■ Says “i know i’m going; at 94, the best i can hope for myself is 6 more years”
Q• Let’s talk about national integration and cohesion in Nigeria. Our theory of evolution as a country appears fast degenerating and the thing is that we are no longer acting as a whole. If a Nigerian gives birth to a baby in America the child becomes an American citizen. But a Nigerian from the South, for instance, who resides all his life in the North will have a child that will not be allowed to benefit from the citizenship status of the host state. It is the same for a northerner who resides in the South. Why is this so?
A• This is a problem that was brought about by the level of educational disparity. The discrimination started from the more advanced part of Nigeria and then it came down to the less advanced part of the country. The South was the more advanced part of Nigeria. The issue now is that we have this disparity there. There is no doubt about it. So, those of them who are far ahead will not be prepared to come to terms with the level of those who are less advanced. It is a national problem; but I think it is only time that will solve the problem.
The most important thing is that there should be real orientation on the part of government, federal and state, with the intension to eliminating these differences. But you the media people also can contribute by way of drawing the attention of those in authority to the programmes that exist so that they can make use of them and solve the problem; secondly, by alerting the general public on how to go about overcoming these problems. You can also help citizens when they encounter difficulties on where to go to solve the problem. It is a general problem that requires synergy of citizens and those in authority. The political leaders should also be made aware of these problems so that they too can in their own way do whatever they can to minimize the problem until they are able to eliminate them altogether.
The southerner is also likely to say the problem really is from the North.
That would be an unpatriotic thinking. You see the Whiteman came to the South and it took a long time for him to come to the North. When he came to the North, not through their fault he decided to adopt the indirect rule. If you take, for instance, university education, the 60 years of Nigeria under colonial rule we can only boast of the University College, Ibadan in the whole of Nigeria. That was the only university facility we had in the whole of Nigeria as tertiary education and to be admitted you must pass the prescribed examination. That did not help the other people to catch up. But after independence, today we are not yet 60 years and yet the number of universities we have in Nigeria are so many, public and private. So, you can see if you work for yourself you do better because you will put in efforts. But if somebody is doing it for you he wouldn’t put in more effort. So, it is a problem which time will solve because the number of people now is high. Perhaps a time will come when the South will produce one and the other will produce two. By that time we would have tried to eliminate the difference between the South and the North.
Q• There appears to be in Nigeria today the absence of what some people would call the leadership recruitment process unlike in your days. That made the regions then to engage in a sort of competition, one region trying to undo the other in a competitive fashion. The system we have today has some limitations to the extent that it is like we have merely used the nearly 60 years of our independence to plan for where we are today with all signs of nepotism, religious bigotry, ethnicism manifesting in a negative way. Could the problem really be what some have said is the “unholy” marriage between the South and the North and given the name Nigeria by the British?
A• You see you can look at the problem from this perspective. The motion for independence in 1953 by Enahoro was actually moved by 1956. That was only three years interval to when we were supposed to get independence. If that had happened at that time almost 90 per cent of the senior civil servants would have either been foreigners or southerners. If that had been allowed to happen the time would have come when northerners would have felt they are being subjugated. That would not have augured well for the unity and peace of the country. If one section feels that they are being subjugated there is the tendency for such a section to agitate. That was when they realized that there was going to be a problem for Nigeria. So, they later on made a deliberate effort to get northerners into key positions in, first, northern Nigeria and later on took their own position in the national government that was equivalent to the ones occupied by southerners, maybe not entirely the same, but it was an effort that ensured that northerners were given positions at federal level and at the same time to run their government according to their capabilities. That was a problem that needed to be resolved because it couldn’t have been allowed to perpetuate. People don’t see it from that angle, but they ought to see it from that angle. It is not possible to have a nation where a section, half of the country is feeling that it is being subjugated by another half. That was what caused the delay so that efforts would be made so that gradually each side would be given a sense of belonging.
Q• Could this idea of regional police now springing up not be a sort of vote of no confidence along the path you are painting because it appears some of the people in these regions have lost confidence in the federal system and …
A• This question of insecurity is all over the country. This is why this initiative by the Southwest is seen as a kind of regional police. It is not the same like the ones we had at that time. If you allow one zone to have its own security outfit it would be a negation of the principles of the uniformity of police service so that the police are seen as a neutral body all over the country. I think the idea of having an establishment that will help in reducing the security challenges to help the police is better solved if we handle it holistically at the national level. I supported the initiative by the president when he set up a committee to advise the Federal Government on how to tackle the security problem all over the country. The committee is yet to submit its report. But I do not know whether this initiative by the Southwest is having this committee in mind or not. My concern and that of patriotic Nigerians is that when you do this you are sending signal to other regions to do their own. If this happens you will then have a situation where these regional setups will be controlled by the regional people. When this happens with the kind of political situation we have in the country today you cannot guarantee that recruitments into the various outfits would be based on merit. In that case where you have PDP in power, the recruitment will be limited to their supporters. The same thing will go for areas controlled by the APC. Ultimately, you will find out that you are helping political parties to develop a security establishment that is largely populated by their supporters or party thugs. It is not going to help the situation we find ourselves in this country. In fact, it would set up competition and it would also undermine the integrity of the country.
Q• You have raised another point for which there is the need for another question in relation to the regional security outfits. Don’t you think that the establishment of these outfits is a vote of no confidence in the central policing system, especially when some parts of the country are against the composition of those in charge of these security arms?
A• You are looking at the issue with a kind of jaundiced mind. What you need to do is to look at the number of policemen in Nigeria. Are they enough to take care of the security challenges of this country? We should ask ourselves this question. The answer is no. But for how long have we been working with this number of policemen? It is said that we have 300,000 policemen. In my opinion if we find out this 300,000 is not enough why can’t we double it and make it 600,000. The money that people are going to waste in creating regional structures can be contributed to augment the national allocation for the sustenance of the national police service and, therefore, you will have more policemen in the country and have more policemen to tackle the problem more effectively. I will suggest that we do it at a national level. Let us increase the number of policemen and create a synergy between federal, state and local government police.
Q• Let’s come to the issue of national integration and cohesion which is the main subject matter. How do we now reset Nigeria to achieve national integration and cohesion because truth be told, we have lost all to nepotism, ethnicity and religion?
A• Unfortunately, I do not believe that we can achieve a lot of success under the present situation because those in power today didn’t come to power with a defined programme. They do not care about the problem in the country. So, what we need to do is to try to find, through our political party system, where there will be a political party for Nigeria that will look at the problem of Nigeria holistically and introduce programmes that would address these problems. That party will then be able to promote national unity by way of implementing those programmes perceived to be helpful in promoting national integration in the country. The political parties we have in Nigeria today are not equipped to do such things.
A• I will ask you this question because it is like a practical consequence to what you have just said that those in power today do not have defined programme. Because it is like what we have today is one strong man, Buhari and not strong institutions that can resolve our problems in Nigeria. So, if I got you correctly it is like we have today in Nigeria passive leaders and not proactive ones. Would that be right?
A• Unfortunately, for Nigerians if this situation were to continue we will end up with one party state in Nigeria. This is the trend. See how bye-elections are conducted. You will find that if there is a bye-election no matter how strong the opposition is in such area the outcome will favour the weaker party. We have seen it. I think the problem is that of all of us in Nigeria. In fact, if there are Nigerians that can be exonerated they are the people of the Southeast and South-south; but the North and the Southwest are responsible for our problems today under this regime. I said it right from the beginning that Buhari is not competent and therefore cannot lead. There is a northerner who was my friend but because of what I told them about the incompetence of Buhari till today we are not on speaking terms. He is not a young man, but he is my junior who is above 80 years. He is an experienced person, but at that time there was this mentality that it is only Buhari that can solve the problems of Nigeria. The CPC, which was Buhari’s party was a regional party. It was not a national party. Then the ACN thought that by aligning with Buhari supporters it would be a short cut to accessing power to control four states in the Southwest and ultimately the country. They used that to get Osun State on their side and subsequently Ondo and the rest of them to support APC. Now, we are crying. It was our shortsightedness. People did not behave the way they are supposed to behaved when Buhari was looking for power.
Q• In other words, the North and Southwest foisted on Nigerians the problems they are going through now?
A• Yes, they did. Look at the votes. It is not hearsay. It is a factual thing. Look at the votes.
A• You said Buhari is incompetent.
How incompetent is he really because there are those who still believe in him as we speak and…
A• I wouldn’t answer this question. Look, you will answer that question yourself or ask other Nigerians, not me.
Q• Can we have your position on the latest row in Nigeria’s sit of power; the one between the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno?
A• Look, the problem between the Chief of Staff and the NSA is not a good omen for Nigeria. It exposes the complaints that I have been making about Buhari. I am being vindicated. There are people who have come to apologise to me for their hostility towards me because I did not support Buhari. And some of these people are even from the South. I saw it coming because I watched Buhari when he was military Head of State when he combined two powers; powers of the legislature and that of the executive. And for two years with all the powers at his control what did he achieve for Nigeria? My impression of him became confirmed when I read the interview of his ADC, Al-Mustapha Jokolo when he was giving the background to Buhari’s position when he became Head of State. Jokolo was his ADC. The interviewer asked him why Buhari didn’t perform within the two years he was in office. His answer was that it was because they asked Mahmoud Tukur and Mamman Daura to give them a blueprint and they waited for two years without the blueprint from the two people. I think we Nigerians should be patriotic this time around. We should be able to say the truth and stand by it. A whole country like Nigeria should not be governed by an individual just because people believe that he can do things. He cannot do miracle. Nobody can claim that NPN belonged to him alone. Nobody can also claim that PDP belongs to him alone.
Q• But what can you say of the APC?
A• You see Nigeria’s problem started when Obasanjo under PDP crowned himself as the leader of the party and crowned the state governors as leaders of the party in their respective states. After that nobody can be anything in Nigeria except the person has the sympathy of the president or the governors. You cannot be even an Assistant Organising Secretary in the PDP if you are not enjoying the support of either the president or your governor. And this is what is happening today. PDP was not like that before Obasanjo came into the party. Obasanjo created that problem and now every governor sees himself as party leader. Have you not seen the PDP constitution? Up till today it is not in the APC constitution. But it is being practiced and implemented. It was not like that during the NPN era and it was not like that at the inception of the PDP until Obasanjo introduced it. You can go through history and see the truth of the matter. But we will remain like this until Nigerians particularly you media people come out and fight the situation so that we can change for the better.
Q• What do you expect us to do in the circumstance?
A• We fight for a change. We should highlight the problem and file out for a change. I am too old. I am 94 years, but I will continue to fight. But without your support I cannot succeed. You can help me tell Nigerians that this system is bad. You can help me tell Nigerians that we need to change it. And you can help me tell Nigerians what type of change we need unlike the one they shouted change, change, change before Buhari came in. Nobody bothered to ask what kind of change. People are talking about restructuring. I am not against restructuring, but I want to know what it is all about. Let the protagonists come out with a blueprint. If they restructure Nigeria how would it look like? I know I am going. At 94 the best I can hope for myself is six more years. Even if I stay more than that maybe I will not be able to speak to you the way I am speaking to you now because age will catch up with me. I have been fighting for justice in Nigeria right from my youth days. I joined politics in Nigeria when I was 25 years old. I left my profession and joined politics. Till today that is what I am doing. Go to my bank account I don’t have up to N100,000 of my own, but I am happy. I have my children and I live comfortably well. But Nigerians must come and fight this thing and bring it to an end. Let all the political parties be changed into a people’s party. APC is now like an appendage of the CPC.