*Says Diya, Olanrewaju have suffered enough
*’The way out of Yoruba marginalisation’
Major-General Adeyinka Adebayo (rtd), 85, is a former military governor of the defunct Western Region in whose time Chief Obafemi Awolowo was released from prison and made to join the General Yakubu Gowon government as Federal Commissioner for Finance and Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council. Adebayo, a civil war general and President, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), spoke, in this interview at his Ikeja GRA, Lagos home, on how the release of the former premier of Western Region happened, the state-of-the-nation, the security challenges facing Nigeria, corruption and the South- West integration programme. Excerpts:
By Bashir Adefaka
You were in charge of what has today become six-states of the South-West as military governor of Western Region and so should have an idea of how to achieve the integration in the former Western Region without necessarily breaching the unity of Nigeria against the insinuation of some people. What is your take?
Well, you have said it all. It is true that I was governor of Western Region, which is now split into six states. At that time when we were asking for states, other regions were asking for states as well. We thought that creating more states was a good thing because it would help the states economically, spread the economy of the region and bring development quicker, and then, it would enable the people to work harder for their states. And I think this is what we should still do.
What we should do now is to develop the economy because, if we do, it will give employment to our youths coming out of school and make people work harder than before.
Continuing to do exactly what you have said has informed the move by governors of the states of the South -West to integrate to be able to achieving a programme which grows the economy of the region thereby providing jobs for the youth. But some people are looking at it from ethnic angle which they say is not good for one and united Nigeria. How do you link the two?
People should think more of the development of the region/states via the overall development of our nation than thinking about ethnicity. We have gone far ahead of ethnicity in this country and that should be taken away from our minds whenever we are talking about things that will help us grow as components of the national entity. We must think about development of our individual regional areas but we must also keep ourselves together as a nation.
You have been much aware of the cries of marginalisation by leaders of South-West where you are President of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE). Some have blamed the reason for the marginalisation on you the leaders of the race.
I think the people crying marginalisation are only Yoruba people now. What I would say is that they should forget about whether or not we are marginalised and face how we can develop ourselves as a component of the national entity. We must develop the country and the way to develop the country is to get the states to work. The first step to developing a nation is to develop oneself, when you do that and some of your products get to other areas, you then must ask for your entitlements from the centre as a result of your contribution to the collective building of the nation.
We are in a federal system and we have states within the federation. Therefore, whatever is due to each state must be given to it. I think it would be unfair to the Yoruba people to be subjected to marginalisation to the point that we shout that Federal Government has not given us our entitlements whereas we are supposed to be part and parcel of the government.
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, recently accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of taking the Yoruba to where they are. He said he had the opportunity to do more than for his people while in office but that was not done.
I am not prepared to comment on what Alaafin of Oyo said. Obasanjo was President of the country. And as President, he was in charge of development of the entire country. Obasanjo was not doing it all alone. He had a team working with him and for the development of each area within the federation and so, one should not be blaming Obasanjo now! Why did you people not shout then when he was there, that he was not doing the right thing for the Yoruba race?
I am not saying that Yoruba people have been given all their entitlements but one must not put the blame on the head of Obasanjo because he was a Yoruba man. At the same time, being a Yoruba leader and President of the country almost concurrently, he should not be working on his own tribe alone at the expense of others. That would have made it worse now that the people are talking about it because he would have breached the leadership trust that was put in him.
As a retired general…
(cuts in) But not tired (laughs).
Yes, retired (but not tired). You have other generals around you that ordinarily should complement your efforts in moving the Yoruba race forward: Generals Oladipo Diya, Tajudeen Olanrewaju and others. Yoruba were said to be indifferent to their plight while they were awaiting pardon as victims of the General Sani Abacha’s phantom coup. Now that they have been pardoned but the gazette to clear them finally is being delayed, what is your word to President Jonathan?
First and foremost, let me start by saying I am still a Major General, there is no gainsaying that I am still respected in the society and so I can speak my views to the top. President Jonathan has started well by pardoning these generals and I can only advise him to complete it by ensuring that the gazette regarding their pardon is published on time so that the grey areas due to conflicting media reports as to who and who have benefited will be cleared and the fine generals will be restored finally to their normal lives with full enjoyment of their entitlements.
These are generals that have contributed their quotas to the building of the nation. I mean, Diya lives near me here. He is a good man; a good Yoruba man both inside and outside the military. The same thing is General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, the late General Adisa and others.
In the first place, there was nothing they did that was bad so as to warrant that sentence. But we thank God now that the President has done what is necessary and pardon has been issued. But I am also aware that the Army authority has not been able to effect the release of their entitlements because of either the delay in the release of the gazette or that the presidency has not officially informed them. This makes it necessary that President Jonathan should see this as a major component of the laudable effort he is making in ensuring that things get better in this country and he should cause all those involved in the release of the gazette to do so without delay.
Most Nigerians are not comfortable with the security challenges facing us as a nation. If it is not Boko Haram, it is militants kidnapping people in the Niger Delta or cultists killing police officers and, do not forget, that Jos crisis has also not really subsided.
As far as security in Nigeria is concerned, it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to ensure the security of lives and property and the states to report whatever security challenges facing their respective domains to the Federal Government as a way of putting a superb security measure in place. By this I mean security is a participatory duty that, even though it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to ensure, every good Nigerian has a role to play. The Federal Government will not be everywhere; they will not be at the grassroots. What are those other people doing? How are they taking proper care of their domains to ensure that behaviours that are alien to their various communities are checked?
That takes us to the issue of corruption. This, apparently, has eaten deep into the fabrics of our national life. Is it that government has not done enough to tackle the scourge or the scourge has turned into a monster?
The fight against corruption is the responsibility of one, the government of the federation; two, the governments of the states and the individuals. Corruption is a disease that must be vigorously tackled by everybody.
The issue of power in 2015 is already heating up the polity: the Igbo are clamouring, the Niger Delta megaphones won’t let go, yet the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has made clear its position that it must be North come 2015. What do you think?
We do not know ourselves much yet and therefore we must continue to work together. We should continue to bring everybody to work together to get the right leadership. It does not matter where the leadership comes from, but it must not come from one place all the time. At any rate, leadership should go to the adequately qualified, efficient, honest person. At the same time, we must not forget other areas.
Your government of Western Region faciliated the release of Chief Obafemi Awolowo from prison after being convicted for treason. How did you arrive at that decision?
We arrived at that decision because we discovered that there was no need to put him in prison in the first instance. The old man did a lot of good works for the country, for the Western Region and, when the military took over from the civilian regime that put him in prison, it was the duty of the military regime in power to release him. That was what we did. I worked on the military on the need to release him and we agreed. Yes, we brought him into the military government and he did a lot of good jobs for us there.
So it was based on your recommendation that he became Federal Commissioner for Finance?
Well, based on the recommendation of the government (laughs), he became the Federal Commissioner for Finance and he did very well in that position and improved the economy of the country.
I just want to be sure of the role you played in how Chief Awolowo moved from prison to the office of the Federal Commissioner for Finance.
I recommended his release and he was released. And when we wanted to bring some civilians into the military government, we felt he would be very useful in the regime, and it turned out that he stood out of the pack. He never disappointed us and we thank God he did not.
You just clocked 85 but still looking radiantly vibrant. What is your birthday message for the younger generation?
One, you should be contented with what you have, with what you are and you must put your mind on what you want to be in future. Then, if you do not overwork yourself on what you do not need, on what you do not have, then you would not have any problem.
You love the way I look at 85 because I have always lived my life as a contented person. I am happy, simple and I look after my children and my children look after me…
(cuts in) Including the former Ekiti State governor-son of the retired general. (laughter)?