Former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Adamu M’uazuMore threatened to concede the 2015 election to the then candidate Muhammadu Buhari if former president Jonathan fails to do so, former justice minister Bello Adoke has revealed.
In an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Adoke gave a graphic account of how the then chairperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ahmed Muazu, wanted to announce the acceptance of the result before a decision was reached by the president.
According to Adokie, M’uazu wanted to halt the endless wait and anxiety in the country before Mr Jonathan was prevailed on to place a call that ended the tense situation.
Adokie said, “On that day (March 31, 2015) in the morning, the PDP national chairman, Ahmed Mu’azu had come to see me in the office. He said ‘my brother, look, this is the situation on the ground. I am looking at the likely consequences of the president not conceding defeat or not doing this. In the interest of the nation, if by 5 p.m. this evening the president does not concede defeat, I as the national chairman of the PDP will concede defeat on behalf of the party’.
“As the attorney general, a member of the national security council and as a frontline member, or if you permit me to say, part of the kitchen cabinet of Mr President, I knew the implications for the country and implications for the party. It will also further divide the gulf that existed in the country at that time.
“Don’t forget that Ahmed Muazu was already being viewed with a lot of suspicions, that he was not committed to Jonathan’s second term election. His coming out, irrespective of the motive, which could have been a very good motive from what he explained to me, would further confirm what those campaigning against him were saying,” he explained.
It would have escalated the Christian/Muslim dichotomy, the North/South dichotomy, the majority/minority dichotomy, and so many other dichotomies that were underpinnings at that time. So, what do I do? I knew the president was in an anguished position. Needed not to compound his problem. I needed to look at how to solve his problems. So, I went straight to the National Security Adviser and informed him that we had a situation at hand. This is what we are faced with, how do we approach the president? How do we get the president to do the right thing because the figures we were waiting for, even if it goes in favour of the president is not enough to alter the result in favour of the president? So, this is what we did.
It was while I was with the National Security Adviser strategizing on how we should approach the president that Osita Chidoka, the then minister of aviation called me. He asked about my location. I told him I was with the National Security Adviser. He said ‘You need to come down to the Villa immediately’. While I was trying to round off with the NSA, his call came in again. He said you need to come. So I went to the Villa. He met me by the Red Carpet and said there are too many hawks here. We need to move fast, to save the country. That is one man that is not given due credit, nobody recognises the role he has played. I could have cheaply told you that I was responsible but it is not true. A lot of people played a lot of roles that led to the concession by Mr President.
Let me take you back a little. Mr President himself had said that we wanted to be a guinea pig of having a free and fair election. He wanted to be remembered for reforming the electoral process. He wanted to be seen as a champion of free and fair elections, and I think to a large extent he achieved that. And then the Hawks were not looking at the larger interest. They were not even looking at the interest of the man. So, at the end of the day, when myself and Osita had compared notes, we went in. We met the president sitting down between Ngozi (Okonjo-Iweala) on his right-hand side and the vice president on his left-hand side. We had my good friend, Godswill Akpabio, the then chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and governor of Akwa Ibom state. There was Kennedy Okpara who was Executive Secretary of the Christian Pilgrims Board and about two other people.
Yes, the president was visibly agitated like any other person would be; no president wants to be defeated because that is a referendum on his tenure. Of course, Ngozi was there trying to talk to him; there was a collation of voices, everyone proffering advice. Yes, the president was right to say that he held on to his thoughts because there were so many people offering one advice or the other. Some were saying, ‘No, don’t call him’ and so on.
It was at that point that I approached the governor of Akwa Ibom and said ‘Sir, you are the chairman of PDP governors forum, I think we should tell the president at this point he should call President Buhari to concede defeat’. Probably for reasons best known to him at the time he said ‘I think we should wait for a while’. In fairness to him, he didn’t say ‘no’, he didn’t say don’t do it; he said we wait for a while. I think he was looking at the tensed situation.
Then I approached the Vice President and spoke to him in Hausa and said, ranka dade I think we should tell the president to concede. He said “No, no, no. Let them announce the result!”
I knew what they didn’t know. I knew the conspiracy and cocktail of events that could destroy the country. So, I was racing against time. I knew the ultimatum. I knew the game plan. I knew some people were talking to several people within the system, some people were talking to security agents. I knew that that morning, Ita Ekpenyong had come to see the president to tell him that the result was not looking good. I knew that Ita Ekpenyong, another fine gentleman, had advised the president to put a call to President Buhari. Nobody says all these. So, you can see in that government, like we say in the law of the house of jurisprudence, there are many mansions.
So, it was at that point, when the president was still agitated that a fine young man, the special assistant to the president on domestic matters, Dudafa shouted from the back and said ‘Daddy, we are leaving here on the 29th of May’. That gave us the impetus to now approach the president; myself, Osita and Dudafa. We stooped before him and started counselling him; we said Mr President what do you want to be remembered for? So, he stood up crisply, went to his study and placed the call to President Buhari to make the concession.
He also spoke on other issues…..
After handing over in 2015 you suddenly left the country on self-exile. What really happened?
Adoke: Thank you very much for finding time to interview me, and for trying to find out what really happened. The claim that I disappeared immediately after the transition in 2015 is not exactly true. Before the elections in 2015, I had a plan that at the expiration of my tenure as the attorney general of the federation, I was going back to school.
My initial plan was to go back to Georgetown University to read Public Policy. I was working towards that when we were working towards the election to ensure the victory of the party and the president. Unfortunately, we lost the election. Unfortunately, the president did not win. I had to now accelerate my decision on what to do. I was making the preparations to go to Georgetown University but my colleagues; my senior advisers I was working with had a different opinion that why should I go and study public policy when we had done quite a lot in the areas of international criminal law, as a member of the assembly of state party at the International Criminal Court. Africa was at the time a focal point considering the trial of Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, and the issue of Omar el-Bashir. These were burning issues and Africa was seen as being persecuted by the International Criminal Court at that time.
So it was at that point that I changed my mind about going to Washington. I had to hurriedly look for admission and when I searched for the best university that had the best programme on international criminal law, I was referred to the University of Leiden. Particularly, there was a professor of international criminal law who I have heard so much about — Professor Carsten Stahn who I have had the opportunity of meeting. After a discussion with him, I was offered admission for advanced study of Public International Law with specialisation in international criminal law. So immediately after we handed over I left the country for my studies.
PT: If your party had won the election you probably wouldn’t have gone to the school…
Adoke: Not necessarily so, except if the president had insisted that he want me to stay. My intention was that having served the country for over five years as Attorney General, I thought that I had done the best I could for my country and I thought it was time for someone else to come and take over. So, I was not particularly looking forward to reappointment. Don’t forget that I was appointed twice as Attorney General. I was there between 2010 and 2011. I was reappointed in 2011, till 2015. I also had the singular opportunity of being the longest-serving Attorney General in a civilian administration. To me, it was really a time for someone else to come in. I really wanted to leave in pursuit of knowledge and at the same time I have lined up other things that I wanted to do. My ultimate ambition was that if I came back from school I would try and find a university to lecture and share my experience with the upcoming generation.
PT: But you graduated long ago, why are you still not back home?
Adoke: Yes, I graduated in August 2016. At that point, my initial intention was to go back to Nigeria. But like you know, I have some problems with the Nigerian government. There have been a lot of accusations rightly or wrongly against my person. I worked on some very credible intelligence at that time from people from within and outside the government. I was advised not to come back at that time.
So, I had the option to go on for my PhD; I had even submitted my proposal for the PhD. At the same time, allegations were being made against me, which I needed to clear. In the end, I opted for writing about my experience. I thank people like my very senior colleague, Mr Awomolo, SAN who right from the time I was in office had always told me that I needed to document my experience in office; I needed to put down my story before other people would write my story. I am pleased to inform you that I have just finished my work and I have signed off the manuscript for my publishers. I look forward to releasing the book, latest in July.
PT: That you were thoroughly abused by the president’s wife…
Adoke: Yes. It is true that I was abused by the president’s wife. This happened on the 30th, a day before the concession. I don’t blame the president’s wife. I respect her as a person and I appreciate the fact that she voiced out her frustration and anger at me. That was better than those who pretend to be friends but would go to the president to say “Your attorney general is not with you; your attorney general is an APC member; he has sympathy for President Buhari. He is a Buhari boy”. In any case, most of those who were talking were the same people who contributed money to Buhari’s campaign. I, Mohammed Bello Adoke, never contributed money to Buhari’s campaign. A serving member of the National Assembly, a presiding officer, had called me at the time to say people were contributing money to Buhari’s campaign. I told him that at the first instance I don’t have and if I had I would not give because that would amount to treachery and disloyalty. And if I do that kind of thing even Buhari himself would not respect me. So, I didn’t do it. Of course, I always draw a distinction. I was loyal to President Jonathan throughout. I was loyal to him to the extent that I would tell him the truth and I would guide him by the provisions of the constitution. I would tell him his limits. I would tell him his powers, what he could do and what he could not do. To that extent, I think I demonstrated unquestionable loyalty to the president. Within the limits of my knowledge, I gave him the best legal advice I could give him, and I have saved a lot of situations. I tried as a constitutional purist to remain within the confines of the constitution.
The job of the attorney general is a very difficult one. From my experience, if people can’t eat, it is the attorney general; if people don’t get appointments, it is the attorney general; if people didn’t get this, it is the attorney general. So, it is a very difficult job and people who have passed through that office would tell you that it is very difficult. But I was very lucky. I had a very understanding president. I had a president who allowed me to do my work. I had a president who has a listening ear. I had a president who understood the fact that he was a constitutional president and must work within the confines of the law. On issues of the law he deferred to me. If you tell the president something is illegal he would not go ahead and do it, no matter his prejudices or preferences, and I respect him for that.
Yes, Mrs Jonathan abused me. The abuse was because there were so many misrepresentations because they believed the attorney general has the power of life and death. They don’t understand that even the attorney general’s power itself is limited. For her to have abused me she acted on what people went and told her.
PT: We learnt that she said you were a useless attorney general?
Adoke: Yes, she said that.
PT: That you betrayed her husband.
Adoke: Yes, she said that but the most important thing is that it was not the president speaking because I have had opportunity afterwards to put that before the president. Immediately after she said that to me and left, when the president came down from his private quarters, I told the president what has happened and said ‘Mr President do you think I have betrayed you?’ He said no. He does not hold that view. I thanked him, and that very satisfying to me. I don’t want to make a mountain out of it. It’s nothing. Our wives at home abuse us when they are angry and frustrated. Don’t forget also this was the first lady of a country. They had just lost power for God’s sake. She should be allowed to cry. So, I think she was just voicing out her anger and I was just a mere victim.
PT: So, what is your relationship with her now?
Adoke: Well, I have not been in touch with her, but I can say I am reasonably in touch with my boss. I have a good relationship with him and by extension, I have a good relationship with her.