General Zamani Lekwot (Rtd) is not given to much media appearances. He has spent all his life in the military, from military school to becoming a general. Along the way, he was Military Governor of Rivers State (1975-78), Commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna (1979-82) and General Officer Commander (GOC) of 82 Division, Enugu. He was also the Nigerian Ambassador to Senegal, with concurrent accreditation to neighbouring countries.
Many young people may not know you. You started life in Jankasa, can you tell us about that period of your life?
I was born in Jankasa, Zango Kataf LGA in Southern Kaduna. I was born during the Second World War. There was no record as such, but my mother just put one, two and three events together and remembered very well when aircraft used to fly all over the place. I did my primary school in Jankasa.
So, what period did she allocate to your date of birth?
The war started a year earlier. I did my primary school in Jankasa and Abuja, now Suleja Senior Primary School. It was built by Niger, Benue and Zaria provinces and students were contributed. I was in the batch from the then Zaria Province. From there I went to the Nigerian Military School (NMS), Zaria, and then proceeded to the Indian National Defence Academy.
Was the choice of the military school deliberate?
I will say yes. We were doing sports one evening and we saw a European standing by the roadside beside his jeep. We had heard the sounds of bugle every morning and evening. The following day he came when we were doing physical training and a day later we saw soldiers parading.
The military precision with which the music and marching tallied impressed some of us. At the end of it he told us that there was a military secondary school in Zaria for young people and that pupils that went there would do their WAEC within four years, but the most impressive thing was the parade, and he asked those interested to report to the office.
I, late Gen Mamman Vatsa, late Group Captain Usman Jibril and two others went. We did the interview and we were invited. I think I was the only one who went to the military school.
How was your experience in India?
The Indian experience was very impressive because the weather there, in that part of India, Puna, is within the Equator, in terms of temperature it rains more because the monsoon rain is there.
I found the Indians a very interesting people, very hard working, and they were producing things for themselves. Their military is one of the best in the world in terms of professionalism.
We were six actually: four naval cadets and two army. My second colleague, who was also from NMS, was late Col Isah Ahmed, who was married to Nuhu Ribadu’s sister. We were at home in India really.
Were you comfortable with the food?
Yes, there were variations but basically they were the same. In any case, soldiers are trained to acclimatise anywhere they go.
When you came back from India, I believe the Nigerian Civil War was just starting?
It hadn’t started. In fact, out of the six of us I was the only one who returned home late because we spent three years in the Indian Defence Academy, which happened to be the mother NDA.
The naval cadets, after three years in Puna, went to the naval academy, then the late Col Ahmed and I reported to the Indian Military Academy to specialise.
After our graduation, the late Ahmed who joined the artillery returned to Nigeria. I for one was in the Indian artillery for a while because the infantry course was not scheduled until later. I am proud to say that what I learnt at the artillery taught me a lot of things that I found useful during the civil war.
After that I went to the Indian Infantry School for three months, did my course before I returned to Nigeria on 31st March, 1967. The civil war broke out in July.
And you went straight into the warfront?
I was posted to 6 Battalion, Ikeja, the late Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle was the CO, the late Gen Gibson Jalo was the second in command. When the war broke out, the 6 Battalion reinforced and we went and captured Bonny.
Your company captured Bonny?
Not company. Well, yes. I was a company commander, our battalion captured Bonny and then two other battalions were floating in the sea just in case. After Bonny was secured, then others were located.
How was the battle for Bonny; was it something really important in terms of the final victory?
It was important because Bonny commanded the entrance into Port Harcourt Port along the Port Harcourt River. It was through Port Harcourt, through the Warri Port, that the Biafrans were smuggling weapons into Port Harcourt and Warri.
Bonny fell on the 23rd of July. Within the first week of August, 1967, that was when the Biafrans infiltrated the Mid-West and captured Benin.
In the East then, Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar were the three ports; next to Lagos. Apart from being the entrance into Warri the Port, the gulf oil installations were there, so their aim must have been to seize that place and control the entrance into Warri Port. We were there before them.
What happened after the war?
It was during the war in 69 that I was posted to NDA as adjutant. It was an Indian training team that established NDA with the Late Brigadier MR Varma as the first commandant. When I reported for duty in May, 69, late Gen Ejoor had taken over from Brig Varma, but the bulk of the instructors in NDA were Indians.
By January, 1979, the war ended and more Nigerian officers who had been at the front were posted to NDA to be retrained.
You were given command yourself, was that in Maiduguri?
I started as adjutant in 1969. I went to Gen Adebayo in 1971 and appealed to him to help me attend one of the courses because most of my mates after the war attended courses.
You know in the military, attending courses broadens your horizon. So, I was sent to do the Company Commander Course in October, 1971. I was there when I was promoted lieutenant colonel. Having been promoted, I was no longer qualified to be adjutant. Gen Nwachukwu, who was a major, took over from me. In September, 1972, I was posted to 12 Brigade, Aba, and a year later to 33 Brigade, Maiduguri. At that time Gen TY Danjuma was the GOC of 3 Division, Jos.
It was from Maiduguri I was nominated to attend the Command and General Staff College in the United States in 1974. After a year I came back, that was when General Murtala Muhammed overthrew General Yakubu Gowon and I was posted to Rivers State as military governor.
Was that not a very overwhelming job for an officer in his 30s?
You know some things happen in the military. I had just returned from the US, then my name was one of those announced. I was on leave actually waiting to be posted. So, I answered the call and went to Rivers.
But were you surprised with the posting?
Yes! Because I didn’t expect it. Well, having been in Bonny in 1967 I had an idea of what the terrain in Rivers was, and when I got there I was fortunate to convince some patriotic Nigerians to join my cabinet; like late Prof Tam David West whose articles in Daily Times I had been reading. He was very critical of my predecessor.
I also got some from the staff of Shell, GBO and Nigerian Breweries.
These were all people older than you?
David West was older than me, but the others, I think, were my juniors. When it comes to service, you don’t consider age.
But how did you manage as governor?
I was also fortunate to engage a very experienced diplomat and former District Officer (DO) as the secretary to the government, late Chief F.J. Elah, he had served in the Biafran government.
According to what he told me when talks in Kampala, Uganda were organised, he was the Biafran representative in London. He had advised Ojukwu to accept the call to Kampala to go and start a dialogue. I think Ojukwu didn’t like it. He recalled him home for consultation and he knew he was being sacked.
When he got to the East, he found his way to Rivers State. He was in fact working for the College of Science and Technology when somebody recommended him. I found him very, very useful because as a former DO and a diplomat he knew about the General Order and what diplomacy was all about. I learnt a lot from him.
What will you say is your legacy in Rivers? First of all I enjoyed myself. Rivers State, then including Bayelsa, was a collection of minorities. They were lucky to have been visited by missionaries much earlier, being located near the sea. I learnt a lot.
The high point was the huge cooperation I got from them. I tried my best too. You know soldiers’ administration. When it comes to administration, dealing with people, I think we have an edge.
Are soldiers trained to be…?
Sometimes we are not satisfied with the civilians. They are too slow or they ask too many questions. You know we get angry once in a while.
You don’t like questions?
We think clearly about something before we order that it should be done. Let the action start, if there are mistakes we can correct. Soldiers don’t like to waste time, we believe in doing things with military precision because a mission set out must be fully accomplished.
Tell us about the rest of your career in the military?
I had a very successful career in the military, but problems came in 1983 when the military coup was staged. I was the GOC in Enugu, some of my units were in Benue and part of Taraba and part of Bendel. So, 82 Division then was the largest division and we had components of what other divisions had. They used to call it the composite division.
I was one of those commanders that were kept in the dark. So, when the coup took place, I was on leave, and an announcement was made for all commanders on leave to report to Lagos.
I went to Kaduna from the village, caught the plane and went straight to Gen Muhammadu Buhari who was the head of state. I asked him if the ousted President Shehu Shagari was safe and he said yes. Then he told me that I had been appointed military governor again. I thanked but told him I would prefer to remain in the barracks.
Another suggestion was that military governors should be junior colonels and senior lieutenant colonels so that they would not stay in government for long.
Buhari then told me that my junior had been made the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). I told him it didn’t bother me at all and I cited the example of Generals George Patton and Omar Bradley.
Gen Ibrahim Babangida was your junior?
I am senior to him. I was six months senior to him. In fact, when we were in NDA he was a company commander and I was a cadet brigade commander. I recommended him for promotion to lieutenant colonel in 1972. I got mine in 1971.
So, when I told Buhari I would copy what Patton did, he said no. Patton was the military commander in North Africa during the Second World War. He slapped a soldier for running from the front and hiding at the hospital. He was removed and General Omar Bradley, his junior, was made the commander.
So, when the war became too hot they brought him back and he served under Bradley. His own was to take part in the war and kill Germans, according to him. So, when Buhari said it was not possible I said well in that case I would have to retire and he protested that if I did that I would be creating problems for him.
That was when he told me that some would be retired and some were going to foreign service. Since some officers were being sent on foreign service and since my remaining in the army was not possible because my junior was the COAS, I volunteered to go on foreign service and he asked me which country I preferred. He told me that Gen Hananiah was going to London and Navy Commodore Okujagu was going to India. I said okay, when I was in the Indian Academy I learnt French, that he should send me to France.
I think when he took it to the caucus, some people didn’t like the idea of my rejecting what was offered to me. So, really that was how instead of France, it was changed to Senegal; with concurrent accreditation to Mauritania, Cape Verde and the Gambia. I went there for three years, learnt a lot of things and returned home.
Was it strange to leave Nigeria as a soldier and become a diplomat?
I didn’t have the training for it, but military training is such that it makes one versatile. One lies low and studies the status quo and then decides how to cope.
My deputy was a very experienced diplomat who later became ambassador, Kayode Shunkaye, from Kogi State. I learnt a lot from him. In interacting with other diplomats I also learnt how to look at issues differently.
At that time my wife was doing her degree course in Cardiff, Wales, so I had a lot of time and therefore decided to register with the University of Dakar in order to polish my French. So, during my stay there I was able to pick up the language and read things and follow, not 100 per cent, but better than before.
How good is your French?
It is okay. I can find my way in Paris or Quebec or anywhere.
And did you travel widely in the region because you were concurrent to other countries?
Of course; Cape Verde, Mauritania and the Gambia. I visited these countries regularly. In Mauritania and the Gambia, we had offices, it was in Cape Verde that we didn’t have anything. I had no problem at all.
Was being an ambassador the last part of your engagement in public service?
Yes. From 1984 to 87 when I finished I returned home and returned to the village.
You returned to the village or Kaduna, because this is not quite a village?
To Kaduna, that is true. I only visit the village once in a while.
There is this impression that your leaving the military was because of your relation with Gen Babangida, that somehow there is bad blood between the two of you?
No! I had no problem with Babangida. As I told you, he was my staff in NDA, I promoted him to lieutenant colonel. I gave him a good report, he is a good officer. We trained the cadets together, there was no problem.
But you did mention the caucus was not happy when you didn’t accept to go for military governorship?
That was from Buhari, because when he took what I proposed some people didn’t agree. I had no quarrel with that. The station was changed from Paris to Dakar, fine.
But surely you must have felt at 43 years or thereabout your career was suddenly terminated?
Agreed. I loved my profession because it is a very serious profession; for my career to be terminated like that, I accepted it.
Those who did it knew why they did it. So, when I had this window to serve in the foreign service and learn something new, I saw it as a bonus. At the end of it, I decided to retire and rest.
That supposed bad blood between you and your colleagues in the army, was it linked to the problem you later had in Zangon Kataf?
Honestly I wouldn’t know. The Zangon Kataf issue was just blackmail. Do you see a whole general going to the village to kill villagers? No, it doesn’t make sense. Even the tissue of the lies they dashed out were not convincing. How can a general go and start killing people? I am not mad.
But why were you roped into it?
I don’t know. Look, the military tradition demands that when a soldier commits an offence and he has to be put in the guardroom, you must tell him what he has done wrong so that he can prepare his defence within 24 hours. Nobody asked me anything.
Babangida was president, instead of sending for me or sending somebody, he didn’t do it, he is the only one who can answer this question. I have never offended him, there was nothing between us.
During the Oputa Panel, even the Hausa people in Zangon Kataf, my lawyer asked them whether they had an issue with me, they said no. My own village is 14km away from Zangon Kataf town.
What caused the problem was a market relocation. A day was fixed for the market to be opened, people started a riot and some people were killed. I was just framed up by some people.
But as an elder and the most prominent son of the area, were you able to intervene to help sort out the problem?
After our detention, yes.
Were you detained because of the riot without knowing what it was all about?
Exactly. I was just framed up, how did it happen? The late Col Madaki also came from Zangon Kataf, but he was Baju, I am Ityap. When I was posted to Maiduguri as Commander of 33 Brigade in 1973, he was already there. He was my brigade major, we worked together, we did things together. We used to sit down and talk; what can we do to help our people.
So, really, there was nothing connected with me about a market riot. I had no shop there, I don’t live in the town, they don’t know me. People who did it wanted to hide the truth either to blackmail me or to implicate me for reasons only they knew.
Is it because you are a prominent son of the area so that they would have to say somebody was responsible for this?
I don’t know.
But I asked you, did you try to help as an elder?
I am coming. So, when we came out of detention, there was this bone of contention, some old people, after the riot, many Hausa people ran away.
Some people said we lived with these people, many of them are offspring of Kataf women, we still give them our daughters in marriage, they have lived there for a long time.
But for one reason or the other, some found it difficult to relate, they still carried that air of arrogance, but our people are simple minded, we don’t care. So, to have attributed what happened to me was unfortunate.
Now, when we came out of detention, some old people felt disappointed because after the riot, 61 of us were arrested, including our district head, all the village heads, some retired reverends, one of them was 89 years old, and he was accused of killing people, so they were furious.
When it came to taking a decision to allow them (the Hausa settlers) to return to their homes, some people didn’t want it. This was where I joined others in appealing to them.
In the Holy Scriptures, I think Ecclesiastes, it is mentioned that there is a time for everything; time for birth, time for death, time to fight, time to this; we said what had happened had happened.
It wasn’t possible for everybody in Zangon Kataf to have taken part in the plot. So, leave those willing to come back to come back and they finally came back and their farms were returned to them. Our then district head who had then become a chief received them.
There are some shameless people, they take pleasure in using the name Lekwot. Okay, if Lekwot was a bad guy, I wouldn’t get to where I got to, that would have manifested itself.
But a court convicted you and a few others on this same problem?
That was a charade. Do you know why?
There were two trials, the first one they framed up lies. I was never in Zangon Kataf town; the federal director of public prosecution came, looked at the issue, evidence was given, there was no case, so he took time off to go to Sudan to do some work. So, Justice Pius Okadigbo discharged us, but he didn’t acquit us.
As we stepped down the witness box, he directed the police to arrest us again. We were taken to the Kaduna prison and new charges were framed against us.
When the case started, our lawyer was the late Chief Ajayi (SAN). So, when the Babangida government saw that there was no case, Degree No 55 of 1973 was enacted, directing the tribunal to send all their proceedings to Abuja, barring us from appealing.
Then the hostility of Justice Okadigbo, who appeared to be a hired agent, because he violated legal proceedings in court. He was supposed to be a high court judge. So, Chief Ajayi took him on. In the end when Ajayi saw this degree, he knew that Babangida and his team had made up their mind to do us in, against the law, so our legal team withdrew.
I was the first accused, I begged Okadigbo to grant us two days to hire another team, he said no, that we should defend ourselves. It was later I learnt that when an accused is standing trial for his or her life, that accused is entitled to a defence of his choice; where he cannot afford it, then the Legal Aid Council (LAC) can be appealed to. Okadigbo didn’t do any of these.
Two days later, no, the following day, the Tribune Newspaper carried our headline, “Zangon Kataf trials: Judgement without defense”. So, we were condemned without fair hearing.
Why would Babangida do that?
I don’t know.
Because you were good to him you said?
Babangida is an awkward character. He killed Vatsa. Vatsa was accused of planning a coup, do you arrest a person you suspect of planning to steal or to commit a crime? You have to wait until he is caught in the act.
Why did he annul June 12? He is now lying that he was forced, forced by who? Who was the president? Is he saying junior officers forced him to annul the election?
He called Abiola his friend, why did he do it? I hope he will summon the courage to tell the world the truth. If he had something against me he should have said it and I would easily apologise; that is me. I like to live in peace with people.
But somebody who recommended him for promotion, somebody who had never quarreled with him, he went and did this in violation of the officer’s code of conduct; you don’t accuse an officer without confronting him with the fact.
So, how was that period of your life, from arrest to being condemned to death?
My conscience was clear. I didn’t do any of such things. Why should I kill villagers, what for? I didn’t know them, they had not offended me.
I was forced to ask the tribunal what sort of a country we were in. They went and said things I knew nothing about.
The crisis was caused by some fanatics in Zangon Kataf town. After the riot some people were killed. Instead of the government instituting a commission of enquiry, sorry they did under Justice Cudjoe, alright. I even went to the tribunal, not tribunal, commission of enquiry, to answer questions.
Did she make recommendations about what to do to help?
Some mischievous persons in Zangon Kataf accused me of importing weapons. In July earlier that year we launched an appeal fund to codify our language and to translate the Holy Bible into our language. So, they said I used that money to buy weapons.
When Justice Cudjoe submitted her report, we were waiting for the result when a letter was written by an Islamic group in Zangon Kataf town addressed to Sultan Dasuki asking him to do something about the killings in the market riot otherwise the Nigerian jihad would start in Zangon Kataf.
They fixed a date and attacked a nearby village and that was what triggered the riot. Then the villagers responded, their neighbours also responded, this was how it started.
If they hadn’t attacked the village there would have been no reaction. From there one thing led to the other. I still have this letter they wrote, one day I will give you.
It was Gen Abacha that pardoned you and set you free?
Abacha was my friend. When I was the Military Governor of Rivers State he was the brigade commander. We played squash together, we played scrabble together, he was a member of the executive council. Each time I travelled he was the acting governor; there was no problem.
I am sure he knew the truth. We lived together for three years, his wife was very close to my wife. The character of a bad man, no matter how he hides, must show. The person who is innocent, a gentleman, you can brand him anything but it doesn’t change him. I am not violent by nature.
This problem still persists in Kaduna, sometimes in Plateau, why do you think we are not able to, all these years, live in peace with each other?
It is incompetence on the part of the people in authority. I will tell you, it was the late Sardauna who influenced us to join the army, not only us, we were juniors, people like the late Maimalari and TY Danjuma.
When I was brigade commander in Maiduguri, the attorney general was one Buba Ardo. He told me that it was the late Sardauna who enjoined him to join the judiciary.
Sardauna was a godly leader and he came to our school and appealed to us, “My children, in no distant future, the Europeans will return to their country, join the military; it is a very, very important profession.”
Sardauna did not consider tribe or religion, he saw us as his children; that explains the secret of the progress in the North. But when he was killed, people who worked with him, what happened? We have selfish people up here who shout “North” with their mouths, but what they have in mind and do are different.
I take your mind back to how Boko Haram started, it was during Yar’Adua’s time. They attacked a police station in Yobe, nothing happened; they invaded the prison yard in Bauchi, released their members, nothing happened.
It was after they started something in Maiduguri that the military pounced on them, arrested their leader and handed him over to the police, then he was killed. So, people who ought to do what they ought to do and don’t do it; this is the problem.
But in Kaduna, the immediate past governor, Nasir el-Rufai, started a peace building process. I don’t know whether you know about it or are actually part of it?
El-Rufai was pretending; he is a bad leader. In a video clip he confessed that he came to Kaduna to Islamise the state. All along, we have lived in peace.
If the governor is a Muslim, the vice will be a Christian. When he came he started with it and discarded it. Then if you look at his antecedents, he doesn’t believe in what the constitution is saying, he didn’t obey court orders, he decided to decimate some of our chiefdoms, including the closing of some districts.
The late Emir of Zazzau, Idris, went to him and said if shortage of money was the problem he (Idris) would pay the district heads. He refused. So, the emirate went to court and won the case, he ignored it.
Next, he was so arrogant he would not consult anybody. As a rule of thumb, each time a government was sworn in, Southern Kaduna elders, I am the chairman, paid a courtesy call, discussed and told the governor things he could not hear from the security.
But when El-Rufai came, we tried and he refused. SOKAPU is our cultural organisation, he said he had nothing to do with them. Then he embarked on this politics of exclusion; people from Southern Kaduna; he has nothing to do with them.
You didn’t see him throughout his tenure as governor?
No. He refused, he ignored us, we too decided to ignore him, who is he?
Even you personally, you didn’t see him?
No; to see him how? I ran across him in the golf course once, we just greeted each other. He doesn’t believe in the diversity of the country. When he was talking about Islam, there is no problem about religion in Southern Kaduna, even in my family we have Muslims, many houses have Muslims, Christians and traditional religion.
We do the Sallah together, Christmas together, there is no problem. So, this issue about religion comes from outside.
What is the problem, because there is still conflict, there is still fighting?
Only El-Rufai can answer that. Before him were other governors. Namadi Sambo was here before he became vice president. Makarfi was here. Ramalan Yero was here, none of them manifested the type of problem El-Rufai manifested. He will tell lies, invent stories.
For your information, the present governor, three weeks ago, invited 10 elders from Zaria and 10 elders from Southern Kaduna. The meeting was a huge success. The speech he made was very impressive.
Were you there?
Of course. I am the chairman of Southern Kaduna Elders Forum. Community service is what I have given myself. So, two of the things the present governor said that impressed us, me in particular, was his seven-point agenda, one of them is to develop the rural areas, which makes sense.
He also told us that he was not going to discriminate against any part of the state, that is how it should be. For 16 years the PDP ruled with inclusiveness, Southern Kaduna made about six ministers, who can complain?
But when El-Rufai came, nothing, even to listen to people, he wasn’t interested. He came with the mindset to marginalise a certain part of the state. How can a leader who swore to do equity and justice turn round to do this? I feel sorry for him because some of these bad things will snowball back to him.
You live in the Kaduna GRA, are you at peace with your neighbours?
Oh yes, we greet. I told you I am not a violent man. All the hocus-pocus you hear, it is just hate speech. They are very lucky, do you know why? If I had politics in mind, I would get into the arena. It is grammar, they will abuse me, I will abuse them, but no, politics is not my cup of tea, because it doesn’t appeal to me. A thing is either right or wrong; that is me.
People who say all these, do you hear me responding? I ignore them, I don’t want to dignify the hocus-pocus with a reply. There is no need, there are better things to think about.
How do you spend your time beside the community engagement you do; I heard you mention golf?
Yes! I play golf; even the day before yesterday I played six holes. Squash used to be my favourite game but my knees have retired me. I used to play badminton also, I have been an active sports man, but as age continues to advance, my system is slowing down.
I am also a member of the Middle Belt Forum. In fact, I am the chairman of its elders’ council. We meet and talk and offer advice. Part of the mission is to train the youths, to cooperate with others, to see Nigeria as one, to respect the feelings of others, to be patient with the government because the government cannot solve all problems.
But do you see Muslim and Christian leaders cooperating in the North?
There is no North. Some selfish people have destroyed it. Right now, from the former North, I don’t see any political voice talking. I mentioned Sardauna, the nearest one was Maitama Sule. Now we have selfish people who are fending for themselves; they only say North, but what they mean is different.
What I am aware of, there is the Far North and there is the Middle Belt, alright. The Middle Belt is the lower part of the North, the Middle Belt is the upper part of the South; that is why it is the bridge.
When the government came up with these zones, we now have North West, North East and North Central instead of talking about one North.
At the time Sardauna was alive, that genius of a leader did a very commendable job, but the North is too huge to be run from one place. So, whether we like it or not, we have a complex federation. Some people don’t listen to others, they don’t respect others, how can it be?
Some selfish people want everything to be run in one place so that they are in charge. No, the population is increasing, lifestyle is becoming more complex, so let us rearrange it. This brings us back to the question of restructuring.
Some people are afraid of restructuring, that fear is unfounded. The federal government is carrying too much load; the 2014 National Conference did a very good job. They looked at this restructuring, they even drafted a constitution. All that Buhari, my brother, needed to do was to take a look at it, choose what he could implement and leave the rest for other governments, but he decided he had nothing to do with it.
How can you, as head of a state, something was done, whether you are part of it or not, not look at the merit of it first? He didn’t want to see it, all the problems are there, he had no solution.
Did you talk to Buhari while he was president?
No. Buhari didn’t communicate with anybody, he didn’t listen to anybody, he was a big disappointment to some of us. He was our colleague.
Take the insecurity for instance, one of the things he should have done was to assemble a few retired generals and say, “Gentlemen, this is the problem, I want advice.” He didn’t do it, and the problem is there.
What do you think of the current government, are you happy with the initial steps taken?
When you talk of happiness, happiness is out of the way, because the wahala is still there. Now what the government needs to do is to listen to the people, a person who wears the shoes knows where it pinches most.
We have a government sitting there, doing their things, what people are going through, they don’t want to know.
Tinubu has started well in some sectors. For instance, yes, appointment of the service chiefs was excellent because these are officers who as cadets showed potential. Then they proved themselves in the North East.
But what are you hearing from your people about the impact of the economic policies, the subsidy, the exchange rate and all that?
The only problem about the subsidy removal is lack of an arrangement to cushion the effects. You see, given the way things went over the years, making a drastic change without pain is not possible. It is up to the government now to initiate actions to alleviate the pains.
Let me finally ask you about Niger. Do you think the way ECOWAS is going they can succeed in overturning a military coup with another armed force?
It will be very difficult and it will come with consequences. What they have done is gunboat diplomacy, gunboat diplomacy doesn’t work every time. What is required, as some people have said, is diplomacy.
Without the gunboat?
No, that can be a last resort. In fact, violence should not be brandished at all. The first thing that we need to do is to encourage the military people in Niger to dialogue, let us go near them to understand why the coup took place and what we can do to help them restore the situation.
What is more, ECOWAS is divided. Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali have sent messages of solidarity to Niger, which means the whole of ECOWAS is not behind it. Let us try and understand the problem from their own point of view and then offer suggestions.
The Niger military head of state has started well, he appointed a civilian as his prime minister, so that means the journey to civilian rule has already started.
Finally, they have banditry problems like us, have we finished our own? Many of our soldiers are spread over many states, where will you get the manpower? Then starting a fight that you cannot finish doesn’t make sense.
I agree that the era of military coups is gone, but the fact that we still have them means something is fundamentally wrong. Let us address it, the cure against coup is good governance, when will it come? Our political class has some homework to do.