President Muhammadu Buhari won his re-election amid stiff resistance. How did you receive the news of his re-election?
Well, for some of us that know the president closely, we knew that he was going to make it. Those who didn’t want him to come back are the elite and those who have done one thing or the other that the government is investigating; for them, they don’t want him to come back because his coming back means that all what they have done will not be let go, everybody must be called to account for his past deeds. So, for those elite, you know they have alot of money, some of them have acquired money and some, illegally so to say. Some of them said I have acquired money and if this man comes back, he will call me to account for the money; they spent all their money to make sure that Buhari didn’t come back, but unknown to them the ordinary people on the streets who like Mr President were behind him. This is the first time in the history of Nigeria that a president of Nigeria would call people to order and ask them to return what they have taken away and they obeyed. I am happy that Mr President didn’t hide it, during the campaign, Buhari said if he comes back, he will continue with the fight against corruption, he will fight insecurity, he will restore the economy of the country. Some people said, why will the president say he will fight corruption, he will probe those who stole money, he should have waited until when he comes back, but the president didn’t care because he is straight forward, he means well for the country. For some of us who know him very well, we knew he was going to come back, though the majority of the elite didn’t want him, but the masses wanted him back and you know, Mr President is the man of the masses.
You are a retired military officer, but a lot of military Generals; the likes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, Gen. Ibrahim Babagida and others kicked against his re-election. What do you think was the reason?
To me, as I said it was unfortunate for some of our senior colleagues in the Army, they don’t seem to understand the politicking of this country, their thinking is one way. They didn’t think deep, if they had thought that this man has the largest support of the people, probably they wouldn’t have done what they did; Buhari is for the poor just like the late Aminu Kano. If you do something for the ordinary people they will not forget you and for the president, the vote of the poor is more than that of the elite, that was why Buhari didn’t bother about what they were saying. Unfortunately, for some of my senior colleagues, they wanted certain things which they had been enjoying and Mr President decided to say no, that the wealth of this country is for everybody, it can’t be given to only a few people. The president said the wealth should be for the country and not for a few privileged individuals, you know the elite are used to it, so they didn’t want the president to come back again so that they will continue to enjoy such things.
You said Buhari is the first Nigerian president that has given an order and his order was obeyed and yielded result in terms of fight against corruption. Do you think his military background has helped him in running the country?
Exactly, his military background has helped him alot. I am saying this because some of us have been his friends, we knew ourselves when we were young officers over 50 years ago, we were in the Officers Mess, we were sleeping together, our bed was in the same place. Buhari has been a friend which I know very well, some of these senior officers didn’t know him the way some of us know him. I have pictures with him that were taken in 1955, he is the first in the picture, I am the second and Col. A. Umar from Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State, he was killed during the Dimka coup, he was found guilty and executed with others who took part in the coup. We were three and we used to go out together, that is, Buhari, Umar and I, we used to go out together in those days; I used to have my own car, I was their senior, I used to carry them in my car because if you are not a senior officer, they can’t give you advance to buy a car, but for some of us who were ahead of them, we had advance salaries and we bought cars and when we come back from work, I used to carry them in my car to go for strolling. So, as I said, I knew Buhari very well and we were friends right from childhood. When we were in the Army, he was a very honest man and he is up to now. Anytime he sees me now, he gives me respect as he used to do without considering that he is the president of the country. I am an ordinary man and I retired as a Captain, it is not a big position anyway, but once he sees me in the crowd, he will greet me first as he used to do before, he is a very humble human being.
Were you his senior in the military?
Do you think Buhari has achieved anything in the last four years?
If you see the Boko Haram thing, if not for Mr President, only God knows what Nigeria would have become. When the Boko Haram started, they came into Plateau, Abuja, they even threatened Lagos, there is no place they didn’t go to in the North, but Buhari came in with military background and fought it. He directed the military and they knew that Buhari is a no-nonsense man, that is why we are enjoying today. Already, they had captured 17 local government areas and those places had been taken over, though they are still in some areas, so people should not forget in a hurry because without Buhari coming in, Nigeria would have been in the big question of whether we would still have been a country. People don’t see things like that, it is a pity.
Some prominent stakeholders are saying that the president is biased on the fight against corruption. Do you share their opinion?
Those who are saying that are ignorant, there are some cases that have been going on for the past 10 years before the president came on board. Buhari is doing very well, he makes sure that those who have question to answer must answer, nobody can bribe him to stop what he is doing, they know it. He is telling them that anybody who has a case to answer should answer it. He is doing it in the most democratic manner despite the fact that he is a military man, they call him Mr Go-slow because he wants to do things in a thorough and democratic manner, he wants to follow all democratic means in settling issues and he is taking his time. He said that he will put in more efforts this time around to make sure that things are done in the proper way. I urge the judiciary to also do their best and finish all cases in good time because most of the cases are being delayed by our lawyers who are SAN, they will argue and argue certain things unnecessarily and that delays most of the cases. They are excpected to have the interest of the country at heart because those money that Mr President is trying to recover from those who acquired them illegally are for the interest of the whole nation.
Buhari is fighting corruption, but do you think his government is free of corruption?
… But he is not allowing them to go, don’t you see the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, he has a case, he was very close to the president, but he asked him to resign from office to go and answer his case and he did that. Those who are saying that the president is biased are just saying it for saying sake, it is not like that; Buhari is not biased, they don’t know him. Buhari doesn’t care whoever you are, even if it is his son or daughter that is in that position, he will do to him the same thing. He is a man I know very well, Mr President will not let it go.
Which area will you want him to focus more in the next four years?
Well, first and foremost, there most be peace for us to have a country, I want him to focus more on crushing the Boko Haram, that should be priority number one for me. He should focus more on the economy and recover stolen money from those who siphoned money, there is alot of money out there; if we get these money, I can assure you that Nigeria will not be poor again. There are billions of dollars, these monies were taken out, but if we bring them back, Nigeria will not borrow any money again. The President has a cordial relationship with other countries of the world and this was because of his personality because he is incorruptible, and they know that if the money comes he will use it for the people.
The country is passing through security challenges where people are being killed in Zamfara, Benue, Nasarawa, among other states. What do you think Buhari must do to stop these killings?
He has moblized the Air Force and the military to deal with the bandits in Zamfara, most of them are running away now, they have killed quite alot of them. They have spread up to Katsina, Kaduna, Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba, but it seems things are getting down, but we thank God that Plateau is peaceful, there is no problem for now.
Do you see the APC surviving in 2023 without Buhari contesting election?
Yes, they will survive very well. Let me tell you, as soon as Mr President is sworn-in for a second tenure, many things will swing into action. The fight against corruption will be intensified, these people that are fighting are not fighting for anything but for themselves. Mr President has said he will continue the fight, he will not relent. The personalities involved are those who have siphoned alot of money. The money the opposition spent during election was much, they spent alot of money to make sure they win the election, they don’t want him to come back at all.
Atiku Abubakar has taken the president to the tribunal and he is asking the tribunal to declare him winner of the 2019 presidential election, will you be disappointed if the tribunal does so?
Unfortunately, I don’t know why Atiku Abubakar allowed himself to be deceived, Buhari won his election and did not interfere in other elections. Look at the other APC states, if he was in the other side, the PDP wouldn’t have won some states, he would have made sure APC won all. Look at APC states that lost election, if he was like the other group he would have made sure that no APC state was lost to any party, but look at it. We lost Adamawa, Bauchi and Imo states. I was told that the opposition were happy that Buhari didn’t challenge them, they are happy.
Will you be surprised if the tribunal gives Atiku the victory?
I don’t think that will happen, I have never thought of that in my mind. What he is asking for is impossible, their claim is fake news, they created something that looks as if it was from the INEC, but it is not. Which country has not congratulated President Buhari, the countries are not fools, they have their embassies here and they know the truth.
Each geopolitical zone in the country is complaining of marginalization. Do you think restructuring is the solution to this public outcry?
I don’t believe in restructuring at all. When you say that they are crying of marginalization, how are they marginalised? When you are saying that you are marginalised, in what sense? In the Southeast, they are all PDP, they gang up as PDP and nobody is saying anything to them. So when you say you are being marginalised, how? You run your own government, what do they want the president to do when you have your government elected by you, nobody from a different state rules over you. When they are talking about marginalization, some of them don’t know the meaning of marginalization, they are just saying it for saying sake.
Are you saying that the people should hold their governors responsible for what is happening to them?
Yes, they should hold their government responsible for what happens to them because the president should not dictate to them what their governors should do, we are in a democracy. The president can’t tell the governors to do this or that. They have their legislators there and the judiciary, when the governor does something wrong, the legislators should correct him. The president cannot go and start telling the governor to do this or that. They will call him a dictator and all sorts of names.
The South-south region where oil is being drilled is saying that the money that is used in governing Nigeria is coming from their states and they don’t have anything tangible to show for it?
Those who are saying so are making a mistake. They get 13 per cent more than any other state that is not producing oil, they have it. That is what I am saying when they are talking about marginalization. In fact, they embezzled the money, the people of those states should know that 13 per cent is given to them above other states, what are they doing with the money? Have they ever called their governors to order and say this 13 per cent, what have you been doing with it? They should ask the governors what they have been doing with the money, some people just talk, they don’t think before they talk.
You are a Northern elder, do you believe in what the Northern Elder’s Forum is doing?
No, I don’t believe in that forum, it is a pity that some people will just sit down and form a group and start talking about elders. Have they done any meeting and called all the elders from the 19 Northern states and say bring your own contribution to what is affecting the North? The answer is no. You will find out that some two friends will meet and say we are Northern elders; yes they are elders by age, but to say that Northern elders spoke, have they ever called a meeting of elders in the 19 states and sent invitation to either two elders each from every state and let’s discuss what is happening, the answer is no.
Do you mean that what they have been saying is not a true reflection of the option of Northern elders?
It is not. It’s just some few friends that meet and generalize that northern elder’s have met, no.
But the North is backward in terms of education, jobless people are roaming the streets, poverty has eaten deep into the people coupled with insecurity. What do you think Buhari can do to remedy the situation?
You see, when you talk of Mr President, he has been talking about payment of salaries, he has been talking to the governors what they do with the money sent to them from the Federation account, that they are not paying salary of workers. The minimum wage was N18,000 before the recent increment, but some governors have not paid it, what do you want Mr President to do? As far as I am concerned, we are the cause of our own problem, our people should go and meet the governors and ask them questions, if there are grievances, tell them to do certain things they should have done. The president has made sure that all what is due to them was released, but you find out that while some governors make good use of their money, some others use theirs for something else. You can’t put the blame on Mr President.
People have accused the Governor of Plateau State of romancing with President Buhari to the detriment of his people. Has their close relationship produced any benefit for the state?
Alot of benefits. Let’s talk about the crisis, during the administration of Governor Jonah Jang, was there no crisis in the state? It was because of the good relationship between Mr President and Governor Lalong that we were able to get police barracks in Gashish in Plateau North, that will lessen our own security challenges, we have another one in Shendam in Plateau South, we have one in Mangu in Plateau Central and that has helped us alot. The governor is a very intelligent young man for him to have got close to the president; and why the president liked him was because he pays salaries of civil servants, that endeared him to the president.
Are you surprised that he was re-elected?
I am not surprised, I said it long time ago that whatever will happen Lalong and President Buhari will come back, I know it. We in the Elders Forum said it earlier that the president and our governor will come back, so we are not surprised.
Where do you thing the governor should focus more in this second tenure?
He has focused on other projects that former Governor Jang didn’t finish, and he has initiated new ones, some are called “Lalong legacy projects” he should continue with them and continue to do more in the area of agriculture and tourism, it is very important, he should do things that will make people to come to Plateau and we should continue with the peace that we are enjoying.
Are you satisfied with the manner the governor has handled the problem between farmers and herdsmen?
He has been very fair, he has been talking to both sides and they have listened to him and we are happy with the election we held. No incident of violence, we thank God for it. People were surprised that of all people, Plateau had election that was free of violence; we thank God and pray that we will continue like that so that we will take our position as “Home of Peace and Tourism”, the position we are known for as a state.
Political parties are zoning the presidential seat based on understanding between the North and the South, Buhari is completing the tenure of the North, where do you think the presidency should be zoned to in 2023, Southeast or Southwest?
Let it go to the Southwest, let them produce the president in 2023, there is no doubt about it. You see our brothers in the Southeast, I am sorry for them because they have not put their heads together. Look at what Mr President has done for them, look at Onitsha Second Bridge, billions of naira have been budgeted for it. For about 15 years of PDP nothing was done, but when Mr President came he commenced the work and it is in progress, and our Igbo brothers instead for them to put their heads together and give votes to the ruling party so that people will make case for them in the party, they refused. In Anambra, they gave the President five per cent, how will they take the presidency, give it to them, how? As far as I am concerned, they shouldn’t think about presidency for now. The Southwest will take it on the platter of gold because they gave us alot of votes, you can’t take the presidency to a territory that is not with you, it is impossible.
People believe that once President Buhari is taken away from APC the party will collapse, do you share this views?
It is not true, we have quite a number of people that will bring it back. I am sure you know that the president is not alone, there are people who are working with him, those people are there and they will do very well, they will continue from where he left.
Most people believe that it is not Buhari who is governing this nation, that there are cabals who have hijacked the president and his wife came out to say it some time ago. Do you think there are cabals who are running the presidency?
Well, you see sometimes you cannot rule out people. It was the first tenure of the president in office and sometimes when you give people appointment or work to do, some may do what you asked them to do, some may not do what you asked them to do. It is the second tenure that we will know, there are certain things that are happening that ought not to have happened, but I am happy Mr President is aware of it, I am sure he will put things right in the second tenure.
Are you advocating that those who appear to be disobedient to the president should not be reappointed?
Exactly, he should drop them and bring in people who will work in fulfilment of his vision, I strongly support that he should drop them.
In 2015, the president appointed ministers without consulting any governor. Are you of the opinion that he should apply the same method or he should consult with the governors first?
No, he should consult the governors, it will be better this time around because the governors know who worked for them, he cannot just ignore the governors, the governors know who is who. I know he will consult the governors in some areas. Consulting them means they will give him some ideas.
The president said the next four years would be tough. What is your own understanding of the tough times expressed by the president?
Mr President knows that things have not been going on well, there are people who are not allowing things to go the way it should be. What he means by tough is that he will get away with those people and allow every Nigerian to enjoy from the wealth of the country.
You were very close to the president while in the military. Can you share some of your moments with him while serving in the military?
We were not happy during the coup that all our officers and civilians were killed.
Which coup was that?
That is the 1966 coup, the first coup when you talk about coup in the military. We were together as young officers, he said we should not allow certain things, we should not allow these people to come and kill our officers and get away with it like that, which was normal, he was not happy at all, that was where he showed his quality. He raised observation that what these people had done was wrong. He was not happy, he is a man who speaks out when things are done in a wrong manner. When he became the president, I said God was preparing him for something, having known what he stands for, for many years.