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Interview with Carlton Masters, Obasanjo's multi-million dollar lobbyist

January 17, 2006
Interview with Carlton Masters: the man behind Obasanjo?s multi-million-dollar Private Library by Omoyele Sowore Nigeria is a country that is bedeviled by hunger, unemployment, decayed infrastructure and most importantly a decimated educational system. President Obasanjo continues to thrive, having built for himself a multi-billion naira farm. He is also building a University known as ?Bell University? to be based in Otta, Ogun State before or soon after he leaves office. The latest of these presidential initiatives is a $50 million privately funded Presidential Library for President Obasanjo when he leaves office, the completion of which is to coincide with his 70th birthday. By the admission of the man behind the project the Presidential Library will complete by March 6, 2007. I tried to locate Mr. Carlton Masters in Nigeria when I got wind of his activities on behalf of the Presidential Library to which he is the Co-Chairman. When I first called him he was in the midst of the fund raising ceremony, he couldn?t speak to me he said. I gave him my number to call me back after telling him that I wanted to know what all these was about, especially knowing that he works for Goodworks International, a lobby group based in Atlanta, Georgia and Washington DC involved in an annual multi-million dollar contract with the government of Nigeria since 1999. I tried to locate Mr. Carlton Masters in Nigeria when I got wind of his activities on behalf of the Presidential Library to which he is the Co-Chairman. When I first called him he was in the midst of the fund raising ceremony, he couldn?t speak to me he said. I gave him my number to call me back after telling him that I wanted to know what all these was about, especially knowing that he works for Goodworks International, a lobby group based in Atlanta, Georgia and Washington DC involved in an annual multi-million dollar contract with the government of Nigeria since 1999. Masters is a smooth talking individual with a Caribbean accent who said he?s an American citizen and tried to bully me when I said, I was concerned about his activities in Nigeria. When I called him on Monday to confirm a few things regarding the interview, he went off on me threatening again that he was an American citizen (He later told me that he is a naturalized American originally from Jamaica). When his bully tactics didn?t work on me, he had his lawyers call me from Chicago to ?put me on notice? that they will sue me, if I publish anything ?slanderous or libelous? against their client especially if I make any references to ?conflict of interest?. EXCERPTS OF THE INTERVIEW: Q: I learnt that you are leading an effort to build a Library for President Obasanjo of Nigeria? A: Yes, yes, I am in Nigeria for that purpose; I have been here since Thursday Q: So, who gave the initial ?grant? money to start the process of building a Library, can you please tell me? A: We did not get any grant to start with; this is purely a private effort in which everyone puts in his or her own resource to start off the process we are witnessing today. As regards those others involved in this I don?t have information complete information here on me; because I don?t want give any wrong information. But as of today I can tell you that Chief Christopher Kolade, the Nigeria Ambassador to the UK is very seriously involved. Q: My understanding is that your company Goodworks International is paid by the Obasanjo government to lobby on behalf of the Nigerian government in the US isn?t there a conflict there? A: Yes that is correct. No, not at all there is no conflict, since you live in the US you should know that out-going presidents have a Library set up for them and funded by the Federal Government. Cuts in: My concern here is that Presidential Libraries in the US are not built by outside lobby groups who work directly for the government and also in the US there is an enabling law that guides fund raising efforts for such projects? A: Please, don?t give me that concern stuff! Yes, in Nigeria there is no law guiding the establishment of Presidential Libraries. This is actually 100% private effort; I am not getting paid to do this. I am just a member of the Board of Trustees and doing this purely because of my love for the president of Nigeria. Q: But we know that you have been sending letters to oil companies and individuals doing business in Nigeria to donate money to this library that you claim is ?Private? also we know that the state Governors pooled money together and gave as donation, isn?t that public money? A: Yes, we sent out letters to oil companies and we hope that they will all donate generously, they better do! The oil companies in Nigeria operating fully according to Nigerian laws and as such they will never do anything illegal. Cuts in: What about Halliburton and its subsidiary in Nigeria and all the gigantic fraud they have been involved in Nigeria since the Liquefied Natural Gas scandal and recently the fraud at Nigeria?s equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service, the oppression and the devastation of the Niger Delta environment, how are those according to Nigerian laws? A: I won?t make any comments about that Q: Why not? A: All I know is that US companies operate fully according to Nigerian laws. Q: Don?t you think that any company asked to donate and refuses to do so might fear reprisals from this very powerful President, I mean, isn?t this a form of extortion on behalf of the President? A: I don?t think so; they are going to be making the donations out of their own free will. Q: But you also know that the Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Kupolokun is also using his offices to ask oil companies to make donations A: Well, I don?t know Q: Did you know that President Obasanjo on assumption of office did take over similar foundations by General Abacha and that of his wife because he claimed that they established such foundation through corrupt means and abused their offices, isn?t it ironic that he?s doing the same thing now? A: I don?t know what kind of Nigerian you are; all the press people are here at the launching today, why are they not raising such questions. The President has come a long way and we are doing this to give him something befitting. Q: Can?t he wait till he is out of office before building a library of this size, it is apparent that the fund raising process is unfair, most people or companies doing this are either seeking favors or too afraid to decline making donations? A: We are not building this Library till the President is out of office. (But then he says) the Library will be completed by March 6, 2007 and handed over to the President as his 70th Birthday gift, we hope that by then the election of a new president would have taken place. You also know that raising fund for this type of project when he is out of office will be difficult. I like to refer you to certain publications in Nigeria who have all raised those type of concern Question: Can you tell me how much you guys raised today? Answer: I don?t know how much we raised exactly, but I can tell you that I am really proud of Nigerians, they came out in large numbers and made contributions to the project. You should be proud as a Nigerian today. Question: Apart from yourself, Mr. Carlton, who else is on the Board of Trustees? Chief Kolade is the Co-Chairman; Mr. Obasanjo?s daughter is also on the boardd as well as Mr. Richard Branson?. Q: See, that is part of the problem I am talking about, why would the owner of Virgin Atlantic be on the Board of the Presidential Library and you tell me that there is no conflict, this guy is trying to start an airline in Nigeria? A: Listen up, let me explain to you. I am really very sensitive about this conflict of interest issue, and I need to remind you that I am an American citizen and I will act strongly against you if you publish anything negative about me. Q: Sir, let me be clear that any kind of threat will not resolve this issue really, it will serve the reading public better if we go to the main issue and abandon this abrasive style, this will be the second time that you will use these type of language of threat on me. It simply doesn?t fly with me. You should know better than that by now. A: I am not threatening you, I just need to be clear to you that there is no conflict here, we are building a Library for the President of Nigeria and this project is the first in Africa. I might have come off a little? but I might have come off that way because I am a passionate person. I want to apologize if you feel that way? Q: So, is Goodworks International making any contributions to the Presidential Library? A: Yes, we will. Q: How much are you contributing? A: I don?t know yet, we haven?t decided but we will. Q: Finally, Mr. Carlton, can you please tell the reading public how much your company, Goodworks International gets paid by the Nigerian government for your lobbying activities? Q: I cannot discuss that with you here, it is public information, and you can always go and find out for yourself.

   

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