Mrs. Sarah Jubril, Nigeria’s first female presidential candidate, was Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Ethics and Values. In this interview, she blamed some of government functionaries and Jonathan’s appointees for the woes the immediate past administration suffered. She also frowns at the infighting and alleged impunity in the current administration and says that implementation of ethics and values in the polity is the surest way to rescue the country from the clutches of corruption.
Her assessment of President Buhari’s fight against corruption
It is a worthy fight, a good fight on behalf of all of us. However, it is a continuous fight because even the previous administration talked about zero tolerance for corruption, that was what late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was talking about. The fight this time is coined as fighting corruption for change.
The previous administration mentioned about fighting corruption by transformation agenda. The realisation of the result is the issue. It is not only the government that has been trying to fight corruption, there are other social institutions that have embarked on such initiatives.
There are people in the public and private sectors, and the international community who expect Nigeria to raise the standard of fighting corruption.
So, Nigeria as a leading country in Africa is expected not to relent in fighting corruption. But it should be a fight on PPP level. Public and private partnership, not only the government.
The government and stakeholders should partner with the private sector, the family and the institutions. They should also not sit back and leave the whole fight against corruption to the government because they are the people that pay taxes and make the population, they are the voters.
They were the people that gave votes to the people that contested and became political leaders. That is why I keep talking about the stakeholders as the first fighters against corruption.
This issue of corruption is a whole thing that starts from the oath taking of public officials, if you read the content of the oath of office and the oath of allegiance which are supposed to be in line with the fulfilment of the implementation of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
If I refer you to Section 2, subsection 15.5. It says that states shall abolish all forms of corruption and abuse of power. In subsection 23, it is talking about the national ethics.
The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended, chapter 2:23 says, the national ethics shall be discipline, integrity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance, self-reliance and patriotism. Subsection 24 talks about the duties of citizens.
The fight against corruption started when the public officers took oath of office either as appointees or elected officials taking oath as senators or governors or president.
Do you think the ministerial nominees are the best after waiting for four months?
They don’t appear to be the best but whatever happens we must have the patience and spirit of tolerance because we will not ask people to go and riot. These people: their records are there but if Nigerians want to remain complacent and sweep things under carpet, it’s left for them, the hypocrisy about corruption continues.
It is alleged that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governments, in the past 16 years, operated in a corrupt environment. What is your take?
I think the PDP government starting from the board of trustees, the party executives, did not open their minds to understand what their slogan and manifesto stood for. The PDP government had desirable virtues, which turned out to be a moral verbalisation that did not touch their conscience and minds.
The PDP government had, I will say, the best of party slogan anywhere in the world, but unfortunately the plague was philosophical understanding of the manifesto.
The ignorance about the high sense of responsibility of claiming to be a progressive party, and only thinking of the slogan and not acting practically.
When you have a constitution and you don’t abide by the constitution and whatever your slogan is, they are the first steps of preventing corruption. By the time we take the oath of office and oath of allegiance, and after we have read it we say, ‘so help me God.’
Raising of godly politicians
The PDP government and even their predecessors had the problem of not realising that politicians in public office or civil service are supposed to ensure that the name of that God they called, they are supposed to raise godly governors. But they forget the contents of what they pronounced at the oath taking. They do not remember to obey God.
If there were so much stealing, inappropriate behaviour and not practicalizing what the manifesto said, then it means people deviated from what they took oath to do, what they were supposed to be doing as a party.
It appears to be demonic plague that they will not understand what they are supposed to be doing. There was no strength of correcting, to put back on track what was going on. And those who want to do the right thing and get back to track were blackmailed, maligned and were shut up from the presidency that was supposed to steer the country in the direction.
Unfortunately, I just saw a book that says that people deceived President Goodluck Jonathan. What they are saying, believe me, those things are true. People did not have the fear of the Almighty God. There was a government by the so-called people who are supposed to fear God, progressive people that left out the fear of the Almighty God to which they took oath.
They saw Mr. President coming with the money from the South-South, there were supposed to be enough money, it was God’s grace that brought Mr. Goodluck from an obscure background to the presidency. The oil money was there but the PDP missed how to use the grace of the Almighty God upon this country. And if we choose to disobey God, to disobey the words of our mouth, of course, we will go astray. So PDP lacked discipline.
But you were part of the administration, what were your efforts to point out and correct those anomalies in the system?
Was I not given the assignment by Mr. President to handle ethics and values?
Assignment on ethics and values
I will give you my schedule of duties and you will see it. Didn’t the elders in the party from the board of trustees, from the financiers, to governors, senators, Reps, councillors, council chairmen, party executives, didn’t they know about the constitution? When Mr. President gave me the assignment on ethics and values, it means they did not find out what ethics meant if they didn’t know.
They had the responsibility of finding out what Mr. President meant. It was unfortunate and I feel so sorry for Mr. President but believe me all I was praying for was, ‘Lord help this man to finish and walk out of Villa with his two legs, alive.’ Did you ever see the PDP government use the words ‘ethics and values?’ Did you ever hear the speech of Mr. President that contain anything about ethics and values? Mr. President appointing Sarah Jibril as the one in-charge of ethics and values was unacceptable and against the intentions of the governors and the managers of the party.
I am saying this now because government officials should not be the chief polluters. Something has gone wrong with Nigeria, I am not exonerating myself, maybe, I didn’t try enough but I was audacious enough to the point that I was maligned and blackmailed.
Mr. President had to open his mouth and said look, ‘if you people don’t have anything to say about Mrs. Jibril, leave that woman alone, that was what I met her doing before I joined politics, I heard of Sarah Jibril, ethics and values.’
Dr Jonathan knew that I was lecturing in NNPC on ethics and corporate governance. He was following up. The book I wrote on ethics for development and launched at my 60th birthday in 2005, he was the first that bought 100 copies for Bayelsa government and I am telling you that when they were to raise funds for PDP, I didn’t have the cash.
I took my book, 100 copies and said, this was what I had. The party executives ridiculed me and said they didn’t want my books, they wanted cash. Even you pressmen were surprised and said what PDP would have done was to use the books and do auction and they would have raised money.
When I am talking of philosophical ignorance, power arrogance, poor definition of politics and democracy, misinterpretation of leadership, misinterpretations of the transformation agenda in which Mr. President was talking about the innate change, philosophical change of Nigerians, I am doing that so we could move on as a leading country in Africa.
What do you mean by power arrogance in PDP?
When we were saying that we will rule Nigeria for 60 years, did we know what it meant? It meant we would have lifted up a standard not deceiving Nigerians into poverty without apologies.
It meant we were supposed to lift up high standards of integrity, accountability, high standards of ethics and goodwill. These were lacking and anybody who tried to do that in the PDP was maligned.
With all these anomalies in the polity, do you think that Jonathan’s administration recorded any success?
Yes, physical. All the programmes, the power, the roads, physical efforts were made, billions of money were spent by President Goodluck to do all the social infrastructures, but it is the conscience and philosophical infrastructures that were lacking.
And it should demonstrate to you that when people remove the application of their good minds, the application of their conscience, you may see the physical beauty but you will see chaos in people’s behaviour and it was because of this that when we started fighting insecurity, there was lack of trust, there was corruption, there was stealing and all sorts of mismanagement and those of us who dared to arrest some of these perpetuators of corruption were maligned.
You said Jonathan’s administration recorded success, can we know some of the achievements?
The rail roads were resuscitated, the airports, I am talking of physical infrastructures. A lot of roads were refurbished, new roads were opened. The starting of hydroelectric power not only in Zungeru but also in the high hills in Adamawa. You have a lot of schools established, more universities for students.
There were infrastructures in any sector you can talk about. There were partnerships that were made. In the agricultural sector, a lot of efforts were initiated in the technical sector, the ICT boomed.
He brought money and people were more concerned about doing part of the job but not changing their own attitude in pilfering and stealing part of the money.
You have on few occasions contested to be the president of Nigeria, do you still have the zeal to contest in 2019?
Everybody is a political animal. I didn’t come into politics because I think politics is my all in all and my ticket to Heaven.
So, as a mother, it is my duty to continue to nurture the conscience of the human specie. That is part of the primary assignment even President Buhari accepted that, women are the conscience of the nation and even the conscience of the world.
Conscience of the world
And one of the things I am telling you is that PDP did not help women, a lot of women were in government but they were not positioned to improve the conscience of Nigeria. That is the pain and I will not give up on that. And that is why I drew my programmes on ethics and values and the compliance.
One of the things I have been saying and I must say it again is, how can a government that has so mush money to spend on physical things give Special Adviser to Mr. President N300,000 every quarter and when I was complaining, I was seen as a big mouth because I felt I was older than everybody and because I felt I was a soldier’s wife? That was a blackmail.
We are coming from a political constituency and I am telling you from 2014 up till the time we finished, the SA did not receive one kobo. How are we supposed to help the president to achieve what we were supposed to advise him on? It was not possible, the villa blocked the chances of Mr. President.
So with this your programme on ethics and values, are you contesting election in 2019?
Why do you want to hear about 2019? I am busy for now, I am taking one day at a time. Whatever I am going to do in 2019 is it not ludicrous, can you imagine this audacity somebody is just taking office and they are already fighting for 2019. What is the 2019 they are fighting for?
Have they proved that they are ready to come up with godly governance, good governance, have they proved that there is democracy, can you see all these immunities, in corruption, manipulations? How far do you think Nigeria is going to go with this nonsense that is going on?