By BASHIR ADEFAKA
Major-General Tajudeen Adeniyi Olanrewaju is a retired fine military gentleman. He made his marks first as Commander, Corps of Artillery. He was Chairman, Assets Sharing Committee charged with planning of new states in 1991 and sharing of assets among them.
He was also General Officer Commanding (GOC), Three Division of the Nigerian Army, Jos, Member, Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) and later Minister of Communications during which he initiated the deregulation of the telecommunications sector of the Nigerian economy in the peak period of the late General Sani Abacha regime. He speaks on national issues. Excerpts:
LET me start by asking
about your time with the late former Vice President Aikhomu, whose office as next to the Commander-in-Chief, supervised the Presidential Assets Sharing Committee that you chaired in 1991 during a states’ creation programme by General Ibrahim Babangida regime.
His Excellency Admiral Augustus Aikhomu was a wonderful officer and amiable leader to the core. When the news of his death came, it met me in England and it was shocking. The little time I worked with him when I was Chairman of Assets Sharing Committee was memorable because his office as vice president supervised the committee and so I worked under him. Through the guidance and directions he gave to us, we were successful in planning the new states and peaceful sharing of those assets among them.
I, at least, personally, took charge of sharing the assets among some of the states like Delta out of Bendel, Abia out of Imo, Enugu out of Anambra; Yobe out of Borno and one other. They were five that I did personally. I gave the Imo State University to Imo State because there was no need to be unfair in that process.
The community where the university was located fell on the territory of the new Imo and that was it and you can’t hear any assets-related misunderstanding in those areas up till today. That I can comfortably dedicate to the Almighty Allah and good leadership quality of the late boss of this matter, Admiral Aikhomu. There were other states handled by other officers like Admiral Allison Madueke, husband of the present Minister of Petroleum; he handled other areas.
So ever since then, I have been showing my due respect for the late vice president, Admiral Aikhomu, and he always tried to bring me nearer to him any time I went to him. I mean for him to die in the minds of those who love him is something out of ordinary. He was one of the very few leaders that one can easily count upon during crisis. He is great even in death and we will surely miss him.
While you were away, many things happened and one of them was the Major Hamza Al-Mustapha’s castigation of Yoruba leaders over the June 12 issue. As a military officer of Yoruba extraction at that time, what happened to June 12?
During the General Ibrahim Babangida regime, I was Commander, Corps of Artillery and I was busy with commanding my formation. So I was never involved in the running of government or participating in matters relating to the June 12 imbroglio. So, it will be very difficult for me to say there was any particular role that I was made to play other than a committee in which I was also a member.
What committee and what relationship did it have with June 12?
After the annulment and the attendant crisis that followed, the committee was set up to look for possible solutions to the problems created by the annulment of the June 12 by which we were able to proffer some solutions. One of those solutions was the issue of Interim National Government (ING) that eventually came into being. There were other solutions we proffered which I’m not going to talk about but I can only say that the stepping aside by President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida at that time made possible the coming to life of the ING. That committee of which I was a member had General Oladipo Diya as chairman; Admiral Pobeni and Col. Lawan Gwadabe were also there.
We gave reason why the Interim Government was necessary, which was to bring about a cooling balm to the issue of June 12 crisis. And it was accepted by the government which led to the installation of Chief Ernest Shonekan as the Head of Interim National Government. Other than that, I played no role regarding the June 12 issue.
As for other issues that came up while I was not around regarding what happened about the annulment and the aftermath of the annulment, I think those the allegations were made against, who are already dead, have been cleared by some living Yoruba leaders. I cannot make comment on what Al-Mustapha said in the court of law concerning either myself or others because I have nothing to do with it. I and Al-Mustapha are not contemporaries in the Army.
The only thing I can say about it is that Oputa panel was set up to look into the issue and they had made their own submissions. It is now hoped that the Federal Government will look into that panel’s decisions. At least it’s over 10 or 12 years or so now that Oputa panel had made their submissions and some of us hope that the government will be able to look at it and finally lay the matter to rest.
Leaders like you have advised on the national economiy. What do you think of the new economic programme just inaugurated by Mr. President?
I think the President has done the right thing by saying that he’s removing politics from it and that it would be strictly confidential to him. He should not allow his activities to be on the pages of the newspapers all the time. It should be strictly personal and confidential to him even when actions are being taken. He has a good intention with the new economic programme and it is obvious. He will succeed, I pray and canvass the support of all well-meaning Nigerians, for him to succeed.