BY DOTUN IBIWOYE
The accolades totally outweigh any criticism about the late Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu, in the eyes of the former Minister of Information, Chief Alex Akinyele. In this interview on the legacies of Ojukwu, Akinyele also bared his mind on some other national issues including national security, corruption among others. Excerpts:
Where would you place the late Odumegwu Ojukwu in the nation’s history?
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu might be wrongly misunderstood by many people, but I don’t fall within that category. I saw Ojukwu as a Nigerian. He was every sense a Nigerian. Whether you think of his activities and non activities with respect to the Biafra-Nigerian civil war. The fact that he came back after his exile and went into political activities to vote as a Nigerian shows that he is truly a Nigerian.
From the point of view of what he did in the Nigerian- Biafran conflict, he showed that he was a couragous man who laid the foundation for the agitation of the minority interests in Nigeria. He is man who could fight hard to achieve an objective. The first objective might not be in the general interest of Nigeria but you can see the good intentions in his fight.
Also, he fights for the general interest of Nigerians and everyone can see the fighting spirit, like a good soldier.
In 1998 when I went to Enugu as part of the National Reconciliation committee, he presented a paper to the audience. That paper was the best paper that we got in that committee. When you read the paper, you will see that he is passionately in love with one Nigeria. But at the same time, he made attempts for the people who fought the war, he felt that Nigerians who fought in the Biafran war should be compensated, which was a great idea.
You talk as if you knew him personally and had regard for his agitations?
You talk about people according to the way they relate to you. When my wife died, he came to pay a condolence visit to me. He consoled me and pacified me and spoke to me for 30 minutes in my sitting room. I was really impressed because I never knew that he had such patience, for him to stand by me and encourage me to move on with life, was really helpful.
I respect his, perseverance and approach to nationals issues which made him unique among his peers. Since he married the most beautiful woman in Nigeria, he was a good family man.
The lessons that Nigerians should learn from him is that no matter what your country does to you, don’t go to war against your country.
We also have to commend the effort of the former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari who gave him a soft landing to his fatherland. He received him back and settled him in the language of reconciliation.
Ojukwu did not abuse the reconciliation. He honoured it. We thank Shagari for bringing back that kind of Nigerian to the fold of Nigerians. What we have to learn from him or to appreciate, is that whatever difficulties or differences that we have in our country, our country is still our country.
How do you situate these differences you mention in the emergence of Boko Haram that has led to the prosecution of Senator?
The security issue is so serious that it is enough to make all of us shiver. A senator of the federal republic! One of the highest offices in Nigeria and one of them is charged with treason! In fact, I want to say that all those of them who are in the National Assembly should bear part of the shame. That one of us can turn round against the fatherland?
I hope that they will not make a mess of the case in court. It baffles me and it baffles many people. How safe are we?
These Boko Haram people tell you that they will strike at any place that they want to strike, and they strike there. There is nobody to stop them. That was why President Goodluck Jonathan made a mockery of our national award by giving one to the Inspector General of Police. What for? What is the meaning of that?
The police is not doing their best to save us in this country. And the way they distribute policemen to senators, assembly men here and there as if they are so jobless.
I went to see a friend, he is just a politician and there were three of them (policemen) there!
There was a time that I visited my friend, he was then the chairman of PDP, his house was like a police barrack – as if the country does not know what to do with the policemen we train. That is why 30 people were recently killed in Jos, 10 people killed by armed robbers in Ogun State last week. So who is safe?
A logical and reasonable distribution of policemen will address the question of insecurity. But they are in the houses of these politicians, they carry plates, they drive their cars, they drive their wives. They are like house boys.
The Inspector General of Police should look into that. And whatever he observes let him write the Senate. The policemen have lost their identities, they have lost their pride, they are like house boys. They follow their bosses to parties and when their bosses are drinking, they are also drinking and they send them errands there in the party. The girl friends of the senators also send them on errand. They have really downgraded our police.
How can you expect the best from a police force which has been so downgraded? So we need a rethink in this country. What we have, we don’t know how to use. Our police have gone round the world, they come back with medals, but we who own them do not know how to use them. We still treat them like house boys, errand boys, it is unfair.
What is your take on the plea bargain method adopted by the EFCC?
What is called plea bargain? It is the most corrupt way to dispense justice. When it started, I was alarmed and it was a shame that all of us opened our eyes wide when they were going with their plea bargain. There is no degree of honesty. Somebody who has stolen money? It may be ten thousand or one million naira. Basically he is a rogue. Treat him like a rogue. Why pamper them? Why say, “Alright you have stolen billions, say you are sorry. Give back about ten naira to the government and they themselves will take some for themselves.”
It is an abuse of the rule of law. Abuse of the rule of justice of fair play, abuse of the integrity of the court. It shouldn’t have happened and when it happened, I was so shocked that I stopped talking or commenting on EFCC.
I am surprised that the great minds in this country did not see it. I am surprised that they allowed it to happen at all. I am also surprised that they allowed it to happen in more than one case. When it happened in another case people would have raised alarm and it would have been better. Whatever happened, it is already in our records that those who are called upon to fight crime, to fight corruption are themselves assisting and encouraging corruption with plea bargain.
So what do you think is the way out?
One of the reasons that Farida Waziri was sacked was because of this plea bargain. She is a lawyer, she is a top police officer, she should not have allowed it, talk less of executing it. I must confess, I have respect for her, she is my friend and I like her very much and there was a time I was supporting her with my views as expressed in the papers. But immediately this plea bargaining started, I was surprised. It could have happened under somebody else, not Farida.
Does that imply that the President made the right decision in sacking her?
We all know that the president has good intentions. He is a godly man, he is a lucky man, always dancing around him are the apostles of the devil so he needs a greater heart not to shame God. If he was appointed by God and he is there now, you should know that anybody that is anointed by God’s will is the target of devils.
The way that some of these governors are looting the treasury and being set free is also worrying. They don’t start to steal at the second term, they start stealing from the time they get there, right from day one, because they know that they might not be elected again.
So if the second term doesn’t come, they carry on with their business. It is a pity in this country. Sunny Ade said that the problem that money will bring, money will not be able to cure it. Nigerians love and craze for money will definitely destroy this country eventually.
It seems as if nobody is too big nobody is too highly placed not to steal. Where are we heading in this country?
What does anybody want to do with it excess money. It does not exempt you from death, it does not exempt you from being sick and it does not exempt you from having cancer. They just destroy themselves, destroy their reputation and they destroy Nigeria alongside. That is the most pitiable part of this craze for money. It is a pity.
What is your assessment of the recent national awards, does it still have its credibility?
From my assessment it has nothing called credibility. When you line them up and take a selection of ten of the awardees, you will discover that six of them are looters and unpatriotic people. Where is the integrity? That was why I have expressed an opinion that the president should begin to think from next time, he should write out list of those to be awarded. He should give the list to the Nigerian public. If anyone has anything against any of these people, let us know. Then they will be appointed by all of us.
If that does not seem to suit them, then send the list to the EFCC, SSS, ICPC are these people honest, can you clear them, and tell us if they have criminal records. We want to know more about these people inside and outside. When they say yes as they confirm their names, the president can give them awards. But when you give rogues…
I told you that there is no degree of honesty. You are either honest or dishonest. Not you saying that your own degree of dishonesty is manageable, I stole only NI.1 billion. It is not acceptable. There is no comparison. A rogue is a rogue. If the president will do that, it will be very good for the country and therefore, if you have a national award offered to you everybody will respect it, not only Nigerians will respect you, people outside Nigeria will respect you. When you go to the UK, the US and other western countries, you will be sorry for Nigeria the way people talk about the values that we hold dear to ourselves.