Former Minister for Police Affairs, General David Jemibewon(Rtd), has given reasons why Nigeria is losing the anti-corruption war despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to win it. In this interview, he spoke of various issues
Last week’s removal of the immediate past chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Ibrahim Magu is still a major issue of public discourse. What do you think is the implication of the development to the anti-corruption fight?
Who removed who? Who appointed him? President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him and probably, it is a requirement that is well spelt out in the constitution. I do not know what section of the constitution so that I will be able to quote it but I am sure that if the president does not have the powers, he would not have removed him. When he appointed him, nobody queried why he did that and now that he has decided to remove him, nobody should question his decision too. I am not too sure that any federal position in terms of appointment especially politically, is hereditary.
Everybody believes that corruption is a major problem in Nigeria but it is like we are finding it impossible to overcome the monster. With what just happened to Magu, many Nigerians are losing hope in the anti-corruption war of this administration. What is the way forward?
I think what it simply means is that recruitment into such positions should be thoroughly undertaken. What it means is that people the government believed would do the job well and who are above corruption and who the government has great confidence in let down the authority. But there is no way any human being would know what would happen tomorrow particularly in some aspects. Somebody you think is honest may not be honest.
Some recommend that the EFCC chair should not be recruited from the police and that the organization should be completely independent on its own. Do you agree with that suggestion?
That is what I have just said; you come together to rub minds. There must be principles that guide every decision. You must define what should happen in the event that you betray the trust reposed in you as an official of such an agency.
What do you think the nation should do to have the Nigeria of our dream?
It is very difficult because you know you are not the only Nigerian. There will be Nigerians tomorrow, 10 years to come and even 100 years. So, we should sit down and carve out what we may consider the principles that will guide those that would be appointed into such sensitive positions and hoping that all would be well. In every establishment, two things could happen. You can have misplaced trust on some people; I don’t know if it is the fault of the man who did the recruitment not to have done all that needed to have been done.
Do you agree with those who insist that the EFCC has been politicized?
It may be correct. These are things that we should go into and review. We should ask what are the things that we are doing that we are not doing too well? What are the things we are doing but we still need to improve on? There is no perfection. There is no point that we would say, yes, we have developed enough. And we are perfect. Even the United States today have their problems.
As a retired major General, how do you feel about the deteriorating security situation in the country today especially in the Northern part of the country?
The situation is becoming very uncomfortable but I think that government is responding well. It is unfortunate that people do not really understand that matter of security or insecurity is the responsibility of all of us. I said it some years ago at a function that we should regard the Boko Haram insurgency in the North as a national crisis. So, like we did during the civil war, when citizens were making efforts toward winning the war, that is the way we ought to have treated the Boko Haram insurgency from the beginning. I do not think that people have elevated the Boko Haram crises to that level. I think it is a serious and national matter. From what I read in the media, the insurgents are penetrating into the Southern part of the country. Except we take it as national operation almost like in a war situation, sooner or later, we may be surprised that a time may come that the insurgents may make it almost impossible for people to move from one place to the other.
When President Buhari came in, the Chief of Army Staff relocated to the theatre of war to show the seriousness of the APC –led government on the issue of security. Why does the government not seem to be making progress on security or is there more to the whole thing?
Even if there is more to it and we have no evidence, then what do we do? We have to make do with what we have. If I sit down here and say there is more to it, what is that more? You have to move from theory to reality now. With my military background, I should not make irresponsible statements.
Do you see the formation of regional security outfits as the solution to the insecurity situation in the country?
Like I said, this is a national crisis and it should be treated as such. And if there are things we say should not be found in a person’s house and such a thing is found in a man’s house, such a person should be regarded as abetting the situation. We also have governors who are Chief Security Officers and come to Abuja to collect allocations every month, they spend the money without considering the insecurity situation. They must take responsibility and ensure security in their states and be answerable to the Federal Government. I think that there should be a national discourse on that because the situation is getting embarrassing to the country. People are continuously unsafe in the country.
What is your take on the geo-political zone that should produce the presidency in 2023? Do you support those who say it should remain in the North or those who say it should come down South?
With my military background, what I would wish for Nigeria, people who know me would be able to assume what my answer would be. Honestly, it is unfortunate the way the debate is going but people must continue to debate anyway. There is hardly anything impossible in Nigeria, otherwise, one would have thought that the best thing is to identify certain characters and traits that somebody must possess before we can agree that he belongs to the group of people who can be projected to such a high office at the national level. We identify people of such quality across the country and possibly come out with the ideas that these are the qualities we look for in anybody who wishes to occupy such an office. With such a system, we should be able to get some people with the right quality of leadership across the country. It could be narrowed down to two and three so that we can focus the nation’s mind against this manageable number. Maybe, I am talking theory but this is the way I think it could work, rather than saying it must be South West, North East and so on. We have been saying this all the time. We have been doing this all the time and it has not brought us anything positive. During the Gowon period, the NYSC was established, as an instrument to unite the country but what happened? The young people should start early to elevate Nigeria as a nation. I am not looking forward to be president but I would have wished somebody who loves Nigeria and wants the progress of the country to be the president of Nigeria at all times. A president may come from somewhere and where he comes from might probably suffer more than those from other parts of the country. So, I think the presidency of Nigeria should be based on ability to perform and the belief that he should get our country towards the path of greatness and prosperity.
With the level of mistrust and outright animosity among the ethnic regions in the country, what do you make of the future of Nigeria?
Honestly, this is a great question. All adult Nigerians should be called upon to make contributions, and we should aggregate our opinions and know those who want Nigeria to remain as one. I think the way we are going now, it does not indicate a bright future. It is unfortunate in the sense that the instruments that need to bring radical change for the good of the country, the National Assembly where you have the representatives of the people where ideas should come to pilot Nigeria along the right path, are not doing anything. It seems to me that there are some good people there but there are equally extremely bad people there. Unfortunately, it is there that our greatest problems of even tribalism emanate from. The problem does not emanate from the electorate. The debate in the National Assembly is not anything to write home about.
With the picture you have painted, what are your greatest fears about this country?
There are so many fears but my greatest is that we do not seem to have a workable objective. I do not think that a lot of us are thinking for the future of this country and I do not think also that we want to feel proud that we are Nigerians. Otherwise, if we have the right orientation and claim we are the biggest in Africa, we should be big in all respects. It is not by noise making but in the pattern of behavior and running of government. Our government should be one of example for other countries. But there are small countries that seem to be performing better than us. Take for instance the EFCC matter, how can the boss of an organization which is supposed to take care of the aspect of what belongs to all of us turn round to be the Chief Thief. I really have great sympathy for Mr President because Buhari is not God or Angel. It is what they present before him that he will see and believe. If you appoint a man to be in charge and the watchman of our treasure, and he turns round to become the man who would steal the treasure, how do you explain that? There is a limit that you can blame the man who appoints the EFCC chairman. Look at what is happening in the NDDC. At the time it was started, the Federal Government did it because the people of the Niger Delta claimed they were not taking care of the development needs of their people. But see what is happening to the organization established to improve lives of the people there. I feel very disappointed.