By Bose ADEBAYO and Bashir ADEFAKA
Luke Chijiuba Ochulor, a retired air commodore, was military governor of Delta State during the Gen Ibrahim Babangida regime. The Imo State born soldier speaks on various national issues, adding that the miliatry is not to blame for Nigerian woes: Excerpts:
Corruption is said to be the cause of Nigeria’s development.
Corruption is all over the world, including Nigeria. Even in homes, in so many places. That however is not to say that everything Nigerian is corrupt, unlike what the outside world used to say.
The tendency, like Professor Dora Akunyili put it, is perhaps to paint everybody with the same brush. There are so many Nigerians who are not corrupt, there are so many of them.
However, it is unfortunate that such people may not have the opportunity of coming to the corridors of power. And again, it is not everybody who is in power that is corrupt.
Why are our people corrupt?
May be because of the inability of people to think ahead, they fail to remember the aftermath of such action. Because before you take an action, you should have thought well what will happen after that action.
You remember the man called Ferdinand Marcos of Philippine? He was known to be a very corrupt person and the people of Philippine were so angry with him that when he was sick and a Reverend prayed to God to have mercy on him so that he would not die, the Reverend was rebuffed for it.
But he made a point and that is important here. He said there was one thing you people must understand: it does not matter what wealth Marcus might have gathered, he would never go anywhere with it. That is the way I look at it.
How do we get out of this mess?
By making sure that we root out corruption; by putting the square peg in a square hole and a round peg in a round hole, so that we can have correct people at the helms of affairs, in the management of our public life. That is number one. Again, the question is: who will watch the watchman?
It now becomes a question of conscience. We had some people in this country who were very, very critical of government but when given the opportunity to serve, they failed woefully.
Do we understand what patriotism means?
That is the sickness we have in Nigeria! You know, Generals Buhari and Idiagbon tried to change and redirect Nigerians towards patriotism by giving them the options of say, you either accept this country or you opt out of it. But here we are; sometimes when the national anthem is being sung, you see Nigerians going about their businesses.
They don’t even care. It is a very serious illness and something must be done to curb it. And that is what happens to some of our footballers. They lack patriotism and you can see the result. A man is said to be patriotic when he does his best for his country, not because of what he wants to gain. He goes for the national interest even if it means dying in the process.
But I doubt if a Nigerian player would even like to hurt his foot because he is playing for the country. And it is very unfortunate!
So there is need for re-orientation. And it has to start with our individual selves. Many people are carrying the Bible, they go to church praying to God and preaching, “love your neighbour as yourself”, and yet they are ready to kill their fellow human beings for no just cause.
This must be dealt with if we are really serious about stamping out corruption from our public life and about being patriotic.
The military is blamed for the woes of Nigeria.
It’s ignorance. The language most Nigerians speak is that the military caused a lot of troubles for the polity, so much so that no single politician can own up to his own failure, except to drag the military into it, that it is because of the long period of military rule that Nigeria has problems.
Assuming that somebody went into the University in 1999, if by now he has not graduated, won’t you begin to wander why? The politicians who are complaining about military should by now have overcome those problems which they believe and claim the military caused.
What Nigeria went through during the military regime was part of national development. The military intervention did not happen by accident. It was a process of development and during that process, the military were there, quite alright.
There were some mistakes, but when you lay the cards on the table today, when you see what is happening to Nigerians in the hands of the civilians today, you will begin to question why they blame the military unjustly?
I mean, there is high degree of insecurity in the land. People cannot move freely for fear of being kidnapped because the kind of ransom the kidnappers demand for, they don’t have it. And when somebody is kidnapped, they are not sure if the person is going to come back. And these people are the the same Nigerians who are complaining about military regime!
I do not subscribe to the fact that military regime should continue, but comparatively – not because I was in the military – I felt safer that time than now. There is no sense in telling me that I am democratic when I don’t have my peace.
I cannot sleep with my two eyes closed and all electioneering democratic dividends promises you made are not fulfilled. Do you understand what I mean?
So, anybody who goes about shouting that the military are the problem of Nigeria, that person is telling lies. Where has he been since 1999, when the military left the space?
A student who went to university without graduating, count the date, 1999 to 2010, then he should be kicked out of the university.
(cuts in) No,no no. We are not going to be students for ever. I am not justifying any ill caused by any military man. Let me tell you something: any person who went into the military the time I went, never went there with the hope of becoming rich.
The code of ethics we have there is: As a military officer, you will never be a rich man but you will not beg for food. I think you understand?
If you watch, there was no money in the military era. Did you see any military governor travelling outside the country unless he was sick? Even to clear him to go out was a problem. They could not go out. Could they go overseas with their families?
It was not allowed. So, Nigerians should look at problems from all facets and make comparison. I am not accusing anybody but the politicians. Look at how they were tearing their clothes and trying to strip a woman naked in the House of Representatives.
From 1999 till now, they would have been civilised enough to sit down and argue out points without resorting to tearing clothes. It is a disgrace. It means they are still jogging in the jungle.
As a soldier, during the war, how many people did your bullets fell?
No, it is impossible, but one thing you have to know about fighting is that situations determine what you do.
Anybody can become a soldier. It is a question of training; and discipline is very important.
You will find out that even when the soldiers are going to shoot, they shoot at the same time and the reason for that is to ensure that no individual will be judged as being responsible for the victim’s death.
There is a difference between war during the time of Hannibal and the modern wars. One thing about modern wars is that they are swift and savage. For example, I used to be a bombardier: I fought from the aircraft.
We used to pray that ‘God, please, when this bomb will be leaving the aircraft, protect the honest man, protect the defenceless, but anybody who is armed on the ground, get him’.
What do you say about the spate of kidnapping in the country?
Let me say that kidnapping is a national disgrace.
In fact, if I could get any word stronger than national disgrace, I would have used it. I want you to know something about kidnappers; they are people who act under the influence of drugs. You cannot describe them as human beings.
As far as they are concerned, they are against the society and they believe the society is against them.
Now, they kidnap people and start asking for money they cannot even afford to pay. These are who I may call ‘members of the Synagogue of Satan’.