WE NEED REFORM AND INVESTMENT TO SAVE THE ECONOMY


Interview with Africa Independent Television

Let’s congratulate you on your 63rd birthday.

Thank you very much. You’re reminding me that I’m now an old man.

How do you feel at 63 years?

I would like to express my gratitude to God Almighty for sparing my life this far. I feel good.

Again on your personal life, two of your children tied the nuptial knot under 1 year. How do you feel as a father?

I think it is a good sense of satisfaction for me. God has been quite kind to me. My father had wanted to see me get married but unfortunately he died when I was about 13-14 years old. I would say that God has been kind to me and I express my gratitude to Him.

You ruled this country for 8 years. Your major focus then was the economy of the country. One of your anchor programmes was the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). Today, people believe that the economic woes we have today is as a result of SAP. How do you react to this?

We introduced SAP in 1986. When we did that, we were very honest with the Nigerian people. We told them that at that time, it was not going to be easy because we were introducing a fundamental reform, a fundamental change which was going to differ from our old ways of doing things. We were honest enough and we knew it was going to be tough. We knew that it was those who were prepared to work hard and accept challenges that were going to benefit from the reforms which we introduced in the SAP I am glad that we are being vindicated now.

You said your administration is being vindicated. But some people still believe that though the programme was quite laudable, your administration did not do much to check some of the gaps arising from the introduction of SAP. How do you react to that?

Any measure you put in place whether it is the government or… Private sector, there is what we call unintended consequences of the policies you want to put in place. And those ones will manifest when you have started implementing the programme. When we started implementing the Structural Adjustment Programme, of course there were unintended consequences. Government at that time tried to address some of these. For instance, virtually everything was done to try and cushion the effects of the reform programmes that we put in place. We tried to put up measures to help people in the low-income group and the general public. Putting up cushioning measures is normal in any government programme.

As part of your reform programme, your administration introduced deregulation and liberalisation of the economy. What informed your position on these?

1 think that if you cast your mind back to 1989, the global economy was changing. It started in the Soviet Union. For example, Glasnost and Perestroika. Government could not continue to be sole motivator of economic activities. Government should not be in the production sector for example. So for that reason, it became inevitable to follow what was happening around the world. I believe that government should follow the global trend.

Tied closely to Structural Adjustment Programme was the issue of International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan. There was this debate about the loan at that time and at the end of the debate, you still went ahead to take that loan. Why did you deem that debate necessary?

If you remember, there was a lot of debate on the issue from 1982 through 1984 during Shagari administration on the desirability or otherwise of taking the loan. Before we came in 1985, talks were already going on about the loan. So when we came in 1985, we knew that the issue was in the public domain. And we felt quite rightly that it was an issue everybody was talking about. Nigeria is richly blessed with people like you and I who can understand what the issues are and therefore would like to talk about them. That is why we wanted to have a feel of what the people are talking about. So a debate was organised and people had the opportunity to talk about it for a period of one year through conferences, debates, organised meetings etc.

When eventually the whole thing was completed, I came up to address the nation on this particular issue. The popular opinion at that time was that we should not take the loan. And we did not take that loan. We did not take any loan from IMF. What we did was to say okay we will not take the loan but we will implement our home-grown measures. For example, before we came in, we were paying 44% of our earnings to debt servicing. When we came in, we said that was unacceptable and we were not paying 44%. IMF would have preferred that we stick to the 44% but we didn’t. I remember as the Commander-In-Chief, I went around military installations trying to explain the issue. We had overwhelming support to do exactly what we think is right for the economy without necessarily taking the loan and that was what happened.

One of the major casualties of the reforms, which started during your regime, was the Naira. The Naira is terribly weak. Why is it still so up till today?

One basic thing that will strengthen our currency is production and the level of production is nowhere near what we need to have a strong currency. When I came in and up till when we left office, my administration was able to manage it. And after 8 years in office, I left it at $1to N18.

One basic thing that will strengthen the Naira is production. And when you were the C-in-C, you had the opportunity of improving the productive sector but everything is now in comatose. How do you react to this?

When we talk about production, don’t forget, we should not look at it from the point of view of what we have in Ajaokuta for instance. You don’t look at it from the point of view of what the ordinary farmer can produce. You don’t have to look at it from what the cocoa farmer can produce and how he can bring it to the market. There have been a lot of industries in the country and they were not working. They were not producing to full capacity. And that was the situation we found ourselves in, in 1986.

Did Production actually increase?

I don’t know if your indices are right. But there was a substantial rise in the production sector between the period 1988 and 1999. The records are there and can speak more on it. The interest has increased tremendously among people. People went back to the farm. People knew that they can now control the resources which they produce. They didn’t even need an intermediary to decide on what level or the amount of money buyers should pay. They knew then that if they work hard and produce the best grade of groundnut or whatever it may be, they will get the money. And nobody was going to be an intermediary to say, I will measure this for you, I will measure that for you. If you tell me that newly acquired interest has not been sustained, okay it wasn’t during my time. Maybe it typical of what happens in this country. Somebody may make a policy today and tomorrow, somebody comes and doesn’t like it. You don’t depend on what you have. You either build on it, improve on it or stick to it. That is how to build a strong system, a strong economy.

Was Economic Diplomacy a success?

The answer is yes. Again, if you remember in 1989, the whole world was changing. You seek new alliances. You cannot be all on your own. You need other countries to work with. You need other countries to cooperate with you. And what we tried to do at that time was to tell the rest of the world that look, we need to co-operate. We have what you want and you have what we want. So let’s sit down around the table and talk about them. We do not have technology for instance and need to discuss with those who have it. That was exactly what we were doing during that economic diplomacy period.

Nigeria’s economy seems to have defied all possible solutions and you talked about production. How is production the only reason for the hopelessness?

No no no. The people also are. Let’s talk about the people themselves. I didn’t say the economy has defied all solutions. What I said is that everybody stands to believe that the Nigerian economy will collapse. But nobody has come up to tell me why it has not collapsed. Those are the simple things I put across. The simple answer to that is that the economy is resilient and there is the informal sector which is keeping the economy going. But we don’t have records of these informal economic activities.

There were other ancillary programmes attached to the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). Some of them are DFRRI, Better Life Programme, People’s Bank. What happened that none of them is existing today?

To be honest, I think we have them but maybe with different names now.

There is this argument that past military governments have always come up with such populist programmes because they wanted legitimacy from the people and that is why when you put the programmes on the ground, nothing is there to sustain them.

I think legitimacy, people automatically gave it to us as military. I have said it before. For any military coup to succeed or for any military intervention to succeed, there must be frustration within the society. And in most of these cases, there were frustrations within the society. So when the military intervened be it in 1966 or in 1983 or 1985, the legitimacy was automatic by the society.

The Marketing Boards are no more in existence and when you were in office, you had the opportunity to put them to effective use. What is your reaction to this?

In folding up the Marketing Board or what we called the commodity boards, we wanted to make the ordinary farmer become the master of his own products. There were controls. One of the good things about deregulation or liberalisation, we wanted by so doing, to cut a lot of bureaucratic bottlenecks and a lot of controls because the controls bring about corruption. So one aspect of this corruption is that we have gotten rid of it. If you remember, some people from the breweries for instance went straight to the farmers to request for tonnes of maize they wanted for their industries. The farmer worked hard for it and the breweries go to the farms with their vehicles to buy and carry the products and everybody is happy.

Still talking about the state of the economy. Were we better off then compared to now?

I have always said that this is a reform which we started. Along the process of implementation of such reforms, there would always be again, I repeat this phrase unintended consequences. Our ability to first of all believe in what the government is doing, is an important factor. And I think from the time we started it to the time we left, from the time the other administrations came in to the present day, I will say that we are in the right direction.

The abolition of Commodity Boards was one of the ways your administration adopted in fighting corruption. The abolition of import license was also another way through which your administration fought corruption. Sir, considering corruption in Nigeria, does it not look like scratching it on surface?

What we tried to do was to look at the areas that are corruption ridden and get rid of them. The Commodity Board was one of them. Import licensing was also one of them. Even going to the Central Bank to cash money was one of them and hence we had to introduce more banks and Bureaux de Change etc. When we deregulated, we discovered that control brings about corruption. And when you deregulate, people have the right to go and do it themselves. Some of these people who are fraudulent, are not going to be there. We have to start somewhere and I am glad we did.

Sir, 1 would like us to look at this issue critically. Nigeria is the sixth largest oil producing country in the world and one wonders why we are still in this state of prostrate economy. With the benefit of hindsight, what happened during your administration and what is happening today?

Let me give credit to the present administration for pursuing reforms that I consider important and are capable of providing a basis for the eventual take off of the economy. I only pray and hope that subsequently, other governments that will come in will perfect or fine tune what is happening now.

But Sir, was there any point in time when our oil revenue was mismanaged in such a way that we now find ourselves in this situation?

It depends on what you mean by mismanagement. But if you knew Nigeria in 1960 and then you look at Nigeria during the First National Development Plan, the Second National Development Plan and even the Third National Development Plan and you have travelled around, I think that government since that time has done reasonably well.

Looking at onshore / offshore dichotomy. Recently, the 19 northern state governors and 12 of their southern counterparts are at it again. They are asking the Supreme Court to abrogate it. Must it be the issue of oil all the time?

Nigeria is a federated entity and everybody wants a share of what God has given us. Be it oil and even political development. I think it is necessary and again that is why government should exist to provide solutions to some of these nagging problems. I believe that onshore / offshore has been on since 1968. We are talking about 36 years ago. We will continue to talk about it. It is just like revenue allocation, we will continue to talk about it. It is also like true federalism, we will continue to talk about it. So, government has a responsibility to proffer solutions to these issues and that is what is happening now

Assuming you have another opportunity to become the president of this country, how would you deal with the matter?

To be honest with you, fortunately, if I get interested in politics, I believe that the situation can be resolved before 2007 so that it wouldn’t be an issue then.

It was reported in both local and international media organisations that you allegedly lodged the sum of $3 billion in some foreign accounts through unethical deals. What is your reaction to this?

Simple. These allegations have not risen to the level of probe yet. That is the first basic answer. Secondly, you have a society that is gullible. You have an elite within the society that is lazy If one man through unethical means, could strike a deal for $3 billion. First of all, maybe people don’t seem to realise or visualise what a billion is, so they naturally buy it. People who make these allegations are also in a position to investigate it. Nobody does it. Nobody is interested. People are only after your information. I still challenge anybody who could look at me on the face and say I struck a deal with you Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida to come forward and say it.

In spite of your explanation on the mismanagement of $ 12.4 billion Gulf War oil windfall, many Nigerians still raise questions on the issue. How do you react to this?

It is because those of you who should educate them have refused to educate them. I feel comfortable because I read the Okigbo report. I read it. I know what it says. Nobody would like to read it. May Okigbo’s soul rest in peace? He was quoted out of context. 1 have the speech with which he delivered the report to Sani Abacha. Now the terms given to Okigbo in the first place was not to talk about $12.4 billion oil windfall. It was about the restructuring of the CBN and the guidelines for the operation of dedicated accounts and this was to cover the period between 1988 to June 1994. And that was for 6 years. Okigbo said, within the last 8 years, $12.4 billion accrued to the federal government, that’s in 8 years. The windfall, 3 months. Can you see the difference, 8 years and 3 months? There is no way Nigeria’s’ foreign exchange budget could get to $12bn in one year. No way.

During my administration, we managed oil prices as low as $8, $10 and $12 per barrel, during my period, we managed that to run the economy. So it is a simple arithmetic but because like you rightly said, people hate Babangida even with passion and they must find something to talk about him. I think people should find out what the details are. I know what the details are. So I sleep well.

Maybe you should open up sir….

No I wouldn’t like to open up

Sir if you open up Nigerians will know better         

No, they know it. Honestly Nigerians knew it. Let’s be fair to Nigerians. The media feeds Nigeria with what they want. It’s just like you read a headline $20 billion written by a British or American writer. Look this world has changed. Money transaction is common all over the world. If they see you or suspect any dirty deal, they can get at you and deal with you immediately. The world has changed. If $20bilion would be lying in somebody’s account by now the international commission or whatever would be after this man because you cannot hide it anymore. There is no hiding place for people who steal such amounts of money.

My successors did not talk about Okigbo report the way the public is talking about it. The way eminent lawyers in this country are talking about it. The government knows it. My successor knows it. So why do you pursue an irrelevant issue. A no issue, non-issue.

Did you abandon the refineries during your administration?

It should go down the record that I commissioned the fourth refinery in this country. It is also true that my administration commissioned the biggest refinery in the country. The most sophisticated refinery in this country with a capacity of 450, 000 barrels per day. So how could refineries not function at that time? The only time we imported oil in my administration was when we wanted to bridge a gap during the Turn Around Maintenance period. But we didn’t import oil as a matter of policy. We had maintenance programmes for the refineries and we stuck to them. Fortunately, I had the brightest oil ministers in this country during my period. Rilwan Lukman, Tam David West, Prof. Aminu and Chu Okongwu. We were very meticulous about the maintenance of the refineries. We never got into importing oil into the country except during the period of Turn Around Maintenance. You could check the records. Again I feel proud.

Are you in any way interested either directly or remotely in any refinery outside Nigeria?

You can be rest assured, I do not have. I have not had and I will not have. I wouldn’t do such a thing.

Still on the oil windfall. There have been media reports in the last one-week that you are being investigated in connection with that allegation. This is an opportunity for you to tell Nigerians the facts you said you have….

The only legitimate opportunity I would have is before the courts right now to do that.

They have not risen to the level of proof. If they have, then I would not have any option than to explain. If you call me, Babangida you are an idiot. I know I’m not, so why would I have to quarrel with you.

These refineries were not working at optimal capacity during your administration.

I disagree with you. Again, the records are there. Fortunately we documented everything about our activities in office. 1 am assuring you that refineries worked and worked to full capacity during my time.

You did say that you had some of the brightest oil ministers during your administration….

Yes, I said so.

But one of them fell out of the way. What really happened?

I don’t think it is worthwhile talking about an event that happened 18 years ago. It wouldn’t help to bring back the memories.

No, Ishola Williams is one officer I like and respect a lot. He also knows that as a personal policy, I don’t join issues with any junior officer. He retired a two-star general and I retired a four-star general. Whatever happens for as long as I am your boss or I am your boss, I don’t join issues with my juniors.

Prince Tony Momoh, one of the ministers who served under you. He was the first to appear on this programme and he did say that General Babangida has a lot to say….

I have a lot to say. Maybe you find out from my book one of these days.

Sir when would that be.

Very soon.

In reacting to the comments made by Prelate Mbang, you did say that only God can determine who the next president would be. In case you find yourself in that exalted office, do you have the magic wand to strengthen the Naira?

You don’t need to be president to be able to strengthen the naira. The president only provides the enabling policy environment. I think the people themselves should work hard and take advantage of what the government is providing. And once they are given the necessary incentives to produce, I think the Naira will strengthen.

The issue of debt is like a sword hanging over us in Nigeria. How do we handle it sir?

I think the government is right in talking about it and negotiating around it. There is a lot of misconception about these debts. These debts are what we call sovereign debts. They are not monies that government went and borrowed. So government has a responsibility to negotiate them, to ease the burden on the country and President Obasanjo is doing fine. Wherever he goes he talks about debt forgiveness. Though our creditors may say Nigeria doesn’t deserve to be forgiven but it is good to keep on talking about it in proper places, especially during the meetings of the G 8.

How do you react to the reactions that trailed the loans the current administration granted to Ghana and Sao Tome ?

I think it is right. The president did the right thing. He went to the National Assembly to seek authority to do that. If they have a genuine reason for asking us and we can afford to help, why not. The important thing is that Mr. President followed due process.

The N25billion bank capitalisation. The national assembly is not happy about it. They want to review the banking act and the president says no going back. What is your reaction?

I support the whole concept of increased capitalisation in the banking sector. If you look back, agreed, some of these banks are doing well but they need to do much more. Somehow, I have looked at it, I have read what the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria said, I have studied it and honestly, I think it is the right thing to do.

From your responses so far, I have the feeling that you are tagging along as it where, supporting the policies of the present government

No it is the ability to realise that somebody is making an effort and doing the right thing. And when somebody is doing the right thing, I think it is only fair to encourage him and support him

I have always said that the president has always been most generous with his time when he comes to us, he talks to us, he listens to us and we see him. There is mutual respect and he tries as much as possible to inform us of what he is trying to do and what he is doing.

For most times when there is National Council of State meeting you are hardly there. Why don’t you attend?

If you look at the attendance register, you will discover that I missed it only twice. I was not in the country at those times.

There are so many commentators on Nigeria’s political history. Some of them are of the opinions rightly or wrongly, that there was a deliberate policy in the northern part of the country after independence to recruit more northerners into the Nigerian Army as a way of positioning them for possible political office in the future. At the time you were joining the army, did it occur to you that one day you would hold political office?

No. What happened immediately after independence, I mean if you look at the history of the Army, you found out that the preponderance of northern soldiers were mostly from Adamawa state, Niger state and Taraba state and the rest of the them have been so since, after and during the second World War. But the officer corps is what the government then was trying to address. There was an imbalance. Here in this part of the country, it was like a taboo to go into the military service. And the government then decided quite frankly that this should not be the case. So they carried out a very subtle but effective campaign. So some of the military officers went round the area campaigning that young northerners should join the army and that was what happened.

There was an attempt to reduce the professional capability of the military. Some commentators blamed your regime for this. They said you sacrificed professionalism for politics. How do you react to that?

The records that we have do not support that assertion. When I was the Chief of Army Staff and subsequently the President, we paid a lot of attention to professionalism. And what we achieved were phenomenal as it concerns the training of the soldiers and the officer corps. We introduced a lot of innovative skills and services.

Don’t you see appointment of a military officer as Governor of a state as introducing politics into the military and reducing the discipline?

1 think that having the military to be in charge of civilian affairs in the first place is an aberration. He shouldn’t be there at all. But then don’t lose sight of the fact from 1962 till about 1988/89 military government was fashionable. But it became unfashionable afterwards. I think it is the development of the various states. Everybody was infected with this idea of coup d’etat. So it is the effect of the phenomenon at that time that brought about a lot of military intervention in a number of African countries.

So when you sit back and reflect on the Orkar coup, how do you feel?

I feel bad. One of the officers was virtually living in my house. He was supposed to be thrown out of the Army but because he was one of my good boys I did everything humanly possible to save his career. Quite frankly, I was very close to them. One of them did say that he feels bad. I read the testimony of virtually everybody. He did say that he feels bad because I have been kind to him. This officer was like a member of my family and there is nothing I didn’t do for him. God has been kind to me.

What do you think was operating in the minds of Vatsa and others to move against you at that time?

To be honest with you, it was the order of the day then. If you look at the situation then, they will tell you that those in Lagos are always in a better position to stage a coup but we can do it ourselves even. That position enhanced jealousy and you can add everything else to it.

What did you find wrong in the Buhari Idiagbon regime that prompted their overthrow in 1985.

We said it on the 27′ August, 1985 and what we said then was that the basis for what the administration sort to achieve was no longer the issue and we tended to derail. That is why we carried out what is referred to as a palace coup.

There was the feeling that there existed fifth columnists in that administration who were bent on discrediting the regime then. Some point to the raiding of Awolowo’s House in Apapa as one of the scripts to actualise that plan. As an insider, was there a fifth columnist in that administration?

Well it depends on your interpretation of who is a fifth columnist. But then I can respond by saying that yes it was true that Awolowo’s house was raided.

By who?

He (Buhari) was in charge, he was the president at that time and should be responsible for what happened during his administration.

Just like annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential election?

Yes

What calculation informed the choice of Buhari as Head of State?

1 wouldn’t like to pre-empt my book but I can give you a very small tip and that is when we were planning to oust the democratically elected government that had the mandate of the people, two things happened. I was the one who told my friends and insisted that Buhari should be Head of State. That’s number one issue. Number two is, anytime we are staging a coup, we seek outside support. When I say outside support, it’s not foreign country but prominent people like journalists. I remember what I told one of the publishers. He is a friend of mine. I told him, this is what is going to happen and we need your support. Don’t go against it. He asked me who was going to be the Head of State. I told him that it was going to be Buhari and he looked me on the face and said no that he would only support it if I was going to be the Head of State. I said no, we have taken that decision and that I am part of it and instigated it; if you support him, you are also supporting me. That is now history.

It was said that the decision to choose the Head of State was a collective one and not by one person especially in military circles

A collective decision, how?

That was the claim?

Whose claim?

General Buhari’s

No. The records are there. Yes, we decided collectively that we should make him (Buhari) Head of State but somebody must be the motivator of the collective decision. I am happy to say that I am the person.

When there is a failed coup, among those arrested, there are usually journalists. I remember the Orkar coup a lot of journalists were arrested. Is it because they had knowledge of the coup?

If you look back to 1976, a lot of journalists paid their supreme price because they were indicted for providing facilities for the coup.

In 1976, Dimka held on to FRCN and you went there without a gun to persuade him. What gave you the courage to face a man with a gun and determined?

First of all I was working on instruction. I was ordered to go and flush him out by my boss then. Secondly, there is the human aspect of the whole thing. He was my friend. I did not find it difficult to talk to him. I went and of course I talked to him. The rest is history. But it is the human aspect, the human relation that I will give credit to.

Could you throw light on what transpired between you and Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe who was your Chief of General Staff?

I think it is one of those things in military structure, military hierarchy and military politics. Ebitu Ukiwe was one of the finest officers that we had in the Nigerian Navy. He is a very fine gentleman. I like him and still respect him. When we see, we say hello to each other and talk to each other.

Your administration embarked on what turned out to be the most unpredictable and elongated transition programme. I remember in 1989, when your Minister of Justice once said that would be the last time the goal post would shift, but it kept shifting. How do you react to this?

Again, I told this country in 1989 that the transition programme we were about to embark on will be in sequence, in such a way that whenever we have a hitch somewhere, we pause, look again, and move forward. Now whenever we have a hitch, you pause, no matter what you do, it is bound to affect your timing and programme because they are unintended consequences. We were honest enough to say that. We didn’t lie about the transition programme. We really can’t be blamed for the derailment. But the derailment was done in good faith.

During your administration, political associations were banned and unbanned. But these days you are speaking strongly in support of democracy. Are you a convert or born again?

No, I am not a convert but I am a believer. I have been a believer in democracy. When I was in office, I instituted what we called the Armed Forces Consultative Assembly. It is in this gathering that we talked to the officers about government, their welfare, everything. I used to tell them that when you are in here, you have absolute freedom to say whatever you want to say. You can abuse me and I will tolerate it so long as it is in this assembly. But when you get out there and abuse me you would get yourself in trouble because I am your Commander-in-Chief. You can call me a fool here and I will tolerate it but if you get outside and call me a fool, it would get you into trouble. And quite frankly, you get the best out of these boys. They sat down and talked to you frankly. By the time we get back, we would in this situation look at what they said and not what we envisaged.

Your administration established the SDP and NRC as two political parties and went ahead to build secretariats for them. While some saw it as good, some saw it as wasteful and others could not understand the logic behind it. Could you use this forum to explain what happened?

Everything we did was informed by the previous experiences we had in this country. Let’s take the two political parties for instance. Over time in our political history, we have tended to gravitate towards two party system. Even in the 80’s, we had more or less two. The NPN and the other group. This is one of the reasons why we established two parties. So it is really not new. We also said that in a democracy what you need is choice. We knew it was a gamble but it worked. We were not establishing a one party system. We provided you with two. I know that people said then northern party and southern party. Others said Christian party, Moslem party. But it was not true. We must establish a system that is strong and can take the shock of what happens in this country. You people decided that it is not the best thing and that multi-party system is better. Thank God we have about 30 political parties. But it is going to end up with either one strong party or two.

Now have you lost faith in the two-party system?

No, I still believe in it. My faith in a two-party structure is very strong but because Nigerians want multi-party system, I will go along with them.

In the 1993 election, you adopted option A4 which was a novelty in our electoral system. Why did you choose that against the old system?

If you look at everything we tried to do, quite frankly, we knew what happened in the past and we wanted to run away from the past and come up with something new Defuse areas of tension. We knew how elections were rigged in the past, how the mandate of the ordinary man who cast his vote and would not know where his vote will be counted. So these things pushed us to come up with something new, something innovative that would satisfy the needs and aspirations of the people.

Why was the June 12, 1993 Presidential election annulled?

I think that from June 23, 1993, I stopped talking about it. I think we should move away from this historical event and talk about what this country holds for the future.

You stand out as a President who has organised the freest election. In fact people keep wondering how you managed to organise such a successful, fraud-free and violence-free and peaceful election. People want to know the secret behind that election.

Well I must thank you because you said it was the freest, it was well organised and it was good. Quite frankly, we had the people at the back of our mind all the time. We acted in good faith informed by previous experience.

Are you ready to apologise for the annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential election?

I am ready to accept full responsibility for my acts of omission and commission while in office.

What of the apology?

Anything that happened during my administration, good because nobody is talking about the good one, bad because everybody is talking about the bad ones, I accept full responsibility.

Did it ever occur to you that, that episode was a mistake in our history?

There are a lot of mistakes in Nigerian history and June 12, 1993 presidential election is just one of them. There would be more mistakes in the country. Mistake is an on-going thing. There will be mistakes in the next 5 or l0 years.

What informed your decision to choose Shonekan as Head of the Interim National Government?

When we designed the constitution of the Interim National Government, we wanted that government to last for six months. The constitution gave it tenure and it was to last for six months. At the end of that six months, there was going to be a presidential election. We wanted somebody to run the affairs of government. Somebody who had no political leaning. A technical and descent man to head the interim government and Shonekan fitted into this mould. We know him, we have worked with him, so that was how he was picked.

Why is it that uptill now, there has not been a clue to the assassination of Dele Giwa in what could be described as the first hi-tech murder in the nation’s history?

In the case of Dele Giwa, the only thing that a lot of people don’t want to hear is the fact that the co-operation we needed as a government was not forthcoming from those who were in the position to provide information. I do hope in the next two months, there will be a book about this particular issue. I have seen it and gone through it. It was written by a participant in the whole saga. He provides a lot of insight and a lot of information, by the time you go through it, you may come out with one conclusion that people are not forthcoming in helping the government and the Police to try and get to the root of the whole issue.