From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Former military administrator of Delta State, Air Commodore Luke Ochulor in this interview gives insight into why Nigeria’s security situation persists. He also explains why appointment of security chiefs is not based on ethnicity or zoning. As an astronomer, he also spoke on climate change.
Recently, the Chief of Army Staff appealed to retired military officers to assist in the fight against insecurity, how do you see his comment?
It’s a long time we left them behind; events have changed and situations too. Nigeria version of politics has also changed the scenario in Nigeria military operations but still the military has its code of ethics; we believe that 95 percent of them serving now knows these rules. The call is okay sometime when you have problems; is fair you ask what we call the old horses. When we face this kind of situation, what do we do; it’s unfortunate with the Nigeria situation, or even Africa. Most of them are trained very well but as a result of the Nigerian situation or condition, they get retired very quickly. We bear no grudges with anybody because once an officer is involved in politics, their stay in the military becomes numbered. The opinion is okay but the thing is that those officers outside are more than those serving, so it becomes a big problem. You don’t solve such Nigeria’s herculean situation by just asking questions; it’s something people have to sit down and do what we call exercise. I think it’s better to spend more time thinking than acting before asking questions.
But what we want Nigeria to do is let everybody be his brother’s keeper. Before the civil war, we never cared where anybody came from; if you look at some forms they distribute now, they write Nationality/tribe; this derogates our quest for one nation. Some people are doing their bit to make Nigeria divided but they don’t know what they are doing. If you are in authority and you don’t practise equity, then you’re only trying to destroy the country. What I’m talking about must come from village to village, not only local government levels, even to the families. If you’re in a state and it is decided that the position of governorship or ministerial appointment should be zoned to the various zones to avoid disenfranchisement and you don’t believe in it, then how can you get up; so that is the aspect of politics I don’t even want to be involved in. Most of the Nigerian politicians the way they operate, I don’t like it even though when I see a good politician, I will support him. If I see somebody like Peter Obi, I will throw my heart in the ring for him because I have studied him, but when somebody who is a leader decides to tell lies, blatant lies in the open air and attempt to cover it with politics, it creates a lot of problem to Nigeria; so the way we are going at the moment is not the right way.
When the new Chief of Staff was appointed, there was high expectation that it was going to be from South East, where you surprised how it went and does it bother you as an Igbo man?
No, it does not; if the military where to be what we left it, it wouldn’t bother me where the COAS comes from but what would worry me is that there is a constitutional proviso that whatever appointment you are making in Nigeria, you must consider the spread and ethnicity, religion and otherwise; it is encapsulated in the Nigeria constitution. If you observe from the time of military from what I saw after the civil war, appointments were made in such a way that no one section could descend on the rest of the country for tribalism; it was so zoned that the national spread was captured; be careful of popular opinion, the popular opinion here was that they were expecting the Igbo man to be appointed but that’s not the issue. If the Chief of Army Staff is doing what is bad, you don’t need to bother because the country called Nigeria has been thrown into doldrums; you don’t expect him to go against the military rule; once a Service chief is following the code of ethics, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter where you come from but it is expected that whoever is the chief of army staff, he cannot create his own personal military system; he has to look at what is available in the constitution; The recruitment level and the constitution, in any case people who matter most in the military are the fighting soldiers. In fact, most of these people should be from rank of colonel; at that level, you see Brigadier General, they are getting old already. I don’t know why Nigeria does not practise continuity; in the United States and civilised world, very senior officers are kept and reserved; you’re not going to pay them, they’re receiving their pension but when the chips are down, invite them and ask them questions; they will give you idea. So, the call by the Chief of Army Staff on retired military to help is okay but you don’t expect a retired officer who is over 70 to throw punches.
Governor Aminu Masari recently urged people to take up arms and defend themselves in the midst of the rising insecurity in the country, do you share his views?
I don’t respond to most politicians; you don’t need to have all the degrees in the world to have an idea, what you need is natural intelligence; the governor was angry, he was to be the Shepherd, he saw people being killed, if you are in his shoes you will do the same. When he said take up arms and defend yourself, where are the arms? First of all, there are laws forbidding people from carrying arms and nobody is going to give you license for it. So, how do you defend yourself against Boko Haram, ISWAP bandits? You can’t but the way they operate, there must be a way to stop them. If I were to be in authority, I will treat them as if they are worst criminals in the world.
What do you think we’re missing in this fight against insecurity?
There’s a philosopher called Murphy; he said a solution to a problem leads to another one. Let me give you a definition of war; it’s a human activity, without mankind, there won’t be any war, that’s why every country except Switzerland has a standing army. For us to start proffering solution, we need to sit down and look at it critically. People are so wicked; even during the civil war, people were not as wicked as it is now; ask yourself, is it the same people that you celebrate with when there is sports victory; what went wrong, we must find out what went wrong that Nigerians have no respect for human lives anymore; whoever caused why Nigerians are killing one another will never go unpunished.
Are you in support of the huge remuneration for the National Assembly members?
You know about the government of the Philippine; Philip is ebulliently rich at the expense of the people but when he fell sick and was dying, a cup of tea prepared for him, he could not drink it; so a reverend father in the church called the people to pray for Philip and the people said, how do we pray for Philip who ripped us off like this, and the Reverend father answered that they should not bother and that the money accumulated by Philip that he will not eat it. History has thought us that all those who accumulated wealth will abandon it to die; their price is always 6 feet by 3.
People have often complained about climatic change, is it real or a fiction?
Why people don’t understand it is because history is a wonderful element, people don’t follow because those people explaining it use big words; if you use big words, you will complicate issues; nature is not constant; if you watch the pumpkin leaves that was planted, the taste of it those days are not the same now; things are changing, as human beings evolve, the earth evolves. I’m an astronomer trained by United States Air force in California. I know that the world is not going to remain the same; in fact by calculation, the world is a living organism and therefore this planet earth is bound to die one day and people are killing it and they don’t know. United Nations have been trying; they said don’t cut down trees, you can see how fire is consuming some nations. United nations, WHO were talking about it 40 years ago but some world leaders like Donald Trump said it was a hoax, it doesn’t exist, but wherever he is now, he can see it.
Does that also account for the changes in how rain falls these days in August, instead of it to seize, it’s raining cat and dog?
I was here in April, the first rain that fell I saw ice pellets falling, the pellet even damaged peoples roofs in this community; the last time I saw something like that was 1951 when I was still small; things have turned upside down and unfortunately mankind is not helping themselves.