IT IS TIME FOR POLITICS OF CONVICTION
Interview with Raypower 100.5 FM, October 2005
Sir, what would you say is the way forward for Nigeria?
First of all, I would say that there are a lot of positive developments taking place in the country. For instance, Nigerians in the diaspora are becoming increasingly interested in what is happening in the country. What it means is that we are now trying to bring back the brains that we are losing would have lost. Some of them are now deciding that they want to come back. It is a positive thing for the country. They have a lot of experience and a lot of expertise and I think that when they get into the country, they will be encouraged to participate in the political and economic life of the country. I think it is a positive thing for the country. They will definitely add value to the affairs of the country.
Would you be contesting for the post of President of Nigeria come 2007?
I have been asked this question several times in the past and what I kept on saying and what I still say is that the whole thing begins with a process. About two or three weeks ago, I registered as a party member and I think that is the first step.
What party Sir?
There is a party called PDP. I went to my ward here in Sabongari and before my ward Chairman, I was registered. So I think this is the first step.
It has been asked over and over again and I ask you now. Are you running for the Presidency come 2007?
Well, like you pointed out, I have heard it several times from people who say he may or may not run for that position. But I have always said that it is the typical Nigerian way of looking at things. We are a country that have people with fertile minds and very fertile imagination. The whole purpose of participating in politics, elective office is secondary. Once you get into politics, you get in there for a purpose. You get in there because there are certain beliefs that you have and which you feel very strongly will be good for the country. I keep on saying that we should try as much as possible to play politics of conviction. So once I have a belief, then I work towards that belief and if at the end of the day, the people I’m trying to work with to achieve this, decided you can best serve this belief in the position of a Local Government Chairman, a State Governor, a Senator, A member of the House of Representatives or the President, then, there is no problem. For many years we have seen people just go into politics because they want to be this or that. We are going in there because we have something to offer. It is the people who will decide how they are going to achieve this .I can assure you that I will not let the people down.
Looking at Nigeria during the military era and now that we are a democracy, what inferences can we draw?
I think that basically the country has remained Nigeria. We thank God for keeping the country united. But I see a very bright future for the country. For the fact that democracy is being practised now, I think it is the yearning of everybody. This means that people are now becoming aware, they want to get involved and they want to be able to speak on the way they are being governed. Nigerians have always said that military regimes are aberrations and now that it is no longer fashionable to have military regimes, it is good for the country that we practise democracy and I think it wouldn’t take us time really to adapt to the whole concept of democracy.
Rumours have been flying around about President Obasanjo’s third term bid. Do you think it is possible?
I am glad that you used the word rumour. To be fair to the President, I don’t think he told anybody that he is going to contest in 2007. As I said earlier as Nigerians we have fertile minds. Our imagination normally carries us far and wide. The president has not said that and he has never told anybody. Let’s wait for time.
On Obasanjo and Atiku feud, what role would you want to play as a statesman?
Fortunately for me as an elder statesman, I have unlimited access to the President and Vice-president and I have always insisted that since they allow me access, I would rather discuss anything that touches on them in private.
How do you relax?
I do have time for my sporting activities but not as much as when I was younger. The type of exercise I do is consistent with my age so that I don’t go and get some complications. I keep myself busy. I live in an environment in which I was born and raised. Therefore, I do a lot to reintegrate myself into the society in which I was born. I am always in the midst of people. People that attended school with me. This is the only opportunity that they have and I don’t deny them. I like seeing people around me.
And they love you a lot. Right from the very entry into Niger State up to Minna people seem to love you a lot.
Well I’m part of them. I am their son, their brother, their father, their grandfather and so on. We thank God for them.
Do you think that Nigeria is still the giant of Africa?
Yes, I think that Nigeria is still the giant of Africa because of its immense potentials. The people, the quality of the people and the abundant natural resources are still there.
What is your response to the issue of corrupt leaders and even top government officials that have been arrested recently in connection with money laundering and other corrupt practices?
I am a strong believer in the saying that in conviction, everybody is innocent until proven otherwise. And there is a process. I think we should all allow the process to take its natural course before we either condemn or talk about this corruption of a thing. The society has a role to play in all these. I haven’t yet seen any member of the society who has made any deliberate effort to mobilise people to fight against such vices in the society. I think people need more enlightenment. They need to ask more questions on why certain things are done the way they are done. I think that will check the leaders.
The term Maradona was used to describe you because people say you are witty. You can’t be boxed to a corner. What would you say is genuine leadership?
Well, talking about genuine leadership, I would say that if you look at our training as military officers from the beginning to the end, it is all about leading people. More or less leadership training. Eventually you are going to lead people to war. Sometimes you lead people, it could result to victory or to death. So the emphasis is on leadership as far as we concerned. It also involves the ability to make people see danger as a secondary thing. Because they believe in you, because they know you and because they know that under your leadership you would be able to take them to the objectives. So you don’t just have to be knowledgeable and be able to relate with the people. Don’t forget that our training involves a lot of discipline and we can also translate it into a civilian environment. So, a good leader must command confidence and show discipline.