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Friday, 1 June 2018



Businessman and socialite Chief Kenny Martins will always be remembered for being the Chairman of the Police Equipment Trust Fund (PETF). Kenny Martins, who has also remained a major player in the political life of the country despite not being a frontline politician, revisits his time as the Chairman of PETF and simply declares that, “the police is worse off now than before.” He tells us more in this interview with Paul Ukpabio.

You were in charge of the Police Equipment Trust Fund, how do you see the police force today, do you think that the police has fared better? 

The police men themselves say it. Look at our national space today; take a look at the number of police men that has died on national duty, those who died combating crime, those who died out of accidents, it is sad. To answer your question on where they were then and where they are now, the fact is that there is no doubt that the police is worst off where they are now than where they were in 2000 and 2001 despite increase and development in surveillance services.

Most of them put up a bold face. We had guarantee to collect money from America for the police. But they said they don't give money directly to the police or to security. It is in their rules. But we told them we are a foundation. We invited the Americans and
Chief Kenny Martins
they visited Nigeria and agreed to give us the money. This was the money that was being fought for. But we never got the money and all the support from America including the equipments. In America today, there are warehouses which could be the size of Ikeja, or like a third of Abuja city as it is structured and what do you have there, open fields, warehouses, equipments, armaments, jeeps and so on. Some are theirs from generations that are no longer used; others were from war zones like Afghanistan, Iraq and so on. They packed all these things there. They demobilized them never to be used again. But most of them are still useful. They could still be useful to us here that is if the arrangement was okay. I pity the police because they could fare better. While I was there at PETF, we had a programme called the ‘Fallen Heroes’ where we gave N200,000 to the family of every policeman who died in active duty one week after the death of that officer, even before talking about the insurance money for the police officer.

You are so knowledgeable about ways you can assist the police, what if you were called to return now, would you return?

(Shakes his head) Do I want to return? The problem with the police is that they must agree that all over the world, the civilian organization superintends over security agencies. In some countries, the Head of the Police Force is a civilian. But here it is seen as an effrontery for that to happen. It is not an effrontery, you can’t run yourselves that’s because the civilians are in better position to interface and laise with different agencies on different parameters and do things beyond what security agencies can do. I can walk into the office of any nation’s Prime Minister on behalf of the president, and say that we want help for the police in our country. But I cannot do that on behalf of the police because nobody is going to help the police directly but they will help the police through a body that the president has endorsed to seek for 

that support or help. And for the police to seek to interfere with that mandate that the president has endorsed to usurp for themselves is what abrogate and distort the capacity of the mandate. That was what we saw. The police force is just to stay and receive, while the mandated body is to give and then be accountable for what they received and gave out. If the body cannot be accountable, then they will not receive any other support or help again especially from world bodies like PWC and others. So such mandated body is not accountable to the police or to the president, the body is accountable to the donors. That is why the security funding is working well for Lagos state. When the ex- Inspector General of Police Smith Musiliu came to me, he said that I should be their Board of Trustee member. I told him, I don't want to be a member. He said he wanted to upgrade the equipment in Lagos state that I should give him the format and blueprint, and I gave it to him. You can see that it is working in Lagos state.  You can also see the separation of roles there and they still work and respect each other. They are not accountable to Edgal or the other man who was there before. It is none of their business. Theirs is just to receive the police equipments and vehicles from the police trust fund. The police is not to ask who gave you the money, or how did the money to purchase the equipments or vehicles came about because it is none of their business. The same principle was to be obtainable in Abuja until IG Okiro said he wanted to take charge. He couldn't be in charge. The laws that set us up said you raise the money; you spend it as you wish. We were given the mandate to be accountable, and the federal government was not to be part of the organization. That was why we won the case in court. Our mandate was to raise N100b for the police. It was our business to raise it and our business to spend it.

You play prominent role in the background behind leaders that emerge, why haven't you contested for a public office?
(Laughs) If I decide now that I want to contest for the presidency, I will have to start campaigning against President Buhari who is my confidante, mentor and who has helped to save my life, and I would have to say that he is not qualified. I will also be campaigning against Bukola Saraki, and I will have to say that Alhaji Atiku is a bad man and that he is not qualified. I will have to say that Alhaji Kwakwanso who is still a friend till tomorrow is not qualified, not to talk about the people in Lagos. So I cannot contest. I would rather remain a kingmaker. I have contributed to the setting up of most of the major parties in this country, whether it is PDP or APC or others. Some of us were part of what became of 
ex President Ibrahim Babangida two parties that were created. Though I am not a member of any party today! When the Lord has shown you what to do in this world, you stick to it. When you move away from it, you run into problems.

That was what happened to Alhaji MKO Abiola who I consider to be the sacrificial saint of today’s democracy in Nigeria. If he did not die, we wouldn't have had this enduring democracy, but for the fight he put up, taking on the military, taking on the different arms of government which ensured that when next anyone wants to say that we don't want democracy; such a person will remember the kind of fight that he went through. And it took a man of his stature, a man of his wealth and size mentality, physically to be able to put up that fight. He paid with his life. For me, I am contented with being a philanthropist and consummate kingmaker. Whenever a kingmaker decides to become a king, there is usually wahala in town. I will never make that mistake.

How would you rate the performance of President Buhari's government?
It is not clinically good for me to decide on a pass mark. It is the people that can say. It is the people's welfare, their well being that can say. The people are left to speak again when next they vote. It is the voting pattern then that will decide. The government at this point in time, has an opportunity, to do a self assessment. I mean the all the actors, ministers, cabal, governors, commissioners, legislators all down the line, all those who hold power in trust, before they sleep at night, they should retrospect and ask themselves the question whether what they are doing is okay. It is not about the president alone. Let them forget about what the international and local news media say, let them ask themselves that inner mind question.

Would you say that Jonathan's government was a failure?

It is not right to say that any government was a complete failure. It had its good areas and areas where it failed, though on percentage basis, one may supersede the other. I have a personal issue with him; he helped saved my life when I was to be assassinated through political machinery. An assassin squad had been set up, they came to my office, set their guns and he helped me to scatter them. He called for intervention. But what no one can take from him is that he set up a near perfect electoral system. If nobody tampers with results, you will all be sure who has won. And if you win and you are denied, you can go to court and get a judgment. He should be given kudos for this. On the side of the economy well he made a mistake in giving the ex female Minister the space to run the petroleum ministry the way she did and didn’t have the discipline to control her. And when Sanusi screamed out he didn’t do much. This and others indeed was his grey areas.   

What is your take in the present agitations in the country especially as it concerns restructuring?

My problem with restructuring is that it doesn’t easily happen in a democratic system. If there was a coup then you could talk about that. Our constitution does not allow for restructuring, the type that some people are clamouring for. Our constitution says that you should discuss everything you want to say and then take it to the national assembly. Now when it gets there, those who want to kill it are there. And the matter will not see the light of day. But even if it doesn’t die there how are you going to get it done? Are you saying that all the House of Assemblies in the eastern part should merge into one, or all the governors in the eastern part of the country should stop existing that you only want one governor for the east? So it is not possible. There are people standing by to reject such a proposition. Even the little matter of resource control is still being heavily debated. Whoever wants to restructure the country will have to first of all send democracy to death. Bring in soldiers who can then reconstitute it into our constitution. So let us stop pursuing an utopian situation that is not attainable.

Is restructuring really the problem of Nigeria?

No, it is not the restructuring that is our problem, the problem is the actors, the owners and the operators of the constitution, the people who receive our monies and how they apply it. They are shouting restructuring but since they have been shouting it, have you seen anything happen. For me, I am for restructuring but I am also wise enough to know that it cannot be achieved under the present constitutional arrangement.

What do you see about Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s Coalition party, is it the next thing to do?

Chief Obasanjo is a man ahead of his time; I don’t see anything wrong in what he is presently doing. If he loves writing letters let him write his letters. It is the people he is writing to that should read the letters and consider what is written there. If what he has written about is true, then you amend your ways, and if it is not true, you ignore him. You can accept the message and ignore the messenger.

Most of the time we talk about Nigerians in Nigeria but how about Nigerians abroad?

Those people, I blame them. They are the most formidable force and they are all over the world. Last year record shows that they remitted money in billions, let them come together to form a body and influence an emergence of a president among them. They have the expertise; they are in all spheres of life. They should find relevance for themselves in the political sphere of the country.   

Do you sometimes wish that women are given more political opportunities in the running of affairs of the country and even allowed to emerge president of the country?

It happens in Europe and other places; I guess it will happen naturally here too. That is actually a good issue to pursue. Perhaps when next I am at the villa, I think I should take up that issue.

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