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“We Found Corruption Everywhere” Says Joda Who Chaired Buhari’s Transition Committee

Malam Ahmed Joda chaired President Muhammadu Buhari’s Transition Committee, which interfaced with former President Goodluck Jonathan’s team.

In an exclusive interview with DailyTrust Newspaper, the ‘super permsec’ of the 1970s and 1980s, would not reveal any of the recommendations his committee made to President Buhari. But he was forthcoming on the state of the nation and the challenges the new government will face in the next four years.

What would you consider to be the greatest challenges you face in carrying out this assignment?

Nigeria should be ready to face a lot of challenges. The biggest in my view is corruption; it is everywhere. There is no department, no ministry that can be said to be free of corruption. There is nowhere that fraud does not take place on a daily basis.

It has become embedded in the minds of the people because the rule books have been thrown away and everybody is doing what they like. Nobody follows the rules anymore. You employ people anyhow and pay them anyhow and I think you in the media have a fairly idea of what is going on and are surprised how bad things are. I often wondered, since the beginning of this exercise, if the PDP and president Jonathan had won the election what would have been the fate of Nigeria.

It would have been more difficult for them to face the challenge because they had been telling people that everything was good; the roads are good. They were not talking about the absence of light in the house, but they were talking about the capacity to produce electricity is 12,000 megawatts out of which only 5,000 could be released. But even out of this 5,000 at the time they were doing the handing over notes only 1,300 megawatts were being generated, but they were talking about 35,000 kilometers of distribution lines and so on, but nobody told us the real problem – that there is no gas, or there is no capacity to transmit the electricity that could be generated; that even when it is delivered at the point of distribution the distribution system is so weak that it can’t take it. I personally didn’t know that until I got into this exercise.

Now, if they came back, they couldn’t wake up in the morning and say we can’t pay salaries, we couldn’t do this or even pay contractors and might even not be able to pay pensions and gratuities or finance any of our operations. We were told at the beginning of the exercise that the government was in deficit of at least N1.3 trillion and by the end people were talking about N7 trillion; everything is in a state of collapse. The civil service is bloated and the military and police, if you are a Nigerian, you know what they have been facing for a long time; everywhere is in a mess and these things have to be fixed. Now back to your question about the delay of appointment of ministers and other key officials. These are large numbers of people; in my experience as a civil servant one of the most difficult tasks is to get a list of names to appoint to existing appointments. Buhari, as a politician, knows a large number of people but not intimately. They have come and joined the political party in which there is Buhari and his knowledge of them can only be superficial.

The only people he will know intimately are his friends, his relations and colleagues at work. But when you are forming a cabinet the Constitution says the entire country must be represented. Now in Benue, for example, there may be at least 20 to 30 people who can claim to be ministers and who by their paper qualifications and working experience are suitable materials for appointment but is that all you want from a minister? If you want to know the integrity of a person, his performance at his workplace, his relations with his workplace or even with his community and other weaknesses he has, you have to have all these and analyze them. If Buhari came to be president in Nigeria on his claim that he is a man of very high principles, a man of integrity and courage, then you can’t go to him as a leader of your community and say ‘Joda is a good man, appoint him minister because he has his paper qualifications.’ You have to investigate these things so that they meet, not only the criteria you laid down, but your own expectation of the man; it needs some time. We have made mistakes before; I have known of ministerial appointments during the military days when they had announced the name of somebody is a similar name to somebody else and the young man arrived to be sworn in or you appoint a minister and suddenly something surfaces.

I don’t know where you were when Murtala was the head of state, but if you can go and read back the newspapers of that time (August 1975) you will see that there were at least two people in the military government; serving officers who had to be replaced immediately because no checks were carried out on them. In the past, when you were prepared to ignore security reports as had happened in the recent past in Nigeria you can appoint anybody, but Buhari says he is going to work with perfect people and the he appoints someone only to discover a week later or a month later that there is really no way you can keep him there; what happened? How did the man get there? But I am not making excuses; I am talking to you as a former civil servant who has had some experience of how things are done.

For example, to appoint a chairman of let’s say the cement company in Yandev or Ashaka; I was permanent secretary industry and we had about 30 of such companies in which government had majority shares at that time and we had to work on assembling names for every one of these thirty companies. We had to produce about 5 or 6 people times 30 and it was extremely difficult. Because if I tell you I want somebody you will go and bring your friend or schoolmates. It is unavoidable because you can only bring names of people you know and politically there are people vying for these things.
Having served as chairman of transition committee in 1979.

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