“Money Was Not my Thing” – JJ Rawlings Clears the Air on Being Bribed by Former Nigerian President

Reports have revealed right from the horses’ mouth that Nigeria’s Abacha Gave Rawlings $2M…

Following recent comments on corruption made by JJ Rawlings against the National Democratic Congress (NDC), it seems the former president wants to clear his own records as regards the issue of bribery and corruption.

See: JJ Rawlings Exonerates Nana Addo; Accuses NDC of Corruption

After 18 long years, former President Jerry John Rawlings opens up on the Nigeria bribery allegations; says Nigeria’s Abacha actually gave him some money as was alleged during his regime.

Those who have come of age under Rawlings regime would be able to recall that in 1998, bribery allegations rose up against him just like it is rising up against our current president.

At that time, President JJ Rawlings was alleged to have received some huge sums of money from the then Nigerian President, Late Gen. Sani Abacha. The revelation was first reported then, by The Chronicle. While some sources held that Nigeria’s Abacha Gave Rawlings $2M, others alleged it was $5M.

Just as the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) are doing now, they also reprimanded Rawlings over the act and pushed for a parliamentary probe on the matter. However, the majority together with Rawlings’ ministers,  shot down the proposal, vehemently defending the president to the utter frustration of the minority NPP. Rawlings’ words:

“The point I want to make here is around that period, we were preparing for constitutional rule. We needed funds for some activities and we got contributions from few places. The interesting thing is that I never went to, or asked Abacha for any contribution. And this is something that impressed me about the man.”

“I didn’t ask him for a penny. But he obviously understood certain situations, our situation, and graciously sent me a small suitcase of money. I think there were two cars or three that came to the Air Force station to look for me. I was going for fly at that afternoon. So, I was at the Air Force Station when a gentleman came over there and when he said he had a message from Abacha, I cancelled my flight and they set out to wait for me. I drove after them to the caste. As we got out of the car and we were about to move up, this elderly gentleman, Gwarzo he is called, had one of his assistants try to bring out a suitcase from the boot of a car.”

“I had an idea of what it could be. So I said: ‘Leave it, shut your boot and let’s go upstairs first and talk’. He said he had brought something from Abacha. I said two things: ‘I hear you people don’t provide assistance without the world hearing it with a twist’. He just kept quiet looking at me. I said two: ‘Don’t think that when you bring this, whatever it is, that would shut me up from criticizing if I think you are wrong, or if I disagree.’ He then opened his mouth and said ‘Sir, we need you more than you need us’.I am quoting him. He didn’t speak much. He was a very noble, quiet looking and elderly man. He was respectable looking. In fact, what he said simply disarmed me. So I said it was okay. He could send for the parcel.”

“His assistant then went and brought in the parcel: 2million dollars: new notes packed in plastic bags, fairly heavy. We left it in the sitting room. We finished with some niceties and he left. I informed some of my close comrades of the parcel from Abacha. I gave away about 350,000 dollars to two people for urgent disbursements. One of our senior colleagues who was in charge of an exercise drew down certain amounts.We went on like this until the suitcase was exhausted.”

“Later when Abacha died and your country instituted an investigation into his assets, I read in one of your newspapers that Mr. Gwarzo, this fine gentleman, allegedly said that he brought me 5million dollars. I am glad I still have that suitcase. It shocked me a bit that such a fine respectable man could make such a claim. The amount he mentioned shocked me. That he could tell such a lie. My colleagues knew about it. I didn’t know why I should be keeping these things secret. Moreover, I didn’t have any personal account to be putting these things into anyway. Besides we needed to use them for some national needs.”

“But lo and behold! Many years down the line when I fell out with some of my colleagues and they decided to get poisonous, two of them wrote a book on district assembly elections and the decentralization programme, and inserted in somewhere, when it was absolutely not necessary, something about Gwarzo’s supposed $5million just to poison my name. I just feel sad that Gwarzo should do this. I am prepared to be subjected to polygraph test. May be that’s what he needs also.” 

“When General Abubakar took over, I told him to watch out. That that report in the papers about $5million was $2million and not $5million. He didn’t make any comment. He didn’t say anything. Obasanjo took over I thought I should straighten it out with him. The comment he made was: ‘Yes, that is how they behave. When they are given something to take somewhere, they will take the majority, the bigger share.’ That was the comment Obasanjo made,” he said.

“I wasn’t used to those things. Otherwise, I could have called Abacha. I don’t even think I even called him over that. Maybe I should have called him to say thank you for the $2million and then he would have called his people to order. You see what I mean? I wasn’t used to money being thrown up and down. Money was not my thing. Yes, we were poor enough as a country, but we were working day and night to making sure we put the country on a solid foundation for economic explosion. We had our pride and our dignity was not out for sale,” he added. 

JJ Rawlings made this disclosure while speaking to The Guardian Newspaper in Nigeria. This revelation is coming at a time when incumbent President is as well being accused of bribery and corruption as regards the car gift he received from a Burkinabe contractor.

Just yesterday, minority MPs disclosed that they are now ready to commence impeachment process against President Mahama on the issue.

However, a lot of Ghanaians believe that the minorities are just bluffing. But, what if they mean business and take drastic moves in fulfillment of their threats? Who knows?