Akinrinade: It Is political suicide for the APC to say restructuring is not in its manifesto
• President Signed To A Manifesto Of Restructuring Before We Supported Him
• APC Deceived Nigerians To Win 2015 Election
• Buhari Is Demonstrating Height Of Arrogance
Lt. General Alani Akinrinade served in various capacities in the Nigeria Armed Forces, as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) from October 1979 to April 1980. He was also Chief of Defence Staff until 1981, during the Second Republic. He was later appointed Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development (1985–1986), Minister of Industries (1988 – 1989) and Minister of Transport (1989); he later became a member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a pro-democracy group, during the Sani Abacha regime. He spoke with SEYE OLUMIDE on the need to restructure the country now.
What’s your take on Buhari’s statement that the 2014 National Conference report is best for the archives?
At first, I wanted to believe that he was misrepresented, and that it was not the vein in which he meant what the media reported. But as time went, even his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said something almost to that effect: that the country doesn’t need restructuring, but diversification. The APC’s National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, also said something almost to that effect. Therefore, if it is true that President Muhammadu Buhari made such comment in respect to the conference recommendations, then that is the height of arrogance.
One of them even described delegates to the conference as ‘boys’ when he said the conference was ‘job for the boys’.
I think in a gathering, where someone like retired Justice Idris Kutigi, a chief justice of sound reputation seated as chairman, and Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, a former minister of external affairs for many years, as his deputy, and several high ranking traditional rulers across the country, former politicians and armed forces personalities and many others, it is bad for anybody to pass such a comment.
While one may disagree entirely with the term of reference, President Buhari’s comment on the conference was like shooting the messenger, but what of the message he delivered? There are lots of good things that came out of it and which really needed some sober reflections from people who were not there. There are other issues the conference addressed that affect the generality of the leadership of the country.
If President Buhari, in fact, said that the conference was not the first, and it may not even be the last, that is fine. But he should remember that he signed in fidelity to the manifesto of his party to restructure, when he gets into power, and on account of that, we voted for him. It is totally wrong of him to have made such remark on the 2014 conference recommendations.
I can vouch that the Southwest was the catch web. However rickety Nigeria has become, if there is a wholesome reconstruction and re-engineering of the system, it can work. That was the major reason the Southwest went along with the APC and Buhari, as the presidential candidate in 2015.
If Mr. President is now saying that he has some other methods of doing the restructuring in accordance to his party’s manifesto, I would have loved to examine the modalities he wanted to use. But to tell us that he didn’t read the recommendations and that it is best for the archives and that, in fact, restructuring is unnecessary and according to his vice, what we needed is diversification and whatsoever, I remain baffled. They didn’t even spell out the modalities for their diversification. They were just saying we would diversify into agriculture and solid minerals, as if the items will come from heaven.
The remark was uncalled for and it was a terrible mistake. If the APC fails to do something in that direction, I’m not talking about the 2014 conference report alone, but all others preceding it that have similar recommendations to restructure this country, then President Buhari may forget it and I’m saying he is likely to be the last president of this country. It is as bad as that.
What’s your response to the suggestion that the National Assembly should adopt portions from the various conference reports, as part of the ongoing amendment of the 1999 Constitution?
If you take a critical observation of what is really happening in the current National Assembly, even apart from the constitution amendment, the question is what have the lawmakers achieved since they were inaugurated?
They were talking about immunity so that when they steal, nothing can be done to them. They were talking about constituency allowances and projects, as if that is the major bane of the country today. Our lawmakers have never volunteered to jettison anything on behalf of the people. We don’t manufacture vehicles in Nigeria, but our lawmakers are changing vehicles as if they are changing cloths every time. They were talking about allowances for dressing, which I take as an insult for a legislator, at any level for that matter, to be asking us to buy shirts for him.
This kind of legislators cannot handle anything that will benefit this country. To me, they are not even in the frame of mind to legislate anything that will save this country from going into perdition. Our lawmakers do not even understand the country they are supposed to be legislating for. I do not think they see the serious nature of what Nigeria has become and the danger that is lurking ahead of us. Right now, I am not too sure that the street I live is going to be safe in the next few months for all of us, who reside there, so it is in many other areas, if we should continue the way we are going.
I don’t think anything is going to go away even if Buhari tries, in a small measure, in the fight against corruption. I’m sure as soon as the table turns around; things are going to turn much more badly, because the institutions for fighting corruption are themselves not entirely out of corruption.
I’m not also sure that our lawmakers have got it right; a constitution to be amended, first of all, has to be wholesome. It has to be a people’s constitution. The constitution our lawmakers are talking about is a Military Constitution foisted on us by few individuals.
When some eminent Nigerians challenged the legality of the 1999 Constitution in the court, the power that be ensured that the case was never concluded. The case is still in court till we speak. So what are they amending? They believe that this constitution that the military gave us could be amended and it can be superior to any one that the Constituent Assembly, where every strata of Nigerians were represented, will give? No!
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Engr. Babachir David Lawal, said the 2014 Conference was ‘job for the boys’
I don’t know the man. If he were to be someone that I know his pedigree very well, I would have known what to say. I cannot take him too seriously other than say he is just being arrogant. It shows that he is never part of this society at all. Let me conclude that his new assignment is intoxicating him, but it is important to learn how to relate with his type. I don’t think he understood the import of what he said.
How do you juxtapose the recommendation to create 54 states at the 2014 Conference to the idea of regionalism proposed in the Yoruba Agenda during the 2005 conference?
I didn’t support creation of any other state from Oyo in the first place. I said that was the smallest entity that the Yoruba can have as a state, but we created Osun State out of it then. To that extent, you will wonder why I raised up my hand to support creation of 54 states? The argument is very simple. If by chance, we keep this mode of constitution that we have now, everyone will continue to take his lorry to Abuja to collect monthly allocation. If you remember, the conference said equality of states, so, we are going to write off all these question of landmass, population and others, because we know they are all cooked up; Nigeria is yet to have a proper census. We will write off all these and ensure that whatever any state gets is what the other is going to get.
Why should the Yoruba stand in the way of other zones, so, we said let us itemise everything and everybody will carry his bag to Abuja and collect allocation; that was the overriding argument.
Secondly, we also considered the fact that there are a lot of other minorities in the country, which are still feeling oppressed within the system. They brought their cases before the conference. For instance, we still have small communities who are Christian, but lumped among Muslim majority. They really wanted to get out of their present predicament. It is all in the report how we arrived at 54 states.
Some of us suggested that these states should be called provinces and to have a very lean Federal Government. We also said these new states should be represented by two people in the National Assembly and not the present volume of senators and members of House of Representatives we have, who are just consuming our money. It was not in a vacuum that we arrived at creating 54 states at the conference, there were reasons for it.
It was a very shameful thing for anybody to say lets create 54 states if you look at the performances of the states that we have now. But if we talk about it in context, it is not so alarming the way people perceive it.
What would be yours advice to APC and its government on this burning issue of restructuring the polity?
First, the APC must be told, in no uncertain terms that it is fraudulent. They led us down the garden part, lying to us about what is in the end of the tunnel. What was in the end of the tunnel was restructuring and each one of them, the party chairman, the president, his vice, and in that order, are all talking from the other side of their mouths now. In other words, they lied to us in 2015 before the election.
My message to them is, they should embark on a very major exercise now to restructure the country, otherwise, how do they propose to settle the crisis in the South-South because it is becoming embarrassing.
What are we going to do about the Boko Haram crisis, are we going to wish away the agitations by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB)?
To me, people talk about marginalisation as if people are looking for position, but the answer is no. A man whose land you went to tap recourses and then he couldn’t farm or fish, because you bastardised his farmland and you then send back to him stipends from what you took away from his land, such a man can never be happy.
Is the APC thinking that the matter of religion, ethnicity and other crises across the country are just going to go away? Even the late Sardauna of Sokoto said so, that we are a disparate people and we must recognise that fact and use it to our advantage. Nobody is going to build Nigeria the way APC is going about it. I’m not too sure how many people sing our National Anthem again because they don’t even believe in it.
There is nothing like unity in this country. Unity can only exist when we all understand one another and there are some mutual relationships. If I know you are always cheating me by giving 44 local councils to Kano and give Lagos 20, which is not in the same parameter with Kano in terms of population, production and name it, how can I be happy?
You gave eight to Bayelsa and 44 to Kano, meanwhile if you consider the volume of what Bayelsa contributes to the national purse, compared with that of Kano, you become amazed. People are talking as if these matters are simple, but they are not at all. They are not difficult to see and understand, but our leaders just refused to understand.
The first interrogation of this restructuring started in a very low-key. We were just fortunate it didn’t snowball, then. It was Isaac Boro, who started it, but we had not developed to this level then. If Boro had succeeded at that time to organise something like the Avengers or Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) of today, then the country would have been far in the doldrums now, because we would have used all our resources to fight him. Eventually, Boro fought in the Civil War on behalf of Nigeria.
The second one was an intellectual interrogation by Ken Saro Wiwa, who thought we are rational people. He wrote and staged drama to send the message of what is going on in the Niger Delta to us, and the international community but what did we do to him? We hung him. We think the matter was settled, I bet you it is not. Now we have the Avengers and if we are able to settle them, the question is who would be next?
What was the outcome of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s amnesty programme? Today we have MEND and Avengers. If we deploy the entire Nigerian military to the Niger Delta area today, we would just be wasting our money and resources to fight internal wars, because the crisis will not stop.
It is better not to allow guerilla war start, otherwise when the pioneer of the war dies, his son would definitely take over from him and carry the gun. The reason is because the course of the struggle and agitation has never been addressed. Government after government has failed to address the root cause of the Niger Delta crisis because we all go to Abuja every month to share money. Nigeria can do much better.
What are we doing about the crisis across the country? I heard the president say the military should go after the Fulani Herdsmen; does he know where they are? They are all over the country right now. Meanwhile, how can any herdsmen in my village be molesting my people and we will not find out or seek the means to protect our lives?
The Federal Government had expropriated all the powers of the military, police and other security agencies, leaving nothing to the governors, to even defend themselves in time of crisis. Even if the state is able to gather intelligent report about any impending attack, because it lacks the means to defend itself, there is nothing the governor can do to stop it. That is what is going on now and that is why people are accusing President Buhari that he is a Fulani man. I think it is in his interest and the interest of the country that all these crises be addressed on time; otherwise, one could be tempted to say that he is happy about it.
When he talked about ranching, he has not told us what he wanted to do, but the truth is people are getting more and more suspicious of him and I think they have the right to because of the ways things are going. It is unfortunate that Nigerians are getting suspicious of their leader, particularly their president. The people should rather support their president instead of suspecting him.
How would you react to feelings that the Yoruba are always the instrument the North uses to frustrate the restructuring of this country, going by the role the region played during Biafra, and the massive support the region gave to President Buhari in the 2015 elections and unfortunately, what Prof. Osinbajo said recently concerning the subject?
I think the Yoruba measure their activities and whatever they do very carefully. The Yoruba fought former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha very well and we knew the role Obansanjo played. Efforts to compensate the Yoruba for Abiola’s death in the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12 Presidential election mandate, acclaimed to have been won by Abiola were almost impossible, because the North dared to put someone that they trusted in the person of Obasanjo, but the Yoruba understood where he (Obasanjo) was coming from and it was resisted.
The Yoruba didn’t trust Obasanjo because we knew his relationship with Nigerians and especially the Yoruba. If you remember, the Yoruba put their own candidate whom we thought understood that Nigeria needed a massive restructuring at that time. We preferred Chief Olu Falae to Obasanjo because he (Falae) was in the middle of the struggle for the restructuring of the country.
Obasanjo wasn’t part of that agenda because his activities were not wholesome and he didn’t believe in our struggle for restructuring.
If you also remember, Buhari’s coming in 2015 was not his first attempt at the presidency. He has tried several times but failed. But before the election last year, he told us that he had agreed, for the first time that Nigeria needed restructuring.
Secondly we thought he had enough followers in the north and that he must have convinced them that the country needed to be restructured. We also have no cause to doubt him; that was the reason we voted for him and this was stated in the manifesto of the APC.
The fact is, Yoruba are never really looking for positions, they want things done well. It is only now that they are also agitating, because of the general feelings that a particular region is cheating others.
Having said this, I think it is a political suicide for the APC to now turn around to say there was no such thing like restructuring in their manifesto. That would be dishonest of the party and I would be very disappointed that an ex-military man, Buhari, a general that I know and I trust would sign onto a document and later disown it; no I don’t think so. I don’t think we are hearing right yet. My conviction is the media is misrepresenting the party and its leadership.
Are you however convinced that the anti-corruption war is on course?
I am not too impressed about the ongoing anti graft war, not because I support corruption, but those fighting corruption deceived us. They told us something and are now doing something contrary. We don’t have a country, Nigeria is a mere geographical expression, and therefore, it is very easy for all of us to lose all sense of shame.
Our leaders have no sense of shame; they don’t even have sympathy for the people they rule. That is why the fight against corruption is going to last for only few years, and after, nothing happens again. We’ve been hearing of seized properties as a result of corruption since the Obasanjo era, but have you ever seen any of the property seized being auctioned? I don’t have great enthusiasms for what they are doing because nobody is transparent in this matter.
Nobody has ever told us what has been realised from any sector, even from corruption. We don’t have the structure that can combat corruption. The country is in a quandary, we need someone that will restructure this country.
How do you see the trial of some retired military generals for corruption?
It would be a lie if I say I am not baffled, because I served for many years in the Ministry of Defence, and I knew, as a captain in the Nigeria Army those days, that the system did not allow for the stealing of government money.
From the day they stopped lining up our soldiers at the barracks to collect their pay at the end of the month, things have never been the same. I’m a bit baffled about the development. I really don’t know how it happened, but maybe they will tell us eventually how it happened and how to stop it. It is a shameful development.
This kind of things never happened before 1984. Soldiers started having money around 1986, 1987 and upward, when people are getting kickbacks. I am a bit surprised about the magnitude of this one. It is so mind-boggling I never imagine such amount of money exists anywhere in this country.
Some said military incursion into politics is responsible for their corruption
The tragedy started in 1975, but corruption did not start then. The tragedy I am talking about is the institutional tragedy, where people do not have security of tenure in the armed forces, anymore. I am not averse to anyone who gets himself dismissed from service on the basis of misconduct and other offences, but when you cannot explain why people lost their jobs is worrisome.
In 1975, most people received the news of their removal or dismissal from service on the radio or inside their car while driving to their offices. I heard about a man, who drove into the Lagos lagoon on Carter Bridge, when he heard on the radio that he had been fired. And when you say dismissal, that means you don’t get anything at all, not even a terminal benefit for the services you think you had rendered for your country.
My concern was that the large percentage of the people that was thrown out then doesn’t deserve to be thrown out of the service. That alone must have impacted negatively on those who remained in service and the incoming ones.
That singular action, which started from Murtala-Obasanjo Regime, really put a lot of panic into the system.
I am not supporting corruption, but that is part of what we are saying in respect of restructuring.
For instance, few days ago, because the Buhari government wanted to go to the bottom of the police to pick someone it preferred as the new Inspector General of Police (IGP) several senior and capable officers were retired from the service before their time. Unfortunately, there is insinuation that the newly appointed IGP has something to do with Mr. President’s election into office.
We are not a nation but a country. We need a leader that can do things patently clear to us about how to move this county forward. But my fear is this is not likely going to happen under this current arrangement because, a Yoruba man is neither an Ibo man, nor a Hausa man. The problem of this country is that we always live under the suspicion of another, based on ethnic sentiments. There is the need to break down this present arrangement and refit it in a saner manner. This assumption that we should go on with one Nigeria in unity is absurd because things happening around us don’t support it. Reasoning doesn’t support it, our culture doesn’t support it, there is nothing that we have or claimed to have that supports it and because we are not together, it is going to be very difficult to produce a leader that would be trustworthy by all the ethnic entities. So, the earlier the better to allow all the entities to grow on their own, otherwise we are very close to Sudan.
If Buhari and the APC think that because they have the military and also have control of the arms and ammunition they will continue to force this nation together and intimidate the agitators to submission, they are missing it.
Some are of the opinion that Buhari’s appointments are largely in favour of the north
What do you expect? We are not a nation; therefore, people will always cry marginalisation. The analysis someone did recently shows that Buhari’s appointment favours the Northeast and Northwest than other regions. I don’t know, but people have been saying it. Even in the North, some areas are not too impressed, because they felt that they were been shortchanged in recent appointments to public offices.
The fact is, I’m not too impressed with the recent appointment of the new Inspector General of Police, which I consider a very terrible waste of resources. There is nothing Buhari needed to balance, because he has everything inside his pocket.
Our major mistake is that we ought to have buried the 1999 Constitution, which Abacha made with him when he died and make another one for the country before we returned to civil rule in 1999.