How do you see the spate of killings in Nigeria especially in the Northern part of the country and as a retired military officer, what do you think is the way forward?
By the grace of God, I am in my mid-70s, I have never seen things happening this way and people just calm down. We don’t know who is next. The killing of even one Nigerian should bother all of us. I suggested that this is not a time for partisan politics. It is real national security matter. I suggested that those in government must deliberately call a meeting of elders from all the corners of this country to talk as a Nigerian family. That is the way I see things been done when I was young. They must leave their personal ambition and interest to talk about the progress of this country.
The religious leaders, kings, eminent Nigerians, past presidents who are still alive; these are not normal times. From my perception, the gorge between the tribal groups are getting wider and we are heading to a national election. May I suggest that the managers of government should call emergency meeting; shut the door down, talk some serious issues, come out with proffered solutions.
I am in government and you are in opposition, this is not the time for that, that should not be. Every human being is a potential politician. I have the privilege to travelled the length and breadth of this country, what a beautiful country. The quality of people in the country, yes, we have different cultures, languages, but collectively all of these are assets, the colossus that would be the envy even in the civilised world. There is no profession in the world today, that you will not find a Nigerian. We must bring a proposal to find a solution to the problems.
What is now the sudden surge, the killings and the mindlessness in the society has created alot of fear. There are three things in life you don’t control. The day you are born, you don’t control which society or tribe you are going to be born to and when you will exit. If you have that at the back of your mind, you will love your neighbour as yourself. It is in the commandment.
As I have said, I have been around this nation through military and been a politician, this country is blessed. We may not have same resources, but everybody has been endowed with one resource or the other.
What does it matter if we are honest to ourselves? You see the main thing in life is the fear of God and the love for human being. You don’t know when you will exit. We have been so polluted in mind, we have stayed in the state of bigotry beyond comprehension. What will be the outcome as we are heading to election? Let us fear God and remove the toga of greed, rivalry, personalised ambition. Let the corporate resources be for the need of the people. I don’t know why we drifted this long, but it is abominable.
We should build up a nation, it is already eroded. In the interest of our nation, no individual can resolve this matter, no professor alone can solve the matter.
Your party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with about 38 other political parties leading to the formation of the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP. What does the PDP stand to gain from this alliance?
Let us not look at it from the gain perspective. This nation must survive. I don’t want to be partisan but factual. One, we are going to have a party that will harnessed the resources of the nation. If you look at it, from 1960, have you ever had of political party with ideological vision? The provision of basics matter, good education, good housing, employment for graduates even those who are not graduates. Sustaining and gaining investment for sustainable economic activities. Good arrangement for agriculture, not this fake one. The Almighty God created every nation and gave us what we needed for survival, all we need to do is to remove greed and selfishness.
For example, the Malaysians came here, took away our palm seeds and today, they are number palm oil producer in the world. Where are we? Perhaps the leading importer of palm oil in the world! There is a tree called Dogonyaro,it is used to treat malaria. I have tried it, just the stick; they are extracting the back to make quinine.
The crude oil today became the attraction, we suddenly left cocoa and timber. We abandoned agriculture, went for the crude oil. Now, go up to the North, lot of agricultural things going on there. As we move from one region to the other, God has endowed us. We abandoned it and what has happened to the crude oil now? In 2040, the white men will no longer produce petrol engine, so what happens to the crude oil? This is the time to start again. We don’t even have enough electricity to run our homes. Are we saying we don’t have quality men to do things? While we are talking about coalition, ideologically there are no difference.
The PDP, we are not saying that we are the best, but the founding fathers of the PDP established certain procedures, having solid foundation that was building on democratic pedigree. They headed to APC. I remember I said it several times that it is a contraction, it is a congregation of strange bedfellows, what has it turned out to be now? The merging of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP; Congress for Progressive Change, CPC; and Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN then; now because there are no ideological visions, people can easily move. Because what they ought to do, is to convince Nigerians that one, we will provide better education, provide better agriculture, we will make sure that infrastructure will be available, the security of lives and property would be guarantee.
Today Lagos is the largest income generating state, why? It is a trading port that, is what make Lagos the largest economy in Africa, You see people leave their countries, everywhere to come to trade here in Lagos. You accommodate them, bring your wares, two heads are better that one. Because we don’t drive them away, gradually they started to stay. If you don’t become ‘Omo Eko’ you become ‘Ara Eko’. That has supported the growth of Lagos. Why can’t we replicate that kind of attitude all over Nigeria? What gave America that strength? It is because people are able to move around and have that sense of belonging.
There are a lot of defections to the PDP, Don’t you think what is happening now in the All Progressives Congress, APC, will happen later on in the PDP?
Now that they have tried other political parties, It behooves on the party leaders to manage the huge and sudden surge. If we are able to manage the party well, we will be better manager to manage Nigeria. Everything we do in life is politics. I want to advise the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, to take a deep breath, watch his words, because words are like arrow. Failure or success of a leader is on the people. He will be reminded of the way he called his colleague. Nobody knows tomorrow.
What does these defections to the PDP portend for the party?
They have now come back home. It is like the prodigal son in the Bible. It is a lesson to the party. It is what is called experience. Experience is what you acquire as you grow up. The journey of life goes into what determine one’s life. We must now manage the re-entry so that those who are there before will not be short changed and want to head out. God will direct our mind set, we will adjust. If we succeed in doing that, we would have convinced Nigerians that these unnecessary imposition, illegal behaviour to the party constitution will end. I believe that those coming back home would check what they have gained.
The PDP is planning to change its name to something else, what is wrong with name PDP?
There is nothing wrong with the name, as far as I am concerned. Some people are coming back and suggesting, but we won’t say no. I took out the speech of the founding father, and when I read the statement of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki copiously, the concept of establishing the PDP, they make sure that all party positions must be zoned and micro-zoned, that all and every part of the country must have a sense of belonging. The issue of rotation, as head of this nation, that is what I called ‘Turn by Turn Nigeria Limited,’ which will guarantee you that you are not just an onlooker. Take your time, it will soon come to your turn. Look at Switzerland for example, they rotate the headship of the country. We will get over that. It may be difficult, but we will set this country on the part of development.
What is the party doing on the death of the Apapa Local Government Chairman, Aborishade?
I would not like to go into details, because the matter is in court. But justice, fairness and equity must continue to reign in our mind for our ambition.
The chairman of the chairmen, as they called him, was brutally murdered. He was a dedicated and committed man. They went to report the incident to the police and the police held them. The Commissioner of Police held those people who voluntarily went to report what happened, they are now principal suspects, because they were his colleagues. I don’t know what kind of training Edgar Imohimi had as a police officer. How can that man be fair? The incident happened in broad daylight, no investigation and just on Monday morning, you took them to the magistrate court. Those who are the deceased’s friends are now in custody.
In the wisdom of the Commissioner of Police, I thought I was living in another planet. On that Sunday, he said those people who voluntarily reported to the police are now prime suspects. They were colleagues, they left home together, but in his own wisdom, Edgar Imohimi said they are all principal suspects. When I heard that, I kept on trying to get some of my friends who had been very senior officers in the police, what the hell is going on here? If he was in the military, he would not dare that! How can such a man behave like that in a State of Excellence, the heartland of Nigeria?
If that is the attitude of a senior police officer, I believe a Commissioner of Police has to be a senior police officer, he should have the fear of God in him. I am a senior military officer; I spend all my years and training in the military, what a charade? You didn’t arrest them, they voluntarily came, to say ‘we were there, this is what happened’, you had not started any investigation, the corpse had been deposited in the morgue, no autopsy done, and then you had not visited the crime scene, you have not done any investigation and you just packed all of them and charged them for conspiracy to murder.
Until the 27th of August, we will know if that is an attitude of a senior police officer, well-groomed who has to have the fear of God in him. He didn’t arrest them, they voluntarily went to explain what happened, because they were there. You have not started investigation, he just charged all of them for conspiracy to murder. What do you gain to do that to your fellow man? Those people are in prison for telling the truth. Nobody will sweep this under the carpet.
It is coincidentally exactly 12 years ago that Funsho Williams was murdered, same month, same date in this Lagos. If we keep spilling the blood of the innocent, like what happened to Cain.They were asking him, ‘what happened to your brother?’ And he said, ‘what are you asking me? Am I my brother’s keeper?’ But God told him that the blood of his innocent brother is still crying in the grave.
You see, Williams’ death is in vain. I read recently what the then Assistant Inspector General in charge of Lagos that time said. You cannot spill the blood of an innocent man and you think the Almighty God will not challenge you.
Among those who were detained are lawyers, medical doctors, we have engineers. Incidentally, the doctor is already helping out in the prison medical facility.
We want to see a Nigeria, where no matter where you come from, you are guaranteed justice and fairness. That your life is save. And if anyone thinks because he is there today, he cannot be there forever.
Anyway, the AIG has promised to do what needs to be done. That boy must not die in vain. He was a committed Nigerian and a committed party man.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently visited you and you have equally returned the visit to Abeokuta. What is the relationship between you and Chief Obasanjo at the moment?
This is what we are talking about. Respect for elders. Yes, I got a bit angry, because when they accused and took me to Tinubu’s extended court, I thought it was all a joke. But, looking back, I am not angry, because the experience that I acquired in that prison and the lessons that I learnt there, there is no university that can provide that. And the awesome power of God cannot be manifested anywhere except through my going through that process. I am not angry. Baba is my baba, and any former President of this country, is my leader. To err is human and to forgive is divine. No human being, go and read the book of James, chapter 3, we are, as humans, prone to make mistakes.
When you know that, there is no need to keep harbouring grudge. Leave everything to God Almighty. Baba and I were extremely close, I have been in his bedroom, sat down, discuss with him, took notes and planned with him and I found myself on the other side of midnight; in fact in the shadow of death in the prison, but that toughened me up and has given me the need to always, in my lifetime, whatever is just, fair and right, I will be there to defend it.
And for whatever it is, Obasanjo is still a bundle of knowledge. He is an icon not only in this country but also internationally. He is also very passionate about our country Nigeria. For me, I am happy that we have gotten back where we were. And I saw a lot of human hands in the separation.
How do you view his romance with Yoruba leaders in recent times, especially, Afenifere?
This is a time for all of us to bury those differences and come together for the sake of our country. I told Baba Adebanjo, when he said, ‘Bode, I am now 90. I have taken my boarding pass and I don’t know when they would call my flight’ and I said, ‘By the grace of the Almighty God, in your lifetime, we would have restabilised the platform called Nigeria, so that when your flight is called, you will be going home cruising to tell those founding fathers that all is now well.
You know nation building requires a lot, it is not a fast track dash of 100 metres. Generation upon generation, you keep on building it. I saw it as a most welcome thing and what is there? He wasn’t trying to fight and like you are also concerned. If he is the one that has the solution, let us call him. The more, the merrier. Let us get back to that camaraderie and get everybody back work for this nation in a positive manner.
What will you say to the belief that you cannot settle the rift between you and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, like you settled with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo?
Bola and I reconciled when we met at Arisekola’s burial in Ibadan. We met at the Adamasingba Stadium, Ibadan, at the burial of my good friend, Alao Arisekola. I was still bearing the grudge and when I was about leaving, I greeted everyone and when I got to him, I did not greet him. And as I was about leaving, my young brother, who is the governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, sprang up and grabbed me and said, ‘Why are you and Tinubu not greeting each other?’ and I said Bola is on a different planet from mine. Oba Otudeko, Arisekola’s closest friend was also there and he said, ‘today at the burial of our mutual friend, Arisekola, we should end our hostility’ and I told them that he was involved in the conspiracy to lock me up. They called Bola, he shook my hand and said he was sorry. It was in public. Since then, if we meet in public, we greet each other but our concepts of politics are different, but that doesn’t mean we should be disagreeable. We cannot all sleep and face the same direction. Let us have robust debate, which will help the system.
He is human and I was really angry with him, because it was all a concocted self-hatred, because we have differences on political matters. But my teacher used to tell me that you can disagree without being disagreeable.
I saw him last at the 50th anniversary of Lagos State.