•Chief KENNY MARTINS Tells City People
Everyone knows popular socialite and politician, Chief Kenny Martins. The handsome gentleman has been a permanent feature in not just Nigeria’s mainstream politics, but also in matters of national discuss that are hinged on making Nigeria a better place. Long before and even after his appointment as the National Coordinator of the Police Equipment Foundation, a position that saddled him with the responsibility to raise funds to equip the Police and other security agencies, Chief Kenny Martins has always been desirous for a better Nigeria. When it comes to taking positions on matters of national importance, he puts everything on the line and says it as it is without giving a hoot whose ox is gored. Expectedly, this has often gotten him going into collision with governments of the day. And in some cases, he’s paid dearly for it. Chief Kenny Martins can be brutally frank with the country’s leaders whenever he has to take position on issues. He is fearless. He says it as it is. He has absolute aversion to situations that will call to question his integrity and hard earned reputation. He is intensely passionate about project Nigeria. Those who know will tell you that if you want to incur the wrath of Chief Kenny Martins, challenge him on his contributions to the country he loves so dearly and he will most certainly ask you if you have lost as much as he did while fighting and insisting that our leaders do the right thing. If truth be told, if this prominent son of Ogun state was not as influential and as well connected within the corridors of power, he probably would’ve been history by now, that is how fierce his battles with past governments have been, especially in those dark days of the Abacha military era.
Two weeks ago, Chief Kenny Martins was at City Peoples Award for Excellence where, as one of the distinguished guests of the night, he helped present awards to several award recipients. He enjoyed himself at the event and spent quite some time before taking his leave. Shortly before he left the event, this incredibly intelligent and articulate politician had a chat with City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290) during which he opened up on his struggles to see a new and better Nigeria and some of the pivotal contributions he has made to help avert situations that may have turned really tragic and messy in the country. He also talked about his book which would be officially published any moment from now. And from what we gathered, that is one book project that could shake the country when finally released. Enjoy excerpts of the interview.
To begin with, sir, how have you been able to remain relevant, remain in mainstream politics after being in the limelight for so many decades such that till today, politicians that are your contemporaries and even the younger ones, still see you as a reference point and show you tremendous respect whenever they meet you?
I will tell you, really, number one is the fact that I have God on my side. But secondly, it was at the age of 37, with a plan to retire from business having made so much money in 1993, that I decided to go into politics. But something fundamental happened that affected me, my future and my business and I swore that I would help to bring a government that will make the country better. That was the beginning of my involvement, I won’t say in politics, but in the power game. I’m not a politician seeking anything to gain. I don’t want to be a senator, or a governor, I do not even want to be a president, but I believe that I’m a nationalist, a patriot who believes that Nigeria can be better. So, I see myself as a statesman, somebody who is fighting for the betterment of Nigeria because it is in the survival of and betterment of Nigeria that I can thrive, that my business can work, that my children can do well and the rest of us can flourish. So, that is the basis of my relevance. I have it in me that grace to make people. I help people, using my reach and network which I developed over time to help people become what they want o be with God’s guidance. So, I’m renowned for that. That’s the relevance. I’m seeking nothing but the betterment of the people and the nation.
I know for a fact that, over the years, you have always been very vocal when it comes to letting government of the day know where you stand on issues and often times, things get a little rough. How have you been able to handle the storms that came your way during those difficult periods?
Again, it is just the grace of God. I have taken on practically every government since the government of General IBB and it caused me my freedom, my business, I’ve been in incarceration many times and it even cost me the blood and life of my friends. Some of my friends have have been assassinated because I was able to wriggle out of the situation. That still remains one of the most painful times and periods in my life. I still remember an instance when I was to be assassinated by the government of General Abacha and because God was on my side, this same General Buhari of today and Justice Mamman Nasri and late Galadima of Malumfachi, intervened and went to Abacha and said nothing must happen to Kenny Martins. He asked, who is the boy? They said, he’s our boy, nothing must happen to him. So, nothing happened to me and by the time I was invited by the then NSA, Alhaji Gwarzo and he gave me clean bill of health and told me nothing will happen, I did not know that my closest and greatest partner, Alhaja Suliat Adedeji, was also on the hit list. If I had known that day, I would’ve made a case for her in the villa. They asked me what else do I want, I said nothing, that I’m just here so that nobody kills me. I didn’t know my friend was already a marked target, she was killed two weeks later in her house in Ibadan. Its still the saddest day of my life simply because we were doing a different politics. That Abacha government fell, I have seen so many people take credit for it, but wait until I publish my book and I have told your publisher that he will be one of those who will assist me in doing that, then the world will know some of the strengths, the weaknesses and the end of that government and also the strengths and weaknesses of other governments.
I have taken on a civilian government a few years ago and I was to be incarcerated because I asked for more parties to be registered. It took the intervention of the then president, President Obasanjo to say, okay, you guys can detain Kenny, but if you detain him, you should be ready for the consequences when he comes out because if you cannot stop him politically, then give him the party. Today, that’s why we have these hundred parties we have. I championed this alongside other nationalists whose names I will mention in that book. And every one of them whom we took on then have become beneficiaries of this fight that we fought to create multiplicity of parties and liberalisation of the democratic space. So, I did it for the over 200 million people, I didn’t do it for myself. I have been offered ministerial positions from the days of Abacha and many other governments but I say I don’t want. Let me just remain who I am and be able to be a maker of people.
What’s your driving force, sir? What has fired you on to keep doing this for so long?
You see, give me a good president who can listen and we’ll work together with that president on a 12 point agenda, Nigeria will be Dubai in that eight years of that particular president because no country develops by virtue of its own resources. All the great countries in the world today didn’t develop because of their money or resources. Same way Nigeria too cannot develop with its own money. We cannot develop power on our own. I have brought concepts to Nigeria where we can develop power on our own with the resources and technologies of other countries but we won’t find a taker. We cannot develop our medical situation by ourselves, we spend two billion dollars every year on medical tourism, but we need to invite others, take their money, build the hospitals and pay them back by keeping our people here to spend those 2million dollars those ones gave us to develop, but Nigeria and it’s government will not accept. They say it’s a state of private sector, but the truth is, it is not a state of private sector thing. Go to Dubai, Emirate Airline, it is government sponsored and guarantee but it’s private. See what they are doing with Dangote, guaranteeing some of its debts, that is the way to help private sector to develop. You guarantee them, they put their own money and resources and their intellectual property. Government stands behind them and they are able to do it and that’s what develops a country.
If you had your way this very moment, sir, what sort of Nigeria would you love to see?
I want a Nigeria with a listening president who will put together technocrats and give private sector and private ideas opportunity to flourish. Over centralization, over dependence of government on itself, both at federal, state and even local government level is the reason why Nigeria is dying. The governors and those at the executive power at federal level, at the national assembly, think so much of themselves without taking the input of the other 200 million people and that’s why the country is stunted in it’s growth.
Would you say it has been worth the struggle for you despite all of the frustrations and disappointments you have had to contend with over the years?
Oh, yes, it is. I was with a man like Chief Akinloye in the last 20 years of his life. He calls me my leader but I know he’s my leader but he’s a man who leads you by being behind you. And when he was going to die, he said, Kenny, I’m sorry I didn’t see the Nigeria of my dream but the way you’re going, I believe you will see the Nigeria of your dream. I was with somebody like Justice Mamman Nasir, who when he was going to die, told me that, Kenny, I’m sorry, we didn’t see the Nigeria of my dream but I hope you will see it. My prayer is that I will see the Nigeria of my dream. I’m proud that I am a major engineer in the Nigerian political system and I have assisted in averting so many disasters that would’ve blown this country into pieces, that would’ve even taken the lives of some of our leaders. I’ve done that, I don’t ask for credit. I don’t even ask for glory. Most of the things I do, I allow the leaders to take the glory for it and it has helped Nigeria to cross some of it’s major huddles. We couldn’t have crossed the Yar Adua-Jonathan stalemate if some of us, not some of us, if I didn’t join in creating through the iniative and the utterance of SAN Olujimi Solution is Doctrine of necessity. I sold it to the leader of that time, and both the senate, reps, and then Mr. Nduakan, the AGF of the period, adopted Doctrine of Necessity within a space of 3 days and that was how Jonathan became a full blown president because there was a stalemate, there was a vacuum. All of these would be captured in my book when you read it. But I allowed the leaders to take credit. I remember when they got the last bail for Abiola that he didn’t take, that led to Kudirat’s death, I engineered the bail. I saw people all over the world take credit but do I need to worry? The fact was that the man was granted the bail, unfortunately, Kudirat stopped that bail because she wouldn’t want him to come out without the mandate. But, like I said, I don’t take credit for these things, all I want is to see Nigeria working. Nigeria is working, no doubt, but Nigeria could work far better than it is working at the moment.
It will be a shame, sir, if by the next dispensation the government does not take advantage of people like you who are sincere, who have shown total commitment to seeing a better Nigeria and get you involved in some capacity. If you were called, sir, would you be glad to be a part of the government?
I’m glad to say that every president since that tail end of Babangida’s government has taken my word to make things happen. I must give that credit to them, never mind that my footprint is not in the action. The concepts I’ve given over the years have been totally utilized, executed to the letter and it has changed things. It has saved lives. It has saved imbroglios, chaos and anarchy in the nation. It has made us to progress, and for this I am grateful. When we were going to cancel the five parties of Abacha and bring in the two parties, it was only God, General Babangida and myself. So, I want to say that every president that has come to power has listened to me to a certain degree. But I want the one that will listen a whole lot more. And I don’t need a position to function, I only need the one that will take the advice that people like us have and execute it to the letter and Nigera will be the Utopia that we want in less than 4 to 8 years.
Finally, sir, can Nigerians continue to count on people like you to always stand on the side of the truth regardless of the frustrations you often come up against?
Oh, yes, everybody knows me now, I always say it as it is. They either like me or don’t like me. When we did the Police equipment foundation and we saw ten years in advance that Boko Haram was coming and we went round all the Emirs in the north and we said, look, there is a fundamental Islamism coming that will destroy the north and affect other parts of country, we are putting a foundation in place and all of you will be the chief security officers of your domain. And we raised money, and we equipped them and we gave vehicles and things like that until the same bad belles came and scattered it. But today it has caught up with us. Police is not equipped. I have been asked by different IGs to come and start but how do I work with Police when I know that you do not know where they stand. But President Yar Adua was a hundred percent with us and he sacked the IG of that time, Okiro. He said you don’t want this boy to have peace and help me, I’m sacking you. But unfortunately Jonathan could not continue which is not a good thing on his side because he was also a patron of the foundation. We lost that initiative. By the time Boko Haram came, Police were not equipped. I don’t want to say it’s too late now but a lot of things can still be done to bring back the hands of time in terms of security and put Nigeria on a safer, more secure platform.