• On lingering Boko Haram war: Buhari, as C-in-C and retired general, is probably not giving the right command to his service chiefs
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Major-General John Gbor, a former Commandant of the Nigeria Army Education Corps, is the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA. In this interview, Gbor says President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to fix Nigeria as he promised, asking Nigerians to reject him and the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, at the polls in 2019 and vote for him.
What informed your decision to contest for President?
I have chosen to contest for President because Nigeria is at the crossroads. We are in critical times and critical times require critical leadership. If things were going on well and if there were no crises, if fellow Nigerians were not being killed all over the country by kidnappers, herdsmen, farmers and all kinds of crooked people; if the youths, over 20 million graduates, were employed; if our women in the rural areas and in the cities were cared for by government and if our schools were running well to provide qualitative education to Nigerian children, in primary and secondary schools, and our university students were without educational crisis, probably I would not have come but none of these things is happening.
There is serious security challenge in the country, people are being killed all over Nigeria and it looks as if government is helpless even though we have a retired general of the Nigerian Army as President; he is helpless and this is necessary for General Gbor to come in now to save Nigeria. We had a situation like this in the 60s and someone came from the North Central, the Middle Belt called General Gowon; he saved the nation from disintegration. General Gbor is coming also from the Middle Belt, the North Central to unite this country. There will be no nonsense and when I come in, there will be unity. Besides, this country came as a result of British activities on the African soil but this country has been formed by Nigeria using the British imperialists.
When this country started in the 1920s and 1930s, it was the hope of not only Nigerians but also that of the entire black world that Nigeria will lead the entire third world countries. We eventually became an independent nation in 1960. But because we were loosely put together by the British, we ended up in political crisis that led us into civil war and, after the civil war, we have not done much to integrate the Nigerian people. We are still the people of the East, the West and the North. Under President Buhari, Nigeria is divided more than it has ever been.
It has become necessary for General Gbor to come in as President on the ticket of the party that had its origin before the East, the North and the West were created. APGA is an offshoot of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) which was formed in 1944 at the instance of the Nigerian youths. Nigerian youths are suffering today simply because what the youths started in 1944 before the East, the North and the West were created, they abandoned it; it was the youth that started the NCNC, not Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe or Herbert Macaulay; it was the ex-students of King’s College, Lagos who rose from a meeting and went to the house of Azikiwe and told him Nigerians didn’t know themselves since amalgamation in 1914 and neither had a common council to speak for them. In essence, they needed a council that will speak for all Nigerians.
Zik said he was happy to listen to them and then motivated the youths to call for a national conference, he allowed them to use his newspapers to mobilise for the conference that was held on August 26,1944; and it was on that occasion that they established the National Council of Nigeria. Some Cameroonian groups came as observers and, when they saw that Nigerians had decided to come together as a unit, they also requested that if Nigeria wouldn’t mind, they should include them. That same day, they changed the name from the National Council of Nigeria to the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon. The aim of the council was to weld together all the ethnic groups of Nigeria and work for the prosperity and well-being of each Nigerian and Herbert Macaulay was elected the Chairman and Azikiwe the Secretary General. It was the youths that gave out the cock as the group’s symbol and the cock is still crowing and that is why General Gbor has come to this cock given to Nigeria by youths in 1944 so that Nigeria will wake up.
With the challenges facing this country, how have you outlined your programmes to tackle them and realise the country of your dream? What are you bringing to the table?
As President, the first thing I am going to do is to seek ways of uniting Nigerians. Let me tell you frankly, the Hausa man/the Fulani man does not trust the Igbo man, the Igbo man does not trust the Yoruba man, the Yoruba man does not trust the Hausa man, we don’t trust ourselves. How can live without trusting each other? We are afraid of each other; we use derogatory languages and names on each other. We may come together to share the resources of the nation but we do not love ourselves and trust ourselves. When I come in as President, the first thing I would do is to get a committee of traditional rulers, academicians, renowned people like Prof. Wole Soyinka, patriots like the Emir of Kano Lamido Sanusi, intellectuals, men and women to find out what our problems are.
Why is it that as a Tiv man, I cannot trust my neighbour the Idoma man; why is it that the Yoruba man cannot trust the Igbo man, what is the problem, where did it start from? Let us get to the root. Did the Igbo even offend the Yoruba people as a group or as individuals? Did the Yoruba offend Igbo people? What are all these talks that amount to nothing? Did the Igbo offend the Fulani people? Did the Fulani offend the Igbo people? Let us put everything on the table, remove the fear and when we remove the fear, we find out how to remove the hurdle of this fear. How can the Fulani, the Hausa, the Yoruba, the Igbo can now come together to start building this nation, what Zik wanted us to do in 1958, 1959 before independence?
Now, we are still suffering even though Generals Ironsi and Gowon came and dismantled the regions, which were created by the British to fuel division among Nigerians and which led us to civil war. As soldiers, they saw it far away. The first thing the British did to truncate Nigeria’s nationalism was to give us regions so that nobody will be fighting for Nigeria, making people from each region to be fighting for themselves and not the nation called Nigeria and that led us into serious political crisis. So when Ironsi came, he pulled down the regions and brought provinces. But Nigerians did not understand him. In the North, they felt he was trying to level down everything so that he will bring his Igbo brothers to take over the nation because the North was not educated. He was called all kinds of names. The issue was that he didn’t consult well, he didn’t do his home work properly and therefore Nigerians did not understand him but that was the right thing to do.
Are you going to replicate that, are you going to return that system?
When Gowon came after Ironsi, he knew that was the problem. He consulted and created 12 states. Ironsi gave us 24 states by that group of provinces; 6 in the East, 6 in the West and 12 in the North but Gowon gave us 12 states, half of what Ironsi gave us; today we have 36 states and we still condemn Ironsi. He was doing the right thing but we didn’t know, the simple reason was that he didn’t consult and explain the historical background of his action. So, when I come in, I am going to restructure Nigeria but my own restructuring is not going back to the regions as some people are agitating. Regions are here to divide us. States are good. But my own restructuring focuses on the emergence of economic entities that are viable and sustainable and competitive so that, if a state has oil, manage your oil, take care of your youths, women and the aged. Certain percentage as agreed upon as a nation will go to the centre. If you have gold, mine it. If you are into palm oil, it is your property; what you produce, give a percentage to the federal government. I have five-point agenda and restructuring is the first one.
We want to restructure Nigeria. The British gave us regions because Nigerian nationalism was becoming too powerful, it was going to send the British packing, so they gave us regions, so that instead of fighting for national nationalism, Nigeria will decentralize into fighting for regional nationalism; Igbo fighting for Igbo, Hausa fighting for Hausa and Yoruba fighting for Yoruba, nobody was fighting for Nigeria apart from the army. So, if we go back to the regions, we will go back to what the British created us to be so that whatever we do here, we will remain divided; we steal money here and send to the British bank, and when you tap palm oil, you sell it for the interest of the British government to educate their children while your own children are suffering here. I will not let that happen if Nigeria will listen to me. States are good; we will develop as we are.
The philosophy of my administration is that nobody will be left behind, no place will be left behind, everybody will be developed, every human being will be affected positively, and every place will be affected positively. I am going to decentralize the police so that each federating unit will look after its own security, will tap its own resources and if you are tapping your own resources, you need security to protect your resources and to protect the citizens of your state. We will still have Mobile Police at the national level; a state that is in crisis and needs the assistance of the Federal Government, the Mobile Police will go there to assist to put down the crisis but each state will maintain its own security. In the judiciary, there are a lot of cases all over Nigeria up to the federal level and this is delaying justice. I am going to decentralize the judiciary but they will be consulted and I am going to take the judiciary very seriously. Some aspects of the judiciary will be decentralized. For instance, the Court of Appeal will operate at the state level so that cases will be dispensed off quickly because we have been delaying justice too much in this country. Also the cost of running government is too high.
We borrow money from international agencies to develop Nigeria and the chunk of it goes to service the National Assembly, pay the ministers, the governors and the people for whom you borrow the money to develop, to help provide education, roads, hospitals, they hardly get these things. A small percentage of the population will borrow money and share it, this will not happen. We are going to cut down the cost of governance and the excess from this will be used to take care of the poor. The youth and women are also on my agenda. A country that ignores its youth, that country has shot itself on the foot, it cannot progress. Nigeria has systematically ignored the youths from 1960 to date.
When people contest for political positions in this country, nobody talks about the youth and when they come to power, the youths will just follow them blindly, they don’t know that this country belongs to them more than these ones contesting for political positions. In another 30 years, by 2050, our population, which is 180million now, is going to be over 400million and the youth that can’t oversee Nigeria now will be managing the Nigeria of over 400million people. So if we ignore these youths today, when the country population gets to over 400million, how can they manage the country? If people like Buhari, a general, cannot manage Nigeria and people are being killed over the place, with his military background, how do you expect these youths to manage Nigeria when the population is over 400million? Where will they be getting food when we are not planning? This is not to say there will be no food but if we don’t plan and have a culture of how food can be produced and distributed, human beings will be eating human beings at that time.
You talked about President Buhari being a military person and being incapable of curtailing the security challenges we are currently faced with. You are also a military person; what would you say has made it difficult for President Buhari to perform?
In the military, we have generals, we have a commander-in-chief but we also have service chiefs. If we are fighting a war, of course the commander-in-chief is the overall person in charge. A general is appointed to oversee that war. All generals are trained but they are not the same. When a general is not doing well in a war situation, the commander-in-chief replaces him with another general. If Buhari is not doing well who is our commander-in-chief, the electorate should remove him and put me there to make sure that things work, generals are never the same.
There is this widespread belief that the military created the current problem of structure that we have, that the unitary system that we are practicing today was caused by the military. Do you think those who have this impression are fair to the military?
The issue here is not a question of being fair to the military or not, the issue is how do we handle Nigeria now that we are at the crossroads? It is not the issue of who caused Nigeria’s problem, the British caused Nigeria’s problem by giving us regions. When Nigeria came together, the people now refer to themselves as Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo.
You said President Buhari has failed to curtail the killings all over the nation; if you become the President of Nigeria, how would you solve the problems of insurgency and insecurity, Boko Haram?
The Nigerian Army is renowned all over the world as the best peace keeping army and I personally came out with two books on that. Anywhere there is a problem in the world, the UN will insist that Nigeria should be part of the peace keeping mission, so why can’t we keep peace in our own country? You have a commander-in-chief who is not able to wield, give the right command to his service chiefs, sit back and expect results, you will get it. If they have training problem, they will tell you. As commander-in-chief, I will make sure they are trained in the area they need, even if it means bringing people from overseas or sending the team overseas for training, I will do that. If it is equipment, if they come to me, they will get it. But why do we have insurgency? It is not always to use weapons each time this thing happens. Of course the first thing you do is to protect lives and property in the areas where there is insurgency. If people are saying ‘we are Biafra and we want to go’, is that want they are saying? No. They are saying ‘we are angry. We graduated from the university 10 years ago, 20 years ago, no jobs and the number keeps increasing each year and you, as a government, doesn’t care’. You are appointing the same people who were ministers in 1960 as ministers again and you are ignoring these youths and when these people who were ministers in 1960 come as ministers again, they don’t even think of the youths in their localities, so what do you expect?