Former Minister of Police Affairs, General David Jemibewon (rtd) has stressed the need for President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to be committed to the unity of the country as they campaign for the 2019 general election. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he spoke on a number of issues.
Another general election is here again with all the usual characteristics; the tension is building up and we are already seeing the political actors throwing mud at one another. How do you feel about the development and must every Nigerian election always come with this kind of tension?
Honestly, I am praying that the 2019 general elections will not be crisis-ridden to show that we have learnt some lessons from our mistakes in previous elections. We should show that we are making progress from the past so that we do not run into any crisis. That is my wish and prayer. I also pray and wish that the 2019 election will be credible, fair and transparent. The actors and Nigerians generally should ensure that we have a credible election next year.
You have been around and are at home with the challenges facing the nation 58 years after independence. From where we are today as a nation, do you think that any of the frontline presidential candidates can address the declining fortunes of the country?
What I would say is that these are people who have been involved in previous elections and they have a lot of experience. They are not new to the game. I hope that they will run a credible and open political campaign and work towards the unity and progress of the country. Both President Buhari and former vice president Atiku Abubakar are experienced and should work in the interest of the country. I know that both are mature people that love the country. So, what I expect is that they should work to make sure that Nigeria meets its potential and aspirations. Nigeria is a big country that so many African countries look up to. So, for me it is more of prayers and working for the progress of the country than any other thing.
You have talked so much about the need to work towards the unity and progress of the country but do you think the political actors are patriotic enough to think along that line?
The point I am making is that when you talk about the main contestants, I think that they are committed for the progress of the country; it is only the followers that I am worried more about. This is what my mind tells me. I am afraid the way some people talk and behave. And their level of understanding and education, I am not too sure they imbibe the same spirit as the contestants. We will continue to pray and hope that they improve. The frontrunners, I believe are patriotic enough and believe in the progress of the country. We ought to be hopeful in the capacity of the two major candidates.
The President recently declined assent to the 2018 Electoral Bill and the development is generating a lot of controversy with many saying that President Muhammadu Buhari does not want a free and fair election in 2019. What is your take on that?
Honestly, I must say I am not too clear on that. I wish we could work towards what can promote peace and have the understanding of what to do to bring progress in the country. I do not know really what is the problem because these elections are not sudden. I am surprised that on the eve of the election, we are having the kind of problems we are seeing today in Nigeria. I do not know why we should wait till the last minute before we do the needful. I do not have much comment on that but I wish we could really avoid what could create crisis.
You are a retired General and somebody who has seen it all in the Army; how did the recent killing of some soldiers by the Boko Haram insurgents come to you? Would you consider that as a failure of strategy or what?
Honestly, like I said when you called, I have not been well for the last two years and I did not get the details of what happened to our soldiers who are fighting with the Boko Haram insurgents. I have not been around since July of this year. I do not just make comments when I do not have the details. If you do not mind, I do not know how best to make contributions along that line.
But generally, looking at the challenges that Nigeria has been having in fighting the Boko Haram war which has been on now for about nine years, what should the Federal Government do to check the excesses of the insurgents? I ask this question because what started like a joke has become a real monster threatening the corporate existence of the nation.
It is important to appreciate that this is a national operation. We must assume that it is a serious matter which should not be taken lightly. We should be realistic and ensure that we take total responsibility in the fight against the Boko Haram sect like the civil war where the country should be on one page with determination to ensure the wellbeing of the country. We need to be united and face squarely any group through external forces threatening the existence of Nigeria. It is war and we as a country, must respond to it as a united entity. The war against Boko Haram should not be publicized. We should be united in the fight against insurgency. We should see it as a threat to our nation.
What are your fears about Nigeria in view of the declining fortunes of the nation on many fronts ranging from the economy, security, infrastructure to the politicization of policies in the country?
I want to believe that we deserve to be united. It is important that as a people, we should protect the unity and survival of our country. We should work towards achieving the progress and development of the country. I do not think there should be any fear about the future of the country. We must all be up and doing to attain our maximum potential.
The 2019 election is calling to question the culture of esprit d’ corps in the Army. The reason for this question is that some of the retired Army Generals have not hidden their opposition to the re-election ambition of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. What is the problem?
I do not know where you got that idea but I think that really when it comes to an election like this, I think people lend their support based on what they believe in than what profession they belong. Look at the two major candidates. The two of them are from the same part of the country and they are also of the same religion. In this coming election, religion will not play a prominent role unlike before. I am not saying religion has been such a major issue before. No, but I am saying that both candidates being of the same religion will balance the equation. It is the same with the issue of ethnicity because both candidates are also from the same region. It is good both of them are there so that people can see more clearly so that we can get it politically correct in the country.
President Buhari’s wife, Aisha recently came out to say that two powerful people are responsible for the husband’s slow pace in delivering on his promises to Nigerians on such issues like security, economy and infrastructure. What is your reaction to that statement from the First lady?
Based on President Buhari’s experience as former Head of State and as a retired General, people had high expectations of him when he emerged in 2015 but I think the whole country should rise to the occasion rather than leave all the challenges for one person just because we believe he can do it. It is when we are united in our efforts that we can really fight insecurity for instance. Insecurity is a national problem and we should all rise up to the challenge and not leave it to an individual alone or people from one section of the country.
Looking at where we are today as a nation, what are your regrets considering that Nigeria attained her independence 58 years ago?
I accept that 58 years after Nigeria’s independence, we are not doing well as we ought to do. I would rather use the word disappointment and not regrets in describing how I feel about our country. We need to do more in education, infrastructure, health, electoral process and so on. There is no doubt that with the potential of Nigeria, we could have made more progress than we have recorded so far. But I would not say I have regrets about Nigeria, our country.