Former deputy governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, has said that a third force is behind the spate of violence and killings in the country. In this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, she spoke on various issues.
What is your assessment of the cabinet list recently sent by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Senate for confirmation?
There is nothing to cheer about in the list of the ministerial nominees, and that’s why the list has become subject of discussion among many Nigerians.
Apart from being gender biased, many of those who are on the list don’t deserve to be there based on their past performance. The list doesn’t reflect the names of people who can sincerely and genuinely work with Buhari to take Nigeria to the next level. It is not what some of us who are the president’s supporters expected.
Apart from this, the list has fewer women. What is the justification for appointing only 7 women in a cabinet list of 43 people? There is no justification whatsoever for this. The president should have considered more women for appointment into his cabinet. However, it is not too late for the President to make the necessary adjustment. There are several women achievers of note in Nigeria who are able and also capable of performing excellently if assigned any task. What a man can do, a woman can do much better.
On this issue of worsening insecurity, what’s the way out of banditry and kidnappings?
The President should take the necessary measures to put the situation under control. Those in charge of our intelligence network should also buckle up. Intelligence gathering will help to expose those behind some of these things. Those elements behind kidnappings and banditry are not from the outer space; they live among us. They are not spirits. With good intelligence gathering, security agents will be able to flush them out. We can also seek foreign assistance if there is need for it to bring the situation under control.
I also think that there is a Third Force behind all these kidnappings and killings. The Federal Government should investigate those looters that are being exposed presently. Since they are not happy with the way they are being exposed, they may in turn decide to create problems for Buhari’s government. I want the Federal Government to thoroughly investigate these looters. Some looters,and others who may not be happy with the anti-corruption stance of Buhari’s administration may decide to create problems for the government. The security situation in the country has never been bad like what is presently going on across the country, and this is why I strongly suspect that there may be a Third force behind these killings and banditry.
The 21st anniversary of the death of late M.K.O Abiola was marked across the country some weeks ago, what is your view on the declaration of June 12 as a public holiday by President Muhammadu Buhari, and the renaming of Abuja Stadium as M.K.O International Stadium in his honour?
It is an honour long overdue. President Buhari should be commended for having the boldness and the courage for honouring Abiola about 26 years after that election which he won but was annulled by the military.
President Buhari should be commended not only on Abiola’s issue but for steps he has been taking to fight corruption. I urge Nigerians to continue supporting his administration.
It was unfortunate that M.K.O Abiola was denied the opportunity of implementing the blueprint he had mapped out to help him with the administration, especially the area that has to do with combating poverty, and poverty alleviation. I will like Abiola’s son, Kola, to pass this blueprint to the Federal Government as a policy programme. I believe this document will help the Federal Government a lot especially in getting ideas on how to tackle poverty, and poverty alleviation steps government can take to provide succour to Nigerians.
But more importantly, I urge President Buhari’s administration to continue to take measures that will help block illicit funds from being taken out of the country. Such recovered illicit funds should be ploughed back into the economy in order to boost the economy.
How would you react to claims by some Nigerians saying that the honour accorded M.K.O Abiola over June 12 was not genuine that Buhari did it for political reasons to spite some people?
Is everything not politics? Everything is politics. Then whether he did it for political reasons or not doesn’t matter, what matters is that Buhari has done it, and M.K.O Abiola also deserves the honour. I believe that Buhari has taken a good political move. Whether it is genuine or not, all is politics, and Buhari has got it right. Buhari has made a good political move by honouring Abiola.
Buhari has done what millions of Nigerians have been yearning for the past 26 years by honouring M.K.O Abiola. Only a few Nigerians opposed what Buhari has done, and for these few, it is they that know what they have against Abiola either for not honouring Abiola or for not wanting Abiola to be honoured. But if you take it on the surface, everybody believes that Abiola won June 12, 1993 presidential election, and that he deserved to be honoured.
Some Nigerians are saying that both former Presidents Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo should apologise to Nigerians; Babangida for annulling the election, and Obasanjo for failing to honour Abiola when he was in office, what’s your take on that?
What will their apologies achieve? I said earlier, Buhari’s decision to honour Abiola was a political move. If he didn’t do it, it will amount to a wrong political move on his part. But now that he has done it, it was a good political move which has been earning a lot of commendation from Nigerians. Babangida and Obasanjo’s apologies are immaterial. What will their apologies achieve? It is those who allowed Abiola to die in detention that owed the nation an apology. For not declaring June 12 Democracy Day, Obasanjo does not need to apologise.
But will you say Buhari’s action shocked you?
No. I’m not shocked or surprised; Buhari has always been different in the way he does his own things. Buhari has done what is right and he deserves our commendation. For those who refused to do the needful on June 12, we should leave them alone.
There has always been this allegation that it was your administration in Lagos State, that is when you were Deputy Governor to Sir Michael Otedola that invited the military to take over Lagos State in the wake of street protests and demonstrations that followed the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election; do you agree?
That’s not true. We didn’t invite the military to take over Lagos. Those making such claims misunderstood what the governor then, late Sir Michael Otedola said during a meeting with the top military hierarchy that met us that day. I was in that meeting.
Abacha was saying whether the military should come in and help in restoring sanity on the streets of Lagos that had been taken over by demonstrators and protesters, and Sir Otedola said no problem if doing that will help sanity to prevail.
But some Nigerians misinterpreted Otedola’s response. The governor didn’t invite the military at all. Nobody in his right senses would have invited the military. I have never supported the involvement of the military in governance. The role of the military is to defend the country against external aggression. The military is not supposed to be involved in governance at all. Military rule put Nigeria in a big mess. Like I said earlier, I was at that meeting where the governor, Sir Michael Otedola met the military chiefs, and during that meeting, Otedola never asked the military to take over Lagos. He only asked the military to help restore sanity on the streets of Lagos because that time situation in Lagos was very volatile with violent demonstrations in many places. Even as the Deputy-Governor, I was moving round different parts of Lagos, appealing to Lagosians to give peace a chance. It was not a palatable experience for me at all because of the hostility I faced in several places.
Thank God, Lagosians heeded my appeal. I had to go from one local government to another local government to douse tension.
Were you not afraid for your life?
That time, God gave me a special courage to face the crowd. At a time during that period, Sir Otedola travelled, so I had to do the herculean task of appealing to the demonstrators.
What made my task more difficult and dangerous was that I and the governor belonged to NRC while M.K.O Abiola whose election was annulled belonged to SDP. But I wasn’t afraid to move round. Even my security details including the SSS officials that were assigned to guard me often told me that what I was doing was risky, but my passion to have peace in Lagos kept me going. Some of these demonstrators were holding cutlasses, cudgels, planks, stones and other dangerous weapons but I moved round to appeal for peace. Some of the hot spots, that is talking about areas where violent protests were taking place which I visited include Ojuelegba, Idi-Oro, Mushin, Ikorodu Road, Lagos Island and so on. But I thank God that my efforts were not in vain.
The intention of the demonstrators was to burn Lagos, to set Lagos on fire because they were aggrieved over the annulment, but thank God, God took control. For being an NRC member, for belonging to the NRC, the demonstrators could have attacked me.
At that time I got information that the demonstrators wanted to set ablaze Don Etiebet’s Place at Ikeja, and also the residence of late Chief (Mrs) Kuforiji-Olubi, so I quickly put a call to General Sani Abacha who immediately sent military reinforcements to protect the buildings and the occupants. That time, I had a direct line to Gen. Sani Abacha and that was how it was possible to save the situation. It was a memorable experience I can’t forget. It was a turbulent period in Nigeria’s political history. It was a period that would linger for a long period especially for those who not only witnessed the era but were also part of the history of the period.
Where were you on the day that Gen. Abacha sacked the Interim National Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan and then took over reins of government?
I was in Port Harcourt to represent my governor who had travelled outside the country. The then Head of ING, Chief Shonekan was holding a meeting with all the 36 state governors in Port Harcourt and I represented Lagos State. It was at that meeting that we heard the nationwide broadcast that General Abacha had staged a military coup. The moment the announcement hit the airwaves, our meeting with Shonekan came to an abrupt end. Then everybody had to look for ways to leave the place. We became stranded looking for flight to get back to Lagos.
On getting back to Lagos, I had to put a call across to Governor Otedola in London and narrated what had happened. That was another memorable moment.
What’s your advice to the new administration in Lagos State?
My advice is that both Governor Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat should work together. They should work as a team. Both of them have skills, so they should harness their skills as a good team because they are both first class materials.
As much as I’m an Ambode person, and as much as I believe that it is Lagosians that should be the governor and the deputy governor, but since they have been sworn in already, then I have to support them to make Lagos State a state that will continue to excel. I also wish Ambode well. He worked hard as Lagos State governor. Kudos to Ambode.