State of the nation: Those reaping from faulty structure won’t change Nigeria – Kolade
By Clifford Ndujihe
…Continues from yesterday
•How soldiers precipitated avoidable civil war
•June 12 can recur
•We must encourage young people to take over
•I didn’t find it easy serving in govt
•Obasanjo, Jonathan didn’t interfere in my freedom
Yesterday, we served you the first part of an engaging interview with former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr Christopher Kolade, on the state of the nation. Today, we bring you the concluding part covering how soldiers made the Nigerian civil war inevitable, his challenge in serving in the Obasanjo and Jonathan’s administrations and how to avert a repeat of June 12, 1993 election annulment among others.
From accounts, the Biafran broadcasters appeared to have out-performed Nigerian broadcasters, including you during the civil war…
Kolade said: I am glad you said ‘’appeared to have out-performed.’ The appearance may have been there but the reality was different. A propaganda cannot overcome the reality of the experience of people who are involved.
Those jeopardizing our democracy didn’t pay any price for June 12 — Igini(Opens in a new browser tab)
I was in a meeting towards the end of the civil war where somebody was saying, for every Biafran soldier that is killed, five Nigerian soldiers are being killed. So, you say to yourself very soon the Nigerians will disappear completely. Then, the situation arose in which you saw that the civil war ended and somebody surrendered to somebody else. So you say what happened to the five to one story? So, propaganda always has a day that it will fall to pieces.
With hindsight do you think the civil war could have been averted?
Oh yes, every war could have been averted. Let me remind you whether it is First World War, Second World War, or Nigeria Civil war, when the war ended what did we do? We came back to a round table to discuss how to go forward. Supposing we had done that, sat down to discuss before the war, we could have avoided the war. But because we wanted to show superiority, strength and wanted to win, to be the ones who scored victory, we fought the war.
When you have conflict or disagreement don’t look for victory, don’t look for the chance to win, look for a resolution because the problem belongs to all of you. Look for a way to resolve the issue rather than I will win over you. If we had used that principle we would have averted the war.
Some people have argued that if the Aburi, Ghana Accord had been implemented the war could have been averted?
Who went to Aburi and agreed on the accord? Soldiers? Correct?
And some technocrat super-permanent secretaries..
Acting for the soldiers. So the soldiers did what they knew how to do. They precipitated the war.
It is what I was talking about leadership. If you don’t understand the essence of the responsibility you are carrying you will make the wrong decisions. So, the soldiers thought: ‘we will fight the war, we will win it. If you win the war, what next? Are you going to keep your defeated opponents under subjugation forever? But if you had resolved it so that each person says I know my rights, my obligation and what to contribute to nation building you will have a viable situation.
Some people from the East still feel that the civil war is still on, that the area is marginalized in terms of number of states, citing of projects, appointments, etc
All I can tell you about that is that I know many people from the East who don’t feel that way. So, it is not a universal or unanimous thing, it is perception. If we are going by perception, it depends on what I want from any situation. My perception is influenced by my desire or ambition. Even when things are going well if my desire is to be above every body else then I will always say that the situation is not satisfactory.
Just as you said that many people think that things are still not okay, I know many people who feel it is okay because what we should be looking for is not what I am getting from the situation but the opportunity I have to express myself and to put in what I can put in because as long as the nation building endeavour continues, nobody can say we have got to the destination. And because we have not got to the destination there is a lot of work to do.
Some people argue that the structure of the system makes it impossible for them to contribute their best. They clamour for restructuring, regional autonomy, devolution of power
That is back to where I started. Change is necessary. The system has not got us to where we want to be so we need to change. My take is that it is the younger generation that should be pushing for change and bring in viable ideas because those who are benefiting from the system will not volunteer to change it.
On June 12 and Chief MKO Abiola
We have said a lot about June 12 and Abiola. What we ended up with was not a normal situation. You and I went out to vote and did what we were supposed to do and somebody or what they called cabal came out to cancel it. There is no human society where that can survive unless you are doing it with corpse in your hands. For me, I have always said that June 12 and the Abiola thing is just to show us how low we can get if we don’t take the right action.
On comments that June 12 can reoccur in Nigeria?
Of course if we don’t use the right principle or standard to do what we are supposed to do we can always get another June 12. Those who announced the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election said many years later that if only we know the real reason that annulment was necessary we would be thanking them. My question was if you knew that you can earn our gratitude by telling us what was good about what you did, why delay it? Why wait several years, why didn’t you tell us the day you did it? He knew it was not so.
His assessment of 20 years of democracy in Nigeria?
When you used the word ‘democracy,’ we have to understand that there is a definition-government of the people, by the people and for the people. If we accept that definition we should now look at what we have been doing. In theory, when we elect people into the House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate, those are the people who are representing us. If we look at the performance of the legislature since we started, to what extent do I agree that they have been representing us? In fact, to what extent do they agree that they have been representing us? Because if they were representing us many of the things they have done would not have occurred to them. If the things occurred to them they would have comeback to us to say, ‘we are thinking this way, what do you think?’ No, they take actions that we now protest against. So the theory is beautiful but the practice may defeat the theory.
On former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to President Muhammadu Buhari
I am not going to comment on Obasanjo’s letters because this particular citizen has written letters expressing some views, which he has a right to hold. He has chosen to publish his letter or write letter in public space because he knew that he has things to say to everybody.
Some of us also have views to express but we know we cannot just start writing letters in public space, so we talk among ourselves. I go to seminars and meetings to which I express my views, sometimes people like you listen to me at those seminars and publish my view. What is the difference? It is the same idea.
You served in Obasanjo’s government?
As high commissioner
You also served in Jonathan’s government?
What were your experiences?
You are going to force me do something now. Anybody who serve in any two situations knows that it is very unlikely that any of the two situations would be the same. If you go back to some of the things I have said in public about my service especially in SURE-P, you will know that I did not find it totally easy to do that but then being a free citizen, I took actions I needed to take to make sure that I did not compromise my principles and standards.
In each case, I can say very frankly that both of those Presidents did not interfere in my freedom to take my own decisions and to do what I needed to do. If I felt there was any attempt to interfere with my freedom I quickly did something about it.
Will you be willing to serve under President Buhari?
At this age?
You have energy?
No, no, It is not a matter of energy, I am now too old to take any public service position.
At 86 you look very strong what is the secret?
I thank God for it. It is the grace of God. My philosophy of life is based on the fact that I did not bring myself into the world. The fact that I was not consulted before I was sent into this world, by the Almighty God, who sent me into the world has a reason,a purpose for doing so, and would empower me to fulfil the purpose. As long as I am doing what he wanted me to do, life will continue to be good and He will continue to supply the energy and resources for doing what He wants me to do.
Looking back, 86 years after, do you have any regrets?
Yes, I have regrets but that is life. Life is made up of success, regrets, joy, unhappiness, it is a package.
Could you share one or two with us?
Let us not go into my regrets because the point about life is that when you take a decision, if you are a sensible person, you are following the teaching of family, church, etc, you hope you are taking the right decision. It may turn out to be a mistake then you regret it . That is normal, that is human life. The regrets I have will not help anybody because my principle is: before you make a decision make sure, as far as you can tell, you are doing the right thing.
There are two reasons even your best decision may fail. The first is that any decision you take today will affect tomorrow. You cannot see tomorrow, you don’t know what is coming tomorrow. You are taking your decision in the hope that it will be okay for tomorrow. Tomorrow may bring you circumstances that you did not think about so you will find that it is not the right decision.
The second thing is that you are taking decisions which will involve your working with other people. You cannot see the hearts of people, even when you are facing them and they are telling you things you do not know what they are really thinking in their hearts. So in this respect you are taking a decision in the hope that the people with you will see what you are saying and do it the way that they say they would do it.
So because of these two realities you cannot predict if any decision you take will fail. The important thing is when you notice that the decision that you take is an error, change it to the best of your ability.
His advice to Nigerians
Kolade said, “For any Nigerian today, my single advice is this: Because you know that your time in this world is limited and it is by the decision of the Almighty that you are here, now, you don’t know for how much longer, do what you can today to make sure that you prepare this country for a better future.