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Why We Are Involved In Presidential Library-Carl Masters

August 6, 2006
Q:I learnt that you are leading an effort to build a library for President Obasanjo of Nigeria.

A: Yes, I am in Nigeria for the purpose.


Q: Who gave the initial grant to start the process of building the library?

A: We did not get any grant to start with. This is purely a private effort in which everyone put 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 complete information here on me because I don?t want to 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 administration to lobby on behalf of the Nigerian government in the US. Isn't there a conflict there?

A: No, not at all. There is no conflict. Since you live in the US, you should know that outgoing presidents have a library, funded by the federal government, set up for them. 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.  Yes, in Nigeria there is no law guiding the establishment of Presidential Libraries. This is actually a 100 per cent 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 and gave it as a 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?d better do! The oil companies in Nigeria are operating fully according to Nigeria laws and as such, they will never do anything illegal.


Q: 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 do all those go according to Nigerian laws?

A: I won?t make any comment about that.


Why not?

All I know is that US companies operate fully according to Nigerian laws.


Don?t you think that any company asked to donate that refuses to do so might suffer reprisals from this very powerful President? I mean, isn?t this a form of extortion on behalf of the President?

I don?t think so; they are going to be making the donations out of their own free will.


But you also know that the Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Kupolokun, is also using his office to ask oil companies to make donations.

Well, I don?t know.


Did you know that President Obasanjo on assumption of office condemned similar foundations set up by General Sani  Abacha and that of his wife because he claimed that they established such foundations through corrupt means and they abused their offices. Isn?t it ironic that he?s doing the same thing now?

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.


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?

We are not building this library till the President is out of office... 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 which have all raised that type of concern.


Could you say how much you raised today?

I don?t know how much was 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.


Apart from yourself, who else is on the Board of Trustees?

Chief Kolade is the co-Chairman. Mr. Obasanjo?s daughter is also on the board, as well as Mr. Richard Branson?


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?

 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.

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.

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?


So, is Goodworks International making any contribution to the Presidential Library?

Yes, we will.


How much are you contributing?

I don?t know yet, we haven?t decided but we will.


Finally, could you say how much your company, Goodworks International, gets paid by the Obasanjo administration for your lobbying activities for Nigeria?

I cannot discuss that with you here. It is public information and you can always go and find out for yourself.


*This interview was conducted on the day the fund-raising of the Presidential Library project held in Abeokuta.



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