By Chidi Obineche
Elder Asu Beks is the president of the Ijaw Peoples Assembly, IPA and the Ijaw Media Forum, IMF. He speaks on the death of late business mogul and presumed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections, Chief MKO Abiola , and the late military Head of State, General Sani Abacha, declaring that only a Truth Commission could unravel their real killers. This is even as he said that President Muhammadu Buhari was being misled by a cabal.
Do you think we have heard the last on the death of Abiola, given recent revelations from General Ishaya Bamaiyi’s book?
We have not heard the last on Abiola’s death. We have also not heard the last about the death of Abacha. I think I am surprised that up till this moment I am not aware of any official inquiry into how and why Abacha died. We are talking about a former Head of State of this country. I am shocked, I don’t know whose responsibility it is, but I think that we have not heard the last about the death of Chief MKO Abiola and that of General Sani Abacha who was even the Head of State at the time he died. And so, that tells you the problem we have in our prosecuting authorities.
While he is protecting himself, Bamiayi is busy pointing fingers at some people as being responsible for the death of Abiola and Abacha, what is your view on this?
I think that is the man’s personal opinion. I don’t think it is proper to begin to apportion blames since there are relevant institutions that should investigate the death of these two eminent personalities. Until the report is out, I think that it would not be fair for anybody to begin to predetermine what may have led to their death. Already anybody who is saying anything is saying that based on suspicion. So many people were imprisoned, detained for so many years, but at the end of the day nothing has happened, they have all been set free.
Are you calling for a Truth Commission, or do you think that 19 years after these deaths, setting up a Truth Commission won’t be necessary?
It’s important that we set up a Truth Commission because there is no guarantee that what happened to Abacha or Abiola would not repeat itself. So it’s better for us to get to the real cause of what led to their death. All we heard of was cup of coffee and apples. As far as I am concerned, we are still in the realm of gossip or hearsay. Only a Truth Commission can determine what really caused their death.
Why do you think government is reluctant to set up a Truth Commission?
I think what may have happened was that we were so carried away with the move to go into democracy. I think that was what happened. When Abdulsalami came, all his attention was focused on how to get the political parties on ground and how to return Nigeria to democracy. I think we didn’t really concern ourselves with how to go about it. And I think the proper person that would have done that was President Olusegun Obasanjo because all Abdulsalami was preoccupied with was how to get us back to democracy. So, we were expecting that people like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo would have been in a better position to do that and don’t forget that up till now majority of the Yourba have not forgiven Obasanjo because he didn’t give Abiola his rightful place in the politics of Nigeria. There were talks that his status as a president should have been restored because he won an election. But unfortunately, he wasn’t sworn in and all that. But that too are things that only a Truth Commission could decide.
But why do you think that Obasanjo didn’t look the way of Abiola or even the June 12 presidential election annulment?
You see, if you know Obasanjo very well, with due respect, between him and Abiola, this ego thing was always there. And the only person in Yoruba land living or dead today that Obasanjo would not want to challenge is the the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Obasanjo does not see any other Yourba man dead or alive apart from Awolowo that is more influential than he. So, you can imagine a situation where he as president would want to give such honour and due respect to late Abiola. So, it is an ego thing.
Let’s talk about the Senate- Executive face-off. What do you think are the underlying issues?
Before I go into that, I have seen a lot of commentaries on social media; some people calling for the disbandment of the Senate and all that. But I think that I am somebody who believes that we should have very strong institutions. It is not just enough for us to say because the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was alleged to have spent about 200 million naira to cut grass then the entire executive is corrupt or because the president of the Senate is in the Code Of Conduct Tribunal, CCT trial, the whole National Assembly is corrupt or that the entire judiciary is corrupt. I think that if we go the way we are going, by the time we destroy all the institutions that would make democracy great we may have nothing else.
Talking about this face-off between the senate and the executive, I think the All Progressives Congress, APC, as a party has not done very well. Then I ask myself, what about those Nigerians who are being paid as aides of the president at the National Assembly, the officers of the senate, the officers of the House of Representatives, what are their roles? What about the presidency itself? Have they exhausted the instrument of lobbying? Lobbying does not mean giving somebody bribes. Lobbying means that this is what we want to do, this is our thinking in the Senate and then you send your men down there to discuss with them, this is the bill we are bringing. This bill is in the interest of the ordinary Nigerians, we want you to buy into this. In the same vein, you cannot sit down and wake up one morning and send the name of Ibrahim Magu to the Senate and think that by hook-line-and-sinker the Senate is just a rubber stamp. And there is also something I also discovered in the course of this face-off between the Senate and Presidency, there is this school of thought that believes that the report from the DSS, Department of State Security was supposed to have been sent to the Presidency not to the Senate.
But the Senate demanded for it?
So, these are some of the issues. And I think that if I were the president, no matter how good I think that Magu is, I would have obliged, and then look for somebody else like what is happening in the US. I don’t believe the fight against corruption must be wrapped around Magu only, or President Muhammadu Buhari. If we do that, then we have failed.
Talking about the issue of Ali, the CG, Comptroller General of Customs, I am one of those who have said since day one that the Nigeria Customs Service is a regimented organisation, it is a paramilitary service. So, even though it is not stated in black and white, you can’t be a CG of Customs and be moving about, taking salute without putting on your uniform. You cannot tell me that my house smells, every other day you are coming there, sneaking in the dark of the night to come and ask me to give you garri or a cup of rice and you say this house smells.
You just said that APC didn’t handle the face-off very well, but they have just intervened and ordered all appointees of the government to honour summons from the National Assembly. What do you make of that?
Itse Sagay in particular, since he got that appointment, he has conducted himself in such a manner that some of us are even asking is this the same Sagay that we used to know? Because these appointments would come and go and you will return to where you belong. And the Senate said Sagay by his appointment is a public officer and there is no public officer that the Senate cannot summon. Even if there are very crucial issues in the economy the Senate can also ask the president to appear before it. I think that the APC should call the likes of Sagay, the likes of Ali, the likes of Magu and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to order, because these are the ones that are giving the party a bad name.
And don’t forget that 2019 is around the corner, whatever thing that you do is important and impacts on the perception of the government by the people. There are two very bad decisions by the current Comptroller General of Customs and that is the rice policy and this policy of “Tokunbo” vehicles and these are the issues that touch the common man. The president should put his feet down, he is the leader of the party, he is the president of this country and he should put his feet down because what I know is that Buhari is being misled by a cabal. And talking about this cabal, these are not more than four or five men, who are misleading the president and the earlier he calls them to order; the better for all of us Nigerians.
Considering Buhari’s health status at the moment, do you want him to resign or you think he is capable of facing the heat of governance?
I think that with due respect, President Muhammadu Buhari is not in the best of health. If I were he I would go and attend to my health. There was a statement a couple of days ago that he was going to return to the UK for further medical checkup. The statement was kind of silent on when he was going to leave. I think that health is not something that anybody can play with. President Muhammadu Buhari has to be alive to be president of this country, dead men don’t rule.
Look into the horoscope, how do you look at the 2019 presidential race?
PDP will have to rebrand, APC itself would have to rebrand. The APC as it is presently is not healthy for one to expect that there is going to be change tomorrow. The APC as it is cannot win an election. PDP will also not win an election.
Who would win an election?
These political parties I am talking about would have to go and rebrand. The way they are constituted, they can’t win an election because they are busy doing so much harm and disservice to Nigerians.