Nigeria is set again to go to the poll to elect new set of leaders who will take charge of the affairs of the country for another four years.
In this interview, General Ishola Williams (rtd), takes a look at some of the issues that can guarantee the credibility of the process and how to minimize unnecessary tension in the country.
The drumbeat of war is getting louder by the day and people are getting increasingly apprehensive about what may likely happen during the coming election. What would you advise the authorities to do to douse the tension?
Each time an election is coming like this, people are always apprehensive because of election violence and the behaviour of security agencies. The politicians themselves should tell their supporters who want to be violent to stop behaving in an unruly manner, which could provoke the security agencies to act in way that can create violence. If political parties can play their role in ensuring peaceful conduct, then there is no need for anybody to be afraid of what is going to happen. The second thing is that INEC itself must ensure the sanctity of the ballot zones where people are going to vote. It is not the business of the security agencies to protect the polling booths; they are not even supposed to be found there. Their own protection is outside and the responsibility belongs to the police only. The army should be completely out of it.
But there has always been argument about insufficient number of police to man the polling areas across the country.
(Cuts in)…It is not true. Because of lack of supervision, the police will tell you they are going to deploy 20,000 people to a state. But you go there, you find only 10,000 and they collected money for 20,000. So, the whole thing is fraudulent. The second thing is that Civil Defence Corps now carry guns. So, what are the rest security people doing? With police and Civil Defence, we don’t need other security agencies. Where they suspect violence, Mobile Police may be deployed.
So, your take is that soldiers should stay completely out of this election?
Yes, they should stay completely out of it; they are not needed at all. In fact, I will prefer Civil Defence, the police and Mobile Police in that order.
There is an interesting scenario playing out now: retired Generals are endorsing presidential candidates. How do you see that?
There are over 200 Generals that have retired from the Nigerian Armed Forces. The 71 Generals that went to endorse Buhari did so on their own, they did not represent us because we have an association we call Army, Navy, Air Force Retired Officers’ Association. No single member of the association went there with them. Therefore, those officers are on their own and they are free to form a group and express support for whoever they like. At least, they did not represent me. They are on their own. My personal belief is that if he (Buhari) is true to himself and he has conscience, he should just go back to his farm in Daura. Not only that he is no longer articulate, he can’t also remember things. He is mixing up things. You cannot be at that stage and still function well as a Head of State. Those people who are pushing him are pushing him for their own interest. It is not for the interest of Nigerians.
Obasanjo has been campaigning for Atiku. And General Alani Akinrinade, in a recent newspaper advertorial, carpeted the former president, saying he lacks moral ground to decide for Nigerians who to vote for. How do you see the two actors?
As a citizen of this country and as a former Head of State, he has a right to support anybody he likes. He also has a choice to be a kingmaker. But if nobody follows you or nobody listens to you, you do not have any influence. It is for the electorate to decide whether to follow him or not to follow him. Akinrinade too has a right to support whoever he wants. I don’t know why people are so particular about what Obasanjo says and what he does not say.
People possibility take exception to some of the comments he made about the alleged plot by the APC to rig the election and how he is heating up the polity. His critics are even quick to say that he conducted the worst election in the history of this country. Does he have the moral ground to complain about the process that is still ongoing?
To me, when I compare what Obasanjo is saying and what el-Rufai has said, el-Rufai’s statement is worse. Do you know how much money EU is pouring into INEC? Since we have been having election in 1999, EU has been giving money to INEC. USID has been helping INEC, UK has been helping INEC. When you have people giving you money to hold election and you are telling them such, to shut up because they are advising you to do the right thing, what are you talking about? EU observers are already here, ECOWAS observers are already here, I want to see how el-Rufai will start killing them one by one. Obasanjo has talked about rigging; el-Rufai is talking about life and death. Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of the APC, also said ‘nobody can win election in this country without rigging.’ If a man can open his mouth to say that you cannot win an election without rigging, so what are you saying? The same Oshiomhole said ‘come to me all sinners and your sins shall be forgiven’. What does that mean for a party? It means that the party is an alliance of political crooks. It is only in Nigeria that chairman of a political party can make that kind of statement. Those statements are very grave statements. So, tell me what Obasanjo has said that is worse than what Oshiomhole has said.
How do you see Walter Onnoghen’s trial vis-à-vis his statement of defence?
We have to look at it from two sides of the coin. One is the legality; the other side is the legitimacy, ethic and morality. Former Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen has lost all sense of legitimacy, ethic and morality. On legal ground, he may be right, I am not a lawyer. But the point is that the position of Chief Justice of Nigeria is not only a legal position, it is also a position that has reputation and integrity and morality attached to it. When you fail in those areas, you step aside, which he has refused to do. He has become a disgrace to the bar and the bench. The point again is that Nigeria is not a nation of integrity. The leadership of the legislature has no integrity, in the executive, no integrity, in the judiciary, no integrity.
You talked about aids Nigeria gets from these countries. When will Nigeria get to a stage where it can tell the world that it does not need aid again, but technical assistance that can make the nation stand on its own? The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Akufo, already set the tune for Africa in this regard in his recent address to the President of France.
Kwame Nkrumah had said what Addo Akufo is saying now. So, it is not new. Do you know how much money African countries are owing China? We are entering the same death trap that we entered before China came into limelight. The difference is that the debt we are owning China the money is being used to build infrastructure. Yes, talk is cheap. To work the talk is more difficult. When we are going to get to that stage, I don’t know. We need leadership that has intellectual ability and surrounded by people that have the interest of the country at heart to do that. Unfortunately, I don’t see that in Nigeria today.