor. In those days, I toured the 1,296 primary schools in Imo state, conducting extensive infrastructural audit. I went through 314 secondary schools we have in the state, conducting engineering audit of our 74 major water works. We have 987 km of state- owned roads networks. I went through every square metre of those roads to determine where we were going to intervene first based on the rate of failure. We went through all the local government link roads, trying to determine how much it was going to cost to stabilise those local government roads.
At a time, the then governor said he was spending almost 85 per cent of the state revenue on wage bill and that didn’t make sense to me as an economist. We had 16,489 civil servants in Imo at a time, 24,513 teachers at the time. We now decided to conduct extensive staff audit to determine when you were employed, what level of education, and moved further to develop a robust pension plan based on pot-pourri of investment with insurance policies, all put together.
To get an investment portfolio, because nobody pays pension from his resellable, you must generate, I went through all that. I went through 589 autonomous communities interfacing with youth leaders, women groups, industrialists, leaders, in preparation to get Imo state back to work and restore the confidence we have in ourselves as a people. These problems still need to be addressed. These are the problems that make me to want to become the governor again. It has nothing to do with anger.
Many people think your brother fell victim of this plot because he was not a politician before becoming deputy governor of the state.
He’s a businessman and he’s still a businessman. That is not what happened. What happened is just absolute betrayal of trust. That is all. Even if my brother was the oldest politician in Imo state, these people were determined from day one. The day one was the day he was appointed the commissioner for Works in the state, that was when they started plotting this game. In the next set of interviews, I will tell you why I believe the plot started from day one.