For Craig, his statement showing he was strongly opposed to some of the policies of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha especially regarding his failure to convene a Sovereign National Conference, landed him in the military gulag, a familiar terrain.
Born on October 22, 1945, Colonel Craig, a former Military Police Officer, took time out to tell Saturday Vanguard why President Goodluck Jonathan should activate the pardon of Lt. General Oladipo Diya, Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, late Major General AbdulKarim Adisa and others at this time for national integration purposes. He also dismissed the various poverty alleviation programmes in the country as insult to the poor. Excerpts:
Security challenges are Nigeria’s major problems for now. What should be the solution?
There is no country that doesn’t have security challenges but our own is heightened by this terrible and disgraceful level of unemployment. That is exactly what is causing the problem that we have, forget about this issue of Boko Haram. The insurgence is because of the level of poverty. Let me assure you, it is not a religious thing because more Muslims were killed than the Christians.
So, what the government can do to stop this problem once and for all is to create public work projects to absorb people so that they can get jobs. This is necessary because they say an idle hand is a workshop for the devil. And let me tell you, we are talking of democracy but democracy doesn’t thrive on empty stomach.
Despite various poverty alleviation programmes purportedly put in place by the governments at various levels, the poverty level is still high. What do you think is responsible?
You see those steps that governments have taken are all pillars of corruption. When you are talking of poverty alleviation, it is an insult to the poor. Why are you in government if you could watch people slide into poverty that you now alleviate? The duty of governance is for the material well-being of the citizens.
When you are giving people some token and you call it poverty alleviation, you are insulting the poor. Like I said, if you create public work projects, people will be engaged. By your own poverty alleviation programme, you are just enriching the pockets of some party people, who could not win elections. So, I don’t believe in it. Instead of that, create economic projects and you would see that all these things would stop. I don’t believe in this poverty alleviation programme, it’s a fraud!
The various ethnic nationalities in the country have come out with a common decision of Sovereign National Conference as the way out of the country’s many problems. But the President has declined to toe their line. What is your take on that?
First and foremost, I don’t believe in ethnic association because, in Nigeria now, you see that ethnic loyalty transcends national loyalty. That is why we are not moving forward.
INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega has tried his best but I would say that our election is still very fraudulent. Because the reason people are agitating for national conference is because they know that most of the people at the National Assembly are not supposed to be there. I agree with the President that there can’t be two sovereigns at the same time since the National Assembly is there but then, in a country of diversity like ours, there are some things you need to look critically into if you are to amend the Constitution. Even in Yorubaland alone, you have so many diversities, how much more of the whole nation.
The problem with this now is that politics is so lucrative that some people don’t have second jobs after politics and so they can die and kill because of politics. But they should realise that without the states, there is no Federal.
Federal is an abstract connotation that doesn’t stand on its own; you know? So we should listen to the grievances of the ethnic nationalities in good case but I don’t believe in their agitations because, when you do, you are going to cause confusion. Those people at the National Assembly now will be scared because they feel that the call for Sovereign National Conference is call to remove them from office.
You seem to have concern about why state police is not given consideration in the country. Can you throw more light on it?
We need a state police so that the national police can concentrate on policing the whole country. State police should be for the state to, at least, tackle minor crimes. If the antagonists of state police are antagonising for the fear that the state governors can use it against opposition during elections, there should be a law that guides the operations of that state police. We still need a state-controlled police.
If Oyo State has its own police, for instance, that police being an indigene will know exactly where the criminals are and thus go for them.
So, they should think seriously about the need for state police and not be scared of them being used by the politicians. When we are talking, we should be looking forward. After all, they have state police in America and some people will say, “Oh, we are not yet mature.” It is not true. Nigeria was not founded in 1960 and so, we are not just 51 years old. No! Nigeria was founded far before 1960. The federal police that we have is alienated from the citizens.
Diya’s coup remains an issue because there is still discomfort at certain quarters; people seem not to be happy with the selective pardon carried out by government after Oputa panel had exonerated the Generals of complicity and urged that they should be apologised to; compensated and then pardoned. Why do you think government has foot-dragged over the matter?
I won’t say I know why. Obasanjo could have acted on this thing because he too is a beneficiary of the pardon. He was pardoned by General Abdul Salami Abubakar.
You know when Chief Olu Falae was contesting against him for the presidency and he said he knew Obasanjo as a prisoner, that he was not qualified and that he was going to use that against him in court; over night he was pardoned by the government. He could not have become a civilian president if he was not pardoned.
For national reconciliation and integration, if you could pardon Mukoro, if you could pardon the militants and want to pardon the Boko Haram people, you can pardon these Generals to assuage strained nerves. Government has given amnesty to militants in this country, so what did Generals Diya, Olanrewaju and others do that measured up to the level of the militants that were pardoned and why should they not be pardoned? You see, we are now talking of total reconciliation and so I feel strongly that they should be pardoned. On this matter, I wrote twice to Obasanjo in office without any reply. Now that Jonathan is there, I have written him twice also and I urge him to fast-tract their pardon because he needs it to calm strained nerves and restore the confidence of the Yoruba race. It is overdue.
Obasanjo made a mistake for not giving them pardon and if he couldn’t do it, I know that the President that is there is a listening leader, he should revisit their case, do it and let’s put that behind us. The political atmosphere is overcharged. There are some few things he can do to douse the tension and pardoning the Generals is part of them.
People blame the military for the setback that the nation suffers. What is your reaction to that as a retired military officer?
I disagree with that view. You see, people are just being unfair to the military. The military has the constitutional responsibility of protecting the nation and its sovereignty. The military came into power in 1966 because of insecurity as a result of political rascality. The military took over because the country would have collapsed if they folded their arms and watched things degenerate beyond control.
In fairness to them, they have tried because without the military, today there would be no Abuja. Tell me one thing that any civilian regime has done since they got there. All of those that are making noise today that the military caused the nation’s woes, they themselves, were enjoying patronage of the military regimes. If you knew that the military was an aberration, why did you serve under them?
The military is part and parcel of our march towards progress. It is part of our history. If there is anything that they have done wrong… but they have done many things that are commendable. We should not be looking backwards. Whatever happened is now past tense.
We should be planning towards the future and forget about the military, which is a discipline establishment on its own. Now that you are talking, does it mean that the military regimes are not recognised? They passed budgets, they paid salaries and did all things that governments did at that time. So, what is the problem about that? There is nothing like dichotomy between military and civilian regimes. No! They are Nigerians too.