Saturday, December 9, 2023


Adoke: Magu has apologised to me over my OPL 245 ordeal — and I’ve forgiven him

Adoke: Magu has apologised to me over my OPL 245 ordeal — and I’ve forgiven him
September 02
13:35 2023

Occupying the position of the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice in Nigeria could be arduous. Occupants of such elevated positions must be ready to face a myriad of battles, especially legal. Born on September 1, 1963, Mohammed Bello Adoke was Nigeria’s AGF between 2010 and 2015 under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Recently, the former AGF was interviewed by Adesuwa Giwa Osagie on Untold Stories with Adesuwa, where he discussed his experiences as an AGF, particularly the controversy on oil prospecting licence 245 known as the OPL 245 deal. He said Ibrahim Magu, the former EFCC chairman who charged him to court over OPL 245, has apologised to him.

Adesuwa: In your book, ‘Burden of Service’, you said you had a very close relationship with former President Goodluck Jonathan…

Adoke: He is a great guy and a fantastic leader. He is one of the best democrats I have come across. This is not because he is my boss. He is a democrat in practice. He is a consensus builder. He is a man who listens to advice. He is a great guy.

Adesuwa: Was that why you were a powerful attorney-general?


Adoke: I won’t say I was a powerful attorney-general. I will say I was an effective attorney-general. I think it is out of order to label yourself as powerful. I was not as powerful as people wanted to ascribe to me. I would rather say I was an influential minister, in the sense that I had the ability to push my cause. I had the confidence of my principal who believed in my judgment, gave me a free hand to do my work, and supported me. He gave me all the support to do the job. For that, I remain extremely grateful to him.

Adesuwa: You guys still remain close?

Adoke: He is my boss forever. I have the highest respect for him. He has been an excellent and great guy. He was very supportive when I was a minister and I cherish that memory.


Adesuwa: I’m going to take you a little bit back to your childhood.

Adoke: My childhood was like another childhood. I was a boy next door. I had a very humble beginning.  I’m the first son. I had three siblings who died before I was born. I was very pampered by my mother. I was named Onipe, just like how MKO was named Kashimawo, when I was born and survived. So I had a very special place in the heart of my mother. I was very close to my mother and people always say I’m very close to my mother and my late maternal grandmother. There was nothing unusual about my childhood. I went to primary and secondary schools. I was an average student and tried to work as hard as possible. I had my target and goals.

I wanted to be a lawyer. Thankfully, I became a lawyer. When I became a lawyer, after sometime and the initial years of ups and downs, I had a focus that I wanted to be a senior advocate of Nigeria to the glory of God, I became a SAN. I wanted to become the AGF and to the glory of God, I became the AGF. After that, I’m very fulfilled. Any other thing that comes along the way is a bonus.

Adesuwa: From your story, it appears it was a smooth sail…


Adoke: It could never be a smooth sail. There were challenges. You face challenges and disappointment but you need to believe in God and destiny. Whenever you get in life is your luck so I pray for luck. My mother always tells me to pray for luck. Because luck is 80 percent of everything you become in life. You may be the most brilliant lawyer in life but if you are not lucky, nobody will patronise you and you will not have the opportunity to showcase your competence and abilities. So I believe in luck and I have been very lucky in life. I’m very grateful for that. Each time, I’m going through financial difficulties somehow and somewhere, God has always come to my rescue and through some very good friends. I’m very grateful to God. I have been very lucky.

Adesuwa: What about your time in law school?

Adoke: My time in law school was a bit difficult. It also inspired me to work very hard.  I wanted to get through and not get a resit. I was on a budget. I know how difficult it was for my parents to raise money for me in the law school. It was quite interesting because I met a lot of interesting characters, good people, bad guys, and a mix of people. I was in the law school in the 80s.

Adesuwa: Was there a dormitory during that time?


Adoke: There was no dormitory for the male students at that time. There was only one dormitory, which was at Igbosere, meant for the female students. It was after we left that there was a dormitory for the students. The people who came after us were quite lucky.

Adesuwa: As AGF, the law school fell under your purview in some ways…


Adoke: Yes, in some ways. I did not sit on the Council of Legal Education but I constituted and recommended to the president — under the laws establishing the Council of Legal Education — the governing council of the law school. I also had an input in the appointment of who became the director-general of the law school, if there was a vacancy. I was a member of the body of benchers as the attorney-general at that time.

Adesuwa: I think it is very unfair when your generation refers to us as a pampered generation, especially when we complain about legitimate issues on the current state of education.


Adoke: The methodology, atmosphere, and circumstances that you were taught were more conducive for learning. We went through education the hard way but I admire your generation. Very pampered.

Adesuwa: The state of Nigerian Law School is deteriorating and falling apart.


Adoke: I can agree with you because when I saw the Bayelsa campus of Nigerian Law School, it was appalling and an eyesore. I felt that it was not conducive for learning. I’m happy that the immediate past governor of Rivers, Nyesom Wike, who is a good friend of mine and a brother, has taken a very progressive step to help revive the infrastructural decay of the law school in Bayelsa and he also built an ultra-modern law school in Port Harcourt with all the necessary facilities to make it very conducive for learning. I think more public-spirited people like him need to come up and assist in the development of our law schools. I think a lot of people will emulate him. If I do have the opportunity, I will emulate him. His efforts should be commended in terms of infrastructural development and contribution to legal development in the country. There are so many members of the bar who are richer than him but they are not making such contributions. He is my very good friend.

Adesuwa: I was going to ask you about friends in politics because, in your book, you named a lot of names. You talk about your journey to become the attorney-general. You said you have mentors who were helping you that you had to go back to Kogi state to see the governor of your state because of federal character and that you had two people from your state – you and Mr Yomi Awoniyi.

Adoke: Actually, Yomi Awoniyi was to be made a minister. He is a very gentle man, a friend, and a senior brother. Yomi was actually the one slated for the ministerial slot in Kogi. The president had assumed rightly or wrongly that I was from Benue state because of the person who was pushing my candidature to become attorney-general. So assuming I was from Benue state, there would have been a slot for Yomi in Kogi state. So when it became obvious that I was from Kogi state, a choice was to be made. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for my brother, Yomi, I was selected above him. He took it very calmly and he was among the first to felicitate with him. I commended his sense of endurance.

Adesuwa: He ended up being the deputy governor of Kogi state…

Adoke: Maybe that is his destiny. I was praying that he ends up as the governor of Kogi state and it is never too late. You can never know what God will do in the near future.

Adesuwa: You have a quote in your book that says loyalty to the nation is more important than loyalty to friends.

Adoke: You are very right. I was asked this question in the national assembly — in the event of a conflict between the president and the constitution where will my allegiance lie? I said my allegiance lies with the constitution because it is the ground norm — the supreme will of the people and that I will be on the side of the people. I will tell Mr. President that he has a limit that cannot be exceeded. I think there is nothing to debate about. I don’t think it is a question for anyone to agitate over.

Adesuwa: In your book, you said that at that time, Dr Bukola Saraki was very popular among the governors as the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and that he did not want you as the minister of justice.

Adoke: He did not want me as minister of justice because he was not comfortable with me, he did not know me and he felt that I might not serve his political interest. There is nothing wrong with that. It will surprise you that I and Bukola are very good friends. I respect him. He is one of the emerging leaders of this country. He had served as a senate president and governor. He stands out well irrespective of the political persecution. He remains one of the few political leaders in this country who has demonstrated capacity and competence in terms of leadership. I pray in years to come we are going to need statesmen like him.

Adesuwa: So you believe that the corruption allegations against him are political persecution?

Adoke: I have been a victim of corruption allegations by this immediate past government — the most incompetent government we have ever seen in this country, run by the most incompetent president that the country has ever had. If those are the people accusing us of corruption then you better ask the question “how?” The corruption allegations against this past government are emerging. Let’s wait for a while and we will see what will happen. Let’s see what will come out of Emefiele’s investigation, the Air Nigeria case, the Paris Club saga, and other things that will be investigated. After which, we will know those who are really corrupt, those who try to run this country dry, and those who made sacrifices for this country in terms of service.

Adesuwa: I saw where you are being quoted as saying time will vindicate you.

Adoke: Yes, time is vindicating me. When we talk about the OPL 245, I’m sure you know there have been many judgments and trials in several jurisdictions. I come out unshattered. I can oblige you the copies of the judgments and I’m sure you will have read where my efforts and industry were commended contrary to what the scavengers and rogues in this country wanted to prove.

Adesuwa: Who are these scavengers and rogues?

Adoke: They know themselves. If I named them now, I would have betrayed my book, which is coming out on OPL 245 in December.

Adesuwa: So you have a book just on OPL 245?

Adoke: Yes, because Nigerians deserve to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth on OPL 245  — and the scavengers, idiots, and those who really ruined this country and tried to make a scapegoat of innocent Nigerians and I’m not going to go down without a fight. Do I look like an idiot? I’m not going to go down without documenting history. By the time you read my book on OPL 245, I hope they will not stone some Nigerian leaders in this country, including those who call other people corrupt. But they represent the very symbol of corruption. Don’t push me to call names.

Adesuwa: There are four recurring characters in your book, one is the former Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo.

Adoke: He’s a shame. I don’t want to talk about it.

Adesuwa: The second one is former EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu…

Adoke: He has apologised to me and I have forgiven him. I bear no grudge and I sympathise with him over his ordeal. Well, I am happy about what he went through and he tasted the dose of his own medicine. I’m happy that he realised that he wronged me and had the courage to say sorry and that was sufficient. I wish him well and I have genuinely and honestly forgiven him. I’m one of those who promote his issues because I felt he was misguided, he was used, didn’t have the emotional intelligence, and allowed himself to be used. Having said that much, he had the courage to apologise to me and regretted his actions.

Adesuwa: Another person which we should have discussed is Mohammed Abacha.

Adoke: I have forgiven him. His father was nice to me. That is what a lot of people don’t know. If I was in a position to have helped Mohammed Abacha if the context was right, I would have helped him. If the situation were right, I would have helped him. But under that circumstance, which was not right for me, and like I said, my allegiance is to the law, fairness to justice, and to equity, and not to individuals. So that’s why. But I see him as a younger brother. I see him as a friend. We talk, meet, and banter. I don’t bear grudges.

Adesuwa: Did you support his candidacy?

Adoke: Ask him. In 2015, I thought he was the best person to be the governorship candidate for the PDP in Kano. Notwithstanding, all the antics at the time because I have this ability to be objective. Like I told you, even if he was nasty, his father was nice to me and that should come first and should be considered. His father is Sani Abacha. He was nice to me irrespective of other opinions anybody has about him.

Adesuwa: What was your personal relationship with him?

Adoke: Interesting, I would rather not say.

Adesuwa: You talk about your run for attorney-general. There are quite a few people who want to pull you down. You mentioned a human rights lawyer. There were quite a few but you named a human rights lawyer.

Adoke: You know him.

Adesuwa: Did he run for office?

Adoke: Yes, he has contested.

Adesuwa: Governorship?

Adoke: I would leave that to your imagination. I must set the record straight. Don’t forget that I’m a damaged brand globally. It’s going to take me some time to get myself on my reputation but that has been reputational damage and I have my action plans.

Adesuwa: Before you became an attorney-general, you were a very successful lawyer and you had a legal practice. There is one particular case I want to ask you about which is the Pfizer case.

Adoke: I have a disclosure agreement with my clients.

Adesuwa: Can I quickly confirm? The Pfizer case — was Professor Yemi Osibanjo a counsel?

Adoke: I can’t remember.

Adesuwa: So you said EFCC was part and parcel of the brief process.

Adoke: The main contention was that they brought an American lawyer and they wanted to hand over the case to them. The lawyers wanted 33 and a half percent of whatever was recovered from the Halliburton case and that whatever decision they take, as the attorney-general does not have a say. I said, ‘I’m not a moron and cannot cede my powers to them’. I swore by the Quran to upload the letters of the constitution. I’m even conscious of the circumstances in which I came to the office. I’m aware and I stand by that dictate that a corrupt attorney-general can bankrupt this country and I don’t want to bankrupt my country so I did not participate in any act of corruption. For those of them who did, time and events will expose them. It will come sooner or later.

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