Senator Ameh Ebute was merely one of the senators in the democratic experiment pushed by former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida in the botched Third Republic until, he, in 1993 teamed up with some other senators to unseat the then president of the Senate, Senator Iyorchia Ayu. His stay in office was, however, very brief as within months, General Sani Abacha struck to dismantle the country’s then nascent democratic institutions.
Following that, Ebute, in a daring rebuff of Abacha summoned a session of the Senate in Lagos to give legitimacy to the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Bashorun Moshood Abiola. For his action, he was thrown into detention alongside one of his fellow senators, Senator Ahmed Tinubu. On his release, Senator Ebute from the Idoma speaking area of Benue State in northern Nigeria laid low and reverted to his legal practice in Abuja.
In an interview session with newsmen in Lagos, Senator Ebute divorces himself and his people in the North-Central Nigeria from the increasing agitations against another term for President Goodluck Jonathan, who he claimed has performed excellently. He gives reasons the consolidation of three parties into the All Progressives Congress, APC will fail and warns his distinguished colleague, Senator Tinubu to beware of his new friends in the North. Excerpts:
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
What do you say to fellow stakeholders from the North who are saying that it is the turn of the North to produce the president?
My advice to them is that they should wait until President Goodluck Jonathan completes his second term since by divine providence, the zoning has automatically fallen on the South-South. So, the North whose definition I am not too sure includes the Middle Belt, should wait until the person God has given the presidency has completed his term. As soon as he completes his second term one can now argue that the turn should now come to the North and that North, should include all the zones in the North, not only the North-West. We have other zones in the North, but some people are now arguing or defining North as if it means only the North-West.
So do you say that when Ango Abdullahi speaks, he doesn’t represent you?
I am not a member of the Arewa Consultative Forum or the Northern Elders Forum. Whether he is speaking for Arewa Consultative Forum or Northern Elders Forum, it is left to Ango Abdullahi and I don’t know anything that is happening within those organizations.
Daily press conferences
But I assure you that apart from the members of the Northern Elders Forum and Arewa Consultative Forum, there are millions of other northerners that believe in the administration of Goodluck Jonathan. So, when one person representing a few people being funded by the governors and holding press conferences virtually everyday, he is putting up his own ideas, you cannot say that the ideas are supported by everybody within that zone. I agree that he must be speaking for some people, but they are not the majority in that zone.
So you don’t support the assertion that the North is disenchanted?
Why should the North be disenchanted? I am part of the North and that is why I ask whether I am part of the North they are speaking about? Why should the North be disenchanted? We started this presidential system in 1979 when President Shehu Shagari was the president for four years. He entered the second term when the military took over from him. The head of the military that took over from him (Buhari) was from the North, then one year into office, another northerner, IBB took over from Buhari and was in office for nine years. Then from IBB, you had Abacha who was in office for five years and Abacha died and Abdulsalami was in office for another one year and yet, nobody complained.
The people who were at the helm for 16 years were all northerners and there was no Boko Haram and nobody organized anything to distabilise the polity. So why should the North be bitter for the eight years that President Goodluck Jonathan is going to be in office? If Nigerians could be patient when these people I have mentioned were in office, then why shouldn’t they be patient when other persons are in office? Does that mean that the presidency belongs to them? Nigerians say no, the presidency does not belong to any particular zone.
Do you see the APC as a threat to your party, the PDP?
If I go into the history of Nigerian politics, you will agree with me that the merger will not work. I was in detention with Bola Tinubu in 1994 after I reconvened the Senate in Lagos after Abacha had taken over and (Senate) urged Abacha to hand over to Abiola and we were arrested and I was in detention with Bola Tinubu in Alagbon for 50 days. Bola knew what happened and I still know what happened and I am surprised that Bola can go into marriage with these people.
We were there in Alagbon Close when Abiola was arrested and there was hue and cry and the whole of Alagbon Close was full of people and we thought that Abiola was going to join us in detention when he declared himself the president. One hour later, people started wailing that Abiola was being taken to Abuja and that was what led to the end of his life and I don’t think that the Yoruba people have forgotten that incident to hobnob or have a marriage with people who will likely treat them the same way again. I don’t know.
Which people are you referring to?
You know them. You know the people that constituted the CPC, that is Buhari’s party. Buhari was the chief adviser to Abacha when Abacha was Head of State. As chairman of PTF, they were very hard on us. I am not saying that because of that they shouldn’t become leader again, but I am warning Bola Tinubu that what happened to us in 1994 could happen to him again, that he should be careful because he is my colleague.
Do you see General Buhari as a leader of the North?
From the way the 2011 election votes were cast, I now agree that Gen. Buhari is a leader of his zone, that is the North-West zone. He is in full control of his North-West zone politically.
What of your own area?
No, no, he is not in control of the North-Central.