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PDP can’t move Nigeria forward – AVM Alfa, ex-Chief of Air Staff

Posted by By CHIDI OBINECHE on 2008/07/19 | Views: 2504 |

PDP can’t move Nigeria forward – AVM Alfa, ex-Chief of Air Staff


Even as the controversy over the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election rages, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Isaac Alfa, says, “coup makers in Babangida’s government should rather be blamed.

Even as the controversy over the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election rages, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Isaac Alfa, says, “coup makers in Babangida’s government should rather be blamed.

According to the retired Air Vice Marshal, the supposed “coup plotters” wielded much powers over then Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, “because they felt they brought him to power.”

He said that although he was not in the government at policy making level he knew that “the majority of the people in the policy making level at that time, were the coup makers. Many of us were a bit younger and were not involved. We didn’t really know what transpired. But obviously, I will be very, very surprised to accept that Nwosu would go out of his way to exonerate Babangida for nothing.”

The ex-military chief dismissed the planned electoral reform in the country, saying that since President Umar Yar’Adua was a product of flawed election, it would be difficult for him to clean the system.
He said that although he is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) be believes strongly that the party has nothing to offer the country.

Air Vice Marshall Alfa spoke on these and other fundamental socio-political matters.
As a former Service Chief, I would like you to speak on the Defence budget over the past few years.
I left the service about seven years ago, precisely April 2001. I have not been very active in that area since. The main reason is that we have done our own bit, and of course, the young shall grow. The ones who took over from us, we believe, are capable. So, once in a while, we just give them words of encouragement and little pieces of advice.

By and large, since this is a technological age, you would expect that the Armed Forces would be stronger than when we were there. I can’t tell you what exactly the position is, because, I don’t know what the position of their weapons holding is. But I know that they are doing a lot of training, and there are some things in the offing. Definitely, it should be better than when we were there; because during the time I was there for about two years or so, the maximum amount that I had for capital projects for the two years was less than a hundred million naira. Obviously, things could not have been that way since, otherwise, they would not have been able to continue operating the way they are doing now.

But any country that toys with the preparedness of its Armed Forces is actually toying with the destiny of the citizens of that country. I am hoping that since the Armed Forces have always fared better under civilian administration, this government, when it finally gets its acts together, would take a serious look at the defence system of this country and do a very comprehensive overview, including the overall security and do something positive about it.

Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, chairman of the NEC during the June 12, 1993 election, in a book recently, exonerated General Babangida from culpability in the annulment and blamed the late Gen. Abacha and others. As a top notch in the Military at that time, what is your comment?

I was a unit commander then. I was not in the government at policy-making level. Majority of the people in the policy making level at that time were the coup makers. Many of us were a bit younger and were not involved. We didn’t really know what transpired. But obviously, I will be very, very surprised to accept that Nwosu would go out of his way to exonerate Babangida for nothing. Definitely, the man may be telling the truth, as he knew it, because he was part and parcel of it. Those of them with Babangida were wielding a lot of powers, because they felt they were responsible for the coup that brought Babangida to power.

So, if Nwosu says that Babangida was innocent, I tend to accept or agree with him because he should know. Now, if there is anybody aggrieved with what Nwosu has said, (let’s take it that Nwosu has flown a kite), let him come forward to disprove or prove what Nwosu has said. By saying that Nwosu was wrong, they are saying that, Babangida was responsible. So, it is left for them to prove that it was Babangida who was responsible and not them. If they were not responsible why should Nwosu lie against them? Tell me, why should it be only those people that Nwosu mentioned? There were many other people in the government at that time. So, why those people? If there is no fire without smoke.
How do you see Nigeria’s democracy in the last eight and a half years?

I have been part of government for quite sometime, even before democracy set in. I was also part of government for about two years in the democracy. We just came out of Military era. So, you could expect some vestige of the Military to dovetail into the democratic era. However, it was expected that after a few years or after the first general elections, democracy would have taken deeper roots. Even the civilian themselves, because they have been in power for over eight years, are not playing essential democracy. They are playing democracy of their pockets. When it suits them, it is democracy. When it does not suit them, it is not democracy.

As far as I am concerned, since I cannot make a blanket remark, majority of the people we have today, masquerading as democrats, are just there for their pockets at all levels of government. By the way, I make haste to add that there are so many people in government who have no business being there. There are so many people who are there; who are incompetent to hold the position they are holding. I am just hoping that by the time Yar’Adua gets firmly entrenched, he would sit up and get rid of these pretenders and bring in some real people who can move this country forward. That is my honest hope.

Are you calling them pretenders because they lack democratic credential or that they are looters?
I cannot say they are looters because before you make such a definitive statement, there must be something to prove that they are looters. But everyday, newspapers are awash with what is happening here and there. I mean, when you say Yar’Adua is slow or is not moving, Yar’Adua cannot be everywhere at the same time.

No matter how good the leader is, if he does not have competent people working for him, there is a limit to what he can achieve. I do agree that a leader should give direction. But then, a leader cannot do everything. I am not accusing everybody of corruption, but I am saying that some of them have no business being in government because some of them are just there playing to the gallery, looking for some form of popularity, without knowing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. They are not helping Yar’Adua.

Some of them are square pegs in round holes. A lot of them are sharp, bright, but there are many who are grossly incompetent and should not be there. I hope that when Yar’Adua settles down, he would look around and get competent people to help him to move this country forward, because as at today, we are just standing still. Yar’Adua alone cannot take the blame.

Are you satisfied with the level of the crusade against corruption?
We are reactive. That is the bad thing about it. We are not proactive enough. Maybe we have not developed to such a level that we can tackle corruption dispassionately. From what was going on, from what has been coming out from the various probes, you can see that a lot of bad thins went on in some ministries. Take, for instance, what happened in the FCDA (Federal Capital Development Authority), where people callously, by their actions, caused a lot of people to lose their lives. Where, they did not only take people’s property and land, but allocated them to themselves and nothing is happening to these people today.

You have people in the same FCDA today, who are making noise all over and then we don’t see any substance. You can see it all over. Until a court or panel comes out to indict them, you cannot really call the person corrupt. But from what is going on, I don’t think anybody is very confident today to say that we have taken the fight against corruption any higher than what it was in the last administration. I mean, there is nothing to show that yet, because a lot of indicted people are still going around, free. As a matter of fact, they interfere in a lot of things and this is open secret. So, if you really want to show the outside world that we are fighting corruption, then we should be seen to be doing that, not just to be mouthing it and hoping that it will just happen. No.

How do you assess the elections conducted last year vis-ŕ-vis the current electoral reforms by the government?
You see, Justice Kutigi, the Chief Justice of the Federation is somebody I respect and admire. I have never met him and we have never spoken. But a lot has happened within the short period that this judge took charge of the judicial system. Unfortunately, again, the political system is reducing the effect of the achievement that the Judiciary would have had. For instance, what is the essence of the court doing its job by nullifying some bad elections, and putting lie to INEC chest beating, only for the system to conspire to bring in the same people, whose elections were nullified? Why did we have to waste our money, energy, and time and make a mockery of the court processes? As far as I am concerned, any one who loses elections now, in whatever circumstances should just go and sit down and not waste any money going to the tribunal, because the politicians will still go ahead and rig. Okay, for example, why would someone accused of rigging in an election and whose election was nullified come again with a larger margin of votes than he got before? In so many states, I don’t want to mention them. There were no elections.

When you say, you deployed soldiers, the materials did not even arrive. What are the soldiers going to do? As far as I am concerned, this electoral reform is just noise making. They are just going about making noise and wasting the country’s resources. Then, you have set a target date of December 2009 for the reforms to take place. What is going to happen between now and then? Why are you taking it that far? Why can’t you do it now, so that we know there is a difference between this PDP rigging machinery that just left office and now.

As far as I am concerned, it is either you are with them in the PDP fully, for them to use you, to accept you, to decide what you are going to be. No matter how good you are, you can never win any election in this country. I am a bonafide member of the PDP. I have contributed much to it. But the interest of this country is more paramount than that of individuals in the PDP. Until the other political parties come together to really make sure that PDP is thoroughly sanitized, you are not going to have any good electoral reforms.

When Yar’Adua was talking about reforms, we thought that things were going to be different in the re-runs that we did. Things turned out to be worse than what they were. So, I am not very confident about these. Who is going to effect the reforms? Where is the political will? First of all, a system that brings you to power, if that system is not clean, you that are trying to clean up that system, will be handicapped. That is the problem facing Yar’Adua. The system that brought him in is not clean. So, he will have an uphill task trying to dislodge those people, who are perpetuating fraud in the system. Though I am a member of the PDP; I am an elder statesman and will speak the truth. PDP, as it is, cannot move this country forward.

What particular reform do you have in mind for the country to have the desired political leap?
First of all, there is the political consideration. There is the economic consideration and security consideration. All of these are hinged on good leadership, on good examples, competence. For instance, if you satisfy the basic need of human beings, they will be free to advance in the other sectors. So, first of all, security must be taken very seriously.

Even though, the armed forces and the other agencies are competent, there is need to harness this security into an overhaul national security system. You have the services and the office of the National Security Adviser. That is not what I am talking about. I am talking of a total overhaul, a sort of synergy, whereby anything that is happening in one part of the country today, will be known at the central in a unified way. That we have in the American homeland security. Information is received at the centre and the president is sitting on top of things. That is one. The lives and properties of people must be secured. It must be free. They must feel free to go round anywhere, sleep the way they want, do their businesses in a secured environment. From there, you go to the political system. People want certain people to represent them.

You say this is democracy where you want people to elect their representatives, yet you do not allow that to happen. People are determined that these are the people that they want to represent them, but certain people would not allow that to happen. They allow crooks to continue to subvert the will of the people. Under such a situation, you can never have stability.

The other important thing is the economic aspect. If you want foreign investment to flow in or the local investors to thrive, what steps have you taken to actualize that? If you want to do any business in this country today, your generator must run 24 hours of the day. You must spend hundred of thousand of naira monthly for GSM telephone calls. You must have a borehole or water tanker. You must have vehicles to move from place to place. The telephones don’t work the way they should. The electricity, as far as I am concerned, is even worse now than it has been in the last eight or nine months. Here, I am on generator for 18 hours a day. And this is Asokoro. I was in the village burying my mother. I just came back. Throughout the two weeks that I stayed in the village, there was no light for a single minute. .

Do you want the Military to come back?
God forbid. Anybody who advocates for the military to come back should be arrested and charged to court, and I hope the person is jailed. I am a product of the Military. I went to a Polytechnic. I was already in the Military before I went for my degree. I never did work anywhere except in the Military. I am Military right through and through. But you can never compare a Military government with a civilian government. Whatever advancement you are making under the Military is transient. You can never compare both. Those who are calling for the Military to come back to power are the ones who thrive under the Military. These are the ones, who gain more by circumventing rules and procedures; the few who enjoy patronage from the Military and are favoured.

Anybody, even as a joke, who advocates for the Military to come back, that person should be investigated and charged to court. But then, I am very happy, that the Military itself is very much aware of its position in the polity. Gone are the days when coups are tolerated. You can hardly get away with it now. Those of them who are there have been thoroughly re-oriented. If anybody wants to call for the Military to come back, they should count me out. As a matter of fact, even if they give me the best positions in the whole world, in a Military government, I will never go near it with a 10ft pole. I think it is a drawback for anyone to suggest that kind of thing. I think it is selfish of them. I have seen people alluding to it in the papers here and there, but if you look at the character of the people advocating this thin, you see that they are those who cannot compete or contest and win on their own. A coup plotter is a bad news any day.

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Comments (3)

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown