Major General David Jemibewon (rtd) has expressed disappointment over the state of affairs in the country ahead of next year’s general elections. In this interview with WILLY EYA, the retired Army officer said he is not surprised that some retired Generals are against President Buhari’s administration.
READ ALSO: Buhari doctrine or universal principle?
Ahead of another fresh general election, political activities are already in top gear; are you excited, disappointed or indifferent to what is going on?
I do not feel comfortable or uncomfortable. I feel natural because this is a thing that happens every four years. It simply means we are completing another circle of four years. So, I do not feel anything except that I am getting close to the fourth year, which is another period of election and there are more political activities. That is all.
In most other societies, elections are considered very serious business because the outcome determines the future of the people. Why does it seem you are indifferent to the coming election?
I do not feel excited about the election at all. I am 78 years and there had been many elections during these periods, and I do not have a reason to feel excited about this coming one. If anything, I feel disappointed where people are now talking about whether it would be on the basis of direct or indirect primaries. I thought that all those things ought to have been settled. Number one is that we have practised democracy before and number two is that parties have evolved, they have won and lost elections in the past. There had been representatives at the National Assembly, state assemblies, local governments and so on. So, all those rules governing elections would have been settled by now.
Why do you think Nigeria is where she is today in terms of development. I ask this question because the world is not waiting for us as you can see that many countries in Africa are moving forward – Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, etc.
Just like I said, I am very disappointed in the way things are moving in the country. Nigeria does not seem to be making progress in areas where we think we would have improved and moved forward. We seem to have gone back to the reverse so that we are far behind what we used to be. We should be making progress in every field but we do not seem to be making progress anywhere except in negative efforts.
In 2015, so many Nigerians thought that the long awaited era of paradigm shift had come with the election of President Muhammadu Buhari but three years down the line, the situation has remained the same, if not worse. When are we going to witness a real change in this country?
I would not say that President Buhari has not met the expectations of the people. I think the problem is more with his party than himself. Even though he is the flag bearer of his party, the APC, instead of laying the blame on Buhari, I will think that the problem is with the party he represents. This is because people voted for his party. It is true that he was voted as the representative of the party but personally, we ought to judge the performance of his government by the progress made under the political party that he represents, rather than him as an individual. So, if one is to assess the performance of the government, I would look at it from the point of view of the party than that of the leadership.
But your answer is neither here nor there because you cannot isolate the President from the party he represents or don’t you think so?
You are correct and that is why I am fairly disappointed because you cannot isolate him from the party but all the same, the party has a responsibility to check its leadership. In any case, there must be an arrowhead and that arrowhead is the leader of the entire party. But, if it is only the point of the arrow that you should be looking at, then the party has not got an effective well-grounded base. If the party has a well-grounded base, they should be able to look inwards.
If you meet Buhari personally, what is the key advice you would give him to move the nation forward?
That is a very serious one. I would tell him that having been on that very difficult seat for more than two years, he should take total control. In order words, he should be in a position now to know those who are doing well to give his government a good name. He should show the kind of leadership, which propelled people to vote for him or even to nominate him within his party. He should show strong leadership; he should show that he is in charge and those who are not moving the path that he has set out to develop this country, he should get them out of the way. That would be my major advice to him.
If you have been following political activities in the country in recent time, you must have noticed that most of the very popular retired Army Generals in the country are not in support of President Buhari’s second term. I am talking about Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, T.Y Danjuma, probably Abdulsalami Abubakar among others. Is there no more the culture of esprit de corps in the Army?
What you are saying is your assessment. I am not saying that you are wrong but that is your personal assessment. Maybe you are right to some degree and maybe it is based on the knowledge you got from the professional body or bodies that you belong to. Personally, I feel that governance is not an easy thing but there are times that you just need to do the right thing and some people may feel hurt by your actions. That is the only way you could make the society happy and for them to feel that you are just. Some Generals may feel disappointed but not necessarily in every respect. Life itself is full of ups and downs but let us see positive actions to show that one is in charge. I am not certain that it is every aspect that the Generals you mentioned are not happy with the administration. And in any case, what has probably influenced them to make whatever statements they have made is because of esprit de corps. If you want somebody to succeed, you have to criticize him if you are not satisfied with his performance on a particular subject. So, for the Generals criticizing him, I am not sure it means they are abandoning him. I feel that they want him to do well because let us be honest, he is one of us and if he does well, it will rub off on us. If he does not do well, it will rub off on us. I think that it is that training that connects all of us. That is probably why they are expressing their opinion but that does not mean they are not supporting him. I think that they feel that by criticizing him, he will improve.
One of the Generals, President Obasanjo has come out openly to advise President Buhari against running for a second term while T.Y Danjuma even urged people of the Middle Belt to defend themselves against the Fulani herdsmen. Gen Babangida has not hidden his belief that Buhari should not run for a second term. Do you think they still recognise the culture of esprit de corps in their relationship with Buhari?
I have a different opinion from you. Number one is that it shows how those of us who have had the advantage of joining the military are slightly different in outlook and approach to politics. It simply shows you that even if it is your dad, son or brother who is there in a position of authority, and you think you need to criticise him, you can reasonably criticize him. You should not criticize him in a destructive way but in a way that will aid him in improving the administration that he heads. We are unlike politicians who see good in everything. You can imagine the way people are changing from party to party. It does not make us look like responsible statesmen and enlightened people. For instance, you have been governor for eight years and suddenly you just change to the other party and you begin to criticize your former party where you have been governor for eight years. The military is all for the good of the country. If somebody somewhere, even though is one of them and they think his approach on a particular matter is not the right way, they will still advise him. Though they may have a relationship, it does not prevent them from making a critique of the leadership. In order words, you could say the President because of his military background, if you do not think what he is doing is the right thing and you criticise him, that does not mean you do not support him. What it means is that you probably want him to do better.
Insecurity of lives and property is a major issue in Nigeria. Every now and then, you hear about killings in different parts of the country. Do you think the introduction of state police would be the solution to the problem?
I do not have all the answers myself. I can only proffer some ideas but security is the responsibility of everybody. Even if you are not a security man and something happens where you are, it is your responsibility to report to the police. And then again, we do not seem to prepare ahead until some crises erupt. Because of the insecurity situation in Nigeria, I would have expected that within the security institutions, efforts should be made to project into the future. We have to look at the consequences of today’s action in 20 years time. You can imagine the situation of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria. We should know that the IDPs would result to another crisis in 20 years or more to come. A situation where you pack little kids in a place with some even without their parents, what do you expect. From the way I am looking at it, these children would become citizens of this country and many of them would not know their states of origin. They cannot claim where they are now because they came there by circumstance and some of them do not even know who their parents or relations are. And children who grew in such places and who knew how they came there would ask them who are your parents and where are you from. In most places like in Yoruba land, people don’t behave in a particular way because they do not want to spoil the image of their families but these IDPs would not have that privilege of even identifying with anything. What I am saying is that apart from just looking after these children, we should be looking at what is going to happen in 20 years time or more. Today is the foundation of what is probably going to be a major crisis in 20 years. The problem is that we do not seem to look ahead.
Do you agree with Buhari that the rule of law is subject to national security?
So many learned people have said so much about that; so I do not need to go into that again. A lot of things have been written about it and I think a slight mistake has been made there.
But what in your view are the major shortcomings of Buhari’s style of leadership?
Whenever I am involved in an interview, I want to generally be as frank as possible. I know Buhari very well. He is a decent man. I do not have any negative thing to say about him at all. We were both junior officers at the same time but I happened to be his senior in the military. We served in the same unit and during the war, we were in the same sector. He is an incorruptible person. For me, he has done very well in the military and in the military, we are trained to do things in a certain way and once a decision is taken by the commander, in a meeting of all concerned, you do not wait for the commander for your own responsibilities of the decisions that have been taken. But politics is different. Now, the country is not even like before. We have 36 states plus the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). There are political parties and so on. I do not think that people are committed as Buhari himself is committed to the development of the country. My guess is that most of these people working with him, he does not know them. Some do not believe in certain things and they would not come out to say they do not believe in those things. Buhari is no more a young man like he was 20 years ago.